Traveling by the Experts will be a series where some of the most frequent travelers in the world share their experiences. Some interviews I conduct myself, while others will be reposted from around the web. Personalities will range from international celebrities to athletes and fellow bloggers. In this first edition, world renown DJ Paul Van Dyk shared his traveling preferences with MAX, a German magazine.
The originally interview was first published in 2007. Through the magic of the internet and some linguistic help, I bring you the translated version.
My comments in blue and the bolding is mine. German is not a cheery language as you may say, so bear with me if things get a little clunky.
(All rights belong to MAX. Click here for the original interview in German. )
Max Paul van Dyk, in the past year (2006) you have spent 792 hours on a plane and circled the earth 16 times. Actually, you could be just like a pilot, as they dont fly much more than you.
VAN DYK with the difference that a pilot is flying for work and my work only begins when I land somewhere.
MAX Since when do you pull this workload through?
VAN DYK In this form, since 2000. More would be counterproductive, I would need an extra day in the week. I am also unhappy that the Concorde has been abolished. I was able to save some time with it.
(The comment about the Concorde makes total sense. He was able to save 3-4 hours of flying between the US and Europe alone).
MAX Are there types of aircraft that you avoid?
VAN DYK All by aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas. So in the DC 9, DC 10, the Fokker 50 and so on, I do not get on.
(Fascinating, considering I’ve worked on this post aboard one of the 192 McDonnell Douglas airplanes still in the American Airlines fleet).
MAX Why not?
VAN DYK Good airlines such as Lufthansa or British Airways do not have these machines in the fleet and for good reason (these aircrafts seem to have quite a history). Avianca, for example, has very many of them (fortunately, this seems to have changed since). I avoid certain charter airlines, Air Birkin, for example. In Latin America, I prefer flying with Copa Airlines, are now , even if I have to take a detour via Panama. Copa has a modern fleet, mostly Boeing aircrafts. Taca is also a good Latin American airline. (Precisely Avianca, Taca and Copa are the newest members of the Star Alliance, which Lufthansa happens to be founding member of.)
MAX Are you afraid of flying?
VAN DYK Not really, because I’m trying to minimize the risk with my choice of airline. But there are still always strange occurrences. The last flight from Miami to Quito, we took three tries to start. We started to roll, then came the announcement that the papers were not ready yet. I.e. 20 minutes of waiting. The second attempt ended with an emergency stop, apparently because a door was not closed. The third launch attempt was announced, saying now that we would only lose time to make sure everything works. It can even be very uncomfortable.
MAX How to get safely to remote places in Central America?
(Being from Venezuela I find all this talk about flying to/from Latin and Central America absolutely priceless.
VAN DYK I usually fly first class to Miami and then from the Executive Airport in Opa-Locka with private jet to Bogota, Medellin and other venues.
MAX Then you have so much space.
VAN DYK That always sounds great, but how can 7 people fit in a Learjet? 2, you can fly comfortably, but 5 of us is tight.
MAX your travel costs must be enormous.
VAN DYK Yes, but it pays off. My daily journey is organized very tightly, so is also important that everything runs as smoothly as possible. There are also private jet charter companies with sky-wide price differences. Lufthansa offers the service “Executive Business Jet” (more recent info in this link), which flies to exactly twice the money as my charter company in Berlin. It is worthwhile to look at the price.
MAX you are a member of Lufthansa’s Hon Circle (requiring 600,000 miles in two years). Is it true in Frankfurt they will take you with a chauffeured Mercedes S-class from the gate to the aircraft?
VAN DYK Theoretically yes, but not always practical work of service, and he became Senator client is available to fly, the economy. (We found this sentence rather confusing. Mentioning that someone always get the car so the idea of the s-class isn’t practical?) So the S-Class quota is exhausted quickly, and there is no car available when I need one. Therefore, I prefer to use the Fraport VIP Service. A little extra cost, but I will always be picked up from the aircraft to a lounge where the passport and customs check is done for me, saving much time. I’ll also be driven directly to the next plane back.
MAX We’re impressed. No, jealous.
