All posts in One-on-One

Sampling the banquet of natural wonders and attractions of Chile

In this month’s One-on-One feature, we interviewed Juan Lopez, North American Market Manager for the Chilean Tourism Board.  Whether it’s skiing in the Andes Mountains, hiking and exploring in Patagonia and Easter Island, or dining in the beautiful, multicultural city of Santiago, Chile offers an unmatched variety of landscapes, activities and attractions for just about anyone.

If you’re not a freewheeling backpacker with limitless time to meander up and down Chile, what’s the best way to plan your first and maybe only trip to this uniquely diverse country?

First you should start in Santiago, to acclimatize to a new country, new language and new people. It shouldn’t be difficult since Santiago is quite a modern and cosmopolitan city. Actually it’s the place where you should relax after a flight from the U.S. Here you should experience the wonderful national and international cuisine that can be found in the city, accompanied with a nice glass of Chilean wine. Depending on what your interests are, you will fly either north to the Atacama, the driest desert in the world, or south down to Patagonia. If you really want to avoid flying within the country, you can always mingle around Santiago and Valparaiso (the former Pearl of the Pacific) enjoying the arts and culture atmosphere of these cities. Between Santiago and Valparaiso you can get lost within Casablanca Wine Valley. If the season allows it, you could go up to Andes and enjoy skiing in the Andes.



September is the start of spring in Chile.  What does that mean for travelers?  Is this a good time to visit and what are the best locations this time of year?

September through May is the best time of the year to visit Chile, mainly if you want to go south and visit Patagonia, Antarctica, the Lakes & Volcanoes Regions. You can still go to Patagonia during the North American summer months (Chile’s winter) but it will be colder. Central area and north of Chile are pretty much open all year round; remember in the northern part of Chile is the driest desert in world where in some area not a drop of rain it has been seen in years, hence this region can be visited year round, from January to December. Central area can be visited in any season, expecting rain in winter, yet getting amazed by the snow-capped Andes Mountain. In spring you will enjoy the beauty of a colorful city.

hiking in chile

Skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts seem to hold Chile in high esteem.  What’s special about skiing in Chile and where are the best snow sport areas?

Skiing in Chile is very particular since you will be skiing in between the highest peaks of the Andes Mountains. When coming from the USA you would be able to ski in the North American summer months (Chile’s winter). Skiing is available just 90 minutes away from downtown Santiago, with four ski resorts easily accessible from the city. The world class ski resorts we have, actually Valle Nevado belong to Mountain Collective Network as Aspen & Whistler do, does tell you the level of ski offerings available in the country. There are also ski resorts down south of Chile, Corralco, Termas de Chillan, Pucon, Huilo Huilo, Osorno Volcanoe.
Now it is quite difficult to pick an area as the best, since this is a personal preference. Yet I can personally say that I prefer to ski in Santiago since the ski resorts are quite close and they cater in an amazing way. Yet I have a Swiss friend that always argues with me that the best ski is in south of Chile – Corralco particularly. Once again it is a personal opinion.

The natural landscape and diversity of Chile is extraordinary, what are your top 5 favorite sites and why?

First the Atacama Desert, since I was born there…. People believe that there is nothing to do in the desert, yet in fact there plenty of activities and natural attractions to sight see. You can find penguins, geysers and lagoons in the Atacama Region. In addition to all this the culture experiences due to the native people that still live in this area is wonderful and unique.

Second, Santiago, place where I currently live, Santiago is such a livable city,  super multicultural and modern that it feels good to be back after being wondering around the world for six six years. Santiago blends that old & modern architecture, cuisine from Peru, Spain, Italy, and Asian influence.

Third, Easter island, it is such a unique and mystical place, it is in fact an open air museum, that you can explore at you own peace, where the Rapa Nui culture (people for island) still preserve their traditions, language and food. In addition you will feel in the “belly bottom” of the world right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Fourth, Patagonia, with Torres del Paine National Park, the fjords and glaciers area. This remote area of the world will just connect you with pristine and pure nature, allowing you to forget the stress of living in a big city. Every time I want to disconnect, I escape to Patagonia. In addition the food here it is just amazing.

Last but not least, it is the Lake & Volcanoes region, I love this area since I am pretty very active and I love outdoors activities, so hiking up to a Volcano, trekking or cycling around one lake to another. What’s best is after a full on day… going and relax on one of the dozen hot spring pools is the best.

Chile is known to be one of the safest South American countries. Is that still the case?

Chile is super safe, and it is not just me saying this, but it has been said by the British Publication “The Economist” and its Safe Cities Index 2015 report.

Chile is that safe that Chilean people don’t need Visa anymore to travel to the U.S., this is due to a waiver program scheme that the Chilean and American government have signed up. This is actually a vote of confidence to Chile coming from the American Government.

What type of shopping should tourists plan for and what types of items offer the best value?

