Bruce Poon Tip may not have seen Up in the Air, but he lives it. The CEO of Gap Adventures Travel figures he’s flown more than 1 million miles since he founded his Toronto-based company in 1990.
Rated by National Geographic Adventure magazine as the “Best do it all outfitter” in a recent competition, Gap Adventures offers trips on all seven continents to 100,000 travellers a year. With more than 850 employees worldwide and numerous speaking engagements on his calendar, Mr. Poon Tip is a true road warrior.
What’s your routine to get ready for travel?
I start a couple of days before my flight to make sure I’m hydrated and well rested. Before getting on a plane, I do yoga. I book my hotels near a yoga studio so when I get to the other side, I can just pop in for a class.
How do you pack?
As lightly as possible. I go up to seven days with a carry-on only. Since I’m an adventure guy, I don’t have to carry suits. Depending on how long I’m staying, I plan on mixing and matching my clothes and having stops for dry cleaning along the way.
Do you have a favourite spot on a plane?
I always like a window seat. I travel so much that I know the different planes, so sometimes it’s not just a seat but a row number and a certain seat number.
Do you always book on the same airlines?
I have my favourites. The airlines I fly are the ones that offer the services I need so I can get work done. I’m a frequent flier and a Super Elite member with Air Canada, so I receive a lot of perks, like preferred check-in and security, and lounge access with wireless [Internet] I get a lot of upgrades because I travel so much, so I rarely have to pay for business class. But if [my trip is]time sensitive, I have to travel on whatever airline is available.
I generally travel business class. A lot of my travel is for short periods of time, which means I have to hit the ground running, so I have to sleep. Also, I’m getting older. You feel aches that you didn’t feel before.
How do you use your time in the air?
To review documents, write, analyze reports, read. I have a little basket at my house to collect books and magazines because I can never read at home. I’ve given up trying.
How do you make yourself comfy?
I know someone who changes into pyjamas on a plane. I don’t do that but I dress very casually. I like to get the space all set up with the things I need to operate around me right at the beginning of a flight. That way you don’t have to get up as often. I have a thing with wine gums and music. I always have my iPod because music relaxes me.
Best defence against talkative seatmates?
Headphones! Headphones are the best defence! When I’m in business mode, I want to get work done. It’s not necessarily unfriendly. When I’m on vacation with my family, I’m more chatty.
How do you handle delays in airports?
Those used to be a nightmare, but now I quite like delays because of wireless. Between my iPhone and laptop, I can just hook up and get so much work done. Some of my best work is done in airline delays. Whenever I can get undisturbed time, that’s a gift.
What are your favourite travel apps?
The weather app is a big one for me. This year, I’ve gone right around the world in seven days twice, so you can imagine the climate differences. I like the Air Canada app to check in and go through security without getting a boarding pass. That’s a huge saving of time. I use iTalk a lot because it’s a voice recorder so I can make voice notes when I can’t write or type. I’m also kind of addicted to Doodle Jump.
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Since turning 40, jet lag has become a big issue for me. I try to time my meetings and flights so I can relax before going to sleep. Sometimes that’s not possible and you have to suffer through it. None of the all-natural jet lag pills work for me. Eating healthy and keeping a good schedule helps so you don’t nap during the day.
What do you eat on the plane?
Generally, I eat what the airline is serving but I supplement it with my own stuff, such as protein bars. I don’t eat breakfast on planes because it weighs me down for the day so I might just bring a light muffin with me.
Advice to other business travellers?
Consolidate your business travel because the benefits become very apparent with one airline. A lot of people chase the cheapest flight and never build up a relationship with an airline to get the benefits that make travel easier.
A flight attendant spilled a tray of drinks over my head on a 13-hour flight. It was orange juice so I was sticky the entire flight and it ruined my suede jacket. I cleaned up as best I could. The airline gave me a small credit to clean my jacket, but it was destroyed.
Any safety incidents?
I was on a flight to Belize on a small plane that landed on a strip with the ocean at the end. We went right off the runway into the ocean. They opened the sides of the plane and we had to jump in the water to get off the plane. That was quite interesting.
Jessica Alba, Steve Nash (I’m the biggest basketball fan ever) ... Mike Holmes, wearing the whole bit with overalls like he does on Holmes on Homes. He was a nice guy but I didn’t ask him to renovate my home. He must have the same rule as me because he got up and put on this deluxe set of headphones. I said, ‘Wow, he’s sending me a strong signal! He must not want anything to do with me.’”
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