By Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Media Services
Celebrity Travel by Jae-Ha Kim
9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013
Melissa Francis has an unusual background for a news anchor. As a child, she was a regular on "Little House on the Prairie," portraying Michael Landon's adopted daughter. Later, as a student at Harvard University, she was captain of the university's polo team. The host of the FOX Business Network's "Money with Melissa Francis" has also written a soon-to-be-released memoir, "Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter" (Weinstein Books, $26).
"Travel is one of my favorite things," says Francis, 39. "I always say to my husband that that's what extra money is for. When people say that you get nothing tangible from traveling, I have to disagree. I've seen the world and made lots of memories. I'm one of those silly people who make photo books after every trip. I go through them all the time and relive the trips."
Q. What place reminds you of home?
A. I'm a hardcore New Yorker and the only city that compares to it for sheer energy and tempo is London.
Q. How has your career affected the way you view the world?
A. It has exposed me to a lot of places that I may have never gotten to before. I moved around a lot and lived in a million different places since college, thanks to my job as a reporter. I would love to take the family to all the beautiful cities I've seen along the way.
Q. What are some of your favorite weekend destinations?
A. I love going to Portland, Me., which I think is just charming. Old Port is the best-kept secret on the East Coast. It's so picturesque. I love spending time in Connecticut. Both my husband and I went to Harvard, and we really love going to Cambridge, especially in the fall. It's so much fun to go to a football game as the weather is going through a crisp change. I spent most of my time growing up in Southern California, so the weather changes on the East Coast are really something for me. I love it when you can stand outside and throw on a sweater when you catch a chill.
Q. Did you travel a lot when you were a child?
A. Not at all, which is why I think I love traveling so much as an adult. One of the reasons we stayed home is because we always wanted to be sure that I was available for an audition so that I could work. We did some road trips by car that were nice. I was riding horses and competing so we traveled a little around California for that. I think one of the reasons that I left for Harvard was that after growing up on the West Coast, I fell in love with the colonial look when I went to visit the campus. It just seemed so early American to me and showed me that there's a whole world out there that I hadn't been exposed to. That really got me interested in wanting to travel more.
Q. What's your idea of a perfect vacation?
A. Going someplace that I've never been to before. My husband is more hardcore about that than I am. We've gone back to the Big Island of Hawaii and Bermuda, but he rarely wants to go to the same place twice. I'd love to go back to Greece. That was one of my favorite trips.
Q. Do you prefer domestic or foreign travel?
A. Honestly, I love both, but if I had to pick one, I'd say I have a slight preference for foreign travel at the moment. I just spent some time in Vienna when I covered OPEC. It was one of the most beautiful and romantic cities I've ever been to. It's so Old World. My husband and I took a romantic trip to Prague once. It's a vibrant city that has fantastic nightlife and amazing restaurants. It was a wonderful blend of modern and classic Old World.
Q. When you travel for work, how much time do you have to go sightseeing?
A. We always try to find some sliver of time when you can go out and see something. The thing we always sacrifice for this is sleep, so that we can get out even for an hour or two. At the same time, you get to see many things locally that tourists wouldn't have access to. I went to Caracas, Venezuela, for work and saw shantytowns and places that I never would've if I hadn't been on assignment.
Q. How adventurous are you eating food overseas?
A. I'm embarrassed to say that I have a child's palate and am not good at trying new things. When you work with news people like I do, you're always in a group where someone will say that they want to eat the most authentic local dinner possible. And I'm like, "Oh no!" My 5-year-old child is so picky and will only eat things he's eaten before. I'm almost that bad. My 2-year-old will put anything in his mouth and say that's delicious. So food is the only part of traveling that can be a challenge for me.
Q. Are your children seasoned travelers?
A. Yes, they're fantastic travelers. We've taken our older child on trips since Day One. He puts his own things through security, talks to the pilot and flight attendants, buckles up and sits there. The 2-year-old does whatever his brother does. He wasn't easy to travel with when he was a year old, but he's reasonable now.
Q. What is the best way to entertain children on a long flight?
A. I will say that iPads have changed parents' lives for the better. Our big test was the trip (from New York) to Northern California this summer, but they both did fantastic. They managed to entertain themselves with the iPad and some snacks.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. That's a long list! I had wanted to get to Egypt to see the pyramids. I actually planned it prior to 9/11, but I never made it there and I'm not sure when I'll be able to get there. I haven't been to Turkey, which is so trendy right now. I'd love to get to Istanbul. I've never been to Budapest. I haven't been to China.
Q. Do you have trouble resting or sleeping when you travel?
A. I used to, so I used to travel with Tylenol PM for flights. But I don't have too many issues anymore. I was on a recent trip and had fallen asleep. When I woke up, I asked the flight attendant how much longer we had to go. She said we were almost there. I had passed out for 11 hours. She said she was getting worried about me!
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. Earplugs, so I can sleep anywhere, whether I'm on a noisy flight or in a bad hotel room. If I have earplugs I can endure whatever's going on. I always bring a small camera -- nothing fancy and not too expensive -- so that I don't feel really bad if something happens to it. And my passport, even if I'm traveling domestically. You never know when there could be a fun opportunity to go abroad!
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at http://www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)
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