For American people, I would say Chile is not a shopping destination, mainly because we have the same brands and stores you can find in the USA, and similar prices. Yet handicrafts would be interesting to the North American traveler. A precious stone called lapizlazuli is interesting to the North American traveler. Another interesting purchase would be some of the native wools like the one from Alpaca. In lieu of shopping, we recommend Americans spend money on food and drink given the variety of sea food available (remember 3000 miles of coast) and the beautiful wines.

What about the cuisine of Chile – are there native dishes or specialties that visitors should seek out?

I always recommend people to try seafood, especially lobster from Robinson Crusoes Island. In south of Chile, I recommend to try Curanto – a very ancient and very local dish made of different meats, seafood’s and vegetables cooked in a hole dug from the ground and is covered with Nalca (a  local plant) leaf. You can’t leave Chile without trying Patagonian lamb or Charquican.

Are there any special events or festivals happening in the fall (Sept – Nov) that visitors should check out?

During September we do celebrate our independence day, which some times last an entire week. Music, dances, parades, and traditional Chilean games came to play. Parades include huasos, the traditional Chilean cowboys, music, and displays of national pride. Much of the celebrations occur in ramadas, temporary open buildings with thatched roofs traditionally made from tree branches. Ramadas feature a dance floor, music, and tables to eat. Fondas, or refreshment stands, offer a wide variety of Chilean foods including empanadas, anticuchos (shish kabobs), chicha (alchoholic drink), and more. These Ramadas are held in every single little town or village of Chile. Additionally during September also occurs a religious festivity right in the Atacama desert, that is called Ayquina Festival. During this time pilgrims and visitors from around the world converge on the village, celebrating throughout the night until the skies flare with a blaze of fireworks as the clock strikes twelve. There are many different groups of dancers that you might see throughout the festival, with dances inspired by both indigenous and imported traditions. The International Film Festival, held in Valdivia (South of Chile) happens every October. Due to the German influence this city of Chile has, we also have our own OctoberFest, originally from Germany, yet our celebration is held in early January, when summer is in place. Yet, during October (15-18) we have the homemade beer festival.

2015 Travel Tech Update – One on One with Dave Dean, Travel Technology and Gear Expert

This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Dave Dean, a corporate refugee turned world wanderer who writes about travel and technology. Dave writes for popular sites, including, NomadicMatt, as well as his own blog,  He also authored a book on travel tech, Hammocks and Hard Drives.

Dave discusses the hot trends in travel technology now, including wearables, real-time video streaming, can’t-live-without apps, as well as gadgets that make life on the road a little more like home.

What’s the hottest trend in travel tech right now?

Everyone is getting excited about wearables, although I haven’t found any compelling examples for travelers yet. There’s also a seemingly-endless stream of startups with apps offering some kind of ‘social travel’ experience, but again, none have become must-have travel companions with a broad user base. Real-time video streaming (eg. Periscope) is starting to show up in the travel space — it’s obviously dependent on having good connectivity, but I’d expect to see this continue to grow. Other than that, though, it’s pretty much the same things it’s been for a while — easier and cheaper ways to stay connected overseas, extra battery life and more storage on mobile devices.

Are you seeing any interesting developments across hotel chains and airlines that involve technology as a way to make vacations or business travel more like home or just more convenient?

I tend to find the best developments coming from startups and third parties, rather than the hotel chains and airlines themselves. Apps like Lounge Buddy, for instance, let you know which lounges you already have access to in any given airport on your route, and which ones you can buy day passes for, along with reviews and tips. That said, some of the hotel chains are doing interesting things — you can use your phone or Apple watch as your room key in Starwood hotels, as well as choose your room in advance and speed up the check-in / check-out process with hotel apps. I’d expect to see much more of this type of convenience in the next few years.

What are some of the best gadgets and gizmos for making life on the road better?

I’m always trying out some new gadget or other while traveling, but tend to find it’s the simple things that are most useful. For instance, I have a portable battery with extra storage space built in, that lets me charge my phone during a long travel day and save photos or video to it if I’m running out of space. You can get the same things built into an iPhone case as well, for extra convenience. I always take a travel-sized power strip with me — there are never enough power sockets in hotel rooms, and it lets me charge up to four devices simultaneously with one socket (and one plug adapter!). I’ve also recently started using a little adapter with 4 USB ports in, that includes detachable plugs for most countries. That way, I can charge (for instance) a phone, tablet and e-reader at the same time, from one wall socket.

Any useful recommendations for making airline travel less stressful and more comfortable?

An eye mask and noise-cancelling earphones or at least decent earplugs. I bought myself a good pair of noise-isolating earphones a couple of years ago, and they’ve transformed my travel days. I found that noisy passengers and the drone of the engine caused extra stress and made it hard to rest on flights. Now I just put on some relaxing music, pull down the eye mask and chill out. It makes even long-haul in economy class somewhat bearable!

ExpertFlyer recently surveyed more than 1,000 family travelers.  We asked them to name their top “can’t live without” travel apps, and TripAdvisor reigned supreme, followed by airline apps and Google maps.  What’s your take?  What are your top picks?

