Travel tips from the experts: How travel professionals travel

They enjoy some of the world's most enviable jobs, spending most of their year on the road, in the sky or on the seas. They travel for a living but like the rest of us, they have a passion for a seeing the world, including as ordinary travellers who, courtesy of their occupations, know it better than anyone.

The travel professionals we talk to here – a tour operator, an airline pilot, a flight attendant, a cruise ship captain, a hotel general manager and a tour company operator among them – have more than 100 years' combined experience travelling the world. We've picked their brains (and passports) for their travel insights and advice.

What have they learnt from their travels? What perks do they receive? Where do they visit when they're off the clock? What delights them – and what annoys them – about travel?

Read on for their first-hand knowledge about what works, and what doesn't, when it comes to holidaying. It's the lowdown you won't find in any guidebook.


Joey Russo is a Qantas A380 cabin crew manager, and has worked for Qantas for 12 years.

FOR MY JOB I TRAVEL TO PLACES SUCH AS Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, Dubai and Hong Kong.

MY JOB'S BEST TRAVEL PERK IS being able to jet off for a last-minute holiday at inexpensive prices.

WHEN I TRAVEL FOR MYSELF I LIKE TO explore somewhere new and off the beaten track every time, like exploring the tea plantation trails in Sri Lanka and trekking in Japan's Yakushima Island.

MY NEXT HOLIDAY IS TO South America next year. Starting in Chile, I'll make my way to Lima, followed by Cuzco in Peru. I'll explore the beautiful Peruvian countryside before setting off to trek the Inca Trail up to Machu Picchu in the Andes.


THE ONE LESSON MY JOB HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT TRAVEL IS safety and quality is important to everyone when they travel, so don't make compromises. Those extra few dollars you spend could be the best investment you've ever made.

THE ONE THING THAT MOST ANNOYS ME WHEN I TRAVEL FOR MYSELF IS I always end up packing far more clothes than I need (though when I travel for work I pack very well!) Nine times out of 10 I end up only wearing half of what I've taken with me and carried half way around the world. So, keep it simple. And if in doubt, leave it out.

MY BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE IS carry a power bank for that much needed battery recharge. And don't forget a pen to fill out your arrival or departure card, and of course for the crossword in the inflight magazine.

See: The truth about being a flight attendant


Dennis Bunnik is the Adelaide-based managing director at Bunnik Tours (, his family's travel company where he has worked for 21 years.

FOR MY JOB I TRAVEL TO PLACES SUCH AS Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Americas, destinations to which our company runs small group tours. I'm very lucky. In a typical year I'll visit at least three or four continents. So far this year my travels have included Morocco, Latvia, Italy, Turkey, Peru and Brazil. Next week I head off to Singapore and then Switzerland.

MY JOB'S BEST TRAVEL PERK IS being able to see the world's most iconic sights and calling it work. I also love seeing the benefits of tourism in action – whether that be two completely different cultures coming together and gaining a greater understanding of each other, or seeing clients interacting with locals in restaurants and cafes well off the tourist trail.

WHEN I TRAVEL FOR MYSELF I LIKE TO take time to walk through the back streets, sit in a park or square and just watch the world go by. That, and eat with the locals.

MY NEXT HOLIDAY IS something we've never done – a classic resort style flop and drop holiday somewhere closer to home. My past few holidays with my wife and two teenage sons have been about discovery to places like India, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Europe and Canada.

THE ONE LESSON MY JOB HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT TRAVEL IS small groups are much easier and also more fun than large groups. With a group of only 15 to 20 people there's less waiting for others to get on and off the coach, hotel check-ins are easier, as is ordering in a restaurant. You have more one-on-one time with the guide and the chance to ask questions, and you soon get to know everybody, which means the group gels much better and has more fun.

THE ONE THING THAT MOST ANNOYS ME WHEN I TRAVEL FOR MYSELF IS tour guides who talk too much. Not talking too much is a big part of our tour guide training because really, the guide is there to share his or her culture and bring life to the destination – they're not there to demonstrate how much they've learnt or know about a topic. Nobody likes a 45-minute monologue first thing in the morning. One other thing that annoys me is people who don't anticipate what they need to do when they reach the front of the security line. Prepare, people – take your keys, phone and coins out of your pocket before you reach the front of the security line. And let's keep this line moving!

MY BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE IS if you're choosing an organised tour make sure it includes enough free time so you can relax and really take in the destination rather than just tick off monuments from a list. This will make a massive difference to your experience, and will keep you travelling for many years to come.

See: Meet the world's best tour guides


Debbie Slade is a Qantas ( A330 Captain, and has been with the company for 27 years.

