Zachary Honig is the Editor-at-Large of The Points Guy, responsible for its editorial content. He’s an aviation enthusiast, a private pilot, and a certified scuba diver, though he prefers to spend his time in the air on a lie-flat bed, catching up on the latest talkies! Zach has traveled to more than 64 countries by redeeming miles and points. He has also shared the ins and outs of booking knotty first-class awards while reaping maximum benefits on hotel offers with a travel audience through publications like Frommer’s.
Tell us a bit about your career and how it led to The Points Guy.
I studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, one of the top undergraduate programs in the United States. After my senior year, I interned at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, then began a career as a technology writer and editor at a variety of publications in New York City, most recently including Engadget, where I was responsible for all live coverage, such as Apple product announcements and trade shows, primarily overseas. I quickly realized that travel was what I loved most about that job, and eventually, that led to me joining The Points Guy as the site’s first Editor-in-Chief in 2015.
When you started travelling, what kind of research/planning did you do and how long did it take you? How has your trip planning process evolved?
Initially, I would plan out every detail of a trip, including activities, and restaurants I hoped to visit. Now, I actually take a much more laid-back approach. I put a lot of time into researching flight and hotel options, but I tend to book most activities and restaurants after arriving at my destination since apps like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Foursquare, and even Instagram make it easy to plan trips on the fly.
If you could live anywhere in the world outside of the US, where would that be and why?
As much as I always love visiting Japan, I’m not sure I’d live there. I’d probably choose somewhere in Europe. Perhaps Scandinavia, in Norway, or Germany, France, or Italy. I love exploring Europe and having access to incredibly inexpensive train tickets and flights would be incredible.
If you were to recommend the top 3 must-visit destinations for a beginner, what would they be and why?
For a first-time trip to Asia, I might recommend Taipei, Hong Kong, or Singapore. It’s easy enough to get around without speaking the local language, there’s incredible food and the locals are fairly friendly. All three are also great starting points for travel throughout the region. For a time first trip to Europe, I might consider one of the more tourist-friendly destinations, like London, Paris or Rome (or all three!). It’s easy to communicate, and the locals are used to working with tourists, though some are more outgoing than others. As for a first trip to the United States, I would recommend New York, since it’s so easy to get around the city, and there are activities available for every budget. San Francisco is a good option as well, especially if you like outdoor activities and can visit in the summer.
How do you deal with misadventure, and what advice do you have for people traveling abroad for the first time?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have not run into any significant issues abroad, but my best advice is to always travel with a full charge on your smartphone, and a device that has local connectivity. The ability to search for solutions and/or contact family members and friends is key. For US travelers, I highly recommend Google Fi, which offers affordable service in over 100 countries.