The minute we learned that Justine Cullen, the beautiful and stylish Editor-In-Chief of Elle, Australia, likes champagne from the mini bar, secretly listens to country music (shhhh, don’t tell!) and prefers her very own compartment on the plane, we felt like we had found our globetrotting soulmate. Here, she dishes to us about her trusted travel apps, the destination she’s still dying to visit, and her favorite hotels from around the world (can someone get our travel agent on the phone…NOW!)
City you call home?
Sydney—specifically Avalon, on the Northern Beaches (aka ‘God’s Country’, as it’s known to the locals).
How often do you travel?
I’m overseas at least once every two or three months for work, and I take at least one great holiday a year. I’m not happy unless I have a trip in the pipeline.
How many countries have you visited?
About 25 by my count just now.
Favorite destinations to travel to?
I think you always love the places you go to often enough that they feel like home—so for me that would be New York, LA and Paris.
Where’s your “happy place” to visit?
I would never turn down a trip to either the Greek Islands or Mexico. Amazing food, hotels, sun, shopping—what more could you need?
What was your last vacation and where will your next one be?
In January, I went on a quick family vacation to Vomo Island in Fiji, which I love because it’s so easy and so relaxing (and has some of the better food to be found in Fiji). Next month, I’m going to take my eldest son, Milo, on a trip for just the two of us to London. The idea is to have an amazing bonding experience just before he hits puberty and doesn’t want to be seen with me anymore (ha!).
What brand of luggage do you use?
I carry an extra large, soft, black Samonsite—however I literally just got off a flight from New York this morning and as I stood there, brain dead at the carousel trying to spot it, I made the decision that I really must invest in something more distinctive ASAP.
What brand of carry-on do you use?
I have a beautifully battered Louis Vuitton roller case that I love but I tend to like to travel light, so at the moment the carry-on bag I’m using is a monogrammed Burberry rucksack. It’s currently favourite thing in the world and fits everything I need (including my laptop).
What type of camera do you bring?
I have a Canon DSLR but a photographer once told me that the best camera is simply the one you have on you, so I tend to leave it behind and just go with the iPhone.
Emirates. But I confess I am obsessed with maintaining my Frequent Flyer status so anything is fine as long as it’s One World.
Sydney, because if I’m there it means I’m either going somewhere or coming home, both of which are good feelings, and the Sydney Qantas First Class lounge is my favourite.
Last year a girlfriend and I went to San Giorgio in Mykonos, which I absolutely love—it is so perfectly styled it kills me. My husband and I also had a very romantic trip to the Six Senses resort at Ninh Van Bay (in Vietnam), which must be the most romantic setting in the world, and in Australia you can’t go past Qualia on Hamilton Island and the One&Only Wolgan Valley in the Blue Mountains. Right now I’m desperate to get to Coqui Coqui in Tulum.
What are your in-flight travel essentials?
I usually just have a loaded Kindle, my Macbook Pro, every charger I could need, some Beats wireless headphones, and a pair of Chanel knitted booties that I’ve had forever. Also, because my skin gets super-dry on a flight, I always have Aesop Damascan Rose Facial Treatment oil and Lanolips Golden Ointment for my body and lips.
Aisle or window?
Can I just have an entire Emirates cabin? But generally I pick the window. I like to be as private and alone on a plane as possible. And don’t even think about starting up a conversation with me!
Preferred in-flight beverage?
Water, water, water! Unless I’m travelling with a friend, in which case I will start the flight with champagne before switching back to H20.
Airplane food or bring your own?
I quite like airplane food actually, although recently I’ve been trying to stick to the Harvard Jet Lag Diet, which is quite complicated but basically involves not eating for 16 hours before landing in a new time zone, so I’m saying ‘no’ to more meals than usual.
What music is on your travel playlist?
I can’t believe I’m going to say this but lately the show Nashville has been my obsession and suddenly I’m listening to the soundtrack of country music non-stop. The shame…
Gadget you can’t leave home without?
I can’t even leave a room without my iPhone.
Do you use any travel apps?
I love a good podcast and I swear the best long-haul flight entertainment you could ever have is all 12 episodes of the You Must Remember This: Charles Manson series. The 7 Minute Workout by Quick Fit is amazing for a quick hotel workout. XE Currency is a must for shopping. Foodspotting is, as Amy Schumer put it, like Tinder for meals. Of course Uber has changed my life when travelling (especially in Paris), and Instagram (@justine_cullen) and Snapchat (justinecullen) for recording it all.
Do you have any travel rituals or superstitions?
I’m not one bit superstitious.
How do you entertain yourself at 35,000 feet?
I refuse to go to the movies at home so I know there’ll be something to watch on a plane, but my favourite is to binge watch a TV series. I’m very focused on getting up-to-date with House of Cards, but I keep being distracted by fluffier shows like Nashville and Empire. I used to go through a book a week, but Netflix has really murdered my reading time of late.
What’s your go-to uniform for the plane?
Slouchy black pants with a Breton top and Nike Free trainers, with a slouchy fur jacket from H Brand that can be thrown in my bag when not needed, or used as a cosy blanket when the air conditioning is too intense.
What’s the one item you never leave town without?
A credit card.
How do you deal with jet lag?
There is nothing worse. I use all the usual tricks, like setting your watch to your destination time on the plane, using melatonin, and scheduling your meal times to your destination before you leave. I also use the website jetlagrooster.com, which uses your departure point and destination, along with times of travel and time zones crossed, to tell you when you need to expose yourself to light to adjust your body clock. And now I’m trying the Harvard Jet Lag Diet.
What’s your exercise routine when you’re on the road?
