It was great to catch up with our long-time pal, Alexis Ohanian. Indeed, the Reddit co-founder’s “make the world suck less” motto is a driving force behind Hipmunk’s “agony filter”. (He also helped launch Hipmunk and ran our marketing/PR/community for the first year, so that might have something to do with it, too).
We turned the tables on the artist behind Hipmunk’s adorable mascot to perform our own AMA, travel edition (edited slightly for clarity and brevity). Here, the perennial jet setter gives us his best travel advice, his favorite places to go, and the items he can’t leave home without.
KS: You’re such a prolific traveler; do you just keep a standing bag ready to go?
AO: Like a bug-out bag? You know I don’t, actually. I really should; that’s not a bad idea. I have two Tumi’s that I love. One that’s a check-bag size and one that’s a roller, and I often find myself swapping between the two. Both are full of dirty laundry right now from past trips. But I don’t have a standard go-to. There are a few items that I keep multiple versions of. I have an electrical razor set that I use. Over the years I’ve accumulated probably eight of them now, because they’re pretty affordable. They’re, like, $40 razors and I would get in this habit where I’d wake up somewhere and not have it, need to shave, and hop on Amazon Prime and order it for later, and it just got to the point where I just have eight of these things now. So there’s one in each of my bags, along with a converter for power outlets (I at least always have a Euro one in every bag and a UK one in every bag). So an electric razor and outlet converters are the standard things I always have. Oh, and then extra USB cables. I’ve lost so many of those damn things. iPhone chargers too.
KS: How often would you say that you do travel?
AO: Almost weekly. Usually it’s multiple times per week. This week I’m actually in San Francisco from Monday through Friday– it’s pretty magical. But last week I was…(sighs) Where was I? I was in the Bay Area and then I was in Montreal for Startup Fest and then I went down to DC to see my dad real quick, then I had a last-minute trip to New York. It’s crazy.”
KS: How do you maintain that kind of schedule and not get burned-out?
AO: Well, the key reason is not replicable, which is, I inherited the ability to be able to sleep anywhere, any time, any place from my mom. I’m really good at sleeping and I try generally to sleep to adjust myself wherever I’m going. If it’s going to be across multiple time zones, and if that means I’ve got to sleep on the whole plane ride in order to get my body right, I can do it. So that has the largest impact. And then the stuff that would be replicable would be drinking tons of water, and just generally trying to eat and exercise well. It doesn’t always work out; that’s probably the hardest part about traveling.
KS: So, we talked about your razors and your outlet converters, but what other items do you always carry with you when you travel?
AO: I have a little, what do you call it, a little zippered pouch that has a bunch of requisite stuff. Hold on, I’m going to open it up right now; it’s my man purse. So, I have this Filson messenger bag that was recommended on the malefashionadvice subReddit. It’s great, made in America, it’s really durable, good lookin’. I have Advil, I have Tylenol, I’ve got mints, I have an aux cable (you gotta have an aux cable). I’ve got two, don’t ask me why, but I’ve got two of those car adapter cigarette lighters. There’s no reason why. I’ve got my Euro plug converter. I don’t know why I have this thing because I never drive, but I have one of those things you clip to an air vent on a car to hold your phone while you’re running your GPS. I have two dongles, one for presentations and one for CGI and VGA. Then I have a bottle opener, because, well, you know, if I’m tailgating or whatever. I’ve got a tiny little thing of lotion, just in case I’m a little chapped up. I’ve got lip balm, floss, ‘cause that’s really irritating if you don’t have it. Oh, ok, I’ve got two euro adapters in here. I have a cash reader, I’m not sure why I have that, and you know those Square readers? In case I ever need to take money for something? (laughs) And, uh, that’s it.
KS: Ok, this might be a pretty annoying question, but are there any special product brands that you prefer, for say, the lip balm or the lotion?
AO: They’re pretty random; it’s stuff I either got from a hotel at some point or one of those little business class goody bags. I’ll take a nice hipster photo for you.
KS: Great, so what class do you prefer to fly? First class, business class, or coach?
