Travel Tips from Savvy Traveler Rudy Maxa

Savvy Traveler Rudy Maxa scours the world for stories and tips but keeps coming back to the Twin Cities

For more than a decade, Rudy Maxa appeared on public radio’s Marketplace as the Savvy Traveler. Today he hosts Rudy Maxa’s World, the most widely syndicated travel radio show in the country, and he’s host/producer of the award-winning TV series of the same name on PBS and Travel Channel International. The avuncular host with the crisp, radio-ready voice actually got his start in print; while at the Washington Post, his investigative reporting on a Capitol Hill sex scandal was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Maxa has called St. Paul home for a decade.

“I’ve traveled all my life, partly thanks to a childhood as an Army brat. My father did two tours of duty in Germany, and every weekend we took trips around the country or to France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and so on. I became fascinated not just by travel but the mechanics of it.”

“When the evening business radio show Marketplace asked me to do twice-monthly, two-minute commentaries on politics, I resisted because I wasn’t a political commentator. I suggested a consumer travel segment that I called the Savvy Traveler that eventually took over my professional life—much to my surprise.”

“I now do a two-hour radio show with eight to 10 guests, where I try to come at travel with an amusing but helpful angle. I might have the head of a school in Toronto that trains hotel butlers advise us on how to be the perfect summer house guest, or the CEO of Spirit  Airlines justifying charging for carry-on bags that go in overhead bins.”

“If I could be transported to any one place in the world, it would be Asia. I didn’t get there until I was in my early thirties, and it was all so new to me: the food, the attitude, the architecture, the religions. My favorite is probably Thailand, but I haven’t yet been to Vietnam, so I’m holding judgment on what might earn the gold star. But our favorites are the places we discover later in life that surprise us. Our hometown is never the hero.”

“I moved to Minnesota 10 years ago because I fell in love with a wonderful woman. I love biking along the Mississippi in nice weather. I appreciate being able to do all my errands in about half an hour thanks to the lack of traffic and lines anywhere. I had to make some awkward schedule and attitude adjustments after moving here, like getting accustomed to 11:30 a.m. lunches—we called that ‘brunch’ when I lived on the East Coast.”

“I hesitate to name any place that I wouldn’t go back to, but I remember long ago in [formerly Soviet] Leningrad, where I was surrounded and robbed by five or six guys in this little outdoor market. My room was also rifled by KGB agents; I had things taken. Then I went back a couple of decades later, when it was renamed St. Petersburg, and I fell in love with the place.”

“One important travel tip today is frequent-flyer miles: The best way to accumulate them is from judiciously using bonuses from the right credit cards. Frequent-flyer miles aren’t useless if you know how to use them.”

“The internet is a traveler’s best friend. You can read the local paper where you’re going, sometimes translated into English, or go to photo sites and find incredibly detailed information on your own. Once you’re there, engage the locals. That’s the trick; it’s as simple as going to the local market and striking up a conversation about a piece of fruit or something you’re unfamiliar with. You’d be surprised—you might end up getting invited to someone’s house for dinner.”