Google Maps is great — and with the addition of proper offline navigation later this year, it’ll get even better for international travelers without mobile data. I’m always dubious about the accuracy of the information on TripAdvisor, but do occasionally use it to get food recommendations in more obscure cities. The forums are the most useful part, for me — I’ll often use those for tracking down obscure transport routes and prices, for instance. As far as airline apps go, I tend to use Skyscanner to look up prices and times, but I’ll always make the booking on a computer — entering personal information and credit card details is too frustrating otherwise!

I have many travel apps on my phone, but those I use the most include Tripit (for compiling my itinerary, even offline), Google Translate (great for menus and street signs), XE Currency (to always know the exchange rate), Google Maps (if I’ve got data) and Here Maps (for offline use). 

Looking forward, what are some of the cool travel tech advances we might find in the next 3-5 years?

I expect we’ll see the first wearables (probably smartwatches) that are genuinely valuable for travel. Cell companies are finally starting to get the message we all hate roaming charges, and the example set by T-Mobile in the US and Three in the UK will expand to other carriers. Speech translation in real-time is starting to show up now with Skype Translator, and will become more polished and usable in the next few years. Free public wi-fi will continue to get rolled out in cities all over the world, making it easier than ever to stay connected on the move.


Boomer Travel Trends: One on One with Liz Dahl, Boomer Travel Patrol

This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Liz Dahl, founder and president of, a new travel website that specifically caters to the interests of fun-seeking, travel-loving Baby Boomers (1946-1964).  Liz talks about the many gaps Boomer Travel Patrol fills for the 50+ traveler set wanting to do a lot more than just bus trips and cruises! A key differentiator is the site’s cadre of top class contributors covering a unique variety of areas and backgrounds from the mindset of a Boomer.

“Because baby boomers are not in the coveted 18-49 demographic, we get left out of the “fun” activities when it comes to travel. Sure, bus trips and cruises are great and have their place, but there’s a lot more to see and do and we have the time and means to explore the world!” – Liz Dahl

When and why did you launch Boomer Travel Patrol and how has the site been received?

The site was launched in July of 2013. As a former owner of a travel agency and currently selling travel, I noticed that there was a lack of choices being offered to the Baby Boomer demographic. The “cruise and bus tour” mentality of the advertisers didn’t work for me or most of the people who contacted me about trips. I wanted Boomers to know the travel opportunities that exist. Continue reading →


ExpertFlyer goes one-on-one with Captain Tom Bunn, LCSW and author of SOAR, a best-selling book and program to overcome the fear of flying.  Bunn, a retired airline captain and licensed therapist, talks about post-9/11 fears of flying, the recent Germanwings crash and how to minimize psychological stressors based on real or imagined safety threats in the air.  A recognized expert, Bunn has been featured on national media outlets, including Good Morning America, CNN, FOX, Newsweek, The New York Times, among others.

Some of us are vulnerable to what the media is doing. But, others have developed immunity. According to one recent survey, fear of flying is at an all-time low.” – Captain Tom Bunn, LCSW and Author of SOAR

On the heels of the Germanwings Flight 9525 plane crash in the French Alps, it has come to light that co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, was researching suicide methods on the Internet days leading up to the crash. What are your reactions to this news both as a former airline captain and as a licensed therapist? Should someone have picked up on this earlier?  Why didn’t they?

In aviation, safety depends on two things: 1. Maintaining control, so problems don’t develop; 2. In case a problem does develop, always have a backup that will take care of it.

For example, when the Boeing 777 was being designed, Todd Curtis, Ph.D. (who now runs had two jobs. His first assignment was to think of everything that could possibly go wrong in-flight. Then, he had to develop a solution – it might be a procedure, or it might be a change in engineering – that would get the plane back on the ground safely in spite of the problem.

In the U.S., someone realized what happened on Germanwings was possible and developed a protocol to prevent it. That should have been done everywhere, but it wasn’t. Continue reading →

One on One with Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO of smarTours

greg geronemus, smartours.comThis month, ExpertFlyer talks with Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO, smarTours (, a discount group tour provider specializing in high quality packages to some of the world’s most fascinating countries. We’ll learn how SmarTours has carved a niche in a crowded and competitive travel tour market for more than 20 years.

“We’re seeing all of South America really shine in 2015, and one of the most pleasant surprises is Colombia. It’s a wonderful, diverse destination, and it’s a wonderful turnaround story for a country that has certainly had its challenges.”

Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO, smarTours

 You say that the persistent labeling of international travel as outrageously expensive is now a misnomer.  Why?

There is a real misconception about the cost of international travel that the travel industry has perpetuated for far too long. Our peers have successfully tricked the American consumer into thinking that international travel must be extremely expensive, and the consequences are tragic, in my opinion. Many Americans simply assume that places like Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America are out of reach, and just as problematic, when travelers come across affordable prices, they are trained to ask what the catch is or look for what’s wrong with the offer. The opposite should be true – the American traveler should expect affordability and ask why all the outrageously expensive travel offers cost so much. Continue reading →