11 Things We Learned About Travel From Jack Bauer
Jack Bauer is back—and this time, danger has a British accent! Fox’s “24” reboot, “24: Live Another Day,” takes Kiefer Sutherland’s super agent out of his native Los Angeles and drops him in London. Jack’s hop across the Pond has us thinking about how his journeys over the previous eight seasons have featured a lot of useful lessons about travel. Sure, most of us don’t battle evil plots on vacation (unless you count airline frequent-flier programs). But in our own travels, we can glean some valuable tips by simply asking ourselves “WWJD?”
So here are 11 travel tips we’ve learned from eight seasons (and counting) of watching Jack Bauer:
1. Be Wary of Vacation Flings
The very first terror plot on "24" is set in motion by a well-meaning airline passenger who makes bathroom sexy time with the hot stranger in the next seat. Unfortunately for him, that hot stranger also happens to be an assassin who steals his high-level security ID while he is … distracted, parachutes out of the plane, and blows up our horny hero and his fellow passengers—thus beginning the first of many bad days for Jack Bauer. Vacation flings can be fun, but they can have unintended consequences —the least of which is pissing off Jack Bauer.
2. Be Friendly to Your Seatmate
Jack Bauer’s plane crashes while he’s transporting a prisoner. They survive the crash, but the prisoner promptly tries to kill Jack. Would we have had that murder attempt if Jack had, say, offered his prisoner some of his in-flight snacks? Or made small talk while they were waiting to take off? Maybe, maybe not, but a little kindness always goes a long way on vacation. Just don’t overdo it (see Travel Tip #1).
3. Tipping Opens Doors
While undercover in Season Three, Jack ingratiates himself with a terrorist gang by offering a generous gratuity: the severed head of the lowlife who’d testified against them. Of course, you don’t have to go to such head-turning extremes to make friends on your trip. But do give generously to bellboys, concierges, valets, the restaurant hostess—anyone in a position to make your trip go more smoothly. Just try to reserve the human sacrifices for more desperate travel situations, like getting a seat on an overbooked Christmas Eve flight.
4. Leave Your Hotel Every Once in Awhile
Jack Bauer spends much of Season Four trying to rescue hundreds of people trapped in a hotel by a terrorist plot. You know who Jack didn't have to rescue? The adventurous vacationers who didn’t lounge around at the hotel and instead chose to sample the local scenery. They survived to enjoy their vacations—after, of course, they booked another hotel.
5. Respect the Locals
In Season Four, Jack invades China (more accurately, the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles, which is still Chinese soil) to apprehend a suspect, causing the death of a Chinese citizen in the ensuing shootout—a reckless action for which Jack would later pay dearly. When you’re traveling overseas, you’re on someone else’s turf. Be respectful. Say “please.” Follow the local rules and customs. And don’t go tramping around where you’re not welcome. Remember: you catch more flies with honey than bullets.
6. When You’re on Vacation, Stay on Vacation
Season Five opens with Jack taking “getting away from it all” to a super-radical, Baueresque extreme: he’d faked his own death so that everyone (including the still ticked-off Chinese) would leave him alone. The plan was working well, but by the time the first episode ends, he’s back into the same gun-shootin’, bad guy-killin’, world-savin’ rigamarole that caused him so much grief back at his old job. Getting sucked back into work when you’re supposed to be off the radar … well, sucks. Whether you have to fake your death or leave your work phone at home, don’t let that happen to you.
7. Keep Your Cell Phone Charged
What can Jack Bauer do with a fully-charged phone? Oh, nothing … just foil an terrorist airport siege! At one point in Season Five, Jack uses his phone to detonate a suicide bomber’s vest. Jack’s constantly on his cell phone during this adventure, and we never once see him recharge. Whether he uses those handy airport charging stations during the commercials or has some perpetually charged Super Phone, he shows us a charged cellie is a valuable tool for world travelers.
8. When Planning a Trip, Be Sure to Give Yourself a Day to Relax Upon Your Return
Has jet lag ever caused you to bite someone’s head off? Jack Bauer went a tad further: within hours of his return to the U.S. after a long, involuntary stay overseas—the Chinese finally nabbed him for that Season Four unpleasantness—a cranky Jack bites out a guy’s Adam’s apple. Yes the guy was a baddie who had it coming. But that long flight from Asia clearly did not help Jack’s mood. The moral of the story: take a day to decompress from the travel grind before heading back to work.
10. Know Your Way Around
Jack Bauer became legendary for his ability to zip around traffic-plagued L.A. faster than it takes most of us to make a beer run. But his epic navigation skills are on full display during Season Seven in Washington D.C., which is no slouch in the traffic department. In one episode, our hero’s even able to make it from the Beltway to downtown D.C. in under 10 minutes … in rush hour! Nothing makes you look cooler on vacation than knowing how to navigate strange terrain.
11. If You Can Help It, Don’t Drive in New York City
In Season Eight, Jack causes a traffic jam in Midtown Manhattan so he can incapacitate an entire security detail and kidnap a corrupt ex-President of the United States. If you find it implausible that a single person can bring traffic in America’s largest city to a devastating standstill, you’ve never been stuck behind a stalled vehicle in the Lincoln Tunnel (or offended the governor of New Jersey). If you’re traveling to NYC, give your car a break.
And here are some bonus travel lessons we’ve learned so far from Jack’s new London adventure in “24: Live Another Day.”
Traveling’s More Fun With a Travel Buddy
The first thing Jack Bauer does when he gets to London is break his old friend Chloe O’Brian out of a CIA black site. Jack knows that nothing makes a foreign city seem more like home than having an old friend by your side—especially if that old friend knows the city and can show you around. Bonus points if, like Chloe, that friend’s also a computer wiz who can hack Priceline.com to get you a cheap fare home.
A Vacation is No Excuse to Blow Off Your Workouts
The most shocking sight in the first installment of “24: Live Another Day” isn’t some brutal act of violence or a surprising plot twist. It’s the sight of a shirtless, 48-year-old Jack Bauer tied up in that interrogation room. We don’t know everything he did during his time in Europe, but it’s clear that Jack got jacked! On the run and pushing 50, the trim, buff Bauer’s in better shape than disgraced ex-counterterrorism agents half his age—and therein lies a good lesson for travelers. Take a cue from Jack and maintain some semblance of your exercise routine during your trip. And resist the urge to eat your way through the entire city. If you have trouble with that one, do what Jack did: vacation in London. It’s hard to get fat eating British food
Remember—Traveling is Supposed to Be Fun! Our grim-faced Jack Bauer hasn’t yet learned that lesson and it’s doubtful he will during his new London adventure. That’s a shame because even Jack’s alter ego knows how to party in the U.K., as we saw in that still-awesome 2006 viral video of a jolly Kiefer Sutherland in a London hotel lobby. Jack Bauer’s example, or lack thereof, reminds us that whatever you do during your trip, make sure you have fun doing it. That’s good advice whether you plan to see the world or save it.
Check out the “24: Live Another Day” premiere in NYC
Sid Lipsey is an eager traveler and “24” fan who’s foiled his wife’s repeated attempts to throw away his Jack Bauer action figure. He’s also a New York-based producer, journalist, on-air personality, and writer whose work has been featured on CNN, HLN, and The Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter.