There aren’t many girls who would give up a swanky career (she’s the former fashion director of Barneys New York!) and move to a farm in England, but that’s exactly what Amanda Brooks did! But before you get too concerned for the heroine of our story just know that she’s still just as chic (probably even more so)—with a glamorous country life, a new book (Always Pack a Party Dress—just buy it, and thank us later) and a brilliant blog (I Love Your Style). And when she’s not tending to her chickens or setting a dreamy dinner table (complete with one of her homemade confections) she’s traveling the globe (her travel-inform includes Celine—see, we told you she was fabulous!). Here, she talks to us about her must-pack beauty essentials, her favorite foreign find, and the brand of luggage she’s used since she was a teenager.
How often do you travel?
As much as possible. My kids get a lot of time off during the school year in England and we try to strike a good balance of down time at home and setting off on new adventures. In the past year we went to Greece, Italy, America, Croatia, Scotland, France and the Bahamas.
Number of countries visited?
In my life? Oh wow, let me think. I would say about 20. Some of them, like France, I have visited dozens and dozens of times. I’ve been to Mexico a lot too. I can’t believe I’ve only been to one country in Asia (Japan!).
Last place you visited and place you’re going to next?
We just returned from Zakynthos in Greece. I am going to NYC next week, although I’m not sure that counts as travel as I still consider it home. We are going to Harbour Island, in the Bahamas, for Christmas, and I may take my daughter to LA in October.
Aisle or Window?
Always the window. Seeing out gives the illusion of control and I like to see the landscape below.
I wouldn’t say that Virgin is my favorite airline but it’s the one I use most often because it has so many options between London and NYC—and I have a lot of miles with them. That said, the food has really declined so I always bring my own food for the flight—usually sushi from Dean and Deluca or a salad from Pret a Manger.
Any airport that has an Express Spa makes me happy. Having a massage while I’m waiting for my flight to take off or sitting out a long layover is always a godsend. I also love Heathrow for the shopping. I had been looking for Chanel espadrilles all summer and they were sold out everywhere. I finally found a pair at the Heathrow duty free shop. They had one pair left and they were my size.
What brand of luggage do you use?
My mom gave me my first piece of T. Anthony luggage when I was 13 and I have been loyal ever since. I have the red canvas with black leather trim. I have 4 or 5 difference pieces—3 on wheels, a duffel, and a carry-on. I like to use bags with wheels for airplane travel and a duffel for car travel. I just bought my 14-year-old daughter, Coco, her first T. Anthony—a large wheelie bag and a carry-on in black canvas with white leather trim. I love that the monogram tag says COCO instead of her initials—very chic.
What brand of carry-on do you use?
I have a T. Anthony carry-on. It’s ancient—kind of a large Birkin-inspired style that they don’t make anymore.
What are your must-have travel essentials?
Every year I go to the Brora sale and buy cashmere socks for traveling. They wear out so quickly using them everyday so I save them for airplane travel. Having cold feet on a plane is the worst. Also, I’m not a high-maintenance beauty person but I do love hand cream on the plane. Right now I have one by Burt’s Bees that I like. I have a little travel pouch I always take with me—it has my hand cream, my socks, my sim card for my travel phone, my NYC apartment keys, an extra pair of eyeglasses, some hair ties, melatonin, Chapstick and mint Mentos—that things goes with me everywhere!
One surprising thing you always pack?
When I was traveling so much for work I always took a travel candle—Red Currant by Votivo—to make my room smell the same wherever I went. Whenever I returned to it after a long day I felt welcomed home by the scent. I also always bring my knitting—it’s the best way to tune out the chaos. I always knit while I’m waiting to board and just before the flight takes off. Right now I’m making a scarf with indigo cashmere from Purl in Soho.
Are you an overpacker or underpacker?
Well I pack way less than my husband! It’s always my goal to pack light—I love the sense of freedom it gives me—but it depends on how organized I am when I am packing. If I am just traveling with family it’s easier to pack practically and light, but if I am going somewhere, like to a wedding, where clothes matter, then I am more susceptible to overdoing it.
