(Get Out Of Town)

Comedian Heather McMahan Was Made For Travel

“Aviation baby,” indeed.

heather mcmahan comedian
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Carry-on luggage or checked bag? Window or aisle seat? Tropical sandy beaches or majestic mountain ranges? You can learn a lot about a person through their travel preferences and habits. TZR’s series Get Out Of Town gleans tips and habits from tastemakers to better understand what makes a first-class getaway.

Heather McMahan is flying high these days. Coming off of her first Netflix special Son I Never Had, the Atlanta-based comedian and podcast host recently served as a red carpet correspondent for E! Television throughout the 2024 award season, is wrapping up her latest comedy tour, and is gearing up to perform at the Netflix Is A Joke Festival on May 5. Considering the travel and flights this all entails, McMahan is quite literally flying high.

That said, as the daughter of a Delta flight captain, the self-proclaimed “aviation baby” is quite at home on a plane. In fact, the 37-year-old performer always seems to have a trip booked and a bag packed. “My husband and I have a goal to go to South Africa this year,” says McMahan of her end-of-tour plans on a recent Zoom call with TZR. “We're trying to maybe do that in the fall. It's funny, I'm taking a little time off the road this summer, but I will itch. The back of my neck will start to itch come July and I'll be like, ‘What am I doing at home?’”

This penchant for the on-the-go life comes in handy when you’re as in-demand as McMahan is. The comedian has truly come into her own this past year. Her Netflix comedy special hit home for many, thanks to its candid and unapologetic takes on everything from body positivity and navigating fertility to grieving the death of parent. “Listen, everything that is tough and everything that's been a challenge in my life, I've always had to find some sort of joke out of it,” she says. “I think we're all in a survival mode, where if we don't laugh at stuff, it will break us.”


In addition to a good giggle, McMahan’s bi-annual jaunt to the Amalfi Coast will also help her reset this summer as her whirlwind year begins to unwind. Ahead, the comedian reveals her big travel plans for the coming months as well as the in-flight habits and tips she’s picked up over the years.

Carry-on or checked bag?

So it's twofold. Usually, when I'm going on the road, I'm hitting three or four cities in a weekend. So I'm always a checked bag girl. But my show suits, which are my glitter sets that I wear on stage, are always on me. So I'm a carry-on and a checked bag girl.

Speaking of your on-stage outfits, I love how you go hard on the glitz and glam. Has that always been your approach?

Maybe it's the Southern-ness in me, but I have two modes: It's either troll underneath the bridge telling you riddles in order for you to pass or it's full red carpet glam. There is no in-between for me. I'm a showman. I like to come out, I like you to know that you're at a performance. I like the mood to be set while you're walking in the theater. I just like ambience.

So, in picking out my looks, I worked exclusively with Show Me Your Mumu, and those girls design all my costumes. The first tour, we were doing long pants and long duster jackets that were glittery. This round, we went mini skirts with a blazer in different colors. The next tour, starting next year, who knows what we'll do? I do my own hair and makeup backstage and then when I put that suit on, I'm like, ‘Let's go.’ It clicks into me that I'm ready to go perform.


What are three items we will always find in your carry-on bag?

I'm going to tell you right now, I never have a book, OK? My brain hurts. I don't have time to read. If I'm on a flight, I'm trying to sleep or I'm watching 90-Day Fiancé. I love when people are like, ‘I have a New York Times bestseller.’ I don't. My brain is too fried.

Here’s the thing: I have two carry-ons. I always have an Away roller bag carry-on, and then I have my LL Bean Boat & Tote. That is the best travel bag on the planet. The only way it could be even better is if they had a little slip so it could slide onto your luggage. You could fit a dead body in that bag. I'm obsessed with it.

I always have some sort of Megababe product, whether it's the Bust Dust, the Thigh Rescue, or the Deodorant. I have some sort of product to zhuzh myself up. I always have about 16 cords and chargers. I have gotten really into travel aesthetic TikTok, and I see these girls who have everything neat and organized and I'm like, ‘Well, then you've never run through the Cincinnati Airport at 6 a.m. trying to catch your next flight.’ So my bag is chaos. Oh, I always have so many snacks. Some sort of almond butter and definitely have some sort of jerky.

What are some of your in-flight habits?

Before we even take off, I'm usually asleep. So I'll wake up as they're serving their first round of drinks. I always get a ginger ale. I don't have to be hungover. I just need a ginger ale. That's my creature comfort thing, and then I will just dial into some horribly trashy TV. I'll catch up on the Housewives. I am so overstimulated all the time that, when I'm on a flight, I don't always turn on the Wifi. I'm like, ‘You can't talk to me for two hours.’ I am usually catching up on the most asinine, absurd TV. That's what I do.

What are your non-negotiables when it comes to hotel stays?

Well, in Europe, it must have air conditioning. That is a non-negotiable, and I need to know that it is like American air conditioning. What are for my other non-negotiables? I like [a hotel] that also has room service. I don't buy a lot of crazy sh*t, but I'll tell you what, if you're at St. Regis and you're on tour and you can have a club sandwich delivered to you at 1:00 a.m., that to me says you've made it.

What trip(s) are you planning right now?

We always love to hit the Amalfi Coast. My heart's also in Florence — that's where I got married and lived for a little bit, so we just hit all the stops. I know people are like, ‘Oh, Italy's over done,’ but I've been doing that for years. That is my happy place. As soon as I touch down, I know that calories don't count and that money isn't real. If I'm there for two days, I'm like, ‘I'm going to live my best life.’


I have a little hack: When you go, the designer outlets all over Italy are the best outlets on the planet. So, especially when I'm in Florence, I'll go 40 minutes outside the city and go to these designer outlets, and they have the best Gucci outlet you've ever seen in your life, and I tear that sh*t up. Never pay full price. That's what I want everyone to take away from this.

What place have you visited multiple times? And why?

My two spots are Italy and the Turks and Caicos. We've been going to Turks and Caicos forever. We stay at Wymara, which is our place. It's great because the Turks and Caicos is only a two-hour flight from Atlanta where I live, so you're there on the beach in three hours. It's great, so that's my Caribbean destination.


Are you an itinerary planner? If so, how detailed do you get and how much will you stick to it?

This is what's wild. I am so not type A. But when it comes to traveling, I realize that between my husband and I, somehow, I am proactive and plan these trips. I don't know what that says about me. I have somebody else run all the business aspects of my life. I have somebody plan my tour, but when it comes to vacation, I'm like, ‘I have the dinner reservations. I'm locked in. We're doing the boat on this day. We're going to the outlets this day.’ But, somehow, when I need to relax, I like to plan.