Busy Philipps on the Benefits of Traveling Spontaneously as a Family

The actress has partnered with the HotelTonight app

Portrait of Busy Philipps
Busy Philipps gets her daughters, Birdie and Cricket, involved in deciding what to do on vacations. Extension
Headshot of Ryan Barwick

With a two-decade career on television and more than 2 million Instagram followers, actress Busy Philipps knows how to keep our attention.

Known for her roles on the network dramas Dawson’s Creek and Freaks and Geeks, Philipps has parlayed her active social media presence into her own late-night talk show, Busy Tonight, which shot over 105 episodes for E! before ending its run this May.

Now that she has a little more flexibility in her schedule for travel, Philipps has partnered with HotelTonight, an app that encourages users to travel spontaneously by linking them with unsold hotel rooms. On a recent trip to New York, Philipps talked to Adweek about how people can benefit from traveling on a whim—even families with kids in tow.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What brings you to New York?
They reached out to me, HotelTonight. Like all the brands I work with, this is truly an authentic connection, since it’s an app I’ve used many times over the last several years.

They’re doing a really cool thing, trying to encourage people to be a little bit more spontaneous with their travel, which is hard for people to get their heads around sometimes. Some people plan their vacations six months in advance; they have a whole itinerary printed out.

Are you a vacation planner?
My husband [screenwriter Marc Silverstein] and I, our work schedules are always in flux, and the girls [Birdie and Cricket] are in school, but it’s happened in the last several years [that] Marc will say, ‘Did you know the girls don’t have school Friday? I didn’t know that.’

All of a sudden when you have children, there are all these days off. So, let’s drive to Palm Springs, let’s stay for the weekend. Let’s go to Santa Barbra. We haven’t been to San Diego in five years. Let’s go there. We started taking these very spontaneous, drivable trips. It’s fun.


Is it difficult to travel spontaneously with two children?
It’s fun doing it with the kids. It’s more participatory. There are a lot of different choices to make; it’s like a choose your own adventure. ‘Guys, I read about a museum over here, or do we want to go to see a giant statue of Marilyn Monroe?’ And then the kids are like, ‘Who’s Marylin Monroe? I want to see the giant statue!’

They become a part of the experience; it’s a little bit more memorable. Also, your expectations are lowered on a spontaneous trip, so everything is a pleasant surprise.

What do you bring with you?
I always have a canvas grocery bag with me. You pick up so much stuff in a different city. In Los Angeles, plastic bags are very much frowned upon. I always have a cute canvas bag, whether I need to throw sunscreen in there or a sweater, or if I’m out shopping.

Have you ever used a travel agent?
When I was pregnant with Cricket, we were trying to travel with a friend of ours who was really adamant that we use his travel agent, so we did. But mostly we like to do it ourselves, just because we’re really particular and we like to be flexible.

On one of your Instagram Stories, I saw you meditated on the plane ride to New York. Is that something you frequently do when you travel?
That was cool, I just started five days ago. It was my first time. I’ll probably do it again; it was a very chill way to pass the time. It’s been suggested to me for years because I have anxiety and a lot of stress. I did a course with a teacher, and this is Day 6. They want you to do it twice a day, 20 minutes each time.

Do you “unplug” on vacation?
You need to be self-aware. That’s the key to everything. People can say ‘everything in moderation’ but if you’re not self-aware, you have no idea.

I try to be aware of how much time I have my phone out, but because our jobs are all over the place, if we were taking a trip [like] going somewhere for Thanksgiving, I’d still need to check my email. There’s still stuff going on. But I try to be conscious of it.

We do the thing where we put our phones away at the dinner table. But I give myself a break with the kids if they’re tired from traveling. Yeah, look at my phone, play a game. I try not to be too judgmental about myself.


Brands advertise across various channels, and you’ve worked in a lot of mediums. Which works best for you?
I’ve certainly had the best response and luck with Instagram and Instagram Stories, in terms of people connecting with me on a personal level. As an actor, I think television is where it’s at. But what that means at this point is a little up in the air because of all these streaming services. People that are younger don’t even have cable. Are you a cord-cutter?

I am not—sports.
Ah, sports. We still have cable, too.

You’ve had almost every job in media, from hosting a late-night television show to writing a book and starring in network TV series. Where are you now on that journey?

I’m going to build a whole new thing.

And what would that look like?

We’ll see.

@RyanBarwick ryan.barwick@adweek.com Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.