All Ages

Samantha Brown: “Family Vacations Are a Necessity, Not a Luxury”

See recent posts by Amanda Geronikos

She’s been all over the world, but the “girl with the best job in the world” (her accurately self-proclaimed title on Twitter) recently took on her biggest adventure yet: motherhood. The Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown gave birth to twins — Ellis James and Elizabeth Mae — in January, and has since been juggling diapers and bottles with her Web site, an Embassy Suites Travel Campaign, and yes, traveling.

Q: Tell me about the Embassy Suites Travel Campaign. What’s in it for families?
A: “I teamed up with Embassy Suites to create destination guides for 10 U.S. cities. People want to know how they can save money and give their kids a great vacation. Cities are great for weekend vacations. Washington D.C. and other convention cities empty out on the weekends, and hotel rates are low. These guides are filled with free events and things both parents and children will want to do.”

Q: Let’s talk about the twins. How have they changed the way you travel thus far? Any lessons you’ve learned or tips you can share?
A: “I used to just carry on. Now, I’m a nervous mom. There’s planning and anticipation about what can happen. One thing I’ve learned: Don’t over-schedule. Over-plan. There’s a real difference. Kids get antsy, and it’s important to have options.

Another big piece of advice: Rehearse the security line at home. My husband and I did it and used our kitchen island as the security table. It prepares you, and also builds into the adventure, especially for young kids. It’s also amazing how friendly airports become when you have kids. There’s a kindness; everyone is willing to help.

When you’re on a plane, have a pacifier ready for take-off and landing, and make friends with the people around you.”

Q: You’re a world traveler. What does travel mean to you, personally, and what do you hope it will mean to your children?
A: “For me, it’s not about seeing sights. It’s about spending time in others’ lives and understanding the people. I remember going to a diner in New York City, and it was scary. I saw an 8-year-old kid eat cereal, pay the bill, and head to school. I grew up in New Hampshire and we didn’t do things like that. I’d like to teach my kids a sense of empathy and understanding of different lives. Travel is a necessity, not a luxury. Mothers and fathers are losing sight of this, and they don’t realize what it takes away from a family. You don’t have to go to a theme park or an expensive hotel. A child psychologist once told me what’s most important is that children see their own parents act like kids and have fun.”

Q: Which hotels do you like for families?
A: “Business hotels are great for families. Many people go for the beauty and luxury of a hotel, but they forget that a practical room is a luxury in itself. Outlets are right by the desks at these hotels, whereas you’re often left scrounging around on your knees to find an outlet in another hotel. The desk can double as a table, too.”

Q: What about the more luxurious hotels with kid’s clubs?
A: “Those are great, too. It really depends on the time you’re going to spend at these hotels. If you’re going on a seven-day vacation, go for the hotel with a kid’s club and give yourself a break. If you’re taking a weekend trip, go with a business hotel.”

Q: What are the best family-friendly destinations?
A: The United Kingdom is good for older kids, 6 and up. There’s the mythical landscape, castles, knights and princesses… reminds you of Disney’s ‘Brave.’ Barcelona is also one of the great cities. Everyone is involved in the spirit of the city. Walk into any tapas bar and you’ll find an 80-year-old man and a 3-year-old with his family.

Q: What are your thoughts on Europe? Is it too much hassle and money to take a family there?
A: “Parents should take kids to Europe. Parents know whether or not their kids can do it. No, Europe is not a first vacation, but it’s good for older kids, 7 and up. Europe is very kid-friendly. You won’t find kid’s menus because everything is already family friendly.

Q: And what about the U.S.?
A: “There’s so much… amusement parks, beaches, cities… Chicago is perfect. You’ve got the Navy Pier, beach and the free Lincoln Park Zoo. I love Anna Maria Island. There’s no commercialism and high-rises. It’s laid-back. San Diego is great, especially for multi-generational travel. And of course, our National Parks are a gift.

Q: What’s next? Any new plans for a travel show? We’re dying to know!
A: “I can’t divulge much, but we’re going to start shooting something on our national parks. And the family will be coming with me!”

More from Family Vacation Critic:
European Family Vacations
Taking Kids Out of School to Travel

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