It is a great pleasure today to interview Australia travel writer Jo Karnaghan of Frugal First Class Travel.
What is your name?
Jo Karnaghan, aka Chief Frugalista of frugalfirstclasstravel.com
Which country do you come from/call home?
Australia. I’m originally from Melbourne, but have lived in Sydney for nearly 20 years now.
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
I travel for work, but also for leisure – I just love travelling!
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
Obviously when it’s for business, work pays, but when it’s for leisure I
pay with savings and by using mileage points.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
I remember going to Hobart in Tasmania when I was 5 years old. We went by
plane – it was my first plane trip, and I remember having biscuits and
lemonade on the plane – it was the late 1960s, so I remember the plane was
pretty different to how they look now! It must have been spring because I
remember there was a big tree with blossom on it in my aunt’s backyard, and
we could see Hobart’s famous Mt Wellington which had snow on it.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
I’ve just been to Istanbul. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but
it blew me away completely, and affected me in a way I didn’t expect. I
found it totally fascinating, easy to get around (which I wasn’t expecting
at all), great food, fabulous history and culture and lovely people.
Despite being a manic tourist for four days, and seeing all the big sites,
I feel as though I’ve barely touched the surface, and can’t wait to get
back there – I’m already planning my next trip!
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
Obviously things always go wrong on the road – connections get missed, drivers don’t turn up etc, but I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had nothing that I
would call a “bad experience”.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
I really hate places that are just “too loved” and are over run and often
ruined by tourists, so they bear no resemblance to what made them popular
in the first place. The two places that spring to mind are Kuta in Bali,
and Montmartre in Paris. While I love both Bali and Paris, those two
specific locations are definitely not on my “to do” list. Too many people,
far too commercial and too over developed.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
France – it’s my spiritual home! Although Barcelona and Istanbul
definitely give Paris a run for its money in terms of cities. I speak
French well, so that always helps, of course, and I just love the whole
French way of life, food, wine and culture.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
No, I don’t believe in them. I don’t tackle travel as a set of tasks or
achievements to be ticked off a list – for me it’s a continuous process. I
obviously have places I’d love to visit, and experiences I’d like to
have, but I’m not task-oriented about it. I know a lot of people do have
them, and I don’t criticise them for it, but it’s just not me – I’m a bit
more opportunistic and emotional about the process of deciding where to go
and what to do. I look at what time I have, what my budget is and what
inspires me at the time.
Can you imagine life without travel?
No, for me, travel is as natural as breathing. It is when I feel most “in
the moment”, when I feel most relaxed, and when my mind is most clear –
even when it’s for work!
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
When did you begin your website?
I started in early 2012
You recently wrote an article about how you arranged a trip from Australia to Europe flying First and Business Class for just AUD$925, how did you do it?
I have two frequent flyer/mileage accounts. I used a combination of both
accounts to cobble together my flights. Many readers would be aware that
to fly from Australia to Europe you need to transit somewhere en route, so
a return journey is actually four legs of travel. I managed to book 3 legs
via one of my accounts, and used my other account to book the final leg
home from Dubai to Sydney. The money I had to pay was for a flight from
France to Istanbul, because I couldn’t book anything via my mileage
Are you a travel hack?
Definitely. I don’t turn my credit cards over as aggressively as some
people do, but I make sure I put as many purchases as possible on my credit
cards, I only use credit cards that have good quality points programs, and
I keep an eye out for great deals to increase my points. What I also do is
make sure I don’t spend money just to get the points – most of the time
that is not a good deal. I only spend money to earn points if it is
something I would buy anyway. I also keep an eye out for good quality
deals offered by the airlines and my credit cards to increase my points
You are a doctor by profession. Does this mean you have to travel a lot with work?
Not as much as I would like! But I am fortunate to be able to travel
overseas for conferences once a year or so, and that I can combine that
with some private travel. The trick is to find conferences that are
professionally rewarding, in locations that are great to visit. I’m very
lucky, because my favorite overseas conference is held in Paris every
alternate year, so I get to stay in my favorite city, and attend something
of professional merit all in the same place.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I started my blog because my friends and work colleagues kept asking me for
travel advice, and a number of friends kept saying I should write a book.
Now I can’t imagine life without it, it’s taken on such a life of its own.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
I write a lot of travel advice, tips and reviews on my blog, rather than
experiential or diary style writing. I’m very opinionated, and aren’t
afraid to share my opinions! I write a lot about one bag packing, as I’m
passionate about this – I firmly believe it is the key to saving money,
time and effort while travelling. Once I realised that the only person who
cared about what I was wearing was me, and started packing light, a whole
new world of easier travel opened up to me!
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
Unfortunately,my most popular post is a negative review I wrote about Cathay Pacific Premium Economy last year – I really didn’t like it. My posts on one bag packing are perennially popular though, and always feature heavily in my top 10. From the feedback I get on the blog, people struggle with the idea of packing light, and are clambering for advice and assistance in this regard – women seem to find it particularly challenging. At the moment, my winter packing list for Europe is my most popular post, which I’m really proud of, given it is almost 12 months old – it obviously is something that people find of great value. I also wrote a series of posts about the Cinque Terre, based on my visit there earlier this year – they’ve proven to be very consistent performers in the 6 months since I wrote them.
What has been your favourite article to write?
Late last year I wrote a post about visiting the Sagrada Familia in
Barcelona. While it is by no means my most popular post, it is a more
reflective piece – a style I don’t write often. I was very moved by my
visit there, even though I’m not at all religious, and wanted to share that
experience with my readers. Even though it was not one of my most popular
posts, I received a lot of positive feedback about it, and I’m very proud
of that piece. I think it is a good piece of writing, and an original take
on a popular tourist site.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
Pack light, pack light, pack light. Plan, plan, plan. Then just do it –
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Etihad – great service and excellent food, easy to
redeem mileage points.
Favourite country? France – can’t get enough of it
Favourite city? Paris – my spiritual home
Favourite beach? – Balmoral Beach in Sydney. A world away from Bondi
Favourite food? – Anything local, made with love and with good local wine
to go with it
Favourite language? – French. I’m fluent, and getting better all the time!
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://frugalfirstclasstravel.com
Twitter handle? @ChiefFrugalista
Facebook page? http://facebook.com/frugalfirstclasstravel