Famous flyer: Todd McKenney

"Never drink on a flight" ... Todd McKenney.
"Never drink on a flight" ... Todd McKenney. Photo: Mick Tsikas

Todd McKenney never drinks on a flight and avoids intoxicated Aussies, but he's dancing mad about the Whitsundays.

Which was your best holiday?

I went around the world on my own in 2005 for nearly four months. Before I left I got a map of the world and stuck it on my noticeboard, then each night after my show I'd throw a dart at that map and that's where I'd plan to go. I ended up everywhere from Mongolia to Greece to Rome to China to Russia. The highlight was the Trans-Siberian railway. It would just stop in the middle of nowhere and all these nomads would come racing up on horseback and serve fermented horse milk and cheese through the windows, then you'd play soccer in the middle of the Gobi Desert with goats walking by. It was absolutely amazing.

The best hotel you've stayed in?

The Hotel Eden in Rome, up the top of the Spanish steps. It cost me something like €1800 ($2214) a night - I was going to stay for three days and ended up staying for two weeks! You can see all over Rome, they've got a tiny cocktail bar at the top and at 4.30pm every day I'd sit there drinking grapefruit daiquiris and watching the sun set over Rome. Absolute heaven.

What do you need for a perfect holiday?

No plans. I want to go to a country and find out when I get there from locals what to do, so I don't end up doing just the touristy things. And I don't need my accommodation to be expensive, but I do need a really nice, comfortable room.

What do you always take with you?

Earplugs and an eye mask. If you check in late at night, you might have no idea that you're in a room over a building site or that the curtains don't actually keep the light out, until they wake you up. I'm an earplug connoisseur: anything designed for sea travel is my recommendation because they get rid of the low decibels, but I normally go with two pairs - one to get rid of high stuff, one to get rid of low stuff - so I'm always covered.

What's your best piece of travel advice?

Never drink on a flight. That way you arrive at your destination fresh and ready to hit the road, you're not trying to nurse a hangover and a new country and jet lag.

Where do you want to go next?

I'm mad about the Whitsundays. I've spent a lot of time at Hayman and Hamilton [islands], but I want to try Qualia [resort] or Lizard [Island]. They're easy to get to, the weather's great and the light's beautiful. I instantly slow down and relax when I arrive in the Whitsundays.

Which was your worst holiday?

I've got friends who have a really fantastic family ski chalet halfway down the mountain at Smiggins. I've been going there for years and I love it, so I decided to share it with some new friends of mine, but they got there and it wasn't their style. They wanted five-star luxury so they didn't come out of their bedrooms or mix with anybody the whole time. We were there with the family who owned the chalet so it was really awkward and so rude. The people who owned the place and I ended up just laughing about it, but I was furious with those friends, hence they're not friends any more.

And your worst experience on holiday?

One time I was having dinner with friends at the Oberoi hotel in Bali and a friend spilt her daiquiri all over her legs, which then became a really sticky mosquito buffet. We all laughed about it, but then halfway through the night she got ridiculously sick and we had to take her to hospital. The problem was we had to fly out the next morning - we got to Denpasar airport and stood in the big queue, but when we got to security she fainted so we had to drag her to the side and find a wheelchair. Then the security people took us into a room and wanted us to pay money. We didn't know why. Eventually we got on our flight, but as soon as I got home I got sick and spent the next three days in bed. That was a really bad ending to a holiday.

What's the worst hotel you've stayed in?

A hotel in Beijing when I went on the Trans-Siberian. They gave me an internal room that had absolutely no windows - it was damp and mouldy and had no light, it was awful. And at that time hardly anyone spoke English in China so it was so hard to communicate with anyone - I just had to make the gestures for window, air, light, friend, help!

What's the biggest packing mistake you've ever made?

Taking a huge, red suitcase with me on the Trans-Siberian, not realising that everyone else had a backpack, and that was for a reason, because the cabins are so small that there's no room for an oversized red suitcase. It took up all the free space so we used it as a footstool and as a coffee table, and the people in the other cabins laughed and they called [it] Trevor because it was like having an extra person on the train. I just looked like the biggest, nerdiest non-traveller.

What do you avoid on holiday?

Drinking the water and Australians! Especially drunk ones. And I love eating on the street and mixing with the locals, so I try to avoid the big tourist things or do them first thing in the morning or last thing at night, when other people aren't there.

What do you hate about holidays?

Not a lot. Well, I miss my five-year-old daughter Charlotte, I haven't been on a big holiday since I had her. I also miss my dogs and my garden, in any order!

As told to Nina Karnikowski

Todd McKenney is touring nationally with Songs and Stories of Peter Allen, tickets at toddmckenney.com.au.

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