Suzanne Marlowe Minarcine, PhD
I learned to fly a plane before I learned to drive a car. At one point, I took my dad’s airplane and ran away from home, to Florida! I was an 18 year-old commercial pilot and flight instructor. I couldn’t get a job, since women were excluded from aviation. Airlines were only hiring former military pilots (men). I was laughed at whenever I showed up for a job interview. I got a degree in nursing and spent my first real career in healthcare.
Fast forward to 1989, and my job required me to travel 80% of the time. When my company was bought out by CIGNA, I retired at age 43 and started a flight school. I grew the school to 89 aircrafts and two locations, sold it, and got my dream job, as a pilot with Netjets Aviation. I’ve since retired, but my passion for travel has not diminished. My husband is a retired Delta pilot and we take full advantage of our travel privileges.
How often do you travel?
At least every other week, it seems, but at least once a month. We got home last week from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Then, we left 2 days later to see my mom in North Carolina. We have a few small trips coming up. In three weeks, I have meetings at the World Bank/IMF in Washington, DC. We will be home for two weeks and then I leave for Ghana.
Best travel tip
Don’t overpack, but don’t forget the essentials. I have designed a spreadsheet that I use to make sure I have everything I need, but not too much. If you can’t wear it three times or if it requires dry cleaning, leave it at home.
Best air travel tip
The Global Entry card is the best investment we’ve made, for frequent travel, but we also use CLEAR. Get to the airport early and people watch. Be kind to the employees; we take fun-size M&M packets and pass out to airport employees. It isn’t their fault your flight is delayed!
Best hotel tip
Always check for bedbugs. I know this sounds silly, but we have friends who brought home bedbugs from 5-star hotels. Keep your luggage in the bathroom until you’ve checked the mattresses and pillows. Also – check the room before you start unpacking. Look in the closets, under the beds, and in the safe. We just checked into the Hilton Midtown in NYC and found a huge crack in the window. We let the manager know immediately. We were moved to a different room.
Best cruise tip
We love river cruises. Don’t be afraid to get your own tour guide in some cities and forego the bus tours. It is a little more money but, you can see exactly what you want to see, with a more personalized flavor. On the ship, get to know people. There are only about 150 people on the river cruises, so sit with different people and get to know their stories.
Favorite travel credit card
Right now it is the Hilton American Express. We maximize our hotel and airline points, and we gift hotel stays to my children.
Best tip on using travel points
Learn to maximize your points. We use SkyMiles Dining, so we get points when we go out to eat.
Earliest travel memory
I honestly don’t remember not traveling. I think I was 6 or 7 when we went to NYC for the first time. My mother took us to see the taping of a game show, Say When. My mom wound up a contestant. I still have the fur coat she won and the lamps.
Best vacation ever
Last summer, we took a three-week road trip in our Porsche Boxster. We started in Macon, GA, and drove out to Montana. Our license plate and backup camera was stolen on Day 2, but we didn’t let that slow us down. We saw 7 national parks and lots of local attractions. I was recovering from a knee injury and we stopped ever hour to walk around. We tugged on Superman’s cape in Metropolis, Illinois, and we went to Carhenge. We only ate at local restaurants and we collected the stories of everyone we met. We listened to three audiobooks and laughed a lot. It is hard to top that. We probably spent as much time planning as we spent driving, but that only added to the fun.
Favorite American city
Without a doubt, New York City
Favorite international city
London, Paris, or Prague
Favorite beach or island
The Big Island, Hawaii There are so many different ecosystems represented there. Fascinating!
How many US states have you been to
All of them. I spent January 2000, flying fuel to remote villages in Alaska. I have a different appreciation for Alaska than most people.
How many continents have you been to?
Four, as of today. Five, as of the end of April.
Paris, for shopping. Honestly, though, Atlanta. I love the art on the walkway out to Concourse A.
The Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC, provided I can get a club level room. I can easily eat breakfast and supper in the concierge lounge and then spend the day in the spa. That’s the one vacation where I really do nothing except rest.
Otherwise, we are Lifetime Diamond members of Hilton, so any Hilton with a concierge lounge.
Favorite cruise line
Vantage. We love river cruises and the service on Vantage is superb.
Best travel moment
Meeting Bob Minarcine at the Embassy Suites in Dallas, Texas, in 2001. That’s more of a love story than a travel moment, but that will always be my favorite and best trip.
Worst travel moment
This is a hard one. In the late 80’s, I was a director for a major insurance company and I left every Monday and came home every Friday. My family got into a routine without me and I never felt like I fit, anywhere. They wanted to go to Daytona Beach for vacation and I used points to get us an oceanside room at the Marriott. They loved it, but for me it was just another hotel, identical to the ones I stayed in every single week of the year. If I were to give my 30 something year old self advice about a vacation, I would say stay somewhere different from where you stay for work. Rent a house or something.
One place you are still dreaming of going to
Australia and New Zealand
What do you least like about travel
Unpacking, but really absolutely nothing. We are so flexible and we “go with the flow.” We’ve been bumped from flights and spent the day in the airport. We make the best of it.
Favorite reason to travel
To meet people and to see things. We also love anything that has to do with space, so going to see a launch is another fun reason.