By Jordi Lippe-McGraw. Photos: Getty.
Frequent air travel is just part of the job for actress Zoe Saldana, who's flown to places like New Zealand, Hawaii, Dubai, and Seoul to film movies like Avatar and Star Trek Beyond. (She's is also a huge fan, personally, of exploring far-flung places with her family.) Unsurprisingly, logging all of these miles has made her a bit of an expert when it comes to long-haul trips. “Because of my profession and my husband [artist Marco Perego]'s profession, we tend to be a lot more nomadic than the traditional person,” Saldana tells Condé Nast Traveler. “And one thing we have grown to realize is that the journey is just as important as the destination.”
With that in mind, the mother of three boys decided in March to collaborate with All Nippon Airways for their first U.S. campaign, highlighting the Japanese flag carrier's in-flight amenities and service by writing editorials about in-flight beauty tips, traveling in style, and discovering the country. “Partnering with an airline like ANA felt natural,” she says.
Saldana, who just returned from Japan with her family, took some time to chat with Traveler about the highlights of her trip, tips for avoiding jet lag, and the one thing she loves reading on a plane—the answer may surprise you.
What’s the best flight you've ever taken?
I like long flights, because I get to experience my own version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. See, I'm a sci-fi geek, and I loved that movie when I saw it as a young girl...What resonated the most with me was the time that was being spent in these aircrafts getting to the destination. The destination was never important—the journey was—and I like knowing that I am having a good journey getting to a place. I am very sensitive to energy, so if I start a trip on a good note, it is going to end on a good note. I love long trips.
What was the worst flight you have ever experienced?
I think being on short flights, like when you skip from one town to another and you’re on small aircrafts where even the flight attendant is super bored. Also, you feel like you are just on a bicycle in the middle of the air because you feel the wind, you feel the turbulence, and it’s much heavier. I get very overwhelmed.
You mentioned before that you and your family like to travel to more unconventional places for your vacations. What was a favorite of yours?
Bangkok, Thailand; and South Africa. I still haven’t explored South America, and that has been on my bucket list for a long time. But, exploring Asia is amazing. I have been able to go to Japan four or five times and I really hope to go there more.
This last trip that I took to Tokyo, I brought my grandmother, my mother, my stepfather, my husband, our kids, and our assistants, so it was a big group of us traveling and it was marvelous. We had such a great time, and for me to be able to take my 82-year-old grandma to Asia meant the world to me, because if I wasn’t going to take her, she probably was never going to experience that in her life. It’s funny because she's Dominican, but we have Japanese family, so the Japanese culture has been something that we have been exposed to since I was a very young child. I have Japanese cousins, and I have Japanese nieces and nephews, so getting to know the culture in its own motherland, it is something that we appreciate with a lot of humility.
What were some of the highlights of that trip? Any particular restaurants or sights?
Traveling to Kyoto. We took the bullet train and visited a couple of temples in Kyoto, and we also visited a Zen garden. We didn’t have our youngest son with us, who is only three months, but we felt that by visiting a Zen garden we were going to keep him in our thoughts with us. We also got to experience different types of Japanese cuisine. My mother loves shabu-shabu and my grandmother loves grilling, so we did the teppanyaki and the izakaya experience, and we also did the shabu-shabu experience—in addition to sushi, of course. I feel like everybody was able to cater our minds, and we were able to also cater our bellies.
Back to air travel. On a plane, are you an iPad, Kindle, or actual book kind of person?
I think I'm a book person. There is something about holding a book that still makes me feel smarter than everybody else. When you go to those little newspaper stores at every airport, I tend to always buy Reader’s Digest. I grew up reading it. I love the little stories that are shared in that booklet, and I love the articles; and I just love the jokes.
You said you like long flights, but with long flights comes a lot of jet lag. What’s your recipe for avoiding it?
If you arrive during the day at your destination, don't go to sleep immediately. Try to rest on the flight, but don’t rest the whole time you’re on that flight because then you are going to be up if you arrive to your destination at night. Also, drink water. I feel like if I hydrate, my body responds very well to whatever I am making it do.
What stamp in your passport are you proudest of?
I have to say right now that I am most proud of my Italian passport because I just got it. Now that my husband became an American citizen, it was very important for him that our sons and myself also obtained some kind of Italian residency or citizenship, which makes him feel good, like he is not going to ever forget where he came from.
So you actually have an Italian passport?
I do! Let’s say we are in Europe, we will just travel with our Italian passport and it just makes it easier to go in and out of countries.
So, you’re proudest of having a whole other passport, not just a stamp in your passport.
Before that, I loved collecting my old passports. My father did that and when he was a young man he traveled a lot. He passed away when I was nine, so I loved being to flip through the pages every time we missed him and see all of the cities and countries that he had visited. It always made us feel like, wow, he was such a rock star, he traveled everywhere.
What a nice memory to have.
Yeah, it really is.
What is your late-night room service order?
You can never go wrong ordering chicken tenders and French fries. Let’s say you're somewhere and you don’t trust the food, just order chicken tenders and French fries. They are going to be frozen, they come in a package, they deep-fry them, they have ketchup and it goes great. That and fruit. I also always order fruit.
What is one thing every luxury hotel should have?
Just good service; great people. I love staff. My husband and I are talkers, so we talk to whoever is in the elevator, whatever waiter, whatever person is introducing us to our new room. We are talkers, so we love when people are friendly and look like they are happy to be working for that company. That is important for us.
What would the hotel minibar of your dreams be stocked with?
Champagne! I love champagne, I love rosé champagne. Whether it’s tacky or too much or whatever, I just love rosé champagne. Right now, because there are so many wine options, I feel like the quality sometimes of wine is being diluted and all of the preservatives, it’s very hard for you to find a good wine that doesn’t leave you feeling groggy afterwards. I feel like champagne is still that one product that people can’t f*ck with, you know?
What is one place you keep going back to, and why?
Two places, actually. One is the Caribbean, because that is where my family and my roots are from, everything that I know myself to be is based out of the Caribbean. Then Europe, because we are a half European family so it’s very important that our sons and I honor their father and where he comes from and his European heritage.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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