Samantha Brown's Secret to Never Running Out of Room in Her Suitcase

Samantha Brown Travel Guide Host TV Show
Photo: Mariah Tyler

Samantha Brown travels for a living as a veteran T.V. host and the creator of "Samantha Brown's Places to Love" on PBS. But even people who spend more time in airports than at home still have to figure out how to pack efficiently.

Travel + Leisure caught Brown as she prepared for one of her more challenging packing trips. This week she will be co-hosting PBS' "Autumnwatch — New England," a three-part, live national T.V. event running from Oct. 17-19 at 8 p.m. ET. Packing all those warm coats and boots could stress even the most advanced of travelers out, but Brown has a few tricks — or, rather, cubes — up her sleeve.

Travel + Leisure: Do you have a packing system for these big trips? What do you use?

"I do have a system. I love cubes. And I've tried everything. I roll, I fold, I use envelopes, but now after all these years I'm a cube person. You want cubes that have a clear top so you can see what you packed with one look. For the 'Autumnwatch' shoot I have to pack a lot of winter gear and big jackets, so for the first time I'll be using the bags you roll that get all the air out. It compresses your clothes and it is awesome! I can't believe it has taken me this long to use them. The technology really works, especially if you are packing for a winter destination.

Now that we are in the fall and people are packing bigger things to just carry, I find that rule of wearing your biggest, bulkiest items absolutely helps. If you get hot, just take it off and it becomes your roll neck pillow. Personally I love when I can bring my big down jacket [on the plane] because it's like a feather mattress for that stiff, terribly uncomfortably airplane seat. The biggest bummer is wearing your boots because you don't want to take them off. It's like that game when you were young and would put on all the clothes."

What are three or four pieces of clothing you always pack in your carry-on bag?

"I like a nice cashmere crewneck sweater, a thin one. I like flowy pants. I see a lot of women in their Lululemon jogging/yoga pants, the athleisure look, but that's just wrong. So much spandex is going to work against you on a flight because we all bloat a little. I wear loose-fitting clothes. I love cotton and I always bring fuzzy socks with me to keep me warm. And I always have a neck scarf because it can be used for so many things whether its cleaning a screen, keeping my neck warm, etc."

What other items do you consider an essential for your carry-on bag and why?

"I start off strong with doing work and then resort to looking at Us Weekly and People. Adults do need to be treated like a toddler on a plane and every half hour we need something new. I am a good sleeper on the plane but I do travel with melatonin to help me relax and ear plugs (the little cheap foamy kinds) to create my own private Idaho. I can sleep really well on a plane. I can be near the toilet and in the middle seat and I can sleep.

I always travel with peanut butter. Always. If I go to Asia, I bring a whole jar. If I'm traveling where I'm just carrying on, I bring little packets because I find that travel mishaps where I've lost my temper happen because I was hungry. If I'm not hungry I can handle the thing that travel throws at me at the last minute. So I always bring food.

I also bring a spork, a water bottle, and because I'm so tired of plastic and I want to cut down as a traveler I will be bringing metal straws on this trip for the first time. I do always travel with a teacup. Just starting my morning with coffee in my teacup, it makes me feel like me. When you travel, you sort of lose who you are."

Do you have any hacks for fighting jet lag or being able to function when you get off the plane?

"I try to limit caffeine a few days before I leave on a trip so it is totally out of my system when I land. I try to wait to have more caffeine until I'm about to collapse and that is when I allow myself to have a double espresso. The caffeine then hits my system so strongly because I am so depleted of it that I am able to go the rest of the day. I do that again when I return. It is like methodically taking caffeine so I get the strongest punch."

What brand and make/size is your go-to carry-on bag?

"I carry a bag from my own line of suitcases! For this trip I am going to try to make it one 28-incher, but I may have to do a 25-inch and a 28-inch."

Why did you love your luggage line?

"I had the Tumi bag with the massive pocket in the front that was for men's shoes, and I don't need men's luggage. Women don't need that. So I started designing it for how women need luggage and I started incorporating a lot more color. For years bags were only black and aubergine was about as colorful as it got. My bags are extremely colorful and stylish and the pocket configuration is more suited to how women travel."

In addition to your outdoor gear, what is your packing strategy for events and meetings and going from day to night?

"Everything is very color coordinated. I have a dress up outfit, but then I know that top can go into my day rotation. Everything I wear I should be able to wear at least twice. Everything goes together so instead of three outfits, I potentially have nine and then I change the look with accessories like scarves because those create a different look without adding weight or bulk. With pants you need a black pair and a nice pair of dark jeans and one more pair and that's it! Because you can wear those a lot and then a bunch of tops and you are good to go."

Why are you looking forward to "AutumnWatch?"

"It's going to be live with a few pre-taped segments. I grew up in New Hampshire and I haven't been for autumn in 30 years. I'm always in Cambodia or something and now I get to go home. I travel everywhere and people show me everything and now I get to show people what I love most about where I grew up. This is the time of year, and maybe I'm projecting, that everyone loves. We get the big sweaters out, we drink hot apple cider, it's just that sort of warm feeling.

The live aspect as Autumn is something that should be consumed while it lasts. These days we want television on demand, we binge-watch everything two months later, but this is live. The idea we need to enjoy this and as people we need to take stock of the year's passage and being with family. Autumn can't be binge-watched or on demand. Autumn is now. It is a great time of year to just slow down because winter is coming."

What was the best trip you have been on recently?

"I love going to Asia. When I shot my series in Hong Kong and Korea this year I got to bring my kids. They are 5-year-old twins and we had such a great time. Being in a place like that that is so different from their own upbringing and where they live is just wonderful. Those are always magical trips for me when whatever is familiar does not exist and I've got to figure things out."

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