Travel Talk with Jennifer Byrne


The journalist and host of ABC TV’s The Book Club loves reading, flying and drinking Champagne – preferably all at the same time.

What’s the secret to a stress-free journey?

I don’t think there is anything stress-free about travel – ever. You’re away from home, you’re coping with foreign things, you’re eating stuff that’s not familiar but it’s all about rolling with it.

What’s your approach to packing?  

The minimum. I take four T-shirts, three merino icebreakers, three pairs of pants and only one nice dress. I sometimes check in a second little bag with my shoes, books and electrics. I don’t like putting shoes in with my clothes.

Is there a secret to travelling light? 

I have two versions of a colour scheme: either I do black, blue and another colour or white, blue and another colour.

Do you roll or fold? 

I’m just starting to roll. 

What do you never leave home without?

Books and moisturiser. I travel with a full e-reader, which I never use because it doesn’t make me happy, and eight books that I drop off one by one. 

Do you get to the airport late or early? 

Ha! A constant source of friction. Husband early; me late. We now have an arrangement where I go early and then roam.

What’s your airport routine?

If I’m in a lounge, I always have a glass of Champagne. If I’m in the terminal, I usually go to the shops and buy more moisturiser.

What do you wear on the plane?

I have about three different pairs of pants that don’t look like leggings but are. They’re dark and loose. I’ve never understood people who say they fly comfortably in jeans. 

What’s your routine on the plane?

I really love reading on a plane and just looking out the window. And I play a lot of games. But, again, I’d probably start with a glass of Champagne, which, if you’re counting, is at least the second.

So many people say they spritz their face and drink litres of water…  

They’re lying, because someone’s drinking – it’s not just me! I know you have to stay hydrated but I’m enjoying that moment.

Are you more emotional in the air? 

There is no question. It’s our own small version of what Carl Sagan called the “pale blue dot”. In that moment we are together, looking down at the place that is our home. 

Aisle or window? 


Do you talk to your neighbour?

Never. If it’s not already clear, I say very politely, “If you don’t mind, I don’t wish to talk.” It’s nothing personal; I just don’t like it. I will deign to talk to my husband [Andrew Denton] if he’s there. 

What’s the last book you read on a plane? 

The North Water by Ian McGuire. It’s set on a 19th-century whaling ship going into the deep Arctic. It has vile language and it’s full of blood and guts, terrible people and adventure. I completely loved it. 

The last movie? 

I watched the first four episodes of Empire. There’s drugs, sex, hip-hop, cheating, lies and deception and the worst language you can imagine – perfect for a plane.

What are the best books to take on a long-haul flight? 

I would say short books; it’s not the time to read War and Peace. I lean towards crime. I just realised the picture I’ve painted. This is a woman who drinks, reads crime novels and refuses to talk to anyone.

If only you could smoke…

Please don’t turn me into a monster! I’ve never been kicked off a plane or caused any trouble.

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