Susan Lanier-Graham, founder and editor-in-chief of Wander With Wonder, has been writing and speaking about luxury travel, food, and wine for more than two decades. She has authored more than 75 books and hundreds of magazine articles. Susan is an award-winning travel writer, a member of North America Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), and is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). In addition to her website, Susan’s work appears in multiple print and online publications.
She was kind enough to answer some of our questions about travel below!
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Susan: My entire life. My dad used to take us with him on business trips when I was little and I adored staying in new hotel rooms and exploring places I’d never been. I took my first trip at 3 months old, back in fall 1963 and I’ve never stopped.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Susan: Luxury travel and anywhere we can find “wow moments.”
TA: What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Susan: I spent 10 days exploring New Zealand with my husband. It was a true vacation — I wasn’t there to write, but to be a tourist for a change. That’s exactly what I did — I vacationed.
TA: What’s one place you’ve always wanted to visit?
Susan: The Maldives.
TA: What’s one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Susan: iPad. I use it to take notes, read books, watch movies, listen to music.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Susan: Just wander. Don’t stick to the main streets, but explore the side streets. Ask questions of the locals and don’t be afraid to try something new.
TA: What are some of your favorite travel blogs and communities?
Susan: My Itchy Travel Feet, Wanderlust and Lipstick, Journey Woman.
TA: What would be your #1 recommendation for a place to travel in 2019?
Susan: Book your dream trip. Wherever that may be. There’s something ‘wow’ wherever you go. There are so many ways to make “that” trip possible. Don’t wait. Life is short.
TA: What are the top 3 websites you use for research/inspiration when planning a trip?
Susan: (1) Google. I Google every location and read about it. (2) Search for “visitor’s bureau [name of location]” and read about the place on the official website. (3) I go to bbc.com/travel and read about the destination there to get the perspective of those who enjoy traveling the same way I enjoy to travel.
TA: Do you have any good airport or flight hacks for people traveling by plane?
Susan: If you’re flying international, pay to sit in the premium main cabin (name changes for every airline). It’s much cheaper than first or business, but the seats are larger, the food is better, and you can usually recline and sleep. If you can only choose one way, book the good seat on your way there so you can feel refreshed when you arrive and can start exploring.
TA: What is the best piece of travel advice you’ve ever been given?
Susan: Learn at least two or three words in the local language so you can at least say thank you and hello.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Susan: Safety. For the most part, travel is safe. Just use the same caution you would anywhere — don’t walk out at night alone, don’t do something stupid, and always be aware of your surroundings. You should do that every single day.
TA: What’s a travel scam travelers should be wary of?
Susan: The biggest scams come with taxis and car hires. Make sure the taxi is on the meter and licensed. Ask ahead of time (or Google it) to find out what the ride will cost so you know. Don’t let a hotel book a car for you if there’s a way for you to do it yourself (remember that you can often use Uber around the world now).
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Susan: There’s a bias in the U.S. that England has bad food. There are amazing international restaurants in England. Go into the neighborhood restaurants and avoid the tourist areas.
TA: What was the most romantic place you ever visited with a partner?
Susan: Bali. I fell in love with Ubud and stayed at Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve there. It was hands down the most romantic place, filled with flowers and fragrances that made me feel everything intensely.
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you’ve ever visited?
Susan: Ubud, Bali. Book a spa day at Bali Botanica Day Spa. It’s super cheap and you will feel pampered.
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Susan: The US Midwest. There are gems in the small towns. You have to get out and enjoy everything.