FOR MY JOB I TRAVEL TO PLACES SUCH AS Singapore, Jakarta, Bangkok and Hong Kong, plus between Sydney and Melbourne several times in one day.

MY JOB'S BEST TRAVEL PERK IS having time to explore a city and eat the local food.

WHEN I TRAVEL FOR MYSELF I LIKE TO take the opportunity to reconnect with old friends who are spread out around the world. I went to Mexico for four days last year for a girlfriend's 50th birthday and it was wonderful. Otherwise I like to travel with my family and introduce my children to the wonders of the world – the different cultures, architecture and types of food. Also to show them that not everyone in the world is as privileged as them.

MY NEXT HOLIDAY IS TO Europe with my family. We'll spend time with family in the French countryside, the UK seaside and then down to Barcelona. My boys are so excited to visit the famous football stadium, Camp Nou, whereas I'm looking forward to seeing the amazing architecture and enjoying many evenings eating tapas and drinking sangria.

THE ONE LESSON MY JOB HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT TRAVEL IS Pack early, pack light and always keep a space for that unexpected discovery.

THE ONE THING THAT MOST ANNOYS ME WHEN I TRAVEL FOR MYSELF IS people who get frustrated by security. No one likes it, but it gives us all peace of mind.

MY BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE IS get out on foot. Walking around a city is the best way to discover all the hidden gems.

See: What it's really like to be a 747 jumbo jet pilot


Bernie Boller is general manager of the new Pullman Sydney Airport Hotel (, which opened in June this year. He has worked for AccorHotels for almost seven years and was formerly general manager of the Fairmont Resort at Leura in the Blue Mountains.

FOR MY JOB I TRAVEL throughout Australia and into Asia. I've experienced some of the most remote regions in the country and truly believe we have one of the most beautiful countries in the world to explore.

MY JOB'S BEST TRAVEL PERK IS the inside information on new hotels and destinations I get working for a hotel group like Accor. I'm always looked after and made to feel welcome. My trips often involve catching up with colleagues in different locations around the world. A recent trip to Hong Kong resulted in a reunion of four close colleagues who were all in town at the same time. Working in hospitality means we're also lucky to attend many special events such as dinners with the world's best chefs or event launches.

WHEN I TRAVEL FOR MYSELF I LIKE TO chill at a wellness resort as the role of a hotel general manager is very busy. I also like to check out cutting-edge hotels and resorts in unique destinations to see how people interpret hospitality differently, and to stay ahead of trends in the industry. I've also done some bespoke cycling tours in Japan and Vietnam and have found these kinds of tours are a great way to meet and interact with the locals and sample off-the-beaten track sights more intimately.

MY NEXT HOLIDAY IS TO Canggu, Bali, where I plan to indulge in yoga, surfing and good food in a beach-front resort for a week. After that I'm planning a trip to Myanmar, where Accor has opened several properties, and exploring Inle Lake which has been identified for World Heritage listing by UNESCO. I'd like to see it before the masses descend.

THE ONE LESSON MY JOB HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT TRAVEL IS TO listen carefully and focus on unspoken communication. Working at an airport hotel this is especially important as we have guests from all over the world, but I think it holds true in travel generally as well. We can learn more by being open, and by listening and watching the non-verbal cues of those around us.

THE ONE THING THAT MOST ANNOYS ME WHEN I TRAVEL FOR MYSELF IS not being treated as an individual; attention to detail and service that doesn't anticipate or address my real personal needs. I think travellers are increasingly looking for experiences and services that are tailored to them individually, and there's a need in today's disconnected world to be more connected on a personal level when we travel.

MY BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE IS plan ahead, but always be prepared for the unexpected. You should always allow for spontaneity and I think it's important to always look for the positive in any situation. I also think you should really try to mix with the locals so you can understand the heart of your destination.

See: Ten things you should never do in a hotel room


Tom Walley is the executive general manager at Flight Centre ( He has been with them for 15 years.

FOR MY JOB I TRAVEL TO PLACES SUCH AS South Africa, the UK, America, Canada and throughout Asia. I'm also busy travelling around Australia.

MY JOB'S BEST TRAVEL PERK IS getting to travel at all! I love getting to know new places and visiting old favourites. It doesn't matter if it's for work or play, the joys of travel are always the same and I'm fortunate to be in a role that has me travelling quite a bit.

WHEN I TRAVEL FOR MYSELF I LIKE simple camping holidays to road trips around New Zealand, cruising the South Pacific or skiing in Canada. I have a young family, so a lot of our holidays are family friendly. But no matter the destination, we always try to mix in some cultural exploration on our holidays and we're eyeing up an African safari with the family. If we want to treat ourselves, then a relaxing resort holiday can't be beaten and some of our favourite destinations include Bali, Hamilton Island, Hawaii and Fiji.

