Travel Host Samantha Brown Shares Her Best Packing Tips

She's hosted numerous travel shows and often offers travel advice to her 383k Instagram followers, now she's telling TripSided her best packing tips and tricks.
Virgin Australia plane landing at Gold Coast Airport, Queensland, Australia
Virgin Australia plane landing at Gold Coast Airport, Queensland, Australia / James D. Morgan/GettyImages

Samantha Brown is arguably one of the world’s most famous travelers. She came to fame in the 2000s thanks to her hit Travel Channel shows like Great Hotels and currently hosts Samantha Brown’s Places to Love on PBS. Throughout her career, she’s traveled to more than 250 cities across 62 countries. 

TripSided was able to catch up with Brown to ask her some of our burning questions about packing, like whether or not it’s good to roll clothing, and what her tips are for travelers who want to pack light. We even got to hear what her favorite travel destination is. 

Read on to discover some expert tips from one of the biggest names in travel. 

One of the biggest debates in packing is whether it’s best to roll or fold your clothes. Some people swear by rolling their clothes, but every time I do that, my shirts get super wrinkly. What’s your method?

I’m a roller. I also have clear packing cubes, so not only do I roll, but I sort of do the Marie Kondo method where it’s all organized. With everything rolled and stacked in clear packing cubes, I can easily see everything I’ve packed, so I know I won’t forget anything. 

Am I doing something wrong, why do my clothes always come out so wrinkly when I roll them?

No, you’re right. If you want nicer-looking clothes, you should definitely fold them. It’s a trade-off. I even know some people who fold their clothes with tissue paper because it helps reduce creases. 

Everyone hates checking a bag, especially since bag fees keep getting more expensive. But I’ve had trips where I’ve needed to pack tons of different outfits for different activities. What’s your best advice for people who need to pack a lot but don’t want to check a bag? 

Honestly, just check the bag. It’s the least hectic way to do it. I check bags all the time, and I know there’s a whole group of people who never check bags…but it’s just such a pain when you need to pack that much and you’re trying to squeeze it all into a carry-on. And what if you find some good stuff during your travels? How will you fit that into your already-stuffed bag coming home? 

One tip I do have for people who absolutely refuse to check bags is to wear your biggest, bulkiest stuff on the plane to save room. For example, if you’re going somewhere in winter, wear your winter jacket, your thickest sweater, and your boots on the plane. If you wear your big and bulky stuff on the plane, you save all that room in your luggage. 

My general rule is that, if it’s a weekend trip, go for a carry-on. If it’s anything over five days, I just check a bag and don’t even think about it. It’s just way easier, trust me. 

There’s a lot of different types of carry-ons available now, like hard shells (hardside), soft shells, and duffel bags…what would you recommend for travelers?

I actually have both hard and soft carry-ons, and I actually use both at different times. What I love about hard shell suitcases is that it’s kind of hard to overpack, whereas with soft luggage, you can overpack it so much that it gets what I call the “beer belly”. Personally, I just really like hard shells because I feel like I have more control with them. They’re like a sports car. 

But there’s also one massive advantage to traveling with a duffle bag. Those are the least likely to be checked if the plane is overfilled. It’s common these days for planes to run out of overhead bin space, and sometimes gate agents will specifically start calling out passengers who are traveling with hardshell carry-ons. Since duffles are soft and can fit everywhere, they’re the least likely to ever be checked. But keep in mind, since they can be squished…they often are, so don’t keep anything fragile in them. 

What’s your advice for travelers who are determined to pack super light? 

My equation is always, if you have three pairs of pants and three tops, you don’t have three outfits…you potentially have nine. And what you really want to do is minimize your pants and maximize your tops. So maybe bring five or six tops because shirts don’t really take up a lot of room. Wear the nicer shirts at night first, for dinners or a night out, then put them into your day rotation for when you’re just walking around exploring. 

Alright, final question for you. What’s one destination you’ve been to that you absolutely love and would recommend to everyone, and what’s one destination that you ended up hating and would never go back to? 

A destination I love is Santa Fe. I love Santa Fe. I’ve been many times and I love that it has a confluence of cultures. It’s a beautiful city filled with amazing art, and it’s accessible, and it’s surrounded by incredible mountains with great hikes. I love everything in this city, it's just a perfect destination. 

A place I’d never go back to again is Belize City. Granted, this was a very long time ago, so it may have changed. But I just felt like Belize City made me feel unsafe. When you go out to the islands it’s all good, but in the city, it just felt different. One of my biggest travel tips is to always trust your gut. Your intuition sometimes knows better than any travel guide can. If you get a weird or fishy feeling about a place, it’s always good to be aware of that instinct.