I’ve just started using hotel gyms to whack out time on the treadmill. It seems ridiculous to waste time on a treadmill when I could be using the run to explore a new city, but I find I’m more likely to exercise when it’s really easy.
How do you manage your health & eating routine when you’re away from home?
When I’m travelling I basically live from meal to meal. I get so excited to try new restaurants or go back to old favourites: health be damned. My routine is to skip breakfast (which is pretty much the same everywhere and thus according to my warped logic, a waste of calories on a trip) and have a fabulous lunch. When I’m in New York I always make sure I have a Red Hook lobster roll at some point in my trip, visit Wholefoods for great snacks to eat on the run, and I like to have lunch at Carbone in Greewich Village on my last day for a plate of delicious pasta to help me sleep on the flight. When I’m in Paris there are no rules—it’s just keep eating, all day, and know that it will all be amazing (except to have a banana and nutella crepe within the first 24 hours of arriving).
What’s the first thing you do when you get into your hotel room?
Shower and unpack. I never used to be a big unpacker but now even if I’m only somewhere for a couple of days I like it to feel as homey as possible.
Are you an over-packer or under-packer?
I try to be very exact. I like to take planned outfits so I’m not taking more than I think I might need. But I always have a last minute panic and throw about ten more random things in bag ‘just in case’… which sends the whole thing out of whack.
Do you have a packing strategy?
I make a list and tick it all off. I’m not particularly neat though.
One surprising thing you always pack?
I have an umbrella I bought from Galeries Lafayette during the shows in Paris one season. It was hideously expensive (for an umbrella!) but folds up tiny enough to fit in a small handbag and is super strong. I always take it with me because it just makes me feel so super-organized and Girl Scout-like to have it on hand. Plus it was so expensive—I need to make sure I get my money’s worth from it.
What are your favorite items to travel with?
Working in fashion the outfits I travel with change all the time, but it’s generally a monochrome pack and I always have my black Burberry trench (which goes with everything and all-weather) and lots of pairs of great flats so I can try to get away with wearing them at all times; a pair of white Saint Laurent sneakers, a pair of Nike Free trainers, a pair of tan suede Gucci loafers, a pair of Isabel Marant boots with the concealed lift. I also make sure to pack one or two workout pieces from The Upside. I’m not as obsessed with active wear as everyone else seems to be, but just something that will do the trick and not leave me looking horrendous in the hotel lift en route to the gym. A pair of Frame denim jeans, a black Zimmerman blazer and a couple of black Isabel Marant dresses (like this), all of which work day and night, also make it in the suitcase. Oh, and an Eres black one-piece (even if you’re not going to a beach location—you never know!). And if I’m on vacation, I always take a couple of my much-loved hippie dresses. I’ve had them for years, they’re my go-to holiday outfits and just looking at them makes me think of good times in exotic locations.
What beauty-essentials do you travel with?
Cleansing wipes (I’m not fussy on the brand as long as they’re gentle), Aesop face oil for the plane, and Aspect Redless serum (it calms skin that might be irritated by traveling). Dermaquest Stem Cell 3D Moisturizer is my favorite…I layer it with Neutrogena sunscreen. MAC Face and Body Foundation is the base I’ve been using forever. I can’t use anything else. It’s great when you’re travelling because it’s sheer enough to wear to the beach but you can also layer it to up the coverage. If you get the large bottle just remember to pack it in your checked luggage as it’s over 100ml…I’ve lost many a bottle that way. I also pack Tom Ford bronzing cream and a little travel bottle of Coqui Coqui perfume. I’m happy to use hotel shampoo but I always have a bottle of Terax conditioner with me, which helps my hair air-dry just right. Go-To Exceptionoil Body Oil is a super nourishing body oil that smells gorgeous and is perfectly packaged for a travel bag and Lanolips lip balm is an Australian product that softens and soothes lips—and smells delicious! I make sure to bring my GHD Curve curling iron—it adds instant polish when you can’t get to a hairdresser. I love Jason toothpaste and stock up at Wholefoods when I’m in America. SK-II cloth facial masks are also great to pep up tired skin.
Favorite item to order from room service?
I try to avoid it. I’d rather try the local street food.
Favorite item from the hotel mini-bar?
Best travel advice?
Preplan as much as possible! The experience is always so much better if you’ve done some research and made key bookings beforehand.
Have you ever had a travel disaster or mishap?
I’ve had my luggage raided in-transit at LAX (they took everything, including two full sized light Sabres I happened to be carrying), missed my fair share of flights, and had my luggage waylaid for the entire duration of a fashion shoot trip to the Maldives (with the only clothing available in the gift store of the resort bikinis and sarongs). But the closest I’ve come to disaster was the day of my wedding when a cyclone went through the South African safari resort where we were planning to honeymoon. Luckily it was the one time in my life I’d booked through a travel agent so by the time we’d said ‘I do’ a replacement destination had been found.
If your luggage was lost, what are the 5 items you’d buy at the drugstore?
Knickers, a toothbrush and toothpaste, Xanax (to deal with the stress!) and a giant bag of Reece’s Pieces (for the same reason).
Favorite souvenir from your travels?
Years ago, I randomly bonded with a girl at a bar in Goa (India) who took me to a tiny store to buy an Indian kantha blanket, which still lives on my bed to this day.
Favorite childhood memory of traveling?
My favourite vacation memories from childhood are all of the small coastal town where my grandparents lived – swimming all day, prawning at night, ice cream dripping down our chins… Take me back there!
Travel destinations still on your bucket-list?
Morocco! I’m absolutely dying to go.
Justine Cullen photographed flying over Kruger National Park in South Africa