Samantha Brown has been inspiring wanderlust since her television journey first began with Travel Channel’s “Great Hotels.” Other shows followed, including “Girl Meets Hawaii,” “Passport to Europe,” “Passport to China,” “Great Weekends,” “Samantha Brown’s Asia,” and PBS's “Places to Love" taking Brown to more than 250 cities in 62 countries and 40 states.
So, she might know a thing or two, or three, about packing and some hacks once checked into a hotel.
“One thing hotels always lack is counter space,” Brown says. “Pull out the ironing board and you have two to three more feet of counter space.” It can also double as a standing desk, she adds. “You can put it up to the window and have good light and a standing desk. When I’m traveling, it becomes my workspace.” It’s a hack that will work at home as well, says Brown, a mother of twins. “I didn’t realize until I had kids that they took up all of my space. This can become a TV tray or whatever.”
Brown, who says her travel focus is always the “must meet,” not the “must-do,” says travelers often think their smartphone has all the information, but not always. “I’m a people person, so I strike up a conversation with the staff,” she says. “If I am working in my hotel and housekeeping comes around, I ask them where they are from, if I detect an accent. Be sure to ask them where to go to eat. You’re going to get great micro places. You want to go where people really go to eat.”
Brown also asks night security staff where they go for breakfast “because it’s usually somewhere close to the hotel. You can get an inexpensive breakfast that will fill you up for the day.”
Staying at a hotel for business isn’t always conducive for creativity, she says. “Don’t do coffee in your hotel. Go out for coffee every day. Change things up. Use your travel experience to be more creative.”
Packing It In
Brown says travelers need to get a bit creative when it comes to packing. “Always use the space between the handle of the suitcase. Fill that it with small socks, scarves. Make sure all that space gets used up. You want to use every inch the airlines give you for free.”
Brown personally uses packing cubes, so she can see every item in her suitcase. “Don’t layer everything, because then you can’t see what you have. Those cubes can go right into the hotel dresser, too.” Brown recommends packing clothing that matches, and not overpacking. “Really, three pairs of pants and three tops will give you about nine outfits, if they all match.” She also recommends wearing the nicest top and pants the first night of a conference or event. “Then put them in the daytime rotation.”
Travel to the B-sides
Brown says she’s seeing a trend to the “B-side” cities. “There are A-side cities and B-side cities, like the old B-side of records. The B-side was always the underside song, but it was just as good. There are cities that don’t get the most visits but should.” For Brown, Baltimore is a B-side city that is “affordable, with great restaurants and history.” Houston is another B-side city for Brown, with some of the most diversity in the United States.
Lafayette, Louisiana, is another city that travelers should check out. “Everyone goes to New Orleans, but there is great music in Lafayette, and the food is fantastic. You are in the United States, but not quite. It’s almost like you are traveling to another country.”
Brown has an international B-side destination, too: Oman in the Middle East. “Dubai almost gets too Western, but Oman is more authentic. That’s been on my radar.”
And what’s the one item Brown never travels without? Her teacup.“I wrap up my bone china teacup because I like to have a cup of tea,” she says. “If you like coffee, bring a coffee mug. When you stay in a hotel, you feel like you are always unwrapping plastic. Everything is disposable or throw away. My teacup helps me stay grounded. And it’s not only a good idea in terms of cutting down on plastic and disposables, it also makes you feel at home.”