Our Favorite World Travelers Share Their Craziest Stories (and vouch for why PDX deserves their #1 rating)

PDX airport at sunset

the PDX airport at sunset, Mt. Hood in distance. Photo courtesy of the Port of Portland.

We’ve got a secret to spill: Travel & Leisure has ranked Portland International Airport  #1 in domestic airports, according to their annual World’s Best Awards! For the second year in a row! Way to be, hometown. Way to be. You could check it out for yourself in their full list of 2014 World Bests, or you could save yourself 10 minutes of your life you’ll never get back (RIP iPhone battery)…and take our word for it! Because we have a totally neutral, un-slanted stance on PDX. Why would we be biased towards the best airport in the best city of all time? (Our airport carpet even has a cult following—it has a dedicated Instagram account with 11k followers, and even its very own PDX airport socks to boot.)
Basically, PDX is best. To back ourselves up, we asked our favorite world travelers (who are well experienced in the ways of airports and other traveling shenanigans) about their experiences with PDX, plus their craziest story from their airport hopping. This is a 100% scientific study. Enjoy.


Scott Hanselman Scott Hanselman headshot

Scott is a web developer who has been blogging at hanselman.com for over a decade. He works in Open Source on ASP.NET and the Azure Cloud for Microsoft out of his home office in Portland, Oregon. Scott has three podcasts, Hanselminutes for tech talk, This Developer’s Life on developers’ lives and loves, and Ratchet and the Geek for pop culture and tech media. He’s written a number of books and spoken in person to almost a half million developers worldwide.


1. World Traveler Score (countries visited in the last 5 years): Hard to count. I’m going back in Outlook looking and counting…Sweden, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, China, Russia, Canada, Mexico, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Bulgaria, Poland, Belgium, UAE, Egypt. Looks like 19ish?
2. How does the PDX airport set the standard? It’s clean, clear, and simple. It’s busy and connected, but not too complex that you can’t figure it all out in short order. If the DE security lines are long, a lot of folks don’t realize all the gates are attached. Run over to the AB gates, go in, then head through the tunnel and you’ll pop out next to the D gates. That’s saved me at least twice.
3. What is your craziest other airport story? I was almost prevented from entering South Africa because of a technicality over how full my passport was. For the full story (and cultural breakdown of how to handle South African airport fiascos), read my blog post on it.

Piper Fenton Piper Fenton headshot

Piper is a Portland native and has been in the travel industry for more than 25 years with a focus on honeymoon travel for over the past decade. She currently owns the Portland-based travel agency Remarkable Honeymoons (check out their reviews!). Her goal is to always be available to her clients before, during, and after their trip, and she is often available after hours and on weekends. Piper has a love for the South Pacific islands Fiji, Tahiti, and Hawaii—so much so that her expertise in them has set her apart in the industry.


1. World Traveler Score: I have visited 14 countries in the past five years (that I recall): Tahiti, Mexico, Fiji. Italy, UK, Belize, Guatemala, Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Honduras, St. Thomas, St. Martin, and Canada.
2. How does the PDX airport set the standard? PDX is on the outside is one of the most appealing airports that I have experienced.  The architecture is thoughtful and creative – and I think it was done this way to calm those travelling. On the inside, it is fairly warm and inviting. Outside of security there is an array of amazing shops from vendors located in our area. There are also some nice places to dine which is great for those who want to spend time with family/friends before going through security. While there are security lines, they move fairly quickly. Once inside of security there are many benches where people can put shoes on and repack their belongings. From there, the terminals again have high ceilings and there is never a feel of being crowded or frantic like you find in so many other airports (I think of the “Home Alone” scene at the O’Hare airport where they are running through the packed concourse – PDX is the exact opposite.) For those waiting for flights in the main areas (i.e. not in an airline club), the seating is quite comfortable and always clean.  All in all, I would say it is a really relaxed airport – one that does not make you want to take a shower and get as far away from it as possible!

3. What is your craziest other airport story? I think the airports in Europe are a challenge at best!  In all honesty the most odd/ugly thing was the unisex bathrooms in the first class lounge.  Not my cup of tea!

