Ten Money Questions for Ed Salvato
Ed Salvato is Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning Out Traveler magazine. His name is synonymous with gay-travel and he is often quoted in the press as a queer travel expert. Since traveling costs money, I asked Ed to share some tips and elaborate on how both lavish and scaled-back vacations can enrich our lives. Find your passport. You’ll want to journey on after reading his interview.
1. It costs money to see the world. Can you give a few suggestions about how to snag luxury perks with your travel dollar?
Well, my way of snagging luxury perks with the travel dollars are related to my job. I’m invited constantly to visit places and whenever I do go, the hosts usually roll out the red carpet.
When I travel on my own dime, I will try if possible to use reward points I have to upgrade, whether it’s from coach to business class when flying or to the club level of a hotel. The club level is usually worth it since they will include amenities that normally you’d have to pay for out of pocket, like internet, laundry, breakfast, happy hour and concierge/travel-agent service.On Gay.com we offer a free luxury guide, which helps those of us on a limited budget travel like kings (or queens, I guess!)
2. What makes gay travel different from straight travel?
Gay travelers have to worry about how gay friendly a destination, hotel, restaurant is. Obviously choosing the right destination, hotel, etc. can mean the difference between a good and bad vacation.
We’ve spent years and years scouring the globe for the best recommendations for our readers, Web visitors, radio listeners, etc. Our articles and TravelGuides are chock full of options for gay and lesbian travelers that we hope take the guess work out of the search for gay-friendly places and venues.
Also a factor that differentiates gay and straight travelers is financial: Typically, partnered gay men have two incomes and no kids. That means they have more disposable income and time. This makes it easier for them to travel more frequently, spend more money on their trips and travel outside of the typical, school travel calendar.
3. What is your worst habit around finances when it comes to traveling?
Not taking enough cash and relying on ATM machines. Sometimes they are not readily available at your destination, don’t work with an American credit card or the airport won’t have any operating machines. This happened to me during my last visit to Paris of all places. Only one ATM in the entire terminal was working and it didn’t take my American bank card!
It’s a pain and you wouldn’t think it’s necessary in this day and age but try to exchange some U.S. dollars for foreign currency before you go. Take at least enough to get you through an airport into a taxi and to the hotel.
4. Compare the most expensive and least expensive vacation that you have taken by describing a highlight with both.
Most expensive: African luxury safari. Highlights included a surprise traditional sunset dinner in the bush with great local entertainment and amazing food (gourmet takes on local cuisine). This is something you just couldn’t organize on your own. It’s expensive but unforgettable.
Least expensive: Road trip from San Diego, cheap motel in Las Vegas. Highlight was just being with my best friend and driving through the desert during the shiniest period of the Halle-Boppe comet pass, but to be honest, it’s better to spend a little more money and stay at a decent hotel. Your vacation (even a quick weekend getaway) is made or broken by your choice of accommodations.
5. To what destination do you plan to buy your next plane ticket?
Hawaii. I’m heading to the Big Island in April for work and I am going to extend my stay for a few days.
6. Is world travel only for the rich? Does it have anything to do with disposable income?
No! The world is wide open and available to everyone. In fact if more people traveled, I believe there’d be fewer problems in the world. Air travel is now cheaper today then 20 or 30 years ago (as measured by the dollar’s value 20 or 30 years ago). So it is actually more affordable. Also, if a traveler has some flexibility, there are often last-minute deals (subscribe to airlines’ ‘last-minute’ e-mails, for example).
Aside from a trusted travel agent, the internet is your best tool, so shop around. You will almost always find some way of getting to your goal destination cheaper than you originally thought.
7. What’s your view about buying souvenirs?
I am not a big shopper at all. I hate having more dust collectors at home. My most important take away tends to be the photos I take (and the blog or journal I write).
If I’m inspired by a place, I try to buy a piece of art that reflects the destination in some way. Art ” especially a drawing or nice old poster ” is easy to transport or cheap to mail home. I’ve bought a collection of aboriginal masks from all over the world which make a striking display at home.
8. Do you tip in countries that culturally don’t expect it?
I tip a small amount usually but I find that in places that culturally don’t expect a tip, it’s ok to do so in venues (hotels, restaurants) that cater to American travelers. They’re more used to it and won’t be surprised or offended.
9. Do you use the safe in hotel rooms? What’s your worst “lost or stolen” travel story?
I never use the safe though I know I should. I’m always afraid I’ll leave something in it when I check out! I think I’m a bit complacent. I leave laptop, iPod, camera etc. in the hotel room when I travel. I probably wouldn’t do that in a hotel of less than 4 or 5 stars though.
In a moment of confusion at an airport, I left my camera in the lounge and forgot about it till I was in the air. I was bummed not only to lose the actual camera, but all the pictures I’d taken. That was the worst part.
10. Money can buy great experiences, but can it buy happiness?
In the sense that travel makes me happy, I guess it can buy me a happy experience. But I believe that overall happiness is, alas, an elusive state that is a combination of elements of life beyond travel.
What’s your best budget travel tip?
If you are in NYC and have to head to Newark or JFK and only have a carry-on or two, take the Air Train! The subway goes there express and it’s only $5 for a one way on the Air Train. Cabs are $50!
Have you ever spotted a celebrity flying coach?
No, come to think of it!
More about Ed Salvato
Ed Salvato is the Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning Out Traveler magazine and Corporate Director of Travel Media at PlanetOut, Inc. He writes a monthly syndicated travel column and appears regularly on radio and TV.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.