VAN DYK It is very important for me to explain. That sounds all very crazy at first. But sometimes I only have five minutes to catch a flight, which is not under normal circumstances. I have had to cancel, perhaps, half of the tour because I would have arrived too late.
MAX First or Business Class?
VAN DYK I use first on long haul flights (seems like usually the talent flights on 1st, while the rest of the crew/management has to settle with business). Of the 100 percent of first-class travelers, I would say that maybe one percent do it for reasons of prestige. The rest are people like me who have to work or sleep, because they start working after the flight.
(This is completely understandable. If you have a gig starting at 11pm, the last thing you want to do is get there jet lagged and destroyed).
MAX You sometimes fly economy?
VAN DYK Yes, on short flights. Easy Jet from Schoenefeld to Liverpool to Ibiza in the summer or with Condor from Dusseldorf. I could also fly directly from Berlin to Ibiza with Air Berlin, but I do not like them. The seats are so close, in my experience, one has to sit uncomfortable with their knees pressed against the seat. (Welcome to my life, Van Dyk!)
MAX Do you ever wake up in a hotel and don’t know where you are?
VAN DYK Yes, it happens again and again. I always sleep two or three hours before my gig. Then, when I get the wake-up call, I’m just confused at times.
MAX Which hotels do you prefer? (Way for it, it gets better)
VAN DYK If there is a Mandarin Oriental, I can only recommend it to everyone. This is no a tip for tourists but for businessmen who are under extreme stress conditions and need a bit better services than the usual first-class hotel. The Four Season’s is great too. At the Hyatt Regency one must be cautious (so honest!). Grand Hyatt and Park Hyatt are the premium brands and I’ve had good experiences. Especially with the Park Hyatt in Sydney and Hong Kong. However, the Park Hyatt in Shanghai and Beijing are also great.
(Here’s one recent review of the Park Hyatt Shanghai, courtesy of Ben at One Mile at the Time.)
MAX Is a bad hotel reason for you to leave right after you perform?
VAN DYK Of course. There are so many inconveniences on the road, but one of the most disgusting things is a filthy carpet or when bedspreads are dirty. Sometimes I have been already dressed on the bed and just waited until I was able to check out.
(Pretty sure we have all gone through this at some point, no?)
MAX In your opinion, what does a top 5 star hotel offer?
VAN DYK It must be squeaky clean. I also need to have food available around-the-clock. And not just a warm sandwich that is made by the porter.
MAX Room or suite?
VAN DYK I usually book a slightly larger room or Junior Suite Executive.
MAX How do you use your hotel room? When?
VAN DYK I’m mostly in after the soundcheck. Around 7:30pm-8pm I head to the hotel, sleep for four hours, shower and then leave at midnight or 1 o’clock to the gig. No matter where in the world, my day usually runs quite the same. Get up, airport, fly, arrive, soundcheck, interviews, sleep, wake up, gig. That changes depending on flight time or travel disruptions.
MAX What do you do in the hotel when you’re free?
VAN DYK I sleep. This is the most important thing. And I use the mini-bar, because I do not want to wait half hour, until they bring me a bottle of water.
MAX in-room service or restaurant?
VAN DYK Only Room Service. (Following many DJs on Twitter, you’d be surprised to know almost all always order room service).
MAX shower or tub?
VAN DYK I prefer to shower in a bathtub because you never really know if that was cleaned well. (FYI, German is really tough to translate).
MAX Have you ever left with something from the room? (Is there a nicer way to ask if you ever stole anything?)
VAN DYK No. What I need, I always have, everything else is just more baggage.
MAX You have breakfast in the hotel?
VAN DYK Not really. I usually sleep until late in the morning and then check out immediately.
MAX How much do you tip the maid?
VAN DYK nothing for housekeeping, but of course for the room service, and if someone helps with luggage.
(I’d concur here. Is not like he’s trashing the room every night.)
MAX What currency do you take for cash with you?
VAN DYK mostly dollars and euros. In the beginning the euro was not as popular, but now it has become common knowledge that he is worth more than the dollar.
MAX Trendy hotels or more classic ones?
