About Nan the Traveler

Captain Nan Rinella

In Vietnam, 1970’s

Experience is the best teacher
But it doesn’t have to be your own

About Nan Rinella

Would you agree that a former flight attendant and seasoned traveler would have some tips ‘n tricks to share about smart, savvy, and safe traveling? If so, then, I know you will find this blog helpful for making your travel successful, smooth, and enjoyable . . . oh, and safer too.

Nan Rinella Honolulu Bound Flight Attendant

In Los Angeles bound for Honolulu, ‘1980’s

The Flight Attendant

Nan Rinella, "Stew School" graduate

Graduation from “Stew School,” Dec. 1964

In the ‘60s an airline stewardess had to be female with 2 years of college, at least 20-years-old and at least 5’2.” We could not exceed a set weight and had to sign a contract that we would quit at age 40. We had to wear girdles, red nail polish, high heels, stockings, white gloves, and a hat—but no eyeliner. Our hair was short and our smiles wide.

Planes fly. Pilots fly the airplane. Flight attendants serve the passengers. But they use the verb “fly” to describe what they do. I flew for 20 years, mostly the Hawaii route.

Nan Rinella on flight to Honolulu

747 First Class to Honolulu

During the Vietnam conflict, the Air Force contracted U.S. carriers (Military Airlift Command) to transport the troops from the U.S. to Nam and back. It was my honor and privilege to fly these MAC trips, especially flying the “boys” back home. On our Honolulu layovers we often visited the wounded warriors.

Nan Rinella flying with troops

Flying the troops 1970’s

I got tossed about in turbulence over the South China Sea on one trip. On another, on a brief stopover in Cam Ranh Bay—we never laid over in Nam—the base was shelled and I was hustled into a bunker with a husky soldier sheltering my body.

Nan Rinella with soldier & bunker

In Bien Hoa with soldier & bunker

The in-flight coordinator & appearance supervisor

After I was grounded due to injuries, I worked for 7 years in the LAX in-flight office.

I organized an appearance fair when the company launched the new uniform in the ‘80s—gone were the bright colors and groovy outfits of the late ‘60s and the ‘70s

I organized an appearance fair when the company launched the new uniform in the ‘80s—gone were the bright colors and groovy outfits of the late ‘60s and the ‘70s

I edited our monthly domicile newsletter, which won an award of merit as most outstanding publication in the in-flight system for United Air Lines. That was my official intro into writing other than the stories I wrote in the 7th grade and editing my church newsletter.

LAXSW newsletter, May ’90

LAXSW newsletter, May 1990, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the flight attendant

The writer

I am the quintessential late bloomer, marrying at 27, giving birth at 38, going back to college, beginning a 2nd career, and publishing at 48. I was a Washington, D.C. intern at 50 and authored a book at 60. I am not yet a grandmother.

Nan Rinella with Dan Quayle

With husband, Joe, when Nan covered Vice President Dan Quayle’s visit to Amarillo during his candidacy for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination

As a stringer for the Amarillo Globe News and contributing editor to the city magazine, I covered the 1994 Miss America Pageant, when Miss Amarillo won Miss Texas. I broke the story when her grandmother and mentor died in route to the pageant. A year later I was covering press conferences in our nation’s capital.

Nan Rinella with Miss Texas

With Arian Archer, Miss Texas, at the Miss America Pageant 1994

During my 3-month journalism internship D.C., I lived with a dozen twenty-something young ladies in a small brownstone. All had college degrees, but no education in cooking or experience with cleaning. I did not take on the mother role.

Nan Rinella, NJC intern

With fellow National Journalism Center interns, Dec. 1995

The author

In 2003 I completed Smart Steps for Safe Travel, the book I wrote in the aftermath of 9/11. The tips I gleaned from my research on safety, health, packing, and survival, I will share in this blog as I revise the book. Lot’s of changes in 9 years.

