As the CMO of Evite, the go-to global platform for online invitations, Karen Graham is something of a maverick when it comes to flying the friendly skies. She’s had quite the tenure traversing the world for start-ups, agencies and Fortune 500 companies like Nordstrom before setting into her current post, where she’s evolving the company from invite site to full gifting content hub. We caught a moment with Karen to talk through her love of airline loyalty programs, the joy of a good Ginger Ale, and why Joni Mitchell makes one stellar flying playlist.
Karen Graham’s Travel Intel:
My go-to airline is: Alaska and United (mostly dictated by convenience offered to often-flown destinations from my nearest airport), but these airlines also have great loyalty programs and consistent quality of planes.
My favorite seat on the flight is: Window! I love looking out at the view below at take-off and landing. I search for landmarks and I try to get a sense of the city’s layout from a bird’s eye view.
My go-to in-flight beverage is: Ginger ale – which is funny to me because I never drink it unless I’m on a flight. I remember my mom would order ginger ale for us when we flew growing up, which is likely where this originated. If I’m going on vacation, I’ll order something fun like an Aperol Spritz or Moscow Mule.
My favorite airport/terminal is: I love a small airport and in Los Angeles, the “Bob Hope” Hollywood Burbank Airport is my go-to. It’s a 15 minute ride and it only has 14 gates, so it’s rarely crowded and is convenient to the valley, Hollywood and downtown. If Bob Hope airport wins for convenience, Vail’s Eagle County Regional airport wins for style. I recently flew out of this tiny mountain airport after a ski weekend, and it’s decorated with an oversized stone fireplace, native fabric covered mid-century rocking chairs, cognac leather couches, wood paneled, vaulted ceilings and a swanky bar. I didn’t even mind when my flight was delayed!
The second I get on a plane, I: Stow my purse, make sure that my water bottle and book are within reach, and I pop in my air pods. I always like to have a paperback on the plane even if I end up just watching a movie or doing some work. It’s nice to have in case my eyes get screen-tired on long flights. Or, God forbid, you have bad wifi.
My go-to travel uniform is: Sunglasses, a small crossbody, leggings, sneakers and a thin cashmere sweater under a packable puffer vest. I like to be comfortable and prepared for swings in temperature. If I get too warm, I can pack the puffer – and a thin sweater can also double as a rolled up pillow or you can wear slung over the shoulders. Everlane makes affordable, quality cashmere sweaters, and I like La Ligne or Joseph sweaters for a splurge.
My carry-on consists of: Outfits by day, soft pjs, cozy thick socks, Osea sea minerals face mist (for dry skin), RikRak hand cream, Ziip microcurrent device in case I find time to give myself a facial beauty treatment while away.
The pieces I take EVERYWHERE are: A long-cut black blazer or my go-to Proenza Schouler checkered blazer, a day-to-night dress (Khaite makes beautiful, layer-able dresses), thin cashmere sweaters, and my croc-embossed block-heels by Celine.
My flying soundtrack is: The Gorillaz and Joni Mitchell (for the nostalgia), Japanese Breakfast and Harry Styles.
My favorite thing about flying is: The anticipation of new experiences, whether that be through the scenery, culture or food.
The worst part about flying is: Bad wifi.
My one flying hack is: I keep a separate travel bag full of smaller, travel-sized beauty products that mirrors what I use at home, so that I can just grab the same bag for every trip. It’s hard enough pre-organizing outfits so it’s nice to streamline the packing of beauty products. I’m also a huge fan of bag and clothing organizers – Amazon Basics keep me covered.
The second I land, I: Beeline to the exit and don’t stop until I get there, while observing the airport restaurants and wares along the way.
As soon as I check into my hotel room, I: Find slippers and unpack.
My favorite hotel in the world is: Four Seasons Chiang Mai. This was the most magical and other-worldly hotel. You feel like you’re suspended in a treehouse when in your room. The pool is the most serene and relaxing setting that also feels like it’s floating over an enormous pond full of lily pads. There’s seemingly a consistent light mist that hangs in the air and the entire property looks like it’s in the middle of an otherwise uninhabited and endless bamboo forest. The food and service were impeccable of course. It’s on my list to get back to one day.
My favorite city in the world is: London. There’s so much culture and it’s so different than the United States yet is more accessible and familiar than other European cities because of the common language. I love the attitude toward fashion in London most of all – everyone is so free in how they express themselves! London fashion truly transcends time and place, being unique is celebrated and nothing is too precious.
A concierge will know that I prefer: The locals’ favorite restaurants and bars.
My favorite hotel memory is: Snorkeling in brackish water at one of the Four Seasons pools on the Big Island in Hawai’i. It was a marvel to be able to view the beautiful sea creatures without having to worry about being in the open ocean with large waves flushing sea water into my snorkel pipe. I was out swimming all day!
I conquer jetlag by: Making plans and staying awake for as long as possible. I try not to ever sleep in or spend too much time in my hotel room when travelling.
My biggest piece of travel advice is: Be flexible and be adventurous. Travelling is a privilege and the positive benefits of doing so, last a lifetime. I can’t wait to see more of the world.