Justin Kredible: Escape Artist
Justin Kredible, aka Justin Willman, is a jack-of-all-trades in the true vaudeville tradition. He’s equal parts conjurer and a comedian—bringing youthful energy and humor back to the world of magic. Justin hosts “Cupcake Wars” and “King of Cones” on the Food Network and Win, Lose or Draw on the Disney Channel
Like countless magicians before him, Justin is at home even when he’s away, and in the midst of an insanely busy schedule he made time to talk with us about the art of the road warrior.
I grew-up around airplanes.
My dad and grandfather were both airline pilots. My grandfather flew in World War II, he flew a B-29 Bomber, and my dad flew a helicopter in Vietnam. Then my grandfather flew for Delta, and my dad flew for TWA.
It’s so funny that instead of following in their footsteps I’ve chosen a career as an entertainer—but it involves being on an airplane almost as much as it would’ve if I was a pilot.
I remember when I was a kid, being on the plane and my dad was the pilot—and just thinking it was the coolest thing in the world. I even remember getting to be up in the cockpit, the feeling of being completely at home on an airplane. It’s so funny that instead of following in their footsteps I’ve chosen a career as an entertainer—but it involves being on an airplane almost as much as it would’ve if I was a pilot. It’s funny how that worked out.
I’m a vagabond that’s forced to be a bag-checker.
I would love to be able to pack light. But traveling with a magic show requires me to have two pieces of checked luggage, a carry-on and a backpack. I’d love to not check bags. When I travel for pleasure, I have everything in a backpack, no bags checked—it’s down to a science and I don’t have to worry about anything. But when I’m flying for my show, which is 150 days of the year, I have to check bags. And I know that goes against all the rules of the frequent flyer. Worst case scenario, if the luggage gets lost, my carry-on has enough stuff for me to do an hour show.
When I travel for pleasure, I have everything in a backpack, no bags checked—it’s down to a science and I don’t have to worry about anything.
I’m really good at turning work trips into pleasure trips.
I was doing a cruise ship in the Mediterranean a few years ago and managed to bring my sister along as my assistant. So we did the Greek Islands, and once I finished the cruise, we traveled around for a week. I loved connecting to the culture, seeing places that I’d only seen in movies and getting a feel for the history.
Since most of my travel is in the United States, I end up seeing a lot of awesome landmarks and little slices of Americana.
Places like the Crayola Crayon Factory, or a random restaurant in Pennsylvania that serves the world’s biggest hamburger. I love finding those places and checking them out. They make great travelouges too.
Sometimes all I get to see is a hotel room.
But if I have the time I really like to see something unique whenever I’m on the road. I like to soak-up everything the country has to offer.
I’m really lucky that I’m not a fatso because I definitely eat like one.
I have a quick metabolism, which I’m thankful for…but I know that could change at any time. I try to avoid airport food and eating at places besides Cinnabon, but that happens sometimes. Luckily travel itself, especially with everything that I carry, is quite a workout.
Life on the road can be lonely.
I’ll go from not talking to a single person all day long, to being in front of a thousand people, then it’s back to complete solitude. It’s a weird feeling going from zero to a hundred then right back to zero again. That’s why it’s nice to have modern technology to be able to pick-up the phone and connect with people at the push of a button.
When I travel, I love seeing things that I saw in the movies.
It’s always fun to put those little dots together.
I love going to Boston.
I went to college there and it’s cool to go to a city that you know your way around. Last year I went to Seattle for the Bumbershoot music festival and I loved it. I fly into New York for a lot of the east coast schools and add a day on the end to spend time in the city, which makes me feel kind of bi-coastal.
When I travel, I love seeing things that I saw in the movies.
I photocopy all of my credit cards, my license, and my passport.
Then I take those copies and stash them in another piece of my luggage. Just in case my wallet gets stolen. That’s something that I’ve heard has saved people’s asses before.
