Shining a spotlight on celebrities and athletes who love to travel. Created and developed by Stacy Steponate Greenberg.
Like many of the tennis stars she covers so well, Chris McKendry is equally strong on either side of the court. One day, she’s anchoring the 11am SportsCenter at ESPN, as she has so smoothly for nearly two decades. The next, she is ESPN’s face of Australian Open tennis, keeping early risers and night owls alike aware of the latest developments at the first major championship of the year. Off the court, and the screen, this busy mother of two is an avid traveler, which is why she makes the perfect guest for this journey in The Overhead Compartment.
The Overhead Compartment with Chris McKendry starts now….
OC: What’s the secret to managing the long flight to Australia?
CM: Hydrate and sleep. Once we take off from Los Angeles, I force myself to stay awake for a couple hours. By then it’s 3am ET and I’m exhausted. I put the seat in flat bed position and sleep for usually 7 – 9 hours. I wake up with a few more hours to go. I find flying to Australia easier than Europe simply because I’m on the plane for so long, I get a solid rest.
This trip, I flew on the new United 787 Dreamliner. It was fantastic. The cabin was so quiet. I’m a real believer in the new air filtration system. I’ve never experienced such minimal jet lag. The new direct flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne is great as well. We landed at 8 am and had the whole day ahead of us.
OC: What makes The Australian Open different from the other major championships?
CM: The spirit of its spectators. Australians love sport, plain and simple. It’s a celebration. Fans come in flip – flops and t-shirts. Music plays around the grounds and there is a beer garden, for heavens sake. The Southern Hemisphere summer also infuses energy. I wonder sometimes if our audience tunes in to see the sun or the tennis?
OC: How much time do you get to enjoy the sights and culture of Melbourne?
CM: Not as much as I’d like. We air more than 150 hours of the Australian Open on ESPN, so much of my two plus weeks are spent at Melbourne Park. But as the tournament wears on, we have more time and I do explore a bit. Some spots that take but a couple hours are; Melbourne Aquarium (crocodile and penguins worth the trip), Queen Victoria Market, St. Kilda beach and Eureka Tower. I also like spending a few hours walking or running through the Royal Botanic Garden.
OC: What’s one thing no visitor to Melbourne should miss?
CM: Australia’s Twelve Apostles are a few hours drive down the Great Ocean Road… if you’ve come all this way, it’s a must.
OC: In which city have you found the tennis fans to be most enthusiastic?
CM: The easy answer is Melbourne or New York because they are the loudest. But that would be unfair to the Wimbledon fans who wait in the queue for days to gain access. The four Grand Slam events have different personalities and vibes. They represent their host cities and are something to be experienced.
OC: What is your favorite city to visit on assignment?
CM: It’s Paris.
I’ve always felt at home in Paris. It’s a walking city which I love. I love exploring the different neighborhoods, shops and restaurants. Paris is an underrated trip to take with kids as well. My husband and sons have joined me on this trip. We’ve biked all over the city using Fat Tire Bike Tours. The Louvre Tour that is 3DS compatible and the Jardin du Luxembourg are other favorites.
OC: What is the best trip you ever took with your kids?
CM: Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii or Kiawah Island, South Carolina. There have been fancier but beach, bike, golf and tennis makes us happiest.
OC: What is the best trip you and your husband ever took without the kids?
CM: Since we both travel quite a bit for work, we rarely take a holiday without the kids. But one of our favorite spots to relax, dine and indulge for a couple nights is Winvian in Litchfield Connecticut.
OC: What’s the first thing you do when arriving at a hotel in your room?
CM: Get fresh air into the room and turn on the shower to add steam and humidity to the air.
OC: Biggest pet peeve about hotels?
CM: Housekeeping that knocks too early… especially if its a vacation.
OC: Complete the following sentence: I never leave home without ____________
CM: _____________a small framed picture of my sons to put by my bed. And….Shiseido Instant Eye Mask. (this pro’s go to trick )
OC: Go to snack when on the road?
CM: Do Tim Tam’s count as a snack? It’s a chocolate treat I absolutely crave once I land in Australia. Usually I try to stick to almonds or cashews. Usually I end up eating something local and far more tasty…say strawberries and cream?
OC: Check or carry on?
CM: My wardrobe for work mandates check. It’s that simple. But when I travel for pleasure, carry on. One of my biggest accomplishments was our family’s two week trip through Australia last year all carry on. My husband and I each had a small rolling suitcase and our sons had backpacks. It was fantastic and very liberating.
OC: You’re from Philadelphia, what are three things every visitor to your hometown has to see?
CM: Independence Hall. The historical area of Philadelphia is very well done and easily explored. Old City as it’s known features the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Alfred’s Alley, Ben Franklin’s grave and many other cool spots. Everyone should run the Art Museum steps! Think Rocky. Only once at the top, go in the Art Museum! The Franklin Institute is a must for a kids.
OC: Which Philadelphia team will be the next to win a championship?
CM: Eagles. Maybe.
OC: What’s one thing no one knew about you until now?
CM: As a Philadelphian, I’ve never eaten at Geno’s or Pat’s. It’s for tourists.
Chris McKendry, please use care upon departure as items may have shifted in The Overhead Compartment during our journey. Thanks for choosing us for your travel tips! Have a wonderful day!