|On the Go with Claire Newell|
|Written by Liberty Craig|
Claire Newell: travel expert, author and president of Travel Best Bets by Jubilee Tours and Travel, familiar to many from her daily “Travel Best Bets” segments on Shaw TV. In 2013, her second book, More Best Bets, is set to release, along with the new TV show that she co-hosts, Operation: Vacation.
To state the obvious, Claire is hard-working and successful. She is stunningly beautiful. She is also grounded and surprisingly human. Her goal is to make her parents proud of her, and to teach her children that they can do anything they set their minds to. She had to navigate a man’s world as a very young woman to make it in the travel industry. She was so nervous on television that her knees shook. She didn’t always feel like she looked very good. But now, at age 42, she feels infinitely more confident than ever before. Claire joined Fresh Vancouver to talk about the balance of marriage, kids, television, beauty, travel and career that defines her on-the-go life.
Globe Trotting Beginnings
I always travelled with my parents and I got the travel bug very young. I got into the industry in London when I met one of the largest travel wholesalers in the world. When I came back to Vancouver, I knew I wanted to start my own business in the travel industry. Three months later, 21 years old and with no background in broadcasting, I sent a proposal to YouTV, and they called me the very next day. I had suggested simply providing information, but was asked to present on TV. So I did. Then I got a call a year and a half later from a person I will be forever grateful to, the president of BCTV at the time. I went over to BCTV (now Shaw) once a month for two minutes. Now, I’m on five times a week for between 2.5 and 9 minutes.
My first book led to many more things. When I was in Toronto for a media tour, I got invited to do my first spot on the Today Show – which I’m still doing. That led to being a spokesperson for Disney in the US. I also do some work for YVR and other things. It’s all grown organically over the years.
A Young Woman in a Man’s World
I was a very young woman starting my own business in an industry that is owned by men but run by women. A lot of travel agents are women but men are behind the scenes. When I was approaching these companies, it was all men in their fifties. It was hard to be taken seriously. It was before email, so I did a lot by fax so they wouldn’t know what I looked like!
More Best Bets: Claire’s New Travel Book
When the first book came out, I was just starting to look at the best websites to use. Now, I’ve waded through dozens of them and a few have clearly risen to the surface. In the new book, I go into detail on which are my favourites and why. I also look at baby boomers because they love to travel and they’ve been to the normal spots: Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico. They want to go off the beaten path but they want luxury. It’s a book on how to travel; not where to travel. A lot of people travel the same way for years and years. The most flattering comments I get are from avid travellers who say, wow, I had no idea I could do that.
I’m filming the first season of the new show Operation: Vacation now and it’s a real juggling act. Thankfully, they are filming around my schedule! The show is a little like What Not to Wear combined with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. People nominate others who deserve a trip; who have not been able to travel. Some of them are sick. Some of them don’t have the means. Some of their schedules haven’t allowed it. We meet the people who are nominated; then we barge into their work or dinner party and surprise them with a trip. We just did to a couple in their fifties who had never been on a plane before! It’s just the best feeling. The people open themselves up to us, and the letters and postcards we receive when they get back are just so amazing.
Around the World with Kids in Tow
My kids are good little travellers and have travelled since they were babies. Now we’re starting to take them to Europe. They’ve been to London, Frankfurt, Rome, and Paris. Last Christmas, we went to Panama. And they love it – I’m grateful that they don’t feel like I’m dragging them.
If you’re travelling with an infant, you don’t want to be that person 30,000 feet in the air with a screaming child. And sometimes you can’t help it. But you need to take responsibility, and bring every single thing you might need, and lots of extras. With kids who are a little older, engage them in the trip itself. Let them know exactly what they’re going to experience. Encourage them to write down their favourite thing that day and take a picture. Get them involved and excited.
When my son was seven and my daughter was nine we went to Jamaica and worked in an orphanage for three days. At first my kids said to me, why are we buying things for people we don’t even know? But by the time we left three days later they would have given the shirts off their backs. I remember my son looking out the car window as we drove away, and he said, “Who tucks those kids in at night, Mommy?” They started to not only realize that they have it good, but how important it is to help others.
