Michael Palin, no relation to Sarah

Michael Palin

Program & Network: BBC Documentaries aired in the U.S. by the Travel Channel
Hosting Style: Like listening to your friend's cooler older brother (a funny one)

Following his success with the eccentric Monty Python comic troupe, Michael Palin made his first travel documentary for the 1980 BBC-TV series, "Great Railway Journeys of the World." He traveled throughout the UK by train, mixing personal reminiscences with railroad lore. A veteran "global vagabond" by his own admission, Palin signed on as the presenter for a series of BBC travel programs that spanned two decades and included "Around the World in 80 Days," "Pole to Pole," "Michael Plain's Hemingway Adventure," and "Michael Palin's New Europe."

After each BBC trip, Palin would write a book about his travels, offering observations and insights not included in the TV show. With a combination of wit, historical accuracy, cultural empathy, and a gracious manner, Palin presents the world as a glorious gift to TV watchers everywhere, who obviously take his advice, too: The "Palin Effect" describes the dramatic increase in tourism that occurs in countries that are featured in his shows.

He looks just a bit like an old-fashioned contract killer, doesn't he?

Anthony Bourdain

PROGRAM & NETWORK: "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" on the Travel Channel
HOSTING STYLE: Colorful (in the sense that he'd get beeped a lot on a broadcast channel)

Although he may have worked a bit too hard creating (and/or living up to) his "bad boy chef" reputation, it is clear from watching Anthony Bourdain throw himself into the world's strangest cuisines and cultures that he does not need assertiveness training. The theme of "No Reservations" is a sort of grit-your-teeth-and-hold-your-nose courage, just what you need when quaffing hallucinogenic tree-bark tea or sampling candied insects.

Whether he's passing out in Peru or kvetching in Kiev, Bourdain never makes you guess what he's thinking. His show is "more than just a parade of weird foreign cultures and foods" because the man does display real intellectual curiosity. He seems quite eager to learn everything he can about the people he meets, the food that he eats, and the places he goes, then pass that on to his viewers with his stamp of approval. To many, Bourdain is still one of the top travel gurus working on TV today.

They go overseas, too, but focus on the U.S.

Tim Alan & Amy Rogers

PROGRAM & NETWORK: "Eye on Travel" on select cable, satellite, and IPTV channels
HOSTING STYLE:Just folks, but they do their homework and enjoy themselves
It started as a Web site and morphed into a portal, but "Eye On Travel" now airs weekly on a range of cable, satellite, and Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) networks worldwide. Host Tim Alan is a Florida native with a middling drawl and a homey manner, while co-host Amy Rogers is thankfully calm and collected (unlike some other chirpy, highly caffeinated travel show ladies).

Alan and Rogers proudly announce their "love of family" as the incentive for dreaming up vacations and "travel adventures" that will thrill dads, moms, and kids. The show features solid advice for stretching your vacation and travel budgets, but doesn't promote every low-cost destination – just the ones with lots of family-friendly activities. From tips on everything from RV travel and camping to exotic resorts, "Eye on Travel" succeeds because of its family focus, and this programming niche makes the show a useful tool for families who love to travel.

See how Travel Channel accentuated her, um, "personality" in the ad campaign for her 2009 debut?

Bridget Marquardt

PROGRAM & NETWORK: "Bridget's Sexiest Beaches" on the Travel Channel
HOSTING STYLE: She doesn't stoop (or strip) to conquer, relying instead on personality

Finding fame as Hugh Hefner's ex in "The Girls Next Door" suited Bridget Marquardt, and she decided it wouldn't be the fleeting kind. She got her own Travel Channel show, "Bridget's Sexiest Beaches," in 2009, and not just because she's gorgeous. She exudes sincerity, has a winning personality, and earned a Masters Degree in Communications. Critics were divided on Marquardt's show, but it did make several "best" lists before ending after one season.

It is not clear if low audience share alone was to blame for the show's cancellation, as opposed to various personal and professional detours Marquardt was taking during the show's tenure. One of these non-parallel tracks took Marquardt into a new relationship with film director Nicholas Carpenter, son of Scott Carpenter, an original Mercury Program astronaut, and Maria Roach Carpenter, whose father was Golden Era film producer Hal Roach. Marquardt is currently developing a new reality TV series.

She is a brave and adventuresome lady!

Megan McCormick

PROGRAM & NETWORK: "Globe Trekker" on PBS
HOSTING STYLE: Smart with a quirky sense of humor

Megan McCormick is one the mainstays of the PBS show, "Globe Trekker," which is also proliferating on the Web with host blogs and program outtakes. The show eschews celebrity guests and the jet-set lifestyle for true depictions of other cultures and climes. A seasoned traveler (no tourist she!), McCormick grew up in Florida, got her BA in philosophy and political science from Boston University, and lives in New York when she's not on assignment.

Before "Globe Trekker" beckoned, McCormick taught English in Japan, did a stint as a social worker, and worked on "The News with Brian Williams" at MSNBC. Her own, independent, extensive travels have taken her throughout Asia, the South Pacific, and Europe, while the TV gig has added India, Hawaii, Egypt, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Micronesia, and the Arab Gulf to the list of locales she's visited. With authority, sensitivity, and smarts, McCormick makes the world a fascinating (and inviting) place for viewers, about the best you can do as a TV travel show host.

Bottom Line

Choosing "the best" in any field is a highly subjective task, and it doesn't always mean that the most popular, well-liked, or top-rated person or program will make the cut. For travel show hosts, however, knowledge of the subject matter is key, followed closely by communications skills and personality. That personality can be brash or bubbly, assertive or cordial, as there are any number of niches that can be targeted in this age of megamedia. Who is your favorite travel show host?


  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Palin
  • http://tv.msn.com/best-and-worst-travel-shows/story/feature/?gt1=28130&news=420278&mpc=1
  • http://www.eyeontravel.tv/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridget_Marquardt
  • http://www.pilotguides.com/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Palin
  • http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Anthony_Bourdain
  • http://www.eyeontravel.tv/
  • http://bridgetssexiestbeaches.com/
  • http://www.pilotguides.com/tv_shows/globe_trekker/travelers/megan_mccormick.php