Danny Dover Danny Dover headshot

Danny is a passionate SEO, influential writer and obsessed life list completer. He is the author of the best-selling book Search Engine Optimization Secrets and was the co-founder of Making it Click, a marketing training course. Before starting his own company, Danny was the Senior SEO Manager at AT&T and the Lead SEO at SEOmoz. Danny’s expertise has been cited in Time Magazine, PC World, Smashing Magazine and Seattle Post-Intelligencer and has been translated into Japanese, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, German and Hungarian. He has spoken at Yale, the University of Washington and numerous conferences around the world. Fun fact: Danny was once was on his own final exam in college when his professor used a blog post he had written without realizing Danny was in the class. (Danny got the question wrong by answering, “The author of this doesn’t know what he is talking about but is likely mildly attractive.” The professor didn’t get it.)

1. World Traveler Score: Fifty-one. I have been fortunate enough to be able to go on a lot of adventures in recent years.
2. How does the PDX airport set the standard? I have never been to PDX! 😛 I am based in Seattle for a large part of the year so SEA is my hub when I am in the Pacific Northwest. That said, I really do love Portland. I generally take the train down from Seattle and then spend the day exploring the parks and eating as much delicious food as humanly possible.

Victoria Trabosh Victoria Trabosh headshot

Vicky has called Portland home for the last 33 years.  Author, international speaker, executive coach, radio host and columnist, no matter where she travels in the world she’s always glad to be returning home.  As a co-founder of the Itafari Foundation serving the people in Rwanda, never is she more glad to touch down than when she’s been traveling the world. Doing good work is important and landing at PDX to return to her husband and family reminds her that life itself is good.


1. World Traveler Score: four in country – five if you count New Jersey. I’ve been through eight countries while traveling.
2. How does the PDX airport set the standard? Part of PDX’s charm lies in the layout, the cleanliness, my familiarity with it, great shopping, lack of sales tax for even those that are having a “touch and go,” and the entertainment within the airport (there’s nothing like a grand piano playing during the holiday season and watching others pause to take in the moment).
But the biggest draw for me of PDX is its people. There is something about the attitude and pace of Oregon that is not only reflected in the aesthetics of the architecture and layout, but the people themselves. They’re accessible. PDX feels like a place that you can ask questions, seek help and begin, continue or end a journey at a place that cheers your success! Really. Certainly the traveler has their own attitude and tone, but PDX is a welcoming place, and allows the traveler to say, “If this is the airport, what’s the city like??”
3. What is your craziest other airport story? On one of my many trips to Rwanda I was prepared for the typical 25 hour journey.  But in Dulles (IAD) after a red eye from PDX, I arrived at the Ethiopian counter to encounter chaos. There was a mechanical delay in the flight arriving from Addis Abba via Rome. Our 10:30am flight was delayed with no explanation or updates from Ethiopian Airlines. Hundreds of people, many non-English speaking Africans, were stranded with me. At 8:30pm that evening we were taken to an airport hotel and told we’d be picked up at 2:30am for a 4am flight. I’d already been up over 24 hours but was afraid to sleep so I did the only thing that made sense in my room: took a tubby! At 2am, I was tired but clean for the 14 hour flight to Addis. With the delay from IAD we missed our connection in Addis and were put up in another hotel at 11pm local time. We were to be picked up at 6:30am the next morning. Again, afraid of experiencing the “sleep of the dead” and never awaking in time to catch the flight, I once again enjoyed another tubby!  Clean and even more tired, we finally boarded the flight to Kigali.  In total my trip took 52 hours – and I’ve never arrived anywhere so tired and so clean at the same time! It’s all about the journey for me. And I’m always thankful it begins and ends in PDX.

Franz Wisner 

Franz is a reformed cubicle worker and the New York Times bestselling author of Honeymoon With My Brother, the true story of how Franz was left at the altar, then decided to take a two-year, 53-country honeymoon with his younger brother, Kurt. Franz followed up the memoir with a second book, How the World Makes Love, telling the story of his continued adventures with his brother as they spent a year gathering the planet’s most important love lessons. In addition, Franz has penned numerous articles and opinion pieces for The San Francisco ChronicleLos Angeles TimesRedbook Magazine, and Coast Magazine, among others. He currently runs a communications consultancy, Story-Driven Ink, and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Tracy Middendorf Wisner, and their children/future backpackers, Calvin and Oscar.