More and more people are starting to do voluntourism. You don’t have to go for three weeks or six months. If we don’t have time in our busy lives, we can still donate a day. What I hope people understand about voluntourism is that it can be just one day. Even if you just spend a few hours, you can still have a five-star vacation the rest of the time.
I decided that all the book revenues would go to charity. I decided to give to children’s charities – whether that means orphanages or women’s shelters or single mother support. From the Claire Newell Suite at the Pan Pacific Hotel, ten percent of all proceeds from the suites in both Vancouver and Whistler are channelled to Canuck Place. I’m really grateful to Pan Pacific for agreeing to do that. I do feel kind of strange putting my name on a suite, but to have the money go to charity makes it okay!
Doing It All
I’m lucky to have a loyal and smart team around me. It allows me to do everything that I do. I need to have a nanny in order to get out the door – the hardest job I’ve ever had to hire for. The first few people I hired for Jubilee are now managing my travel business. I have people who know me enough to do things the way I would do it, and have me put on the final touches. But I have to be the person who writes the articles and appears on TV, so I have to be extremely well organized. There’s not a single day where my alarm goes off after 5:30 in the morning.
Sweat vs. Chocolate
I don’t really like to sweat. I’d rather pass on a chocolate bar than have to sweat if off for 30 minutes on a treadmill! I’m very careful with what I eat. I power walk with my best friend of twenty-five years as a way of catching up. I do like Pilates – again, you don’t have to sweat! I agreed to do it because my husband had major back surgery so we do it together once a week.
Good Skincare, Good Genes
My mother has never done anything other than make sure she washes her makeup off and uses a good moisturizer, and if I look half as good as she does at her age, I will be a lucky woman. I’m tempted to try so many skincare treatments, but being on TV, I don’t have any downtime. I can’t have a bright red face from a chemical peel, for example! For my birthday, my mom buys me really good skincare. I’ve used StriVectin for probably five years, and now I use the serum under my moisturizer, and the night cream as well. I wash off all my makeup every single day and exfoliate three times a week to keep my pores from enlarging. I also use an anti-aging primer by Korres.
Everything in Moderation
I eat well. Breakfast is always a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit. I take a multivitamin every morning. Then I’m out the door. Around 10:30 I usually have a small snack. For lunch every day I have water and a turkey sandwich with lots of veggies, mustard on both sides, salt and pepper. Around 3 or 3:30 I get so hungry I could eat my arm, so I normally have Greek yogurt or a piece of fruit and some dark chocolate – which I manage to incorporate every single day! Dinner is usually a piece of protein, lots of veggies and a small bit of carbs, and then some sort of treat. I’m a fudgesicle girl! I don’t want to deprive myself. If someone tells me I can’t, I’ll go eat that entire bag of Oreos, not just one. Everything in moderation – from food to wine to chocolate.
Surviving Travel Beautifully
I don’t care what I look like in flight. Wear slip-on shoes, comfy pants, bring a pillow and a blanket. Stay away from caffeine and alcohol. Eat very lightly and avoid salt. Go for fresh fruit and veggies and tons of water. For longer flights, get some sleep – even if you have to take a sleeping pill! Talk to your doctor about that. I wear a very light amount of makeup for a flight then just freshen up at the end of the flight. Bring your moisturizer and toothbrush. I also wear glasses so my contacts don’t dry out.
Evolving Under the Watchful Public Eye
Six days after my son was born, 9/11 changed the face of travel forever. I was on TV that day. I could see my baby in his car seat as I was on TV talking about how I thought this would affect travel – and I was on every day for the next week. And I was as ugly as I was ever going to be! I had heavy bangs; I would never have put a contact lens in my eye; I had gained weight with the baby. Being on TV when you look like that is tough. I was pregnant on the early news the day before I went into labour, so people really have seen me at every stage!
I feel very indebted to a woman named Pam Mason at Global. She was the one who said to me, listen girl, stop wearing only black. She said, let’s colour your hair, grow the bangs out, wear contacts. She kind of glammed me up for TV; changed my look. I think as I get into my forties, I know who I am now. I’m coming into my own.