Travel star Samantha Brown shares her top tips. From how to make the most of your hotel stay to locals. Picture: Bloomberg/Jonathan Alcorn

Samantha Brown was a break-out star on the Travel Channel in the early 2000s, when she hosted various series, including The Trip, 50/50 and Great Weekends, logging visits to 260 cities in more than 60 countries across the world. This year, she returned to television with a new show on PBS, Places to Love.

Here are her travel secrets as to how to handle the pre-boarding process with kids, where to get the best souvenirs and why you should always order room service.

Divide and conquer the plane-boarding process

Pinterest is great for quick travel tips; I always recommend it for travel hacks. One of them I found was how best to use the pre-board process when you’re travelling with kids - I have twins, so I need all the tips I can get.

Boarding a plane is the worst. Everyone’s stressed, you can feel it in the cabin. When you get to pre-board, most people will take an entire family on, plus the car seats and the bags. But instead, parent No 1 - that’s my husband, in our case - goes in first to bring all the gear in. Then parent No 2 - that’s me - waits with the children until the last person walks onto the jetway. That’s when I bring my kids on. They are worn out from all the standing, so when you walk on the plane they get in their seats, tired, and it removes children from what is the most stressful part of the flight, the boarding process.

The handiest item in your hotel room is not your wi-fi connection

I discovered how useful an ironing board could be when I was travelling with kids and there was no room for their colouring (books), so I brought it out and lowered it to their height.

It’s also a ton more counter space if the room has none. I like to stand up when I work, and it’s a great stand-up desk. And you can put it in front of your bed and have a meal on it if there’s no place to eat and watch TV.

Order room service, save money

The best advice I got was from a 10-year-old at the Ritz Carlton, who told me: “Listen, order off the children’s menu, because they give you the exact same portions of spaghetti Bolognese with meatballs (as on the adult menu), but you’re paying half the cost.”

Why the supermarket is the best place for souvenirs

I love supermarkets when I travel, because they have products we don’t. In a supermarket in Greece, I saw that Hellman’s makes mustard; it’s packaged in a little goblet, so when you’re done with the mustard, you’ve got a nice little wine glass. That’s brilliant.

How to strike up conversation, anywhere

As travellers, we’re consumers and always in need of something, so the most important phrase to know (in a foreign language) is “May I please have”

And I never go up to somebody and say “Do you speak English?” because that can be seen as challenging or even a put down. It’s so much better to say - in France, for example - “No Français, Anglais?” You’re basically saying “I’m in your country, but I’m sorry I don’t know your language - do you speak mine?” It immediately changes the dynamic. 

The Washington Post.