Interview: TV Travel Host Colleen Kelly at the ‘Travel & Adventure Show’ This Weekend in Chicagoland

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CHICAGO – Colleen Kelly is a travel expert, given her success with the PBS TV show “Family Travel with Colleen Kelly” and her company Travel Film Productions. She will be a keynote speaker at the “Travel & Adventure Show” at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill., January 23rd and 24th, 2016.

Colleen Kelly began her career in TV as co-creator, producer and correspondent for the local series “24/7: Chicago,” which is hosted by her sister Catie Keogh. She co-founded – with partner Tricia Fusilero – her production company in 2009, and successfully pitched “Family Travel with Colleen Kelly” to PBS. The show is now seen in virtually all of the broadcast markets in the United States.

Colleen Kelly
Colleen Kelly, Host of ‘Family Travel with Colleen Kelly’
Photo credit:

She will be the keynote speaker this weekend at the Travel & Adventure Show, a convention that has been going around the U.S. for 12 years, and provides talks, events and exhibitors that involve inspiration for a variety of journeys, both nationally and internationally. Colleen Kelly talked to in anticipation of the event this weekend, and about her popular TV travel show. You are a keynote speaker at this weekend’s Travel & Adventure Show in Chicago. What can we expect from your presentation, and what can tell potential attendees about the show itself?

Colleen Kelly: First of all, the Travel & Adventure Show is in its 12th year. And besides my speaking role, we also have the legendary Rick Steves [“Rick Steves’ Europe”], Pauline Frommer [Frommer Travel Guides], Peter Greenberg [CBS News Travel Editor] and more. Plus there will be about 1200 travel experts for people to talk to, and get advice for their trips. It’s a great event for the Chicago area, especially in the middle of winter.

As for me, I’m going to expand upon my PBS show, ‘Family Travels with Colleen Kelly’ – which is now on in 94% of the country and 366 stations – and talk about the specialty of traveling with families, which we all know at times is not easy. I talk about how to make it easier, with less hassle and more enjoyment. I also expand upon my insider tips, which are pretty good, because they’re not the ordinary tips you’d expect to hear. Before you began your show, what did you observe about the Travel TV Show offerings that led to the development of this particular niche?

Kelly: Well, I observed that there wasn’t a show about family travel. [laughs] I wanted to do a travel show, and in the tradition of sticking with I know, I searched to see if there was a travel show focusing on families, and I expected to find several. There was none. I pitched it to PBS, and they wanted to take it national, so basically that’s what happened. It was amazing to me that family travel had never been done before. Which episode of all that you’ve done in the series stands out for you, and what made that particular trip or adventure so notable?

Kelly: There was a couple. Internationally, it was in Wales. That was a country I hadn’t explored before, and it’s not considered a destination country. What I loved about it was the native people were incredible – fun and generous. Plus they have more chapels than any other country in Europe. Recently, we also did a show at Amelia Islands in Florida, and the Florida Keys. The island was perfect because it was easy to get around, and had a lot of natural places to explore, like sea turtles. And again, everyone who was there were very friendly. What is your best advice to other parents who might be intimidated by the notion of satisfying everyone on a family vacation?

Kelly: Don’t over plan or over schedule. People tend to want to pack everything in that they can when on vacation, and when you’re single that’s easy to do. But when you’re traveling with toddlers who need to take a nap, those schedules don’t work any more. If you have a lot of expectations, you just need to know that kids aren’t always on the same agenda, so have some leeway. Usually one major thing a day works, and if you get more stuff in, that’s a happy bonus. You’ve traveled extensively overseas. What perspective has visiting other countries given you, and why would you recommend it to other people as a way to broaden both their perspective and their appreciation of home?

Kelly: As Americans, we tend to think of ourselves as the center of the universe. With international travel, you get to experience the other people and cultures that are out there. It’s a great learning experience regarding the differences that you discover, but also it’s great to know that in general people are the same all over. It broadens your sense of expectation and understanding about the world, and how people besides Americans live their lives. You are the co-founder of Travel Film Productions, which produces your show. What other projects are you developing at the company, and how will those projects reflect the philosophy of that organization?

Kelly: We are pitching several other shows right now to the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel and the Hallmark Channel, and we’re hoping to get picked up. As a company, we’re a woman-owned business, and we project integrity and authenticity through our programming – and I feel it’s important also to work with other women-owned businesses.

Travel Show
Jan. 23-24, At the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, Ill.
Photo credit: What is your opinion of the advantages that some Europeans countries have in mandating six weeks or more of vacation per year, versus the American system of less time off rather than more?

Kelly: I applaud those Europeans. [laughs] I like it. The U.S. Travel Association did a survey on how much vacation time Americans actually get, and the results were so low it was kind of sad. Travel is so advantageous for bringing families together and reducing stress. When I go to Europe, they all look less stressed. I honestly wish that was the case here, but unfortunately it’s not. Personally, which experience – of all your travels – do you keep coming back to as more memorable and why?

Kelly: I often tear up when I think of this story, and it happened very recently. When we went to the Florida Keys last year, when I was on the plane going there I ended up sitting next to a father and daughter. I have a tendency to talk to everyone when I’m traveling, which drives my kids crazy, but I feel like I learn new things talking to different people.

The father and daughter were from Canada, and they were going to Jacksonville in Florida. It turned out the girl had a brain cancer that was being treated at St. Jude’s Medical Center. The girl and I chatted, and we talked about the TV show we were doing at Amelia Islands, which was only an hour away. So I asked her to be on the show. She really wanted to do it, and did stop by when we were taping, and we made her part of the episode. Her father wrote me a note later, and told me that she was scared and homesick on the way down, and we made her feel better. I have a lot of travel experiences, but that one in particular was most special. Is there any other aspect of your TV show or the travel show that you want people to know?

Kelly: Of course visit my website [click here], and I encourage everyone who watches the show or will watch it to write the local PBS station here, WTTW Chicago, with any feedback or impressions regarding the show. I really appreciate that.

The “Travel & Adventure Show” will take place Saturday, January 23rd, and Sunday, January 24th, 2016, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. Click here for admission, schedules, speakers, events and other details. “Family Travel with Colleen Kelly” is on PBS. See local listings for channel location and times. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2016 Patrick McDonald,

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