Danielle and I met in NYC about a decade ago, and later on, we connected on a shared love of travel. She’s unique in that she travels on whirlwind trips in order to see the world in her own way. She’s down to fly lots of hours to see a bucket-list experience, and then go back home 72 hours later.

I like to say, if it’s a holiday weekend, Danielle is on a plane going somewhere. She is known to make the most of every single day off from work, combine it with a weekend or a week, and get set with jetting far, far away.

On top of all this, she works in hospitality management and has experience as a General Manger at boutique hotels in NYC and Los Angeles. Her perspective on hotels and what to look for, combined with her travel style, make her a special person to interview.

Read on, to see what she has to say (and to see how to maximize your vacation days to go to a new country every time!).

When did your personal travel journey begin? Were there any significant experiences?

When I was in college, I studied for a semester abroad in London and every weekend we went to a different country.

I was mind-blown, coming from California, where in 12 hours, you don’t even leave the state.

To be in a place where, with a 45-minute flight or 2-hour train ride, I was in a whole other country, culture and experience, was incredible. After a few weekend trips, I got hooked on the idea of being able to visit as many places as possible in Europe.

What initially brought you into a career in hotels and travel hospitality?

When I was 16, I walked into a cafe at 2am with friends and wanted a smoothie. Being short-staffed, the guy at the counter told me he would give me a free smoothie if I could start working as a server for him the next day.

I worked at that cafe for 10 years, all throughout high school and college. I fell in love with talking to people all day, but I wasn’t sure how to make a career out of it.

My grandmother, who lived in Vegas at the time, said anyone who was in hospitality there worked in hotels! So, I took her advice and got my first hotel job via the food sector as a part-time banquet server at the Hilton in Santa Barbara, while I was still in college.

In your opinion as a hotel expert, what makes a hotel great for travelers?

The service!

When you choose a hotel, you already know what to expect in terms of the status of the rooms, the amenities and the location of the property.

What really differentiates a hotel from others is the way you are treated and the experience you receive from the hotel team, from the concierge’s city recommendations, to the room attendants’ smiles in the hallway.

Hotel star ratings are heavily focused on service, for that reason.

Talking travel: When did you decide you were going to visit as many countries as you could?

As soon as I started traveling, I knew I wanted to go to many places.

Once I moved to New York and was able to go to more countries easily, I decided: why not go to them all!

Growing up in a religious sheltered environment, I thoroughly enjoy understanding how differently other people grow up and live. I want to experience every culture to its fullest!

What’s your travel style? Can you share with us how you plan trips?

Most people think I am quite crazy in my travel style.

Surprisingly, the hospitality industry allows for very few vacation days, being that it is a 24-hour industry.

Therefore, I travel more quickly than most people, to see as much as possible. My itineraries are color-coded and broken out by the hour, to be completely filled from 6am to midnight.

Most of my one-week trips are filled with at least five flights and three countries. I use Skyscanner for international flights, Kayak for domestic travel, Tripadvisor for hotel reviews and to compare rates, many different travel blogs for itineraries and Viator for city tours.

Do you focus your travels around hotels you want to stay at?

Not at all. My love for my job is quite separate from my love for travel.

In fact, I find it very funny when I interview people who say they want to get into the hotel business because they love traveling, as the industry allows for limited PTO (paid time off) with its 24-hour business needs.

However, I do pay detailed attention to service at hotels I stay at, and I prefer a boutique hotel to a brand.

But I don’t focus my travel on hotels—I very much focus on the cultures and the activities. Nevertheless, I have gotten many ideas from hotels on my journeys to apply to the hotels I manage.

How do you manage to take so many trips per year while working full-time?

It’s very difficult. Any time there is a holiday, I tend to leave the country and take a few days off.

Only having two weeks off per year, I do my best to squeeze in as much as I can and travel to Central and South America when I only have a few days to spare.

Once I am in one continent after a long flight, I try to pair the trip with other countries around it. I also don’t travel as if I am on “vacation.” The itinerary is usually hour by hour, starting from 6am to around midnight, daily.

My husband joked in his vows that if we have five days to travel, it means 10 flights, five trains, three buses and a boat, on average.

If I could work remotely and travel, we would certainly be living out of a different country every month.

What are a few of your top travel memories, maybe some crazy stories?

So many.

Some top experiences that will forever stay with me were ice climbing the Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia, witnessing a lion kill right in front of our car on a self-driving safari and getting stuck in the dirt right next to a leopard in Namibia, go-karting wearing Minion costumes through the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo and roasting marshmallows on the lava of Volcano Pacaya in Guatemala as a day trip from Antigua.

Most recently, I had a family-cooked meal with our driver’s family in Senegal. Next month, I am doing a homestay over the Sabbath with a Jewish tribe in Uganda.

I believe the best travel memories are made through a local and authentic experience that you would not find at home.

What are some expert tips you can lend to travelers when looking for the best hotel? What do you look for?

If you are looking for a good rate, look at multiple sites, but it’s always best to book directly with the hotel and ask them to match whatever rate you find.

If you book on a third-party site, the hotel sees a lower rate (because the commission is usually taken out first) and therefore, when looking at who to upgrade or give a better room to, you will most likely be lower on the list.

Always read reviews on TripAdvisor or Google to really ensure that the guest experience is what you are looking for. Sometimes in these reviews, other travelers point things out that you would not have thought to look for, but they might be things that could impact your experience.

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