'I'm always happy when I'm in New York - even if the weather's bad'

I didn't go abroad until I was in my teens. Before then I used to go on caravanning holidays to Clacton-on-Sea with my whole family. My Nan had a caravan there and I have really fond memories of hanging out with all my cousins - so much so that I still love caravans today.

Best holiday?

One that really stands out was when I stayed on the island resort of Pangkor Laut in Malaysia. It was very secluded and relaxing, and the food there was fantastic. If I'm after fun then I love Los Angeles. I'm a real fan of the Sunset Marquee hotel and Chateau Marmont.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I had a cottage in Hay-on-Wye, which I recently sold because I didn't have enough time to go and stay there. It's a shame because I love it there. The festival is great -

it has a wonderful atmosphere. Bath is also very beautiful.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Not to pack too much; I've mastered the art of economic packing. I've also learnt to take risks with food and to explore; there's always something to discover. I would rather go out and see places than sit by a pool.

Ideal travelling companion?

I've got two. My best friend Tamara, because we know each other so well and get on brilliantly. For fun I like travelling with Julian Clary. He's a great friend and a real laugh. He has an apartment in Mallorca so I quite often go and stay there with him.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I like beaches but I need entertaining if I'm on one. I don't like sitting with someone who is content to just read. I like to chat.

Greatest travel luxury?

It's important to invest in a good sunscreen. I also take a really good hair conditioner to leave on while I'm in the sun. My DVD player is also good for whiling away the hours on a sun lounger.

Holiday reading?

It depends where I am, what mood I'm in and who I'm travelling with. Often I'll go away armed with books that I don't get round to reading. If I get a chance to go on holiday after a long stint of work I prefer to catch up with my friends. Next time I go away I'm taking Julian Clary's autobiography A Young Man's Passage, which is all about his life before I knew him.

Where has seduced you?

I once did a cookery course in Ravello. I didn't pay any attention to the course but the Amalfi coast is absolutely stunning, I loved it. I always recommend it to friends and family.

Is it better to travel or to arrive?

Before Christmas I went sailing around the British Virgin Islands with Tamara. I loved the fact that we could move about rather than being stuck in one place, so I definitely enjoy travel itself.

Worst travel experience?

I was working on the Big Breakfast and I really needed a holiday. It was the middle of winter and I was only given a few days off so

I didn't want to go somewhere long-haul. Somebody recommended Tenerife, but it was a complete disaster. A violent storm hit the island unexpectedly. The hotel was hit badly, the food was awful, there was no sunshine and I felt really guilty because I had guaranteed my friends a good time.

Best hotel?

La Residencia in Deia, Mallorca. The restaurant is great and Deia itself is pretty. However, Richard Branson's game reserve Ulusaba in South Africa is probably the best hotel I've stayed in. It's amazing. I loved getting up really early and going on safari drives.

Favourite walk/swim/ ride/drive?

I like wandering around cities like Barcelona and New York. There are so many things going on in New York and these days it is pretty safe

to walk around.

Best meal abroad?

The food in Malaysia was outstanding. I'm a fan of curry and seafood, so I loved it.

First thing you do when arriving somewhere new?

I unpack and hang everything up, even if I'm exhausted. I usually have a shower after that because you always feel a bit groggy after a flight.

Dream trip?

I'd like to see more of America. I have lived in New York and been to Los Angeles and Florida several times, but I'd really like to see places like Las Vegas. I've never been to Japan and the Maldives, so I'd like to go there. The Maldives are always so highly recommended.

Favourite city?

New York. I'm always happy when I'm there. I also love London, when the weather is nice. For some reason I'm always more forgiving of the weather in New York.

Where next?

To visit a friend in Los Angeles. She is writing music out there and has rented an apartment, so I'm going out to see her.

Denise Van Outen will be appearing in 'Where the Heart Is', starting tomorrow at 8pm on ITV1