31 Questions for… Amanda Jackson, Peninsula Hotels
When Amanda Jackson moved to Chicago from Florida to attend Northwestern University, she figured she’d get her degree and immediately head back down South. Now 18 years later, she’s still in the Midwest, thrilled to be in her position as regional director of marketing, The Americas, for Peninsula Hotels.
In this role, she oversees sales, marketing and e-commerce for The Peninsula Chicago and works closely with the revenue and catering teams for one of the city’s most beloved five-star properties. “We’re always trying to create unique experiences—things that can’t be found elsewhere,” says Jackson. (On the day I talked with her, she’d just come from an event that involved guests getting to drive a Rolls-Royce Phantom.)
She also supports all 10 of the brand’s hotels globally, driving business from America as a feeder market, increasing awareness in the U.S. market, and highlighting meetings and events offerings. “People haven’t traditionally thought of us as a group business hotel,” says Jackson, “but we have stunning spaces all over the world.”
Jackson has racked up the frequent flyer miles in her nearly two years years with the company, jetting off to visit each of the Peninsula properties several times a year and attending the brand’s annual marketing conference in Hong Kong, where the company is headquartered. But six months ago, things changed a bit when Jackson and her husband, Alex, welcomed their first child, Bennett.
"As my son has come into the picture, [I've realized] it is important to be connected but also set boundaries," says Jackson. "I try and stay focused on work when I am there, and on family when I am home. I couldn't do it as well without such a supportive husband—we are a good team and help each other balance."
Must-have hotel amenity?
Comfy hotel slippers. Once I started at Peninsula, I started collecting them from around the world. My husband walks around the house in them. I love my Hong Kong ones, because that’s the first Peninsula hotel I went to outside of Chicago.
In-flight reading material?
My guilty pleasure is gossip magazines. I read Us Weekly before and after Wi-Fi on a plane.
No pets, but eventually! I grew up with dogs and I’m an animal lover.
What travel souvenir do you collect?
I try to use photography as my souvenir and when I have time, I make coffee table books of my favorite travel images using MixBook. It requires a little more work [than other services[, but you can make them very customized. I sometimes also collect vintage travel postcards. They inspired my baby’s room, which is themed around vintage travel. I handmade the artwork for his nursery using places that mean something to me and my husband.
What was the last place you traveled that surprised you?
We did our honeymoon to Tanzania, Africa. We spent the first week climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and the second week was a safari. The most surprising and rewarding day was going into a local village. We had shipped some books and soccer balls that we were going to donate to a school, and intended to go and just drop them off. We ended up spending the whole day with the kids, playing soccer with them. I knew I’d love the scenery and the animals in Africa, but didn’t know I’d fall in love with the people. The village had a lot of poverty, but they were so joyous and celebratory of life’s simple pleasures. It was incredible.
Favorite travel companion?
My husband. We’ve done some amazing trips together and now we’re incorporating the baby into our travels.
Out-of-office: Yes or no?
I almost never use it, but it was on for my honeymoon and maternity leave.
What suitcase do you use?
Before starting with Peninsula, I splurged on a whole new set of Bric’s luggage (black with leather accents), because I think it’s important when I walk into the hotel that my luggage reflects the brand.
Uber or Lyft?
I’m an Uber addict.
What is your first travel experience you remember?
My family would save up and go on one big trip every summer. We tried to do a lot around national parks, and I remember being really excited about the wildlife in Yellowstone. I also have vivid memories of the sunsets in Sedona, Arizona—I really want to go back there.
Favorite travel snacks?
String cheese and wasabi peas
On-the-go wellness hack?
I love to run and am trying to do more of it. I used to run a lot more before the baby. Running is a great way to exercise and see a city at the same time. I always ask my hotel concierge for a safe running path and kill two birds with one stone.
Pain points of traveling?
Usually I’m TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, but I haven’t converted everything from my maiden name to my married name yet, so on trips that were already booked, I’m having to take everything out of my bag.
Biggest fear relating to travel?
Flights getting canceled, getting stuck somewhere. Before it wasn’t a big deal, but now with a little one, I want to get home and see him.
Best spontaneous travel experience?
A couple years ago I decided to book a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a week in advance and surprise my husband. We’d talked about going and I decided to just book the trip. We did a lot of great hikes, wine tastings and bike rides, and saw a rodeo. It was really fun and we’ve gone back a couple times since.
Weirdest items in your carry-on?
Watercolor pencils and a sketch book. On leisure trips, I sometimes bring my art supplies so I can sketch on a plane or at the destination.
One state you haven’t been to?
Tennessee—I really want to go to Nashville.
One way travel has inspired the way you cook/eat?
I studied abroad in Sydney in college and lived there again before grad school. Living and traveling in Australia, I loved the global flavors they brought in. It was all so fresh, healthy and colorful. I also love Vegemite, believe or not. It makes me nostalgic when I eat it.
Travel lesson learned the hard way?
I’ve had status for as many years as I can remember on American Airlines, and this year when I was pregnant, I lost my status and kind of feel like chopped liver [when I fly].
Still American, even though I’m not platinum anymore. Internationally I like Cathay Pacific.
Where do you take visitors in your city?
Of course I take them to the Peninsula—our tea is quite famous, and Sunday brunch is unbelievable. I also like to walk around Lincoln Park and the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Tried-and-true jet lag remedy?
I love lemon-lime Gatorade. I grew up playing soccer and always drank it. I call it “nectar of the Gods.”
I had a layover in Doha, and [Hamad International Airport] was far and away the coolest airport I’ve ever been to. It had a spa like you’d find in a five-star-hotel, full treatment rooms, a gorgeous pool. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
How do you spend wait times when traveling?
I hate to say it—I am on my phone a lot. But I try to get into the American lounge and relax, have a glass of wine and talk to the person next to me. We spend so much time with our heads down, sometimes when traveling it’s nice to sit at bar and meet a stranger. You can find some interesting stories that way.
Travel gadget you can’t live without?
I love my GoPro. A lot of trips my husband and I take have an adventure component, so I love to capture things like swimming in the ocean or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Typical travel uniform?
When I’m traveling for business, even really early or late, I want to represent the brand, so I still feel like I should look polished. I usually wear a comfy black dress that doesn’t wrinkle (my favorite is from Michael Kors) and boots that are easy to walk in, then have high heels in my bag so I can throw them on and be ready to go.
First thing you do returning home after a long trip?
I kick off my shoes, change into comfy clothes and have a night in cooking with my husband. Home cooking is so nice after you’ve been on a trip. We like to make Spaghetti alle Vongole (pasta with clams) or any good pasta with olive oil and herbs.
Plan every detail or let it happen as it may?
I’m somewhere in between. I like to plan most details but leave room for spontaneity. For example, I might plan the morning but leave the afternoon open.
One thing you miss most about your own home when you’re away?
My neighborhood. Every weekend we get out and go to a local coffee shop, like Collectivo. Just having that sense of comfort and home is really nice to return to.
An interesting person you’ve met during travel recently?
We went to Telluride, Colorado, on our babymoon. Our fly-fishing guide, Dave, had left his corporate career in a big city and moved there to follow his passion for nature. He lives a simple life but was so happy.