The Chico’s woman

Nan Rinella in Kauai

On Kauai, 1972

As a California native, living there and in Hawaii, I sported a more casual style of dress than I found in Texas. Then I discovered Chico’s. Their clothes fit my sanguine personality to a “T”. Their Traveler and Zengery lines make traveling in style practical and easy.

Nan Rinella in blue

The wife

My husband is retired from the Air Force. No, we did not meet on an airplane. He left for Vietnam 2 months after our wedding. I saw him once that year on a Nam turnaround. We had layovers in Japan or Okinawa. Joe and I enjoyed a week of R&R on Kauai.

Captain & flight attendant the week they met

Capt Rinella & flight attendant

But when I got a Christmas Day trip to Saigon to see him, he was off duty at the command center, and because he had moved quarters, the duty officer couldn’t locate him. He received the cable I sent on Dec. 23 on Dec. 28. That was 1971, before email & cell phones, and phoning to servicemen was rare.

Vietnam Xmas

Christmas Day in Saigon but no hubby to be found

When he came on duty Christmas night, he found a note, “Your wife was here.” Later he got a call from Clark Air Force Base on Guam. “Captain Rinella. Your wife wants to talk to you, and she is mad, sir.”

Nan Rinella & husband '71

Newly married but both on the job

We were both based in Honolulu for 4 years. His trips took him to Southeast Asia and mine to Chicago and New York. On a vacation trip to Ireland, we were detained in Shannon, Ireland, when Joe told customs agents he was a munitions officer and since his wife was of Irish descent, it made for a suspicious mix in the heyday of Irish terrorism.

J & N Ashford Castle 1972

Ashford Castle, Cong, Ireland, ‘72

We made lifelong friends with some Aussies and enjoyed delightful visits down under and to New Zealand before it became Middle Earth. I sat on the Aborigine’s fertility rock near Ayers Rock in the middle of the Outback. But it still took us 10 years to have a baby and only after I took an educational leave from flying, registered at the university, and bought a bunch of new clothes. The leave became a maternity one, and I majored in motherhood.

The mother

Nan Rinella & son Ryan

Ryan & mom, York Castle, UK, 1987

When our son was 6, we flew to London for him to be in his nanny’s wedding. The adults wanted to lunch at a pub, but he and my best friend’s kids wanted to eat at McDonald’s—in ’87? He staged quite a tantrum in the pouring rain in Trafalgar Square.

Evan & Ryan London wedding

Evan & Ryan in Auntie Sue’s wedding

Ryan was 10 when we moved to Texas. He and his dad “bached” it when mom took off on work trips. I didn’t think they’d miss me too much during my 3 months in D.C. since it was football season in Texas. However, on Thanksgiving Ryan phoned to tell me, in no uncertain terms, that I would do the cooking, the dishes, cleaning, and the laundry when I returned home. At least he knew how, which was more than my roommates.

After graduating from college, he went backpacking with buddies around Europe. When he first landed in Paris, he couldn’t find them. I received a voice message: “It’s me, Ryan. I’m in Paris. Alone.” Again, that was in 2005—before it was common to take cell phones abroad. They eventually hooked up. When Ryan returned he told how they had run with the bulls in Pamplona and climbed glaciers in Switzerland. Was I glad I had taken out insurance on him!

Education & publishing record

I studied at the University of Colorado, UCLA, Amarillo College, and West Texas A&M. When we moved to Amarillo, Texas, in 1991, I retired from United Airlines and became a professional writer and freelance journalist.

I have written for the Amarillo Globe-News, Canyon News, Amarillo Observer, Accent West, and Focus on the Family Magazine, Human Events, and Consumer Resource, with over 200 articles in print.


My husband, Joe, is retired. We have been adopted and are owned by five cats. Joe ramrods the cat ranch when I travel. Our son lives in Dallas with his wife and their elderly black lab—my granddog.

C.S. Lewis Foundation Logo

I serve as a conference director with the C.S. Lewis Foundation and am writing a Narnia-inspired novel and a blog, Encouraging Writers to soar with the Eagles, at www.nanrinella.com

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