Welcome to How I Roll, TPGs new airport routine series, covering everything from how jet-setters prep for a trip to what they wear on the plane.
We sat down with travel expert Samantha Brown, host of PBSs two-time Emmy-winning series, Samantha Browns Places to Love, currently filming its fourth season. Her career has taken her to more than 250 cities in 74 countries and 44 of the United States.
SB: The last place I flew was to Dallas, Texas, for business. I was giving a speech to the Arlington tourism board.
TPG: What does your pre-travel to-do list entail? Do you have any must-do activities around the house before leaving?
SB: I have an extended pre-trip list. It starts a good four to five days before Im about to leave. Im seeing if my wardrobe is up to date, if it needs to be washed, dry-cleaned, hemmed, if my shoes need to be polished. It starts about a good week beforehand.
I make sure that Ive got my car booked, that my itinerarys all set, I know whos picking me up, [if] I have to get there myself. And, like, Oh, wait a minute do I know the hotel Im staying at? Because sometimes I travel so much I dont.
What I like to do is make sure I have tons of fives because thats what I tip, whether its a housekeeper, a bellman theres nothing worse than having only a $20. I hate not being able to tip what I want right on the spot.
TPG:Do you pack ahead of time, or wait until the last second?
SB: Im an early packer. I hate to pack the day of. And even the night before gives me a bit of anxiety, so I have my bags packed, ready to go a good 48 hours before Im about to board the flight.
TPG: Are you an over- or underpacker?
SB: Im an underpacker. I hate overpacking my luggage. I lay everything out and its kind of like an audition, my clothes. Im picking whos going to go and whos not. And usually [I pack] pants I know I can wear two to even three times. I put in more tops than pants. And then I mix things up using scarves and belts to kind of create more of a day-to-night look.
Shoes are also my packing nemesis. I hate packing shoes. I know Im doing really well when Ive only brought three pairs of shoes and one of those pairs Im actually wearing. So Ill have the [shoes] that Im wearing . . . then Ill have a running sneaker and then maybe another pair of flats or something. I wear the most difficult shoe [to pack] on board. A lot of people wear their slip-on sneakers. And usually I wear whatevers going to take up more room in my luggage because Ive got either TSA PreCheck or something that I dont have to take my shoes off.
TPG: What kind of suitcase do you carry?
SB: I carry my own because I have my own luggage line, but I carry a 22-inch hard case.
TPG: What are your carry-on essentials?
SB: I always have an oversized scarf. Its actually called a blanket scarf because its the size of a blanket but its a thin, gauzy material. So I can wrap it around my neck if Im cold, or around my shoulders if Im cold. I can wrap it around an airplane pillow if I dont want my head to touch that pillow. I can use it to clean the screen of my laptop and my phone. So for me its sort of like the Swiss Army knife of the fashion world. It has 101 different tools and it makes you look good.
I always have what I call pinky balls, which always get a few peoples eyebrows raised. Its a toy that you get in a toy store and theyre about the size of tennis balls. And I work out my muscles with these balls. So I can lie on them and roll them down my back, roll them down my legs. And they just work out travel fatigue, being stuck on a plane for too long, just kind of being sedentary for too long.
And then I always carry some sort of snack, whether its a nut mix or I carry peanut butter. And with that I get an onslaught of people who hate me because people are allergic to peanut butter. But I carry it anyways because I love it and its my emergency snack. I always say you have to bring your own comfort on a plane and thats what I find comforting.
TPG: Whats your go-to travel outfit?
SB: A pair of Columbia Saturday hiking pants. Theyre awesome. I have them in every color and pattern that they make, and its mostly like a camouflage, so to be honest I look a little bad-ass. Theyre extremely comfortable, theyre easy to wash out in the sink if I need to and just dry on a hook, and they still look sharp. They dont look like a hiking pant. It actually looks like a nice pair of slacks in really cool camouflage patterns. Theyre the best travel pant.
TPG: Do you get to the airport early or with just enough time to spare?
SB: I get there so early I could probably make two planes before. Twenty years Ive been doing this; I still have a lot of anxiety. Am I going to make my flight? And I have to be on that flight. Theres no missing a flight for me. That doesnt exist.
And I also live in New York City, so getting to the airport could be a half hour or an hour and a half. So every time I plan for that hour and a half and then I never stress about getting through security or anything like that. It doesnt matter how long the line is, I know Im good.
TPG: How do you kill time at the airport?
SB: I walk around a lot. I get exercise in, so I look around, I probably shop a little. I never go to a lounge even if I have access sometimes I do, sometimes I dont. I dont like sitting around and just eating or having a drink. That just doesnt speak to me. Even if its a long-haul flight I like to be up on my feet as long as I possibly can so Im really tired when I get on the plane and I can just sleep.
TPG: Whats your preferred seat on a plane: window or aisle?
SB: I usually get the middle when I travel with my family and [have kids on] either side and that really is the best.
But Im an aisle person. I like to have control. I like to get to the bathroom whenever I want. I dont like to ask people to move. Its actually less about control and more I just hate asking people to move. I like to have that option.
TPG: Whats your go-to inflight beverage?
SB: Club soda with a lime.
TPG: Would you rather work or relax during the flight?
SB: I like to work for the first hour or two hours. And then after that it doesnt matter how much work I have, my brain goes to mush. Theres something about being in a fuselage that just completely knocks out all creativity you have, I find. So I have a very small window where I can actually be productive. And then after that, its like Entertainment Weekly and Us! magazine. I can only absorb, like, celebrity news.
TPG: Whats your IFE guilty pleasure?
SB: I have the strangest one probably possible: I love to watch movies but not from my own console. I will watch all the movies on all the other seats next to me and in front of me I get hooked. So at any time Ill have, like, a romcom going and then Ill have a WWII thing happening. Liam Neeson is always somewhere on the back of a seat and I just get hooked. I just go back and forth. And even if Im hooked on a movie I will never, ever put it on on my own seat. I have no idea why that is, but I love watching other peoples movies.
TPG: Overall, do you enjoy traveling?
SB: I love traveling and I actually love the airport especially international ones. I like to look at the flight board and see where everyones going and kind of imagine where I could go from that plane. I think theres something phenomenally romantic about being in transit all these people from all around the world who are meeting in one place and then going other ways. Ive just always loved the airport. Once I get past security.
TPG: How often are you on the road?
SB: For the past three years Ive been on the road about 150 to 160 days out of the year.
TPG: Any travel pearls of wisdom or hacks?
SB: So this is where Im a mom, because that changes everything. You are the easiest person in that airport when you are alone traveling. And when youre traveling with kids it becomes a very different ball of wax.
One of the best things Ive ever done with my kids when they were really young I have twins is that I did not use to preboard to put them on the plane. And my husband would go first and he would kind of set up shop, hed use the preboard to get the seats ready we had two car seats that had to be put in, secure the overhead space. But then I would wait until the very last person boarded the flight. And then Id walk on and put the kids on and wed leave in 10 minutes. And that just kind of took them away from the really stressful part.
The boarding of a flight is the most stressful part of any trip, whether youre at your destination or not. Theres a tremendous amount of stress in those 45 minutes. And then it goes away. So I want to make sure my kids arent subjected to that stress.
Editors note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.