Hong Kong-based jetsetting furniture maven Lani Tao talks travel pet-peeves, staying connected while on the road, and her favourite travel rituals.
Where’s home and where do you reside?
Vancouver’s home, but I now live in Hong Kong.
What proportion of your work is work and play?
I travel about 40-50% of the time for work. But I do manage to squeeze in a couple of holidays each year, too.
What’s your biggest travel pet hate?
Continuous flight delays that lead to flight cancellation. It’s the worst. People who try to skip the queues at airports really irritate me as well.
Currently, it’s Cathay Pacific. They make business travel really easy and are very accommodating. Because I’m Hong Kong-based, the airline’s great global network also means I can reduce transiting when I travel. I also like Emirates, but I don’t travel enough with them.
Singapore’s Changi. Even without being a resident, immigration there is so quick and efficient. The airport also has some great food options, a good lounge, and now with the Jewel, I’m not even mad if I get delayed in Changi.
Tell us about your most recent flight.
That was Tokyo to Hong Kong, and I made such a rookie mistake. I never like to check luggage for work trips but I couldn’t resist shopping in Tokyo so I picked up some little drugstore products – which of course, were over 100ml. At the Japan side, I was forced to check my bags – they wouldn’t even allow me to toss the items. They escorted me back to the check-in counter where they gave me a makeshift Cathay Pacific box to check my products in. When I got to Hong Kong, I waited an extra 30 minutes at the baggage carousel before the box – which was half the size of my laptop. I won’t be doing that again.
How can we be better air travellers?
Check-in online. It’s so easy nowadays, and it makes everything easier.
Which loyalty programs do you belong to and what are your tier levels?
I’m a member of Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo program. I’m a silver member right now but that will change very soon because I’m travelling so much.
How important are loyalty programs when it comes to making travel decisions?
Pretty important; the perks do make a difference. I will now often choose accommodation and flights based on where I am a member. Once you have some mileage/points you will see the benefits pay off.
What’s your favourite hotel?
W Hotel Barcelona. It has such an amazing location and view, with great food and beaches all around. I’m also biased because I love Barcelona.
What’s the last hotel you stayed in?
Sheraton Miyako Tokyo. I’d rate it a 3.5/5. It’s a good, reliable hotel. Nothing incredibly standout, but good for business travellers since it a no-fuss environment. You don’t have to deal with crazy tour groups or families.
What’s your worst ever hotel experience?
This was a while ago so I don’t remember the name of the hotel, but I do remember it was a hotel in Shanghai that had no windows. It felt like a prison.
Tell us some of your travel rituals?
I like to check-into my hotel as soon as I can. I also always pack my bag the night before. For work trips, I always prefer to take the first flight out, and if I’m flying out of HKG, I always go to Starbucks to get my morning coffee. Before the flight, I’ll slather on sunscreen as I’ve read that the UV rays are stronger when you’re in the air. I also always have a book with me because the time between boarding and take-off is prime to do some reading.
What will we find in your carry on?
Because I don’t like to check in a bag, you’ll find everything I need for my trip. Work dresses, a casual outfit, a smaller crossbody purse, some Korean/Japanese face masks for the first night at the hotel, two phones, and my cosmetics bag. I’m very boring when I travel and try to limit as much as I can.
How important is technology when you travel?
Being connected to the internet is crucial. Between my trusty phones and laptop, I can get all my work done and feel connected to those back home.
What’s your secret for handling jetlag?
Always follow the local time zone. If its morning where I’m going, I will stay awake the entire flight. If its evening, I’ll pop a melatonin and get some sleep so by the time I land, I’ve already adjusted and am ready for the day.
What’s your favourite city in Asia Pacific?
Recently I’ve really enjoyed travelling to Singapore. I’ll give you three foods you cant miss at the hawker centers: Hainan Chicken Rice, Chili Crab, and any kind of stir-fried noodles. Just eat your heart out in Singapore – but save the boozing for Hong Kong.
How do you like to get around in a foreign city?
Uber is great, very well integrated and there are never any issues with getting to my destination. You will definitely need to download Grab for southeast Asia and DiDi for China. Public transport in Singapore and Tokyo is great.
What do you miss most when you travel?
My bed. I had it shipped all the way from the US, and it’s still the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on.
How do you stay in touch with family and friends from the road?
Whatsapp/WeChat video removes all the distance. And creeping on their Insta stories.
Do you have any golden rules when it comes to staying safe and well when travelling for business?
Not one specific golden rule, but I’ll be smart about things like making sure I booked company preferred accommodation and flights, and not wandering off alone in the middle of the night. Also, having a fully charged phone with data makes everything a bit easier and safer
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