Frequent Flyer: Tony Wheeler, Lonely Planet co-founder

By John Walton, April 4 2011
Frequent Flyer: Tony Wheeler, Lonely Planet co-founder

Tony Wheeler and his wife Maureen started the Lonely Planet series of guidebooks in the 1970s, and it's a rare traveller who doesn't own one or more of their iconic guides.

With the series now owned by the BBC, Tony's time is freed up for travelling, and hesat down with Australian Business Traveller to share some of his top tips for travelling on business, including his favourite restaurant in the world.

What city do you most often visit for business?

London – because I live there part of the year, but otherwise it could be anywhere, there’s no particular city I go to on a regular basis. Recently Madrid, Rome, New York have all been on the agenda. In Australia I’m back and forth between Melbourne and Sydney regularly.

What are your best tips for travelling to London?

London – remember it’s (like so many cities) really a combination of lots of mini-cities, or even villages.

Public transport – use the Tube, it’s often faster than anything else.Get an Oyster card as soon as you arrive, faster, more convenient and way cheaper than buying tickets as you go.

Driving – you won’t want to drive around London but if you need a car to get out of the city I’m a big fan ofZipcar (City Car is probably equally good) the car sharing system which works remarkably well.

Bicycle – and don’t forget to try ‘Boris Biking,’ officially the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme.

What's the one thing you do (or try to do) on every trip?

Walk somewhere. See a museum or art gallery.

What’s your favourite city to travel to?

San Francisco, well I left my heart there – after living in the SF Bay area for a year in the 1980s. There’s a style to the city quite unlike anywhere else in the US.

You’ve got a spare day in SF: what do you do?

Oh, ride a cable car, take BART across to Berkeley. Eat somewhere interesting.

When you’re overseas, what are your favourite stores to shop in?

Bookshops. They tell you a lot about a city.

What’s your favourite hotel?

Absolutely none. If I stay in the same hotel twice I start to feel guilty that I’m not trying something new, it’s a guidebook writers affliction that I’m never going to get away from.

Tell us about your best overseas dining experience.

The Fourth St Diner in Berkeley, across the Bay from San Francisco.

Unfortunately it’s gone now but for years it was my favourite restaurant in the world and I never had a meal there I didn’t enjoy. The food was quintessentially Californian-Pacific Rim cuisine but done with very relaxed style.

And the real attraction was overhearing snatches of amazingly Californian conversations from other tables – is he talking about his ex-wife (the bitch), his lawyer or his tennis coach, not sure.

What are some essential carry-on items you’d never leave home without?

My GPS. I like to make sure the pilot is flying in the right direction. And is the taxi really travelling that fast?

How do you typically spend your in-flight time?

I do tend to try to clear the email inbox between A and B. It’s going to be a drag when even on planes the damn things keep coming in.

How do you beat jetlag?

Try and get on to the right time as quickly as possible is the ideal advice, but I’ve given up on it. If I wake up at 4am, as I’ve done for the last 3 mornings, I just get up and do something.

What are the first things you do on a business trip after settling into your hotel?

Walk somewhere.

What do you like most about travelling, even though it’s for work?

It’s never boring.

What advice would give airlines to improve the experience of the business traveller?

Tell us what’s happening.

What are your biggest travel gripes?

Airport security. We’ve had it for years now - why is it so badly designed? I’m quite happy to believe most people can do their particular jobs better than I could, but damn it, I could do a better job designing airport security at most airports I go through.

What’s your best travel advice?

It’s going to go wrong, live with it.

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