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Seasoned Traveler: Matt Gross

Matt Gross, the editor at, former Frugal Traveler, and author of The Turk Who Loved Apples: And Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World hates buses, always checks his bag, and has a penchant for early morning long runs in new places. More importantly, he knows a thing or two about the value of travel. Here he tells us when to save our pennies, when to indulge—and why he always carries a headlamp.

Worth the splurge. I'd gladly ante up an extra $200 each way for a Premium Economy seat on a 12-plus-hour flight. (For some reason, I never get upgraded. Oh well!)

For frequent flyers. Paying the $450 annual fee for the Amex Platinum Business card is worth it for frequent travelers: You get free access to lounges around the world, a $200 voucher on domestic airlines, and free application to the State Department's line-skipping Global Entry program (worth $100).

Not worth it. City multi-passes—where you get access to 15 museums and 9 historical sites, or whatever—never work for me: I'm too lazy to visit everything I need to make them a good value.

Also not worth it. Anything where you're paying someone else to do something you could do yourself—buying tickets, arranging travel and reservations, and so on. Figure out how things work, do it all yourself, and you not only save money but gain independence and freedom.

The bottom line. The splurges really depend on what you travel for: If (like me) you care about food, then splurging on restaurants is always worth it. If (unlike me), you need a suite at a chic hotel, then go for it.

Travel uniform. Svensson jeans (lightweight, slightly stretchy), carrot-red Tretorns (yes, I untie and retie the laces at TSA checkpoints—I learned how when I was in kindergarten), and a polo shirt.

Travel theme song. No Sleep Till Brooklyn by the Beastie Boys.

Carry-on essential. People tell me it's strange that I always carry a headlamp with me. But it's useful! Who knows when you're going to wind up in a very dark place? I do—all the time.

To check or not to check. Always. I've never had a problem (knock on wood) with lost luggage.

Favorite souvenir. The wooden Ping-Pong-ball gun I bought at a gas station in Arkansas? The plastic Burmese nature spirit figurine I was told was called Poo Power Man? Nope—it's the sacks and sacks of dried chilies from all over the world that occupy a whole shelf of my pantry.

Travel hero. Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, the British war hero and writer who traveled by foot from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in the early 1930s and wrote several books about it. He was a man who loved everything that happened to him, good or bad—travel was his life.

Matt’s Birchbox picks: Richer Poorer Socks and Field Notes memo books.

Follow Matt on Twitter and Instagram.

Want more unexpected tips for packing, flying, and arriving in style? Check out the rest of our Seasoned Traveler series.

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