Samantha Brown on the Benefit of Exploring Your Own Neighborhood and Why Even Planning a Trip Can Give You a Mental Boost

Samantha Brown

When TV host and travel expert Samantha Brown flies these days she brings a few things: a fully-charged computer, multiple masks, and a hair tie so she doesn’t have to touch her face while in the air. 

These may be new times we’re living in, but we can still get out and enjoy new experiences, Brown told Travel + Leisure on this week, talking holiday travel, the excitement of simply planning a trip, and why you don’t need to go far to escape.

“It's just about heading out and supporting local businesses,” she said. “Travel meets you wherever you are — the idea that you have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to have a strong travel experience is just wrong.”

From in-state (or even in-neighborhood) festive experiences to dreaming of far-off adventures, or traveling the world virtually, Brown, who has partnered with Hilton for its “To New Memories” campaign just in time for the holidays, said there are plenty of ways to satisfy wanderlust for every comfort level. For her part, the Brooklyn-based travel connoisseur said she plans to stick closer to home this season, taking advantage of a quieter yet still spirited New York City, hitting up iconic sights like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

“For people who don't feel safe traveling right now and still want to dream, you still can plan… Even planning travel gives you the same mental health boost as travel itself,” she said. “I feel like it's this freebie we can all take advantage of.” 

Samantha Brown

Americans do want to travel despite the limits — they want to stroll the famous European Christmas markets while sipping mulled wine, they want to hit the slopes with the whole family and plan multigenerational getaways to connect while exploring the far reaches of the globe. In fact, an overwhelming majority — 95% — of people surveyed by Hilton in September said they miss travel right now, while 66% said they would stop putting off “bucket list” vacations in the future.

“Travelers have a pent-up yearning to get out of the home and reconnect with friends, family and the world around them,” Mark Weinstein, the senior vice president and global head, marketing and loyalty at Hilton, said in a statement, adding the hotel brand’s new campaign hopes to inspire people to plan now, even if they prefer to travel later. 

Brown said she has watched the travel industry really step up its safety game over the last several months, from major corporations to small businesses, which have mandated masks, reimagined experiences, and embraced new cleaning protocols in hotels.

“I'm kind of in the inspiration business, showing people what they can do… no one needs inspiration to travel right now, everyone wants to. What people want most is to know how safe they are going to be,” Brown said.

“That's something that the travel industry wasn't good at doing in May or June, now you feel it firmly in place,” she added. “The demand is there from people — we want to know we're safe, then we'll come.”

Ultimately, for people who do decide to travel for the holiday season or otherwise, Brown said it was important to travel responsibly, getting a COVID-19 test before hitting the road (or skies) and then again four to five days after returning, isolating from others in the meantime — advice that is in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s own recommendations.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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