How I Travel: Neil Patrick Harris Packs Plane Snacks “Like an Infant”

In his new campaign for the Accor hotel group, Neil Patrick Harris learns how to socialize again so he’s ready to travel in a post-pandemic world. The ads have him suited back up, not unlike his How I Met Your Mother character Barney, doing handshake drills in the lobby of New York City’s famed Plaza Hotel. Off screen, Harris is similarly desperate to travel for fun again—so much so that he’s actually yearning for the experience of an airplane terminal. “When you get the opportunity to sit on a plane or sit at a terminal or sit on a bus, you might as well look for the happiness in it, as opposed to the annoyance of it,” he says.

Harris, who despite the pandemic has two movies and a TV show slated for release this year, chatted with Conde Nast Traveler about teaching his kids travel etiquette, his strategy for vacations, and the little medical tip he got from both his voice coach and otolaryngologist.

The travel experiences he’s longing for:

I miss tropical locations and I miss bucket list checkoffs. I also miss the group energy, like the restaurant energy, or being on a bus, or going on an adventure with people that you don’t know and not having to be super concerned about their history. Do you know what I mean?

Where he’d like to go as soon as the pandemic is over:

Japan. We’ve never traveled to Asia! It’s always been high up on our list, then we had kids and they were so little that we just wanted to wait until they were able to appreciate it on more than one level. Be assets and not troublemakers. Now that the kids are 10 and in the fourth grade, I’m looking forward to being able to travel internationally a lot more with them.

His advice for traveling with kids:

We’ve traveled with Harper and Gideon ever since they were infants, so they’re very familiar with planes. I think teaching kids some travel etiquette is a pretty good idea—to know to be respectful to the flight attendants, to stick together in the airports, to not have meltdowns. It’s easy to say “not have meltdowns,” but I think being generous with screen time is always a plus, and to have multiple “outs” for potential issues: a book to read, a thing to play with, something to damage, so depending on their mood you can adjust. We’ve always had a rule since they were little that anytime they’re on an airplane, they’re able to use their iPad at their leisure. So we would load them up with content that they were excited to watch or play and then they’re super content in a seat watching hours of Clone Wars.

His strategy for family vacations:

When we travel, we look to hit as many different levels as we can, someplace that the kids can have some sort of entertainment that’s thoroughly intertwined with history and education. Then we want to challenge ourselves physically in some way, but also be able to relax if we want to. We tend to front-load our travel with adventure because we’re excited to go to this place. Say we’re going to Ireland: we’ll front-load with fun road trips and adventures, and then we’ll spend the second half somewhere tranquil and chill where we can read a book or relax. Then when you get home, you feel very chill and not like you need another vacation from your vacation.

What he packs in his carry-on:

You always want to travel with Neosporin and some Afrin nasal spray. This is from my ENT and my voice coach—two separate women. You spray a little decongestant in your nose before you take off so that you can open up your sinuses, and then you take some Neosporin cream or ointment and rub it actually inside your nostrils, so that every inhalation that you take it’s cleaning the air, and then you’re not getting stuffy and sinusy. Noise-canceling headphones are a must. I’m a big fan of the iPad because you can get work done, but you can also have a real big, giant screen to watch. I just finished Bridgerton. Oh, my stars! How salacious, my liege. I usually have a good-smelling hand sanitizer, so that you can keep your hands clean and also keep the area around you smelling nice. I have a bag that’s filled with small snacks. It’s almost as if I’m an infant, as I explain this, but I have a bag that I keep in my backpack. There’ll be [all sorts] of granola bar options. And I usually have some sort of escape-room puzzle situation going on, so that I can feel like I’m a detective when I need that fix.

The hotel amenities he looks for:

Good fitness centers are an amazing plus, because they’re often not so good. You’re excited to go work out, and then it’s a room that’s too small to consider a usable space for a bed, so they just throw in a couple cardio machines and some sad free weights. But when you get into a fitness center that’s nice and it has kettlebells and space to move around, that’s a plus. I like a good shower, like a rain shower, too, and a little outdoor space, a sliding door, some fresh air.

His favorite hotels in the world:

We just filmed these Accor spots in New York City at the Plaza Hotel, which was amazing because the Plaza is not open at the moment. Getting to exist in these amazing suites and the lobby of the Plaza, which is just so quintessential New York, gorgeous and luxurious. I love the Plaza. It made me wistful and nostalgic. I also love Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. I do love some themes in a hotel, and no one does themes with quite the level of gusto that the Mouse does. Yes, they have their own actual savanna in the back of the hotel, so when you open up the windows and look out, there’ll be giraffes or wildebeest. That’s pretty exciting, because our kids love it.

A destination he thinks more people should see:

I have a huge love affair with Montreal. I don’t think a lot of people have been to Montreal and it may be my favorite place in Canada. It’s got the great English side and the French-speaking side. The food is tremendous. Old-town Montreal is quaint and historical and the people are super lovely. There’s the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal. I love me some Canada, and in Montreal, every time has been more exciting than the last. I really recommend going when it’s fairly warm. They have a comedy festival that’s there, and before that there’s this big circus festival. It’s a great week-long trip for sure.

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