Talking Travel with Samantha Brown

Samantha Brown has been around the world and back again. She’s hosted multiple shows with the Travel Channel and just launched her new series, “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love,” with PBS this past January. Samantha will be speaking at the 4th Annual Philadelphia Travel & Adventure Show at the Convention Center this weekend.

Xfinity customers can use the promo code XFINITY to receive $5 off tickets.

Samantha sat down with us to share a little bit about her journey, her new show, what makes a great piece of luggage, her top destinations for 2018 and more.

You recently moved from the Travel Channel to PBS and created “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love.” What do you love about your new series?

Samantha Brown: I really wanted to do a show on what I had learned about travel all of these years, my approach to travel and my personality. What I love about the show is that because I own it and executive produce it, I am a part of everything about it. From choosing the people and the experiences we have on camera, right down to how we edit it. So, it’s really lovely to be involved with a show from the very beginning to the very, very end.

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SEE UPCOMING “SAMANTHA BROWN’S PLACES TO LOVE” SHOW INFO ON XFINITY STREAM

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With your new show, you take viewers on “a discovery of the emotional heart of travel by highlighting the people who are changing, challenging and strengthening a destination to deliver a decidedly refreshing and enriching travel experience.” What does that mean, and how will it play out in the series?

SB: When we travel we always have experiences, and that’s what we are going for, but there are people behind those experiences. The show really reaches past the experience and allows you to meet the person who created the meal that you enjoyed, maybe the piece of art that you are looking at, the piece of music, the architecture. The people behind the experiences that make us feel like we belong to a place. That’s where it becomes more personal.

Before, in the past, my shows were just about me, my experiences and how I felt about them. We rarely spent time with the people who actually created them. When you talk to the people who are really good at what they do, but then you learn how hard they’ve had to work to make this dream happen that we get to take part in, you just want to support that. For me, that really defines this movement we’ve been having in travel for a very long time to have more immersive experiences. To go where the locals go and do what the locals do, but I wanted you to meet the locals and I wanted the locals to have just as much of a say in the show as even I do.

You’ve traveled around the world, and according to your site samantha-brown.com, have visited 250 cities in 62 countries. Of all the places you’ve been, what are your favorite destinations and why? Is there anywhere you haven’t been that you still have on your list?

SB: There are so many places. The world doesn’t get any smaller, it just gets bigger. My number-one place would be Cambodia. I love Southeast Asia.  I love all of Asia. With Cambodia, I love it because it has Angkor Wat, so you go there to see this archaeological phenomena. And yet, the people there are what I call the Irish of Southeast Asia. They were lovely, talkative and they wanted to know just as much about you as you wanted to know about them. There is a real reciprocity and appreciation of being there. They were glad that you were there. Sometimes that doesn’t happen in big, very heavily touristy regions. So, I love Cambodia.

I love any city. I love cities. A couple are Mexico City and Berlin. Those are two very different cities, but cities always represent a confluence of humanity, art, architecture; it’s just chaos and they shouldn’t work, but they do. So any big metropolis is always on my list as a place to go. It’s hard to narrow that down to one.

A place that I have been returning to many, many years and I’ve taken my mom and my sister there is Santa Fe, New Mexico. I love Santa Fe because it has a great history. I grew up in the Northeast and we learned about the pilgrims and from then on up, and that was it. When you go out west, especially Santa Fe, you learn about the Anasazi people who have been here for 6,000 years before Europeans arrived, and there’s also this wonderful Spanish culture that came up from Latin America, as well as European.  There’s this beautiful convergence of cultures that we don’t get in every city and it’s a great city of art. It’s a great city of food, and you are five minutes away from some of the most brilliant hiking trails. So, you’ve got a city and you’ve got access to nature in a very short amount of time. It’s always just been one of my favorite places and I’m going back there for season wwo of “Places to Love.” I’m really excited to see it again. It will be my seventh time. Maybe I just love the margaritas, I don’t know!

So, I read something unbelievable; apparently you love the time you spend in airports? Please explain yourself and help us all find ways to not hate it.

SB: I always joke that for me, an airport is like a teenage girl’s mall. There’s so much pressure as a working mom just to get to the airport. You are struggling so hard, you are packing bags, you’re making sure you have everything and you’re already missing your kids. There’s so much stress. As soon as I get through security and I’m in that airport, it goes away and now I’m in work mode, and now I’m in my place. I live in airports, so it’s what I know. It’s where I’m really good at what I do and on the other end, if I’m coming home and I’ve just spent 10 days away from my kids, away from my home and I get through that airport security, now I’m going home. For me, it represents the bookends of what makes my life really wonderful. It’s a psychological and emotional relief once I’m in an airport.

