GL Travel Rock Star: Pauline Frommer


The fourth and final Global Lipstick travel rock star in the month of October is one that is already a legend in the travel industry.  Pauline Frommer.  The list of Pauline’s accomplishments is endless.  World traveler, check!  Award-winning travel author and radio show host, check! Wife and mother to a beautiful family, check!  Beautiful songstress, check (she sang to me during the interview lol, it was the best!!).  Pauline started traveling with her parents at four months and has been on the move ever since.  Her father, Arthur Frommer, created the world renowned travel guidebooks, Frommer’s, while in the military in the 1950’s.  Together, Pauline and her father have inspired generations of travelers.  Currently, Pauline is the editorial director of Frommer’s Guidebooks.  She is the author of the newly released “Frommer’s Easy Guide to New York City 2015.”  In addition, she writes a syndicated column for King Features, which runs across the US and Canada.

Now that the Frommer family is back in control of the franchises, (it was bought by Google then released back to the family in April of 2013) Pauline says the business is like a start-up once again.  At the tender age of 85, Arthur Fommer is working harder than ever before.

In our interview we were able to chat with Pauline about everything from Lipstick to travel tips and she was truly a delight.

Global Lipstick:  Take us through your daily routine.

Pauline Frommer:  My daily routine changes daily!  It all depends.  Today I’ve already spoken with one of the Frommer’s authors who lives in Paris about offering them two new books.  Let’s see, after our talk I have a PR strategy meeting for a collaboration book we’re doing with AARP called “Places for Passion.”  The book authors are Dr. Pepper Schwartz, who is a contributor to The Today Show, and Janet Lever.  After that, I’ll probably start to work on a story on Fort Worth, TX for my news column.  I recently came back from Fort Worth researching the story.  Finally, later this evening I’m flying to Vancouver for a business trip.

Other times, if I’m researching for a guidebook I’d be running around seeing different hotels and eating at restaurants.  I would probably take a late afternoon disco nap so that I can go out and hit the night life.  Of course I do it all incognito, I never let them know who I am.

GL:  What approach do you take when writing a guidebook knowing that thousands will read your guides to influence their travel journeys?

PF:  I keep in mind that various types of people will be using the guide so I have to speak to different demographic groups.  For instance, Frommer’s was the very first to include information for gay and lesbian travelers and that is something we’re very proud of.  I’ll always have a section in my books for people traveling with children.  Then I also keep a section open for travelers with limited mobility.  If I’m reviewing, say, a restaurant that has a lot of stairs, I let the reader know because that could be a barrier.

Frommer’s authors try to create books that are very honest and opinionated.  That’s something the reader is unable to get from many of the online sources these days.  Hotel and restaurant groups are involved in, we’ll call it “disguised marketing.”  These businesses realize how important a good online review can be so they’ll post fake reviews.  Frommer’s only client is the reader so we give the best advice possible even if it goes against conventional wisdom.  Our London author believes that the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace has become a stupid waste of time and he gives supporting reasons why.  You’re not going to get that type of blunt reporting from most sources.

What sets us apart from others is that our authors are bonafide journalists and know how to do research. That’s key!  When they are giving reviews about hotels, they’ve visited every hotel in that city.  They have only picked out the best and can compare them.

GL:  How much time do you spend preparing a guide?

PF:  Guidebooks have to be quickly accessible because destinations are always changing, so we research and write a book within three months.

GL:  What resources do you use to get authentic interaction with locals?

PF:  We always hire local experts, which is why I write the NYC books because that’s where I live.  I look for opportunities to interact in an organic way.  For example in my upcoming guidebook, “Frommer’s Easy Guide to New York City 2015,” I suggest going to a cooking class.  The classes are fairly inexpensive and are taught by New York chefs.  These classes are attended by almost all New Yorkers.  You’ll get the opportunity to spend two hours interacting with locals and in the end have a feast, complete with wine.  That’s an experience that most tourists won’t have.

GL:  What do you do about a language barrier?

PF:  In the back of every guide we have phrase books.  We always encourage the reader to learn basic phrases.  I can remember being in Taiwan, where hardly anyone speaks English and I don’t speak any Mandarin.  I just made sure that I always had a piece of paper with my hotel address written in Chinese characters and went out to see the sights.  In the end, just deal with it!

The key is that you have to remember that 99.9% of the world is very welcoming (I think anyway).  For the most part people want to welcome strangers, are proud of their home and want to show it off.  So even with a language barrier, they welcome you with open arms.
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Photo courtesy of book passage.com

GL:  You were recently given the Gold Award by the Nation Travel Writers Association for best travel broadcast for Travel Show, the radio show you do with your father.  Congrats!  Talk about that and what that meant to you guys.

PF:  It was nice to be recognized for that area of our work, especially because it’s something I do with my father.  The show not only showcases travel but our relationship.  It’s one of the more fun things that we do, so to be recognized for it and to know others enjoy it is very fulfilling.

GL:  The holidays are coming up.  Where are the under-the-radar New Year’s Eve celebrations held?

PF:  1. Brazil.  In Rio at midnight, everyone lights a candle and places it in a little boat that they then floats out to sea.  It’s absolutely beautiful.

2. Scotland.  There’s the tradition of Hogmanay which is a pub to pub drunken celebration.

3. And of course Brasstown, North Carolina.  In Brasstown, they put a possum in a cage and run it up a flagpole (laughs).  It’s Brasstowns’ answer to the New York ball drop – The Possum Drop (laughs).

GL:  Who’s your international man crush?

PF:  George Clooney.  He just got married in Italy, so he’s international (laughs).

GL:  Finally, what’s your favorite brand/shade of lipstick?

PF:  MAC, Polished Up.

Make sure you get the inside scoop in Pauline’s new guidebook, Frommer’s Easy Guide to New York City 2015.  Get additional destination information on frommers.com or on from their tweets, @Frommers.  You can also catch Pauline and her father every Sunday at 12pm on their podcast, via the TuneIn app or listen directly from their website.

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