Welcome to Dear Travel Diary, Yahoo Life's video series in which travelers take us along on their most memorable adventures.
As the executive producer and host of PBS's Samantha Brown's Places to Love, Samantha Brown's passport has seen plenty of stamping action. The two-time Emmy winner has traveled to 44 U.S. states, more than 80 countries and more cities than she can name. But the mom of 9-year-old twins tells Yahoo Life's new travel series, Dear Travel Diary, that her most memorable adventure of late has been much closer to home — quite literally.
Despite spending about 150 days of the year on the road pre-pandemic, Brown has, like most folks, had to scale back her travels in the era of COVID-19. That meant missing out on trips to see loved ones back home in New England for the holidays. But this past Thanksgiving, after nearly two years apart, her family was able to reunite with relatives in both her native New Hampshire and the coast of Maine.
"Because of the pandemic we missed one year, so to return this year was extra special," Brown says of the trip she and husband Kevin took with twins Ellis and Elizabeth in November.
Though she's crisscrossed the globe, "reconnecting with home in a beautiful place" was particularly significant for the seasoned traveler.
"That's where all the happy vibes and feels of travel really come in, because we understand that travel connects us," she notes. "Travel connects us to the people that we love so much, and to a place that I grew up in and love and love taking my kids to. ... Memories, you realize, become an heirloom."
Highlights from the trip to see cousins in Maine included revisiting cherished old haunts like Flo's, the long-running Cape Neddick, Maine, spot famed for its steamed hot dogs, which Brown, who had them served at her wedding, recommends washing down with the New England soda Moxie. A drive along the coast included a stop at Nubble Lighthouse, also in Cape Neddick, and, in keeping with family tradition, walks along the rock-covered beach, which Brown's kids learned to love despite the frigid 31-degree weather.
Spending time in a place steeped in so many childhood memories is especially precious as it aligns with one of Brown's top travel tips for parents: let yourself be a kid, too.
"When you travel with your kids, it allows your kid to see you be a kid," Brown explains. "And what that does for their sense of love and security is actually immeasurable. So I think it's really important for parents to realize you don't have to go to major theme parks or big places, or all these things that we think kids need. We just need to go to a place where we as adults get to feel like a kid — feel that weight lift off our shoulders.
"Go to a place where you can experience delight," she adds, "because your kids are watching and they need to see you lighten up and have a great time."
As a mom who has whisked her kids around the world, Brown has picked up a few other handy hacks for keeping her — and their — cool during some of the less glamorous aspects of traveling. Modeling a positive mindset, even when you're internally fed up with flight delays or lost luggage, is a good start.
"When you travel with your kids, they're watching you to see how you are reacting in a situation and they're taking that cue," Brown points out. "So always remember that if you are stressed out, they're gonna become stressed out. ... They're learning a lot from how you deal with situations. And as we know, when we travel, nothing goes perfectly, and certainly not at the airport. So the first thing you want to do is have a great attitude about being in the airport. It's chaos. It's crazy. There are lines. 'This is all fun. We're gonna go somewhere great.' Have that great attitude."
She also recommends spending as little time on the actual plane as possible. Instead of rushing to take advantage of early boarding for families, "divide and conquer" by letting one parent go ahead to set up the seats and put away the bags while the other stays behind with the kids and lets them enjoy a few more minutes of unfettered freedom. Brown herself will wait until the last minute to board with her twins, giving herself just enough time to get them buckled in the seats her husband has already prepped without having to deal with crowding or jockeying for overhead bin space.
"That boarding process of a plane is the most stressful point of the entire travel experience," she says.
Above all else, "always practice patience and kindness" — and even if your travel budget is more "staycation" than seven-day luxury cruise, try to nurture that spirit of adventure in your kids.
"What I'm really imparting to my children in terms of travel is that travel happens every day," Brown says. "And it's really in how we approach our lives through it. I feel like travel isn't just a place, it's that mental mindset of always remaining curious about the other."
Brown adds: "It's how we become better citizens, not just of where we are, but in the world."
—Video produced by Kat Vasquez
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