CHICAGO TRIBUNE: CAROLL SPINNEY, THE MAN BEHIND BIG BIRD, TALKS ABOUT TRAVEL / by chad walker

Caroll Spinney is finally getting his due.

For more than 45 years, Spinney has come into our homes — into millions of homes around the world — yet has been largely anonymous. You don't get recognized much when you're not wearing the 8-foot yellow feathered outfit you made famous.

Spinney portrays Big Bird. Or as the title of a new documentary puts it, "I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story." And when the film, which has had a couple of limited showings, is released nationwide in May, Spinney's anonymity may become a thing of the past.

"Now I realize that's going to change," he said. "Twice in airports people have come up to me: 'You're Caroll Spinney!'"

Spinney, 81, spends a lot of time in airports. He and his wife, Debra, are inveterate travelers.

"New Zealand is probably one of our favorite places. Been there 18 times," he said by phone from Hawaii, where he and Debra were — what else? — vacationing. "Been to Ireland at least 25 times. We love the Alps, try to go every year. Germany and Austria."

With all that traveling, he does offer a few tips.

•Take long vacations, a month or so (if you can). That way the full day of travel on each end doesn't seem to cut into your getaway as much. "You (still) have a day of waiting and waiting and flying. But at the end you're in Hawaii. You forget about all the waiting."

• They always rent a car for the freedom.

• Plan well. For Spinney, that means "Debbie does all the work, I swear. She's the least complaining person I've met in my life."

• And those "extra comfort" airline seats you can pay extra for? "They were literally the most uncomfortable seats ever. My rear was hurting; there was nowhere to put your feet."

For more on "I Am Big Bird," go to http://www.iambigbird.com To view the film's trailer, visit youtube.com/watch?v=7_OVrn9rZqI&feature=youtu.be.