VAN DYK I like them classic, like the Mandarin Oriental or Grand Hyatt. But not so techhouse and spun like some design hotels. I was recently in Mexico City at the W hotel and it was the most impractical room I’ve seen for a long time.The shower was in middle of the room and looked like an oversized coffee-cup of milk. To turn on the tap, you had to get out of the tub. The curtain was hanging around outside. So if you got out of the tub, you were sure to slip. Or if you try to shave at the Sanderson Hotel in London, then that’s one mess. The sink is on one side, the mirror on the other side. You must race back and forth with the razor.
(I’m a fan of Starwoods hotels and a Platinum member and that’s one of the most dead-on, funniest reviews of a trendy hotel room I’ve seen. Ever).
I’m still laughing!
Ha! Where’s the mirror?
MAX Are there always surprises when traveling?
VAN DYK Most problems were from entering a new country. Rule number one: We must never contradict the immigration authorities. (Listen up, international Mileage Runners!). No matter how wrong they are. In South Korea, I was sometimes paid directly by the club at the immigration police, because the organizers had not informed my office that the country had changed the entry and exit conditions. I had my passport taken away from me and had no control the next day when I wanted to fly home.
MAX It helps to have good contacts.
VAN DYK At times. For example, my wife and I had four days after a tour in Cancun, Mexico, and of course I had to left my equipment there. The Customs wanted to keep my suitcase and locked it in a room because they thought I was going to sell my equipment. I’ve only got everything back quickly because I know someone who owns half Cancun.
MAX For your trips, what are the “must haves” in addition to your equipment?
VAN DYK In any case, my phone and my Blackberry.
MAX your favorite airport?
VAN DYK The Changi Airport in Singapore (this seems to be the general consensus amongst all international celebrities), because it offers a good mix between rest zone and the gates and shops are easily accessible. There is also the best lounge, the one by Singapore Airlines (I have had that lounge and airport on my must-visit list for a few months now). They have a great restaurant with a light Asian food, which is of course much easier to digest than a fat pig roast or packaged sandwiches from British Airways. (!!!)
MAX Which airline has the most beautiful stewardesses?
VAN DYK not so much the appearance of the stewardesses – but I think the uniforms of the Asian airlines are very pretty. The flight attendants of Singapore Airlines are indeed seen as representatives of the country and therefore they dress very typical for the country.
MAX Have you made interesting travel acquaintances?
VAN DYK Actually, only involuntary, because I admit, like most first-class travelers I pay the extra money so I can have peace and sleep. (If you happen to sit next to a celebrity in first class, this will usually be the case. It’s not because they’re rude or a-holes as it is because they need the rest). But there’s always a few exceptions, such as the three Russians who were sitting behind me. As soon as we were in the air, one of them took a folding chair from the luggage compartment, placed it in the aisle and then they proceeded to play Bingo three times. In another flight a drunken Austrian sure wanted to talk to me. He asked me what I was reading, I was amused a bit because he laughed at every joke in the movie. But then the whole thing ended when he said, “We are a fun pair, like ying and yang. You are quiet and asleep and I’m taking everything.” I don’t think I have ever been as rude to a man in a plane.
(Hey, they’re Europeans…I’m sure something got lost in translation there).
MAX Does this non-stop traveling around really takes it out of you?
VAN DYK Naturally, I try not to get sick with the constant stresses. Especially when I’m in Berlin. Where I can lie flat for 2 days.
MAX How long do you want to keep this up?
VAN DYK The process of traveling, this waste of time and waiting is already uncomfortable and not at all glamorous. Even if you fly first class. But these gigs in foreign countries to experience the cultures and to stand as in San Salvador, with about 10 000 people, that’s like a flash, and then it is worth the whole ordeal again.
Interview: Annette Utermark
Many thanks to RG for helping with the translation.
Some may think he comes off rather cocky and pretentious but when you get paid tens of thousands of dollars to play songs for a couple of hours you earn the right to request first class seats and five star hotels. In fact, I believe that’s standard practice in the music business at this point.
Thoughts or comments?