Awkwafina has traveled around the world to act in movies, including “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Farewell” and the upcoming “Paradise Hills,” but her hometown, New York City, remains a favorite destination.
Whether in New York or elsewhere, the Queens-born actress and rapper — whose mother is Korean and whose father is Chinese-American — has become an expert at finding hotel deals and staycationing. Four years ago, a colleague suggested that Awkwafina, whose birth name is Nora Lum, try HotelTonight. The actress quickly got hooked on the app for travelers looking for last-minute hotel deals.
Awkwafina spoke about the partnership with HotelTonight, staycationing and why she no longer lets her father plan her trips.
How did the partnership with HotelTonight come about?
I loved the idea because I’m a very avid user of the app. It ties into my generation’s way of traveling: We’re planning less and less for the three-week, four-week break, like on an island. Instead, we want to take these smaller trips that are spontaneous and are usually in cities where we have friends. The app ties into that whole “Let’s get out of here in the middle of the night” sentiment.
Do you staycation often?
I do. A lot. Growing up, I’d never seen what a hotel room in New York City looked like. In New York, there are a lot of places you can stay and so many things you can do.
Growing up, did you travel a lot?
Not really, no. I never enjoyed hotels growing up because my dad wouldn’t put us in the best. We did do a couple of things, like go to like a dude ranch. I rode a horse. It was fun.
Do your parents come to your hotels now?
My dad did, recently. I was staying at one of my favorite hotels in New York, the Wythe, in Williamsburg. Just for the night, I had a suite with an upper deck and he was like “I want to see the roof, I love ‘the Wife’” and I’m like “The Wythe!”
Then he goes up to the roof, takes out a cigar, looks at the skyline and he’s about to light it and I’m like “Dad you better not smoke up here, they’ll charge me like 220 bucks.”
How does that feel, being able to treat your dad?
It’s amazing. And it’s amazing that he enjoys it. I just want him to have fun. I think that he thinks this is cool. When I started he was totally against the idea of “Awkwafina.” He thought I was having a breakdown and I’d just gone crazy. When it finally started to sink in, he positioned himself as my tour manager. He would do CheapoAir and book me like from New York to Philadelphia and there’d be a stop in Chicago and then Ohio. I was like “Dad, you’re fired. I’m not doing it with you anymore.”
What was it like filming “The Farewell” in China?
We filmed in Changchun, where Lulu Wang’s family is from and everything was very real, like the wedding. I hadn’t been back to China in a long time. I’d been back to Asia for “Crazy Rich Asians,” but “The Farewell” trip was really special. Returning is always a very personal journey.
Have you been on any other exciting trips lately?
Two of my favorite cities — other than New York — are Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. I enjoyed Cincinnati. I enjoyed it, O. K.? They do this chili with cinnamon in it.
What can’t you travel without?
Obviously a phone. But also, you’d be surprised how important face wash and makeup wipes are. Without those, traveling is not the same.
Is traveling when you’re filming more difficult than traveling for fun?
When I’m traveling for filming I don’t like checking bags. I don’t know where they’re going and if I’ll ever see them again. Also, when you have to travel for film and you know you’re not going home, if you don’t have something, you don’t have it.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.