1. World Traveler Score: I’m up and over the century mark these days. Still waiting for my medal!
2. How does the PDX airport set the standard? The Rogue Ales bar. Located inside security, so you can purchase a growler and bring it on the plane with you. Instant friends on board!
3. What is your craziest other airport story? I traveled to Moscow in 1986, before the collapse of the Soviet Union. I wanted some unique (and cheap) souvenirs for friends, so I purchased a giant roll of Soviet condoms. Must have been 100 or so. I didn’t have any more space in my bag, so I asked a friend if I could stash “a few gifts” in his bag. At the airport, our group sailed through customs…except my friend. As the rest of our group watched on, two burly guards rifled through his belongings. Finally, one of the guards started to unravel the roll of condoms. They stared at my friend in amusement…then began to howl. Soon everyone was laughing and joking about my friend’s libidinous optimism. He wanted to kill me.

Richard Baxter 

In 2010, Richard successfully founded Builtvisible.com, a £2.5m turnover digital agency currently based in London, San Francisco and Hong Kong. A veteran digital marketer of 10 years with experience of delivering digital solutions for major clients. Richard has expertise in the Formation and management of large digital cross-functional and multi disciplinary teams, developing and optimising operational process, creating and implementing business vision at board level and driving successful new technology and business initiatives.


1. World Traveler Score: Oh  my – in the last 5 years I’ve travelled more than in the rest of my life! I think it’s at least 12/15 countries!
2. How does the PDX airport set the standard? Well, this is embarrassing, I’ve never been! I can tell you this – it’s extremely hard work getting into the USA – most borders and immigration desks on arrival are woefully understaffed. Some take over an hour of queuing! The worst so far was San Diego – 1.5 hour queue to get past passport control.
3. What is your craziest other airport story? Uhm, I met Jesse Plemons (Todd in Breaking Bad) at Heathrow Airport, and with all the might of my full (jetlagged) intelligence the only words I could summon were: “I really like your show, man.” Deep, Rich, real deep.

Geraldine DeRuiter (EverywhereistGeraldine DeRuiter headshot

Geraldine’s travel blog has won numerous accolades, including spots in TIME magazine’s Top 25 Blogs of 2011, Forbes Magazine’s Top 10 Lifestyle Blogs for Women, The Independent’s 50 Best Travel Websites, and many more. She’s been interviewed by CNN, Geekwire, Oprah.com, USA Today, and BBC Travel. And she has a thing for cupcakes.



1. World Traveler Score: Let’s see… I won’t count any place that I just stopped at for a layover, okay? I figure if you don’t get out of the airport, it doesn’t count. So…Canada, Peru, South Africa, Australia, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Iceland, Cambodia, Vietnam, Austria. That looks to be about 18. 🙂
2. How does the PDX airport set the standard? Alright, here’s my confession: I’ve never been to PDX airport. But between you guys asking, and all the hubbub about the airport carpeting, I’m starting to think I NEED to visit. 🙂
3. What is your craziest other airport story? The scene: Incheon Airport, Seoul, Korea. My travel buddy Nicci and I arrive, exhausted. We’d just come in from Phnom Penh on a red-eye, and we still had 24 hours of travel ahead of us: a 12-hour layover, and then a 12-hour flight back home, to Seattle. We needed to sleep. We needed to shower. We needed to sit and do nothing for a little while. Miraculously, we found a hotel in the airport. I mean, it was actually IN the airport – we didn’t even need to leave the security checkpoint. They catered to guests who had long layovers, and who just needed a few hours of rest before their next flight. We rented the room at an hourly rate, and spent the next 8 hours sleeping, relaxing, and trying to discern the plot of the Korean soap opera we found playing on the TV. It was exactly what we needed. I never thought I’d praise a rent-by-the-hour hotel, but this place was amazing. Does PDX have one of those? If so, I’m there.

