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How to beat jet lag without coffee and other high-end travel hacks
AT Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we always want to make sure we're doing it right. So we're talking to globe-trotters in all of our luxury fields - food, wine, fashion, cars, real estate - to learn about their high-end hacks, tips, and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.
Curator and creative director Ximena Caminos was brought up in Buenos Aires, where she worked at Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Bueno Aires (Malba) before leaving for a personal and professional partnership with her now ex-husband, Alan Faena. Together, they masterminded his namesake hotels in Argentina and Miami Beach; Ms Caminos's focus was establishing the complexes' art world credibility via exhibitions, site-specific commissions, and dedicated cultural centers. Ms Caminos was the driving force behind the Faena Forum art centre in Miami, which launched two years ago during Art Basel Miami Beach.
Flying around 400,000 miles per year, Ms Caminos is a devotee of American Airlines Inc and is part of its ultra-elite tier, Concierge Key. "I get a lot of benefits from that," she says. "And I use it a lot." She lives in Miami with her children. Here are her travel tips.
There's a secret to curing jet lag without coffee.
"I travel everywhere with yerba mate. We Argentines are serious mate addicts; it's our version of green tea, an infusion that you can drink all day and keeps you going. I take it specifically in the morning - like Americans or the Europeans take coffee - but coffee gives you shakiness, and it's short, a 20-minute boom.
Mate is not aggressive for your stomach, and it will keep you up but not in a shaky way. I make my own special version of it, sometimes with other leaves, and chamomile with a little honey, so it's 70 per cent mate. Because it's a ritual, I bring my own cup and bombilla, which is that metal straw. And even a thermos, which I bought in Iceland by Laken. If you borrow a thermos in any hotel, it will normally smell of coffee."
It pays to not plan ahead.
"So to me, travel is breaking down the routine if the rest of the year you really have to work hard. I never book tickets in advance. I tend to change the dates so much that it ends up being more expensive (to pay change fees) than if I buy them at the last minute. Also, when you buy at the last minute, you can get amazing perks as well. Many times, I've found, you can get really good deals in the last 24 hours before a trip. We are slaves of time, of the clock, of our duties, of the routine. That routine sterilises your mind."
Want to really get to know a city? Use Jorge Luis Borges as a tour guide.
"There's a sentence by Borges that always struck me as a teenager. It said: 'To really get to know a city, you need to get lost in it.' So that's a game I like to play. There's a sense of wonder. I think that getting lost opens you up more, you pay more attention. If you know you're going from here to there, you focus on the route, the map rather than the territory. But when you're lost, you're analysing the territory.
The last time I got lost? I grabbed my son Noah, who's eight, when we were in Tokyo. I told him: 'Let's get lost.' So we just went down into the subway and took a train for an hour, then we got off wherever we wanted, in the most weird neighbourhood you can ever imagine, called Shimokitazawa. It was a low-end commercial area with lots of vintage fashion places and lots of arcades. It was so fun, and we ended up buying this cool shirt."
But if you're heading to Iceland, what better guide than Bjork?
"Bjork is one of the extraordinary people I met in my travels. We met when I was on a trip with Tate Modern to the Venice Biennale. When I first met her, she told me about Akureyri (in north Iceland). I love it there. She actually lent me her house by the lake for my first trip. She told me: "This is my mom's number, so call her, she's gonna give you the key. I ask you one thing. At dawn, when you get up, listen to the birds."
Then she recommended places to go. We went to a masked party at Idno; a bar called Gaukurinn, to catch the drag show called Dragsugur; a restaurant called Snaps on Odinsgata, which had really good cocktails; and Hurra, a venue for music and bands."
There are two ways to really judge the quality of a hotel.
"Room service is a good thermometer of how the hotel is doing, operationally. The hotel doesn't make money on it, you see, so it's almost like a cost for the hotel. The level of love they give you? It means the hotel is really stretching itself to please the guest. And when you arrive early from America to Europe, most hotels won't let you check in until 12 noon or even 3pm, or they try to charge you for the night before. But those things are all negotiable. A good hotel will anticipate some early arrivals and make it work."
And remember: almost everything is negotiable.
"Always bargain your hotel rate. What's the cost of that room going unoccupied? They have a lot of margin in the luxury market. At high-end hotels, like the Faena Buenos Aires, an unoccupied room costs US$50 a day because of the air, energy, electricity, whatever. A room that's occupied can cost US$70 (including housekeeping). People might call, say, the Ritz and book seven days in a suite, and see the rate, which they think (is) fixed. But you can negotiate at least 15 per cent off usually (if you are staying several days)."
There's no more evocative souvenir than scent to remember a place.
"I have a fetish for souvenirs. I especially love tea or incense: smells. There's this incredible pharmacy in Marrakech - Herboristerie Palais El Badia (22 bis Arset Lamaach Touareg Jdad) - where you are overwhelmed by all these spices and smells. They have bark and crystals, too. I love to dive into those things.
And I know the best incense in the world, and it's only one old lady that makes in Bali. You won't get it on Amazon. My friend brought me some as a gift, a little packet; it's from Nadis Herbal, and it's called Bali Spirit. It's the most extraordinary smell I've ever smelled. When I went to Bali, I went back and I bought all of them, like a shoebox (full). That was as much as she had." BLOOMBERG