When Samantha Brown goes to the office, she could be anywhere from a beach on the shores of New Jersey to the grand palaces of South Korea.
That’s because Brown’s “workplace” is where she’s producing the latest episode of her PBS series, “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love.” In fact, he is on vacation for a living. And it’s been his career since he first started hosting travel shows two decades ago — initially, for the Travel Channel, where he directed series like “Passport to Europe” and “Girl Meets Hawaii.”
A Dallas native who grew up in New Hampshire, Brown, 52, didn’t plan on such an unlikely path. She wanted to make it as an actress—musical theater was a particular passion—but took other opportunities as they came her way. World travel became the last opportunity.
Today, Brown, who is based in New York City, can be on the road several months of the year. But she put down her suitcase to chat with MarketWatch recently about her life and work and share some advice on how to avoid travel woes, especially this summer’s constant flight cancellations and other vacation nightmares. Here is an edited part of the conversation.
Marketwatch: How did you get the travel bug?
brown: Surprisingly, it’s been almost four years since I started working at the Travel Channel. I got the job as a host, not being a travel journalist by any means, but being a freshman who really loved the experience. But it’s a job working in front of the camera, so I’m scared of that. The travel bug really hit me while doing a series in Latin America. I spent so much time in Europe, where I felt the castles and museums and monuments were in the past. And then, when you go to Latin America, they don’t have all the pomp and circumstance that they have in Europe. So you only spend more time in the moment, and that When I just realized love travel I don’t care for museums. I care about being with people in their daily lives, and Latin America gave me that opportunity.
Marketwatch: What are some travel tips you can give, especially in terms of avoiding or avoiding flight delays and cancellations?
brown: The first thing you want to do is book a flight as early as you can, and that’s a 6am or 7am flight. Getting up at 3, 4 am is hard, but it’s absolutely worth it. That is the plane that (always) leaves. All these problems happen later in the day (with) more traffic, more delays.
If you can go live – and I know for some people it’s not possible – it’s worth the price. Pay for a direct flight If you can, pay for a direct flight and maybe rent a car and drive an extra two hours.
Another thing I think is really important is that you book directly with the airline. I have never booked through a third-party site. You have a lot of credibility. You are high on their list of valued customers. And if something goes wrong they’re the people you call, and they’ll pick up the phone and they’ll be able to change your canceled or delayed flight. If it’s a third-party site, that’s not going to happen, and it’s really hard to figure out who you call.
One last piece of advice – and this always works for me – if my flight is canceled I use Twitter to get in touch with (the airline’s) customer service. That’s the first thing I do. You can direct mail each airline on their Twitter TWTR,
Feed. Send them your confirmation code, “My flight has been cancelled. Can I get on another flight?” And they are able to book you. If I’m at the airport I do that when I’m getting in the (customer-service) line. While you’re on that line, you’re tweeting.
Marketwatch: More people than ever are probably going to bring carry-ons on the plane these days instead of checking a suitcase, so what are some keys to packing light?
brown: Well, first, I think it’s important to remember that you’re not hosting the Oscars, you’re just going on vacation.
You want to maximize tops — you can bring 10 tops, and they won’t fill up the carry-on. will be pants. And when it comes to pants, you want to bring things that you can just wipe off with a sponge, right? Should you get mustard from your hot dog at the airport on your black pants, this remedy is very easy to spot. I’ll also bring clothes that wash well in the sink, and I can dry them overnight in the shower.
The way I change outfits, make them a little more fashionable, it’s just with accessories. It’s amazing what a scarf does to an outfit.
Shoes are your nemesis. Shoes take up a lot of space. And nobody really cares (what’s on your feet). Many will argue with me on this. But if you’re looking at my feet, I don’t care.
Marketwatch: What has been your biggest travel nightmare?
brown: in my god Being stuck in an airport, basically this summer…a lot of it is realizing that you won’t get home when you want, and making the best of it.
Marketwatch: What’s your go-to airport meal?
brown: Eggs, toast and coffee.
Marketwatch: Best piece of financial advice you’ve ever been given?
brown: Live below your means. I kind of learned from my parents. They never really taught me about finances, but I learned from them that just because you want something doesn’t mean you get it. Then I went to New York City, where I waited tables for eight years, and made $18,000 to $20,000 a year, and that’s not a lot of money to live on. And so, when I finally started making money, I knew I didn’t want to feel like I did the first eight years I lived in New York City, never having enough and always worrying about rent and what I was going to do. Buy it at the grocery store and that kind of thing. So I’m always keen to save and I don’t see much benefit in spending. I like to see that money safe.
Marketwatch: Do you hate spending money?
brown: Things I forgot to pack that I have and love. And now I have to buy them. And not only do I have to buy them, I have to buy them at four times the cost. So, for example, if you’re in Europe, where everything is extraordinarily expensive, especially clothes, and you forgot something like a rain jacket. And now I have to spend $220 on a basic rain jacket. Argh! Or you’re in Switzerland and now you’re spending $10 on a toothbrush. I always forget my toothbrush. That is something about me that is only consistent in my 25 years of travel. I always forget my toothbrush.
Marketwatch: What’s something you’re willing to splurge on?
brown: Handmade items. I never fight with people. I don’t try to talk them down on price. I always appreciate the fact that they have done something with their hands, and it is something unique. Sometimes I want to give them more money.
Marketwatch: Favorite property?
brown: I have this beautiful Limoges porcelain figurine that I actually got at the factory where they make Limoges in France. This is the woman with the basket of Valencia oranges. I’ll never forget that (how I got it) because I was having a really hard day. Even when he returned home, things were not going well. I was thousands upon thousands of miles away. A woman saw me struggling, and she said, “Here, take this.” So, it was a gift. When I see that, I still think about the kindness that was given to me.
Marketwatch: What job do you take even if you don’t get paid?
brown: I love helping the elderly because I think they have a wisdom that is never tapped, never really appreciated. People who are older and have lived their lives have great advice and wisdom to give. I want to work with them to help them. And then, of course, help them in return.
Marketwatch: When most people talk about retirement, they say they’re going to travel more. In your case, you have already traveled the world. So is staying home your best retirement idea?
brown: It has become a garden, this is my idea of retirement. I want to have a beautiful little garden that you tend to every day. (or) take up hobbies that I can actually commit to for longer than three days before I quit again. I’ll still travel, but there will be a sense that I’m just hungry and really enjoying myself at home.
Marketwatch: Finally, a place that every American should visit?
brown: Wherever the culture is different, the language is different. So it’s an eye-opener to visit a place that’s not the UK. nothing They don’t even get breakfast. It completely opens your mind and enriches what you know and what you don’t know. I love this amazing lightness of being human that happens because of what we don’t know. What is familiar can actually be a burden. And when you’re in places that don’t give you any of that, all you can do is just be in awe and enjoy.