What’s your travel uniform?
Reid jeans by J.Crew—they have stretch in them but don’t look too clingy, a Céline mens-style button down, and navy and white New Balance sneakers.
Which beauty essentials do you never leave home without?
I can’t be bothered with packing shampoo and conditioner—I just use whatever I find wherever I go.
Leonor Greyl hair serum
My curling iron—I know it seems so dated but I have naturally wavy hair that sometimes just needs a few additional curls to amp up the volume.
Airplane food or bring your own?
Always my own. I like to collect different things from around the airport. At Heathrow I go to EAT at Heathrow for satisfying salads, Yo Sushi for assorted maki, and Pret a Manger for dried mango. At JFK I usually treat myself to a quarter pounder with cheese and an apple pie at McDonald’s—no joke!
Favorite In-flight drink?
Water. And an occasional glass of wine if I want to fall asleep quickly.
In-flight music on your iPhone?
A compilation that my friend, music supervisor Randall Poster made for me for my book launch at J Crew. A great mix of jazz, rap and current hits.
Preferred in-flight entertainment?
I really don’t like watching movies on that tiny screen with bad sound. Either I download something on to my laptop in advance, or I just read and sleep. I also LOVE to buy trashy magazines—US Weekly and People are my favorite guilty pleasure—so that combined with Vogue or Vanity Fair usually takes up the first few hours of the flight.
Gadget you can’t leave home without?
Plenty of chargers for my cameras and my phone/laptop. I also bring good headphones—I’m using Bose at the moment—because the airplane headphones are always awful and the little ‘buds’ that go in your ear hurt after an hour and don’t overpower the sound of the plane.
Do you use any travel apps?
Yes! I use TripIt to organize all my flights and I always download the subway map app for any city I am in.
How do you deal with jetlag?
Primarily melatonin but I also plan flight times to help with jet lag. When taking to red eye from NYC to London I always take the latest possible flight so that I can fall asleep naturally and wake up as late as possible.
What’s your exercise routine when you’re traveling?
I like adventure when travelling. I’d rather swim, hike, walk, water ski, canoe, run steps or downhill-ski more than go to the gym.
Best travel advice?
Do your research but don’t overplan. I am a total planner and want to make sure I fit in everything there is to see and do in a given location, but my husband loves to just sit in a café and watch the world go by. I’ve learned that the balance between the two is what usually works best.
Worst travel experience?
A few weeks ago my husband I had to get from the Adirondacks, in remote upstate New York, to Floyd, in remote western Virginia. Both outbound flights were terribly delayed without explanation, which caused us to miss our connections both ways, have interminably long layovers and land so late that we had to spend a night in the gloomy airport hotel, both on the way there and returning home.
Do you have any travel rituals/superstitions?
Whenever I get nervous about turbulence or traveling with my husband without our children, my husband always says, “When it’s your time to go, there is nothing you can do to avoid it.” That calms me down a bit.
Where are your favorite places to travel to?
Discovering an entire new world is always very exciting. We took our kids to Japan for three weeks in 2013. None of us had ever been and I loved learning about it all together.
Where haven’t you been yet that you’d like to visit?
I’d love to see more of Asia—India, Thailand, Vietnam. I’ve also never been to Morocco, and am really longing to go there.
Favorite purchase/souvenir from your travels?
I bought a full set of blue and white Spanish pottery from the gift shop at Trasierra, a very chic boutique hotel outside of Seville. I use it all the time—bowls, plates, platters, dishes—they are the perfect combo of rustic and chic in my farmhouse kitchen.
Favorite childhood memory of traveling?
When I was 10-years-old we spent a summer in the Dordogne with my family and my best friend Celerie’s family. The house was so simple and beautiful and we ate so well. It was a great balance of eating and hanging by the pool and discovering new places—the Lascaux caves, Chateau Margot, the market in Périgueux, the chapels at Rocamadour, the cro-magnon remains at Les Eyzies, etc. It was a perfect and memorable summer.
Amanda Brooks photographed in the Adirondacks