I’ve always loved taking a walk and seeing where everyone is going, especially if you’re in an international airport. I try to play a game of guessing where the people who are at the gate with me are going. If there are a lot of tall men with architect glasses, they are obviously going to Germany. I just love people. I love human beings. We all have different shapes and we all dress differently. You see that so much when you watch this huge group of people waiting to board a flight. Whether they are going to Tokyo or Tel Aviv, I just find that really exciting.

And then I get a lot of work done. I have a nice glass of wine. I always say the airport experience is getting better and better. The in-flight experience is getting worse and worse. We’re almost separating those two now. You can’t associate being in an airport with being on a plane. Being in an airport is a much more pleasant experience.

You debuted your line of luggage in 2011. A few years ago, I switched to the suitcases with four wheels and it changed my life. What is most important in a good piece of luggage, and why did you decide to put out your own line?

SB: I think you hit the nail on the head. You were like me with thinking four wheels were for amateurs. The two wheels were for professional travelers.  But once you go to four wheels, you’re like, “Oh my goodness!” Even getting into a female toilet is so much easier when you have four wheels. The struggle of getting into a bathroom stall with a two-wheel bag is enough to make you pull your hair out.

Number one is mobility. That’s the most important thing in luggage. The features that go into mobility are lightweight; I do not travel with a carry-on bag that’s over seven pounds, and then four wheels. I will do two wheels. I’ve got a two-wheel bag that I like a lot, but the four wheels just make things easier and in ways that we don’t realize. If you have a two-wheel bag and you’re going through a massive terminal, and most people are these days because they’re usually connecting through a huge hub, and you realize there are 400 people coming in your direction and if you have a bag behind you, you have a smaller outline and there’s something behind you and people are getting in the way of you and it. When you have an upright bag, it’s by your side and now you are wider and now people go around you. They don’t go in between you and your bag and knock you off.

I started designing luggage because I had 17 bags before I thought, boy, I could do this better than anybody. Most people who design bags are men and they always put that front pocket in their carry-on bag that’s really deep and thick and I found out that’s for a pair of men’s loafers. Well, I’m not a man. I don’t need a huge pocket in front for loafers. I need the pocket in the front to be designed for other things that women need. We’re not terribly different from men in how we travel, but just enough so luggage designed by women for women makes a stronger impact.

I do a lot of traveling with my two daughters, ages 6 and 13. As a mother of twins yourself, what are your top tips for traveling with kids? Biggest lessons learned?

SB: I have 5-year-old twins. You’re out of this now and so am I, but it’s important to know how to use the pre-board. I think getting on a plane strikes fear in all parents with younger children. It’s one of the most stressful things you can possibly do.  Something my husband and I would do, or if you have a partner of any kind, is divide and conquer. So when they’d call the pre-board for kids, my husband would go in first with all the gear. He’d set up the car seats when they needed them and secure the overhead bin space, which we know gets filled up pretty quickly and that’s valuable real estate, and then I would wait with the children until the very last person boarded the plane.

Two things: it wears your kids out and also it doesn’t subject really young children to what is the most stressful part of the plane ride, which is the boarding process. Adults can’t even handle it, and now we’re expecting a 2- or 3-year-old to take in all that stress that we are all feeling and they feel from their parents, and people are shoving big bags over their little heads. So now we’ve gone from a big, big space with lots of people to a tiny, tiny space with lots of people, and they feel it and that’s when they freak out. And they have every right to, because adults freak out. We take them out of that and just wait. That solves so many issues. Also, when you board a flight at the pre-board, you are boarding 45 minutes before that plane takes off. So that child is sitting for almost another hour longer than the flight, which could be a problem, too. That’s one thing that we did that just worked so well. You need two people to execute that, but it really worked.

And then, I think my biggest advice is don’t over-schedule anything. Whatever you thought as a traveler that you wanted to do, children have a way of just changing everything. Do one thing a day and then come back and take a nap or rest before you go to dinner. Take it easy. Have a good time. Understand that you’re going to spend $300 for tickets to go to an aquarium and your kids are going to freak out, and then you’re going to come out and they’ll kick some cans in the parking lot and have the best time of their lives.

What do you say to people who think travel is only for rich people with lots of free time?

