L.A. Times Travel Show: What Alyssa Milano learned on UNICEF travels

Alyssa Milano spoke at the L.A. Times Travel Show on Saturday about traveling to Angola and other underserved places on behalf of UNICEF.
(Richard Derk / Los Angeles Times)

Travelers looking to do good during their vacations while relaxing on the beach with margaritas should be careful about where they travel, actress Alyssa Milano said Saturday at the L.A. Times Travel Show.

“The scariest thing is going to a resort, and the corrupt government not using any of that tourism money to help the educational system,” Milano said during a conversation with Times columnist Patt Morrison.

Milano, a die-hard Dodgers fan raised in New York to a family of Italian heritage, noted she has never visited Italy. Most of the trips the 41-year-old actress and UNICEF ambassador has taken have been work-related. None has led her to one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. “I know it seems crazy,” Milano said. “I’ll get there obviously. It just hasn’t taken priority yet.”


Instead, trips have taken her to places such as the African nation of Angola where bullet holes decorated her hotel, and workers lying on their stomachs cleared sand mines with teaspoons. During a 2004 visit, she saw the country slowly grow from scratch after a long civil war. “The smell and the heat and the bugs -- it’s very foreign,” Milano said. “I don’t think it’s for everyone.”

Though everyone may not visit Angola on an aid mission, everyone could find a way to be discerning consumers or generous donors to global charities, she said. Milano raised concern about what she described as a growing us-vs.-them mentality among Americans.

“In the last few years, there’s somewhat of an animosity now that people have toward people helping kids in other countries,” Milano said. “I think they all deserve the best opportunity.” Milano’s travels have tailed off because she’s been caring for her toddler son Milo, but she plans to pick it up again. “And I’m going to take him with me,” she said.

Milano was one of two featured speakers Saturday at the Travel Show. Guidebook author Arthur Frommer spoke earlier on the necessity to avoid high-priced hotels and overly kid-friendly trends in the bargain cruise industry.

The Travel Show continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday with keynote addresses by TV personality Adam Richman at noon and radio and TV host Henry Rollins at 2:30 p.m.