Distinguished Travel Hacker

Willie Geist Is an Expert at Taking an Airport Bathroom ‘Sink Bath’

The Morning Joe and Today show host has some advice for traveling, including how to keep a suit from getting wrinkled on a plane and how to make people treat you as if you're in first class.
Photographer: Noam Galai/FilmMagic

At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we always want to make sure we’re doing it right. So we’re talking to globe-trotters in all of our luxury fields—food, wine, fashion, cars, real estate—to learn about their high-end hacks, tips, and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.

Willie Geist, 42, is one of NBC’s star anchors. A co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Willie also hosts Sunday Today with Willie Geist and regularly substitutes for Matt Lauer on weekday Today.

Though a seasoned traveler, he doesn’t keep track of his annual mileage. “Last year, I flew at least once a week domestically for 52 weeks, but I have no idea how many miles that is.” He’s also airline agnostic. “Given how tight my schedule is, in truth, I take the airline with the flight at the time I need it. With kids, though, JetBlue is really nice.”

Geist lives in New York with his wife Christina and their children, Lucie and George. And he wants you to not be alarmed if you see him in some odd travel situations.

Don’t be surprised to see him half-dressed in an airplane bathroom.

I find that I fly in and out [of destinations] very quickly; I have to be in New York hosting a show every day. I don’t generally land, go check in at a hotel to shower and change.  So I always carry Burt’s Bees face wipes, which are a good alternative to the sink baths I often take in airport bathrooms across America on my way off the plane and to a shoot. After a long flight, when you’ve got that airplane feel—you’re a little tired or greasy—you whip one out, wipe it across your face, and you’re good to go. More than a few people in this country have seen me in an airport bathroom pulling myself together and changing my clothes in a stall. People will say hello, but at first, they’re stunned; it’s an interesting moment, dripping wet in a bathroom at an airport. Maybe it looks like something’s wrong, as I’m not terribly composed, with my dopp kit out, brushing my teeth as though I’m in my bathroom at home.

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He doesn’t always fly first class—but he tries to travel as if he is.

Turn your suit jacket or blazer inside out and fold it into your carry on, and it won’t wrinkle. It’s a life changer and helps preserve it too. I pull it out of my bag after I’ve finished my sink shower, and I’m ready to go. Or you can just wear it, and no matter where you’re sitting on the plane, you can ask politely, ‘Can you please hang my jacket up front where the fancy people sit?’ Or sometimes, you don’t ask; you walk in there, calmly hang it on the bar they have reserved for people that aren’t you, and then confidently stride to the back of the plane. I’ve done that, and nobody asks any questions. And if you carry yourself a certain way, they assume you’re sitting in the fancy seats.

When it comes to airports, small is beautiful.

I don’t fly to the hub [airports] and drive; I enjoy the little airports, the small, old-fashioned ones in midsized cities around the country. It stops you getting your back up when you’re preparing to travel. I flew to Knoxville [Tenn.] to interview Dolly Parton, and wow, that was a very nice airport. I think there were even white rocking chairs there. And I love a small, old-fashioned airport like the one in Nantucket [Mass.]. It could still be 40 or 50 years ago, it looks the same; there is security but it doesn’t have that police state feel to it. You can walk right up to the rental car company and a friendly person there takes a couple minutes.

Forget Time Out. The best advice on what to do in your city? It’s from your out of town friends.

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If you’re doing a staycation in your city, ask friends who travel a lot where they would stay. They often know pieces of your city better than you do. We live in Manhattan, but my wife and I occasionally go on a night’s vacation [right here]—we get a babysitter, go to dinner downtown and stay in a hotel, so we feel like we’re in our late twenties again. We just did one two months ago at the Beekman. The block it’s on is not particularly remarkable, but you could go around the corner and there’s this stunning bit of architecture, with a lobby bar that looks straight up, I dunno how many stories, to these skylights in the roof. We’re not cool, but we have some out-of -town friends from San Francisco who travel a lot and we’ll say, “We live in New York. What do you think is the new cool hotel?” And that’s how we found the Beekman.

All you really need when you travel is this one small item.

I have to be in New York five days a week, so a lot of my travel is daily—and domestic. So the biggest goal I have is to pack as light as humanly possible. I’m going to [Los Angeles] tomorrow for a one-hour shoot—a little day trip after my morning show, Morning Joe, so I will only bring a small messenger bag with my basic refreshments: a change of underwear and socks and my facial wipes. If you don’t have much on your back, you can do anything, go anywhere.

He’ll encourage his kids to follow his lead with a semester abroad.

When I was in college, I did a semester abroad in France, in Aix en Provence. That changed my life. I’d grown up in New Jersey, gone to school in Nashville, and know the East Coast of the United States. But I didn’t know the world very well then, and this threw my mind wide open. I had a Eurail pass—this was the mid 1990s—and you could go anywhere with it. It was this golden ticket to Europe every weekend: Munich for Oktoberfest, Normandy to see the beaches. It was a big eye opener to that big, beautiful world that there was so much to learn about. All the places I went to for the first time then, like London and Paris, are special to me.

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You’ll more regret what you don’t buy than what you do, whenever you’re impulse-shopping overseas.

I didn’t go to a city this year with the intention of coming home with an armful of new things. I usually don’t. For me, it’s impulsive—walking the streets of London, say, I get wrapped up in the British experience, and see a brand I’ve never heard of and get a jacket or some shoes. It looks good and feels great when I’m there, but I get home and think “Oh, my God, what have I bought?” It’s like the blazer that I thought, “Well, I can’t think of too many occasions professionally where I might be able to wear a funky patterned blazer with a lining inside, so maybe I’ll wear that when I go out.” Maybe I’ve worn it once since I bought it a few months ago, but at least I have a little piece of the U.K. with me.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.