From snacks to stops, the PBS has your next road trip covered.
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Samantha Brown on the beach in Cape May, NJ, from Samantha Brown’s Places to Love Season 5 Episode 02
Credit: Courtesy of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love

Even though television host Samantha Brown, has plenty of "Places to Love," she may love the journey as much as the destination.

"I grew up in the 70s," she told Travel + Leisure. "I love road trips. Even if it was a 13-hour trip [and] your parents loaded up the station wagon."

Brown, whose PBS show just wrapped its fifth season, tells T+L that her earliest travel memories are of her and her siblings being cooped up in the backseat of her family's car, eating a packed bologna sandwich when hungry, and stopping at a motor lodge.

"If they had a kidney-shaped pool, we were happy," Brown joked. "Road trips are great because they make us all feel like kids. It's what makes them such an endearing — and enduring — form of travel.

As the world teeters around its definition of "new normal," road trips, once thought of nostalgic, no-thrills getaways, as Brown describes, have made a comeback as they've become viewed as a safer method of travel.

"If you are taking a road trip with your own car and departing from your own house, you are taking away two very big unknowns right now: the airport experience and renting a car," Brown explained.

Samantha Brown
Samantha Brown
| Credit: Courtesy of PBS

Brown, herself, is even opting for road trips more often that she would have pre-pandemic.

"Looking at the summer ahead, I think we have one trip where we're taking our kids on a plane," Brown, mom of 2, told T+L. "But anything else, I'm just getting in a car and going."

The travel expert, of course, has a few tips for a successful time on the road as well as perfect places to stop.

Mapping backwards from your final destination, especially, if you're opting for a spring road trip and have just a few days, you'll want to pick somewhere fairly close — but not too familiar. Brown believes that the perfect spring road trip destination is a place that "represents a real big change of scenery for not a lot of effort."

Her ideal destinations have both urban culture and easy access to the outdoors including Cape May, NJ, which she describes asa perfect road trip destination thanks to its collection of Victorian architecture, explaining, "you physically feel like you're in a different time, not just a different place," Brown said.

The town also has beautiful beaches, fresh produce and untapped history (in the form of the new Harriet Tubman museum). She also recommended journeying to Phoenicia in New York (just a three-hour drive from Manhattan) and Lafayette, La. (about two hours from New Orleans).

As for time on the road, Brown makes it a point to be prepared with snacks (she particularly loves sliced cucumbers and pizza-flavored pretzel Combos) and a good playlist of music or podcasts that everyone will enjoy.

And when it comes time for a break, stick to local spots, but don't overthink it. Cultural experiences need not be elaborate or fancy by any means, according to the travel expert.

"We love stopping at the different gas stations like Sheetz in Pennsylvania [or] Wawa in New Jersey," Brown said. "It's an efficient way of getting to check out the 'regional food' without taking long detours."

Rest stops without food, are also particularly great when you're traveling with antsy kids who may be getting antsy in the back seat. Brown recommends bringing a Frisbee for older kids or balloons to inflate that younger kids can play with in a recreation area.

But at the same time, perhaps the most important part of the road trip is exactly what we dreaded about it in the pre-cellphone or tablet days: spending hours staring out the window at changing terrain.

"Just staring out the window is perfectly fine," Brown said.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.