SB: The most important thing you can do is plan ahead. If you don’t plan, then everything is booked and everything does become expensive. The flights are gone. The hotels are filled up and now they can charge their higher rates, so it’s really being on top of things and planning ahead.

Having said that, and this is a very important mission of mine with my new series, we have a tendency to think there are a handful of places that are travel-worthy and that’s it. I’ve never viewed any destination as either you travel here or you don’t. I think any place you travel to can be travel friendly. So OK, you can’t afford to go overseas, and yes, that is prohibitively expensive, but you could do a two-hour trip to the closest city and spend the night there and maybe do their fun museum, or maybe there’s a festival going on. You can do a daytrip. Anything. Anytime you are outside of your home and outside of your town, you are having a travel experience and you are opening your children’s eyes to that and maybe whatever the city is, try something that you can’t try at home.

There are all kinds of ways to really allow you to have something fun, immersive and eye-opening that doesn’t involve being on a plane. It doesn’t involve going overseas. You can have it right here in the United States. We did one of those destinations in Alabama. Coming up this season, we are going to be doing Baltimore. I just really want to change people’s perceptions of what is a travel-friendly destination because I’ve never been anywhere where I couldn’t find something really good to do and maybe just relax and have a great time at a cafe or maybe you go to a movie and you’re just more relaxed and that’s part of the travel experience as well.

What are your top travel picks for 2018?

SB: Definitely Korea. I will be heading there in about three weeks. I’m going to Seoul. The Olympics always spark interest in people and makes it feel a little closer and less foreign than it is, and I think Korea is the next big Asian country to really capture our imagination and we want to go there even though it’s far away.

I’m going to put out Houston, Texas. This is the most diverse city in the United States. There’s no one majority and that plays out in wonderful ways. It’s the fourth largest city in the United States. It comes right after Chicago and it’s a great metropolis. It has over 17 museums. There’s a great sense of art, there’s a great sports industry there and it’s a great place to meet people and have that local feeling.

What do you plan to speak about at the Travel & Adventure Show this weekend?

SB: I’m going to be talking about my series and how I want to redirect people’s ideas of what’s a travel-friendly place and it has nothing to do with how much money you have. In fact, everything I do is accessible to the traveler and everything I do is budget friendly, so I just want to highlight that. When they watch travel shows these days, there’s not a lot of that anymore. It’s someone getting a real VIP experience, meeting people you’ll never get to meet and also having a very expensive experience. With this show, I’m trying to change that.  Highlight the people that we show and the experiences and why this is a travel show like no other.

Since it’s Women’s History Month, what tips do you have for women travelers?

SB: I love when I travel solo. No one tells me what to do. One tip I always tell people and it’s especially true for women, we always think, especially as Americans that when we travel, we have to do five different things a day and never go down the same road twice. One thing I love to do when I travel especially as a solo female traveler is create a ritual. I go to one place, the same place every day. It could be the coffee shop in the morning or maybe even dinner at night. There is nothing wrong with having a ritual and going back to the same restaurant you felt comfortable in and that you liked. Because when we relax and feel comfortable in a place, then we start talking to locals, then we connect with other people. Then we get their ideas of where we should go, what’s safe, what’s not, we make friends and I have always felt the idea of travel has been how much can we cram in in a short amount of time and I really think we should slow down. When you are a female traveler, I think people really do take care of you. They really look after you. So if you create a ritual, you have your place.

And because we’re a media company, besides your show of course, what else are you watching on TV these days? “The Crown,” “This Is Us,” dying for “Game of Thrones” to return?

SB: My favorite TV show is “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” I’ve been watching that for like 10 years. I like to laugh. I really do. I love comedy. Now the actress, Kaitlin Olsen is doing “The Mick,” so I watch that and I just want to laugh and have fun. I love comedies, I love “Blackish” and “Modern Family. We’re having tough times these days and I think we just want to laugh.

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Come hear Samantha Brown at the Travel & Adventure show this weekend.

You can also connect with her on social media:

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The 4th Annual Philadelphia Travel & Adventure Show, the Philadelphia metro market’s only consumer travel show, will be creating a weekend travel adventure of its own as it is the first stop travelers need to make on their next trip. Anyone looking to find, plan and book their next vacation will find thousands of options to explore, destination experts to help them get there and tens of thousands of dollars in savings at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on March 10–11, 2018.

Learn more about the Travel & Adventure Show: https://travelshows.com/shows/philadelphia/

Xfinity customers can use the promo code XFINITY to receive $5 off tickets.