McCool Travel interview with Mike Ragsdale, founder of 30A

5 Minutes With Mike Ragsdale of 30A

For McCool Travel’s 122nd travel profile, I am happy to introduce you to Mike Ragsdale, the founder of 30A. Have you heard of 30A? 30A celebrates small-town beach life along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30-A and is positively one of my favorite travel brands. It has been too many years since I have driven highway 30-A but I was thrilled to have the chance to interview Mike Ragsdale.

Mike Ragsdale of 30A’s bio:

Mike Ragsdale is Founder and CEO of The 30A Company (www.30A.com), a brand inspired by the small-town beach life his family enjoys along Florida’s gulf coast. For a longer and much more interesting bio of Mike Ragsdale, click here.

McCool Travel interview with Mike Ragsdale, founder of 30A

Mike Ragsdale, founder of 30A

Mike Ragsdale of 30A

Hometown…

Cullman, Alabama (originally)…. now we live in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Always in my luggage…

I never travel without a camera. And an iPhone camera works just fine for my purposes. I’m not looking to win any photography awards. I just want to capture and memorialize our experiences. When I’m 100, I want to be able to reflect on my many adventures and share them with my great grandkids. It’s amazing how quickly you forget the details unless you have photos and videos to prompt your memory.

3 favorite home-away-from-home places…

  1. Chiang Mai, Thailand
  2. Dubrovnik, Croatia
  3. Lisbon, Portugal

A favorite travel memory is…

Scary moments aren’t usually fun to live through, but they’re really fun to relive in the safety of hindsight. Our family once got caught in the middle of a riot at Bali’s infamous Kerobokan Prison (our VRBO was adjacent to the prison wall). Raging fires, molotov cocktails, gunfire, military troops. We were finally rescued from our home after the Indonesian army regained control of the prison. It’s certainly a night that our family will never forget.

McCool Travel interview with Mike Ragsdale, founder of 30A

Mike Ragsdale and family

3 favorite travel brands…

  1. With currency converters, language translators, maps and just about everything else you could ever need, Apple’s iPhone is the new Swiss Army Knife.
  2. We rent homes and apartments through VRBO and Airbnb and rarely stay in hotels.
  3. And Jack Daniels. You can find it in almost every bar in the world, and you can always enjoy it neat if the water in the ice cubes are a concern.

3 money-saving travel tactics I use are…

  1. The longer you can visit a place, the cheaper it gets, especially if you’re going someplace where the dollar is strong. The biggest expense is getting there (airfare), so stay as long as you possibly can. I don’t like visiting any place for less than 2 weeks. Stay a month or two if you can. The longer you’re there, the more you’ll learn to live like a local. You always make stupid tourist mistakes the first few days in any new environment. The longer you’re there, the wiser you’ll become about fair prices and scams to avoid.
  2. Don’t stay in hotels. Rent homes and apartments. You can often stay for a month in a 2-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and living room for the same cost as just a few nights in a cramped hotel. Plus, when you have your own apartment, you can stock the fridge with groceries, eating breakfast at “home” and sometimes simply settling down with some cheese and a bottle of wine from your corner market in the evening.
  3. Finally, resist the temptation to buy a ton of stuff before you go. Shove a few shirts and pants in a backpack with your credit card and just go. Whatever you need, you can buy wherever you’re going—and probably for cheaper than you could buy it at home.

3 ways that I have fun while traveling are …

  1. Never make hotel reservations in advance. Make it up as you go along.
  2. If you only have one week in a region, don’t hop around to 4 or 5 cities. You’ll spend too much of your precious time in transit and “learning the ropes” in each new place. Pick one and delve into its streets and culture. Always favor quality over quantity.
  3. Before you go, ask your Facebook friends if they know anyone in the place you’re planning to visit. You’ll probably be surprised to learn that you already have contacts there. Even if you just meet them for dinner or a quick cocktail, you’ll get authentic ground-level advice about hidden gems that you’d never otherwise find… and more than likely, you’ll leave that country with some fantastic stories and new lifelong friendships.

8 word (or less) travel mantra…

Live the life you’ve imagined.” –Henry David Thoreau

McCool Travel interview with Mike Ragsdale, founder of 30A

Mike Ragsdale in Marrakesh

favorite non-travel website …

Spotify for music. Drudge Report for scanning headlines. Facebook for staying in touch with friends and chronicling our life experiences.

most memorable souvenir …

In Thailand, we sought out an off-the-beaten-path network of alleys known as Baan Bat, one of only three places left where local artisans still hammer out alms bowls for Buddhist monks by hand, as they’ve done for centuries. We were so struck by their individual beauty that we bought 12 or 15 of them to bring back to family and friends.

favorite cheap eat …

For less than $2, you can get a banana leaf cone full of suckling pig at Warung Pak Malen in the Seminyak neighborhood of Bali. It’s the type of meal we still wake up craving years after frequenting this unassuming street stall.

recent discovery …

Adioso is my favorite new way to find cheap flights. If you don’t really care where you’re going, when you go or how long you’ll stay (which is the only way I like to travel), it’s a fantastic resource to explore a literal world of options.

