Q&A: Katie Lee on Hosting Out of Towners & Best Souvenirs Around the World

by  Hilary Sheinbaum | Dec 17, 2014
Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving Dinner / Halfpoint/iStock

TV host and cookbook author Katie Lee loves to travel: St. Bart's for surfing, shopping markets in India, and browsing bazaars in Morroco. One place she hasn't been? Machu Picchu. Before she makes it to Peru, though, she'll host a lot of out of town guests in her home (something she loves to do). In our one-on-one interview, Katie talks to us about her carry-on items, traveling routines, and her favorite place to visit abroad (hint: it's in Africa)!

What are some tips for hosting out of town guests during the holidays? Why?
When hosting guests, I love to plan a holiday dinner or brunch that they will always remember. No matter what kind of holiday party or dinner I'm throwing, HomeGoods is my go-to store to make the dinner really special. I'm obsessed! I like to create an eclectic table that looks like it was pieced together over time, and at HomeGoods I can find items that look like I found them on my travels, like wine glasses from India or European ceramic plates. It's my one-stop-shop and their prices are amazing. Lastly, it’s important to make your guests feel welcome and at home. I always make sure the guest bathroom is well-equipped with anything they might need, as well as add a special touch, like a pitcher of water and drinking glasses next to the bed.

Where did you visit on your last vacation, and what did you do there?
I went to Iceland in September and it was absolutely incredible. It was a great adventure; we went snowmobiling, glacier trekking, horseback riding, and hiking. On our last afternoon, it was cold and misty and we went to the Blue Lagoon. I felt like I was on a different planet.

Where will you travel for the holidays?
I am going to St. Barts for the holidays. I go with a group of friends and surf every day. It is one of my all-time favorite destinations. The island is French, and I am currently learning to speak the language, so I look forward to practicing.

How will you be spending New Year's?
I plan on lighting up the grill and cooking a New Year's dinner, Caribbean-style. I like going in the ocean on New Year's Day for a nice swim.

What are your must-have carry-on items?
I always have hand sanitizer and a good book. I feel a little germaphobic on planes, so I constantly use the hand sanitizer. I also pack an intense moisturizing mask to use after I land, because the air on the plane is so drying.

Do you have any travel superstitions or routines?
A: I'm not a very superstitious person, but my routine is to pack only a carry-on bag, even for long trips. I take my time packing and try to be thoughtful about what I will actually wear. I edit it way down, and I usually still feel like I've over-packed. Doesn't it always seem like you wear the same things over and over on vacation anyway?

Where is your favorite place to visit abroad? Why is it so special?
The most special place I have ever visited is the Kruger National Park in South Africa. I went on a safari there with my mom. We both love elephants and are active in wildlife preservation, so to see these creatures in their natural habitat was life-changing. 96 elephants a day are killed for their ivory.

What was the best souvenir you purchased while traveling? What makes it so great?
I always check out the markets and bazaars when I'm traveling. In India, I bought table linens and glassware, and in Morocco I bought caftans and my bed linens. My favorite market shopping, though, was in Mexico City. I found all sorts of treasures there, from outdoor dining chairs that I shipped home, to house dresses, to baskets. I love looking at those items and remembering my travels.

Where are you dying to visit but haven't yet, and why?
There are so many places! I really want to go to Southeast Asia, and I would also like to see Macchu Picchu.

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