Keith Martin Keith Martin headshot

Keith Martin, another Portland native, has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than thirty years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He founded the monthly Sports Car Market magazine 26 years ago, which has developed into the authoritative informed voice of the collector car hobby. He has hosted numerous television specials, and is the co-host of “What’s My Car Worth” shown on the Velocity channel. His academic background includes the study of Intellectual History at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and study as a Dance Major at the Juilliard School in New York City. He founded Ballet Oregon, the first professional ballet company in Oregon, which was awarded an Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist’s Fellowship for new choreography.

1. World Traveler Score: Just 8: England, France, Italy, Argentina, Germany, Holland, Costa Rica and Mexico.
2. How does the PDX airport set the standard? Compared to a lot of international airports, it is very compact. You can get from one end to the other in twenty minutes. And the shops are unique, not just a replication of every strip-mall and fast-food franchise you’ve ever tried to avoid all your life.
3. What is your craziest other airport story? Alex (my daughter) and I were flying business class to Paris last February for a French car event, Retromobile. Our routing was Portland / Newark / Frankfurt / Paris. Just as we were about to land in Newark, we were informed that the airport had been closed due to a snowstorm and we were being diverted to Dulles. As we landed, the pilot announced that we would be on the ground for a few hours, then head back to Newark, where we would spend the night, and we would continue on our route the next morning, and get to Paris “sooner or later.”
We made a quick call to our travel agent, Stephanie Warrington of World Travel, and five minutes later she called back. “There’s a direct flight to Paris that is leaving in fifteen minutes just four gates from you, and I’ve secured the last two business class seats. You won’t have your luggage, but wouldn’t you rather be in Paris buying new clothes, than in Newark eating at McDonalds? Run!” We made the flight, got to Paris the next morning, and had a great time shopping. Our bags arrived the next day, and all was well.

Rodney Smith Rodney Smith headshot

Rodney worked in his family’s travel wholesale business for 30 years, traveling to the islands of the South Pacific to assess destinations, new hotels and activities, arrange hotel contracts, and lead travel agents on FAM trips to teach them about the islands, including obscure ones such as Samoa, Tonga, and New Caledonia. He’s an avid outdoorsman and founded Sunspots Safaris, which offers guided fishing and hunting trips to New Zealand. He has a special affinity for the Cook Islands, and married his wife Hannah there–during a hurricane.


1. World Traveler Score: Seven. NZ, Australia, Fiji, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Mexico, and Canada.
2. How does the PDX airport set the standard? The food court rocks, and it has free Wi-Fi that actually WORKS.
3. What is your craziest other airport story? Recently traveling to Auckland, NZ, I had just completed a 12-hour flight only to be met with a delay in getting off the aircraft.  I was standing by the door to get off the plane and overheard the Air New Zealand Staff commenting that no one was getting off of the plane until they located a certain Mr. Smith.  I jokingly said I was Mr. Smith. The joke was on me when they answered in return, “you’re Rodney Smith!”  My heart sunk—it turns out they really were looking for me! I was escorted to customs by an Auckland Police officer who was tight-lipped until we collected my baggage (which included two firearms).The police officer informed me that they had found some live rounds of 12 gauge shotgun shells in the business class lounge in Los Angeles beyond the LAX security. As I was the only passenger on the flight traveling with firearms, that made me the lucky winner of being Suspect #1. I was happy to answer the local policeman’s questions and I was not traveling with any shotguns, so 6 minutes later I was entering the country and immigration hall for luggage inspection. But in the confusion, I had forgotten to declare a pair of hiking boots and was immediately informed that I was subject to an instant $200 fine because of a slight amount of dirt on the hiking boots. (Apparently, as New Zealand produces a large amount of produce—and currently is fruit fly free—they are very scrupulous about any introduction of non-indigenous plants or pests that could enter the country on the heel of a hiking boot.) Who would have thought that it would be easier to import two hunting rifles with ammunition into the country, but what was ended up actually getting me into trouble was a dirty set of hunting boots!

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About Mia McMahon

I’m constantly trying to learn more in everything from branding to social media to user experience to SEO. I live-tweet a lot. I’m studying communications/marketing/internet entrepreneurship and you can follow my journey at meetmia.com.

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