As CMO of Evite, the global e-inviting platform, Karen Graham is something of a lunatic when it comes to flying the friendly skies. She had quite the stint criss-crossing the globe for startups, agencies and Fortune 500 companies like Nordstrom before starting her current post where she’s growing the company from an invitation site to a full gifting content hub. We caught up with Karen to talk about her love of airline rewards programs, the joy of a good Ginger Ale, and why Joni Mitchell makes an amazing playlist.
Karen Graham’s Travel Intel:
My airline is: Alaska and United (mostly dictated by the convenience offered to frequent-flyer destinations from the nearest airport), but these airlines also have excellent loyalty programs and consistent plane quality.
My favorite seat on the flight is: Window! I love looking at the view below during takeoff and landing. I look for landmarks and try to get a sense of the layout of the city from a bird’s eye view.
My in-flight drink is: Ginger ale – which is funny to me because I never drink it unless I’m on a flight. I remember my mom ordering ginger ale for us when we were flying growing up, which is likely where it came from. If I go on vacation, I’ll order something fun like an Aperol Spritz or Moscow Mule.
My favorite airport/terminal is: I love a small airport and in Los Angeles, Hollywood Burbank Airport ‘Bob Hope’ is my passion. It’s a 15-minute drive and only has 14 gates, so it’s rarely crowded and convenient to the Valley, Hollywood, and downtown. If Bob Hope Airport wins for convenience, Vail’s Eagle County Regional Airport wins for style. I recently flew out of this tiny mountain airport after a weekend of skiing, and it’s decorated with a large stone fireplace, mid-century rocking chairs in local fabric, cognac leather sofas, wood paneling, vaulted ceilings and a stylish bar. I didn’t even mind when my flight was delayed!
The second time I get on the plane: Keep my wallet, make sure my water bottle and book are close by, and pop in my vents. I always like to have a paperback on the plane even if I end up just watching a movie or doing some work. It’s nice to have in case my eyes get tired of the screen on long flights. Or, God forbid, you have bad wifi.
My portable travel outfit is: Sunglasses, a small cross body, leggings, sneakers and a thin cashmere sweater under a packable vest. I like to be comfortable and prepared for temperature changes. If I get too hot, I can pack the puffer – and a thin sweater can also become a wrap pillow, or you can wear it slung over the shoulders. Everlane makes affordable, quality cashmere sweaters, and I love the La Ligne or Joseph sweaters.
My hand luggage consists of: Day clothes, soft pjs, comfy thick socks, Osea sea sea minerals face mist (for dry skin), RikRak hand cream, Ziip microcurrent device in case I find time to do a beauty facial while I’m away.
The pieces I take EVERYWHERE are: A long-cut black jacket or Proenza Schouler’s plaid blazer, a casual dress (Khaite makes beautiful layered dresses), thin cashmere sweaters, and Celine’s croc-embossed tops.
My flying soundtrack is: The Gorillaz and Joni Mitchell (for nostalgia), Japanese Breakfast and Harry Styles.
My favorite thing about flying is: The anticipation of new experiences, whether through landscape, culture or food.
The worst part of the flight is: Bad wifi.
My one flying hack is: I keep a separate travel bag filled with smaller, travel-sized beauty products that mirror what I use at home so I can grab the same bag for every trip. It’s hard enough to organize clothes in advance, so it’s nice to simplify packing beauty products. I’m also a big fan of bag and clothing organizers – Amazon Basics keeps me covered.
When I land, I: Beeline to the exit and don’t stop until I get there, while you notice the restaurants and airport merchandise along the way.
As soon as I check into my hotel room, I: Find slippers and unpack.
My favorite hotel in the world is: Four Seasons Chiang Mai. This was the most magical and otherworldly hotel. You feel like you are hanging in a tree house when you are in your room. The pool is the most peaceful and relaxing setting that also feels like floating above a huge lake full of lilies. There is seemingly a constant light mist hanging in the air and the entire property feels like it is in the middle of an otherwise uninhabited and endless bamboo forest. The food and service were impeccable of course. It is on my list to return to one day.
My favorite city in the world is: London. There is so much culture and it is so different from the United States, but it is more accessible and familiar than other European cities because of the common language. I love the attitude to fashion in London the most – everyone is so free to express themselves! London fashion truly transcends time and place, being unique is celebrated and nothing is too precious.
A concierge will know I prefer: The locals’ favorite restaurants and bars.
My favorite hotel memory is: Saltwater snorkeling at one of the Four Seasons pools on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a miracle to be able to see the beautiful sea creatures without having to worry about being out in the open ocean with big waves washing seawater into my snorkel. I was out swimming all day!
Beat jetlag with: Making plans and staying awake for as long as possible. I try never to sleep or spend too much time in my hotel room when I travel.
My biggest travel tip is: Be flexible and be bold. Travel is a privilege and the positive benefits from it last a lifetime. I look forward to seeing more of the world.