MY NEXT HOLIDAY IS a river cruise through Italy with Uniworld. We'll be doing their Splendours of Italy itinerary which is new for 2016 and explores Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan, plus a few hidden gems.

THE ONE LESSON MY JOB HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT TRAVEL IS book as early as possible. The earlier you book, the more availability there'll be to secure the airfare and accommodation you want at the best price for the travel dates that suit you.

THE ONE THING THAT MOST ANNOYS ME WHEN I TRAVEL FOR MYSELF IS airport queues. There really is no silver bullet for this necessary evil other than arriving early and being well prepared with your documentation to hand. Travelling with hand luggage only is a good way to skip the baggage area.

MY BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE IS don't think you have to pack everything into the one holiday. Travel slowly, seek out authentic experiences, avoid the tourist traps and take your time to enjoy each destination.


Captain Flemming B. Nielsen, originally from Denmark but now based in the US, has been at sea since 1983 and with Royal Caribbean International ( since 2000. He now captains Ovation of the Seas, the biggest, newest and most technologically advanced ship to ever sail in Australia when it arrives on December 15.

FOR MY JOB I TRAVEL TO almost everywhere in the world. I was in Australia, New Zealand and Asia on Rhapsody of the Seas back in 2007. I also had the pleasure of bringing the Mariner of the Seas to Asia in 2013 and have sailed in this region ever since.

MY JOB'S BEST TRAVEL PERK IS TO be part of a team helping to develop new cruise markets.

WHEN I TRAVEL FOR MYSELF I LIKE TO enjoy the Rocky Mountains and the coastal areas of California.

MY NEXT HOLIDAY IS TO California, then to visit my family in Denmark.

THE ONE LESSON MY JOB HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT TRAVEL IS that there are many different and exciting cultures around the world, and we all share the same basic goals for our families.


MY BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE IS travel with an open mind, learn from other cultures, and enjoy every moment.

See: On board the world's biggest cruise ship



"Trying to fit too much in," says Bunnik Tours' Dennis Bunnik. "Do this and travel becomes a chore and you miss the beauty of the small moments of nothingness you experience by just stopping and watching what's happening around you."


"Over planning," says Qantas's Debbie Slade. "It's better to give yourself the opportunity to discover what you never knew was there."


"Leaving it too late to book, especially for peak-season travel like Christmas and school holidays," says Flight Centre's Tom Walley. "Many people think they can get a great last-minute steal, but these are rare and when there is one, the dates may not line up.


"Expecting things to be like they are at home," says Accor's Bernie Boller. "To me this is a mistake, because travel should be all about new experiences and learning new things. If everything was like it is at home, there would be no need to travel at all.


"Not preparing for the unexpected and forgetting to purchase travel insurance," says Qantas's Joey Russo. "More people than you think end up paying hundreds of dollars for medical treatment while abroad."


"Hesitating to go in the first place," says Royal Caribbean's Flemming B. Nielsen. "Just go, it may be the best thing you ever did."


Sure you love to travel, but what qualifications, training and experience do you need to nab one of these globe-trotting roles?


Some cruise companies offer cadet programs, operated in partnership with marine academies and colleges. Otherwise you'll need to complete a relevant bachelor's degree, such as marine transportation, marine engineering, or maritime operations and technology, then get experience on a sea-faring vessel as a deck officer or third mate.


There are a few ways you can get a commercial pilot licence (CPL) in Australia. You can join the Australian Defence Force, apply for a self-funded cadet pilot program with an airline, enrol in a commercial airline course at a flying school, or in a three-year Bachelor of Aviation at university. Pilots need to get 150-200 hours of flying experience before they can start work.


It varies between airlines, but aspiring flight attendants usually need to put in an online application to their preferred airline; if that's accepted, next up is a recruitment day, usually involving group activities and a presentation. After that it's about getting through the necessary security checks and medical examinations, and providing your first-aid and responsible-service-of-alcohol certificates.


Most hotel GMs will have studied hospitality for at least a year, although you can start in housekeeping or restaurant service and work your way up. Being able to speak another language is a definite bonus as you'll be dealing with guests from all over the world, and global mobility helps as you might have to start in a remote or overseas hotel before being given a city property.


The requirements can vary between companies, but you'll likely need a diploma or degree in tourism management, and possibly a management traineeship too in order to work at the highest echelons of a tour company. It will help if you've done lots of personal travel – so get cracking.


While you don't need a licence to work as a travel agent, formal training will help you stand out, like a Certificate III in Travel or a Diploma of Travel and Tourism. These are good ways to get experience with online systems and destination knowledge if you haven't worked in the industry before, and again it helps if you have lots of personal travel experience.