Small Business Profile: Stefanie Michaels (Adventure Girl)

Former swimwear model Stefanie Michaels, known to her fans as "Adventure Girl," is an avid thrill seeker and dedicated travel journalist.  Millions of fans followed Stefanie on as she participated in the Iditarod and shared Zero-G plane rides with Buzz Aldrin.

After just 5 months on Twitter, Stefanie was named a Top 50 Tweeple and has over one million followers.  Her book, Adventure Girl’s Guide to Adventure Travel… Without Breaking a Nail, was released earlier this year.  Stefanie is also the travel expert for Travel+Escape Channel's UberGuide and Discovery Channel's Hollywood Green.

We interviewed Stefanie to get her insights on small business travel, staying connected, and the benefits of traveling with American Express.

What are your top tips for business travelers?

  • Since 75% of my business travel is overseas, I always check in with Passport Health for immunizations. It’s a one stop shop with locales around the U.S. They also send you e-mail reminders when it’s time to update any shots.
  • Make sure you have extra pages in your passport by using a passport service. They make your life easier for not only passports but also VISA requirements.
  • I have an international blackberry and iPhone. However, there are times when service is spotty. I speak with a concierge at my hotel to find where I can purchase an inexpensive local cell phone for local calls. It just makes my life easier than trying to figure out how to integrate my phones, purchasing chips, etc.
  • I LOVE using Skype to stay connected.
  • Since I am Twitter obsessed, I reach out to my twitter followers for local information. I also know I can tweet in case of an emergency. Social Media is in my back pocket at all times.  (You can follow Stefanie at @AdventureGirl.)

Do you have any special tips for women travelers?

I always let someone know the hotel I am staying at and where and what my plans entail for the day – especially if I am going at it alone. I never stay on a bottom floor, and request rooms with no low balconies. I also never answer the door unless I know I am expecting someone. This may seem paranoid, but I believe it’s never a mistake to take extra precautionary steps to protect yourself when traveling alone.

iPhone apps Stefanie recommends:

  • Hear Planet will find sources like restaurants or important locales by utilizing Wikipedia and then reads the search results out loud.
  • Urban Spoon is a free service that gives travelers an array of restaurants to choose from in places like London and the U.S.
  • Travelers must learn a culture’s customs, especially when doing business overseas. World Customs is a unique app that helps business travelers not make faux pas in regard to a culture’s customs.

How long have you been using American Express?

I've been an American Express Business Platinum card holder for the last 10 years.

What American Express benefits do you use and how do you use them?

I use my card for EVERYTHING business. I won’t book travel without it.

I use the delay protection/travel protection, the Airport lounge access, the Corporate Platinum Travel Concierge (they’ve helped me garner restaurant reservations I could not get on my own), and the hotel amenities (when I show my card, I usually get great upgrades on rooms.)

I also enjoy the Two-for-one Business class tickets, and I love the AMEX book of Hotels that comes each year.  I’m also a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest program that works awesome with my AMEX card. 

I’ve also used the program to help me identify International fraudulent charges and they have been awesome in helping me reverse any invalid charges. They stand behind their business travelers!

Do you have any tips on how to maximize these benefits?

I use the website a lot for researching what offers make the most sense for me and my needs. I also have gotten to know a couple of the concierge agents. Once they know you, they will make suggestions based on your likes.

I also use the mileage program as perks for my friends with my AMEX miles and bring them along with me on various trips.

Can you share one of your favorite travel stories?

I booked a two-week trip to Egypt (via AMEX of course). I was in Egypt meeting with famed Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass to interview him for the Huffington Post.  Mid-way into my time with him, his cell phone rang. He looked at me and said, "What are you doing tonight?" I replied "nothing," since I had an early morning flight back to the States.

Arrangements were made in Egyptian, which I did not understand. Once off the phone Dr. Hawass said (with a devilish gleam in his eye), "Be ready at 8 – you will join me at a dinner tonight."

I live by my mantra: "If someone asks you on an Adventure, don’t refuse."

Next thing I knew, a driver picked me up at my hotel and whisked me to a stunning place on the Nile in Cairo – the home of Egypt’s head of Abercrombie and Kent. I was greeted by his gorgeous wife (dressed in head to toe Dolce and Gabbana) and a beautiful drink served up by a white-gloved staff.

In the living room, sat Dr. Hawass, surrounded by Hilary Clinton’s best friends, ambassadors from London and Egypt, and eventually Ambassador Margaret Scobey, the US representative stationed in Syria.  Ambassador Scobey had arrived a bit late because she had been meeting with the US generals – one being General Petraeus. Dinner was just the 10 of us and catered by the Four Seasons.

I usually have a LOT to say, and have many adventures to share from my travels, but I sat mum and just took the night in. It was the most incredible "life adventure" I could never have expected nor planned.  I feel that I am so fortunate to be a journalist, as it has opened so many doors to interesting places and incredible people I have met.  That night was definitely an adventure of a lifetime.

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