I am fortunate to have met …

My career has introduced me to many high-profile personalities, including Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Brandon Tartikoff, Emeril, Hugh Hefner, Luke Bryan, Milton Berle, Ted Leonsis, and countless others. But I’m most fortunate to have made what I consider to be real friendships through our travels, including Hassan in Cappadocia, Turkey, Mr. Singh in India, Badr in Morocco, and Ketut Suantika (Suan), Jeff and Amalia in Indonesia. Those are the people we are most fortunate to have met.

I would like to meet …

I’d like to have a drink with Jimmy Buffett, who served as my youthful inspiration for travel and a laid-back life at the beach (both of which I now enjoy). I recently interviewed his sister, Lucy, so I’m now one step closer to checking that item off my bucket list.

McCool Travel interview with Mike Ragsdale, founder of 30A

Mike Ragsdale of 30A


Thank you so much, Mike, for taking a few minutes to share travel inspiration and tips.

Follow 30A on TwitterInstagramFacebook, Pinterest, and 30A.com.


Check out McCool Travel’s previous profilesMcCool Travel presents tips from travel experts in our 5 Minutes interview series—featuring travel industry giants, super frequent travelers, and adventurous persons. Previous 5 Minutes post: Lani Bevacqua and Paul Bennett of Context Travel.


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16 Responses to “5 Minutes With Mike Ragsdale of 30A”

  1. Carmen's Luxury Trvl (@carmensluxtrvl) January 24, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

    Great interview! Like him, I also love Dubrovnik and Lisbon. I have yet to visit Asia though so need to put that on my list! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. MoreTimeToTravel (@MoreTime2Travel) January 23, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

    Love the idea of the longer you stay, the cheaper it gets! 🙂

  3. knycx January 23, 2017 at 12:15 am #

    Great to know you pointedly and Chiang Mai and Lisbon are some of my most unforgettable experiences too! @ knycx.journeying

    • McCool Travel January 23, 2017 at 8:24 am #

      Thank you, Knycx. I hope to visit those lovely places some time soon.

  4. Edith Rodriguez January 22, 2017 at 11:27 pm #

    This is a great interview. I like his tips about staying in a place for a longer time. It’s what we are hoping to do when we set out to travel this year.

    • McCool Travel January 23, 2017 at 8:24 am #

      Thank you, Edith. Totally agree. I want to try that on a future trip, instead of moving along every other day or so.

  5. Steph Be January 21, 2017 at 9:26 pm #

    What a great interview! I think more bloggers should do interviews with people like this- makes it more personal! I loved it- thank you for a great read!

  6. Sara Broers (@TravelWithSara) January 21, 2017 at 10:23 am #

    What a fun traveler! Now… the snake I can do without. I like his tip about not making reservations in advance. This is so true, especially when you are on a road trip, it’s always nice to be able to adjust your destination if you stumble on some things you want to see that are not on your planned route.

    • McCool Travel January 21, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

      Indeed, Sara. I do not make reservations on road trips, exactly for that reason. It will take some guts and a mental transition to do that for other trips although I have done it. Seems like an empowering way to travel.

  7. Barbara Winter January 19, 2017 at 5:37 pm #

    What a fun interview! To think I almost missed it in the avalanche of emails.

    • McCool Travel January 19, 2017 at 6:22 pm #

      Oh, you should have a special McCool filter on your emails. So glad you saw this. One of my favorite interviews to date.

  8. Julie @ FuninFairfaxVA January 19, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

    Mike’s Bali travel story is both amazing and terrifying; glad he and his family made it through ok. I love Mike’s travel advice about focusing on quality over quantity. I’ll have to remember that the next time I try to squeeze too many stops into a trip.

    • McCool Travel January 19, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

      Intense, right? Mike has a truly inspiring and exciting attitude toward travel and life. No wonder I love that 30A travel brand.

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  1. 5 Minutes With Scott and Collette Stohler of Roamaroo • McCool Travel - January 27, 2017

    […] Check out McCool Travel’s previous profiles. McCool Travel presents tips from travel experts in our 5 Minutes interview series—featuring travel industry giants, super frequent travelers, and adventurous persons. Previous 5 Minutes post: Mike Ragsdale of 30A. […]

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