Seventy-five percent of the cities I go to I tend to have a friend or a friend of a friend there.
So I can meet up with people and they can take me someplace local. I’m not the type to meet someone for the first time and just start hanging out, so for me traveling gives me a chance to reconnect with people.
I’m from St. Louis, and the St. Louis Arch is pretty underrated.
The City Museum in St. Louis, too—it’s like Disneyland for adults. When I was fourteen or fifteen, I used to do birthday parties there on weekends and just went back with my girlfriend. We had a fantastic time there.
The City Museum in St. Louis, too—it’s like Disneyland for adults.
I’d love to go back to Thailand.
It’s a country with so many different types of scenery on offer and I found it so refreshing.
I always travel with a deck of cards.
My carry-on has the most random looking crap, and the TSA agents are very confused about why so much fits in one little bag and why I have like a mustard jar, ketchup bottle, and a fake snake. Showing someone a magic trick, even something really quick, has gotten me out of a lot of extra security questioning.
Showing someone a magic trick, even something really quick, has gotten me out of a lot of extra security questioning.
Gratitude is a great overarching attitude when you travel.
Because there’s so much that you’re at the mercy of others for. I try to be as effervescent and sweet as I can to the skycaps, bag guys, and ticket checkers—because most of the people they meet tend to be in bad moods. They’re meeting people who are always tired and rushed so I try to be a breath of fresh air for them, and it definitely pays off.
I love the little Eagle Creek clothes folders.
They keep your stuff wrinkle free—but it requires that extra fifteen minutes of pre-planning that I don’t usually have the patience for.
I hate people who are in boarding group #3 and crowd around the gate.
I hate having to push through…but that’s just a little nit-picky thing. That and middle seats. I’ve mostly been able to avoid both of those. A good pillow and an eye-mask, and all my troubles are gone.
This past spring I did what I thought was the impossible travel itinerary.
One night I did a show in Orlando, Florida and the next night I had a show in Anchorage, Alaska. My agent asked if I wanted to put a day in between but I was like: “no let’s just do it, so I can say I did it,” so I did Florida and Alaska back to back. I felt like that was an accomplishment. It was exhausting, but I finished it up with some good Alaskan beer. It’ll be a story to tell the grandkids.
Hot air balloons tend to be unreliable.
Buses too. When I lived in Boston there was a time where I was car-less, and buses tend to be very inconsistent in terms of trying to arrive when they say they will. Planes and rental cars are what get me from A to B.
Travel is about simple pleasures.
I love the Hampton Inn.
Obviously a 4 or 5-star hotel is a great thing, but when you’re traveling on a budget and someone else is paying the bill, Hampton Inn is someplace that will always be consistent, always be clean, and always have free internet. I look forward to seeing it on my contract. Travel is about simple pleasures—Hampton Inn makes me happy.
Free internet is a nice little perk.
What I find ironic is that the more you’re paying a night to stay somewhere, the more they’ll charge you for internet. Then you go to a Motel 6 for $40 bucks a night and it’s free.
When I’m home for a length of time I’m itching to get on the road.
And when I’m away for a length of time I’m itching to get home. I’m just constantly trying to find that middle ground. The past couple years I’ve been on the road a whole lot. It’s hard to have a relationship when you’re always gone. But it’s funny, I’ll complain about it, then come home and after a week I’ll feel like I need a change of scenery. I’m just now figuring out that perfect mix where I’ll never get bored.
I’m just now figuring out that perfect mix where I’ll never get bored.
Travel’s definitely not a drag though—In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m very fortunate to be able to make a living seeing the world and meeting awesome people every night.
In a word, I love variety.
I really get the best of both worlds. I get to miss the road, I get to miss being home and I get to quench both of those thirsts all the time.
“How I Travel” is a BootsnAll series publishing every Friday in an effort to look at the unique and diverse travel habits of some of the world’s most well known and proficient road warriors.
all photographs provided by Justin Kredible and may not be used without permission