You probably know John DiScala by his professional name, Johnny Jet. The globetrotting blogger and Travel Channel host tells us about the places he loves, including "America's best summer vacation destination" and a "ridiculously cheap" alternative to Bora Bora. Visit JohnnyJet.com or follow @JohnnyJet on Twitter for more.
SmarterTravel: You started the Johnny Jet newsletter in 1995. How many continents and countries have you visited since then?
Johnny Jet: Six continents, all but Antarctica, and I’m three countries away from joining the Century Club.
ST: Tell me about some of your favorites.
JJ: I think one of the most beautiful places in the world is French Polynesia, especially if you can get one of the over-the-water bungalows. When it's sunny and clear outside, you've never seen water like that—you've never seen those kinds of colors. The sky, the water, it all just blends in so many different shades of blue.
Another place I'd recommend is the island of Ischia in Italy. It's right next to Capri, and on a clear day you can even see all the way to Capri, but Ischia is three times bigger and half the price. It's where my grandparents are from. You can cruise around on scooters, and since it's a big island there's so much to do in the summer. I love going there to stare out at the sea and enjoy the food.
Speaking of food, I love Southeast Asia—Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore—for the food, and also the climate and the fact that everything's so cheap. I was on a beach in Thailand and came across this restaurant, so I decided to go in for dinner. I ordered Pad Thai. Best Pad Thai of my life. It cost $1.30 in U.S. dollars.
ST: That's crazy.
JJ: It really is. When money's a factor, you have to think about things like the cost of food, taxis, entertainment, not just the price of your flight and hotel. So for example, if Bora Bora is out of your price range, you can get the same over-the-water bungalow kind of experience in Malaysia for a lot less. The water's not quite as crystalline, but the food is amazing, the people are nice, and it's ridiculously cheap by comparison. The same room in Bora Bora that would cost you $1,400 a night will go for about $350 a night on Pangkor Laut Island in Malaysia.
ST: Can you recommend anywhere closer to home?
JJ: I love Nantucket. I don't think there's a better place to go in America for summer vacation than Nantucket. It's a quick ferry ride for 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. I recommend going at the beginning or end of summer—not so much in the middle of July when it's gridlock downtown—but I usually go in early June and there's no one else around. It's not crowded, there's no traffic, the beaches are beautiful. And the food's always good no matter when you go. It's a great island.
ST: Sticking with the water theme, do you have any favorite cruise lines or destinations?
JJ: Seabourn cruises are amazing. They're very expensive, but you can sometimes find a great deal. Last year I saw a $4,000 Europe cruise discounted to $1,200 per person, and that included airfare! What I love about Seabourn is they're not giant ships—they're somewhere around 220 to 450 passengers, and you pretty much avoid the crowds.
The food is incredible. The ships all have really nice restaurants, but I like going to the buffet for breakfast and lunch. There are actually waiters at the buffet and they grab your plate to walk you to the table. My first time, I thought the waiter was trying to take my desert away from me.
Seabourn attracts a wealthy crowd. You know, people who could be high maintenance, and they all rave about the food. I was sitting next to the head of the one of the movie studios on one cruise. This guy can go anywhere. He can rent his own ship if he wants, but he doesn't because this is better.
The great thing about these cruises—any cruise, really—is that you don’t have to keep packing and unpacking in order to see a bunch of destinations that you normally wouldn't see. Two summers ago I did the Baltics, a 12-day cruise to seven different countries. It's especially good for people who are first timers to Europe because it gives you a flavor of the continent, and then you can choose which country you want to go back to and explore in more depth.
SmarterTravel's "Travel Talk" takes you inside the minds of seasoned travel professionals who dish on everything from favorite foods and favorite places to insider tips and funniest on-the-road experiences. Read our previous interviews here.