AO: I’m Armenian, so I like to save money (laughs). I’m 6’5”, so I obviously like leg room. But I fly exclusively coach for business, because, well, I’m supposed to be making money, not spending it. And that’s the bottom line there. For personal, I will [splurge]. I make quite a few personal international flights, long distance relationship kind of thing, and for those I’ll usually treat myself to business class. But I also have status now; I’m Diamond on Delta and I think Platinum on United, so I’ll use my upgrades when I have those available.
KS: So that leads me into the question about whether you have a favorite airline.
AO: Delta. One hundred percent.
K: What about a favorite airport?
AO: My favorite airport is the one I have to spend the least amount of time in. No, let me answer the question. I spend a lot of time going through Delta at SFO, and in general SFO is so bad. But, it’s so effortless at the International Terminal (where Delta is located). I can usually budget myself 20-25 minutes to get to the airport and I am at my gate within 10 minutes of getting there because the TSA Pre-check is always so dope. I’m actually so grateful. A part of me worries that if that terminal got an overhaul and got really cool planes it wouldn’t be such a breeze. And Delta’s lounge is there, so I can just go in the Delta Club and have some fun. The terminal in JFK is nice.
Internationally, you get into airports every now and then that just make you feel really good; they’re so crisp, fresh, clean, nice. But I’m not really too into airports. I treat them as very transactional. My goal is to spend as little time there as possible. I cut it so close most of the time and so I guess for that reason Delta at SFO would be my choice.
KS: Okay. We’ve already mentioned that you travel a lot for work. Do you have a favorite city to visit for work? If so, what would be and why?
AO: New York. It’s the city of my birth. I love it. You know I moved last year to San Francisco for Reddit. I don’t think there’s any other reason I would have left New York, so any chance to get back there is a good one.
KS: Favorite city for fun?
AO: Rome. Rome or Tokyo. I’ve only been to Tokyo once and I ate so well and had such an amazing time that I would love to go back. I guess I can’t really say that it’s my favorite because I’ve only been there once, but it’s pretty magical. But Rome is one I’ve been to a number of times and I just love it. I don’t speak any Italian, I know how to say thank you and please, but that’s all you really need. Culturally, it’s so wonderful and I eat so well there.
KS: You’re a big reader. You’ve written a book yourself, and you’re also a big promoter of others’ work, too. What are you reading right now?
AO: So I Iove the title of this book I’m reading, it’s called Siblings Without Rivalry. I don’t have any kids, but a colleague of mine actually recommended it, partially as a managerial book but also as a “hey, if you ever have kids this will really helpful” book.
KS: Do you prefer the tangibility of a hardback or the convenience of an E-reader?
AO: I’m 50/50. I like the physical book because I can get it out faster and it feels like more of a priority. I find that if I’m on a plane, the only way I’m going to read is with a physical book because with the Kindle app on my phone or my computer with there’s just way too many other things that get in the way or that I’ll distract myself with. But with a physical book, I give it all my attention.
KS: Any favorite hotel chains or specific hotels that you prefer?
AO: Starwood, but we’ll see what happens after the acquisition. You know, I guess I just have a really transactional relationship with my hotels, too. But I love Starwood because I know what to expect and because their points program is so awesome. But when I’m traveling I like to spend as little time as possible in hotels. More often for work I’m staying at Airbnbs now. I’ll shop around for rates if it’s more convenient and it’s cheaper for the office.
KS: You wear a size 14 shoe. Any tips on efficiently packing them?
AO: I generally travel with two pairs of shoes, besides the ones on my feet. I’ll stick a shoe tree in my dress shoes, and sneakers on my feet. If I’m traveling internationally, I wear a pair of Creative Rec‘s, which are really easy to take off. So if I do have to enter the line for security, I have a pretty painless process of getting through.
KS: Any other travel tips before you take off?
AO: TSA Pre-check and if you go internationally at all, you should get Global Entry. It’s basically like having a superpower. It makes you feel great, especially when you get off that flight, you just fill out that little piece of paper that they give you, walk through the terminal, get your bags, and off you go. It’s like 2000 all over again. Skip all of that security theater. You can quote me on that too, although it’ll probably put me on a watchlist.
Last, but not least: the best thing to travel with is the Reddit app on iOS and Android