Is it safe to travel? I can’t answer that for you but what I can do is offer some pandemic road trip tips to minimize exposure while you’re on the road.
2020 started off normally enough, but quickly became the year of travel bans. As summer approached and states began to loosen restrictions, many travelers began to question our comfort with traveling again. And that is how 2020 became the year of the road trip!
We love exploring our home state and the surrounding states of the Midwest, and we’ve been road tripping as a family for decades. However, even though we are seasoned road trippers, it’s a whole new world out there and I’ve been getting quite a few emails asking if it is SAFE to travel. I can’t answer that question. I only know that my husband and I are ready to travel again.
In the midst of a pandemic, it’s hard to know what’s safe, what the rules are, and how to keep your family safe on a road trip. We’ve compiled our best tips for staying safe on a road trip in the midst of a pandemic.
9 Pandemic Road Trip Tips to Keep you Safe
#1: Research Your Destination AND Your Home State
Rules are changing day to day when it comes to travel.
Just because your cousin or favorite travel blogger went somewhere last week, it doesn’t mean it’s OK to go this week. Some states such as Arizona and Utah have increasing numbers, and other states require a 14-day quarantine upon returning home from these “hot spots.”
Other states require you to wear a mask and yet some, like Ohio, only require certain counties to wear a mask to avoid a hefty fee. The “rules” vary so you’ll want to do some research the best that you can to determine what steps you’ll need to take or even determine if there are other locations or destinations that may be better suited for your road trip.
So not only do you need to check the rules of the destination you are visiting, but you also need to verify the rules of your home state to be sure you can resume your normal life upon return.
#2 Stock Up on Cleaning Supplies
Whether you are staying in hotels or camping on your road trip, you’re going to want to have enough supplies to ensure your own safety. Hotels and campgrounds are going above and beyond to keep things clean for guests, but for extra peace of mind, it’s always a good idea to have your own disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks. This is something that I’ve done for years while traveling with my husband’s job so this is pretty much standard for me family.
#3 Pack Your Own Food
Just because you are traveling doesn’t mean you have to eat out the entire trip. You’ll save a lot of stress and money by bringing your own food. Pack a cooler with snacks and drinks, plus sandwich fixings and you can pull over for a picnic anywhere you want. This eliminates the need to go into restaurants, and ensures everyone can have their favorite road trip meal along the way!
From cooking in a hotel room to preparing meals alongside the highway at rest stops, we’ve kind of become pros which has served us well.
#4 Call Hotels Ahead of Time
Some hotels may be open but may have limited amenities. Just because a hotel has a pool or fitness center, that doesn’t mean it’s open with the rest of the hotel. Similarly, continental breakfast may be canceled or scaled back significantly. On-site restaurants may have reduced operating hours or menus. Call ahead to find out which amenities are limited, and which are currently on hold.
If it will make you more comfortable, don’t be afraid to ask how the hotel is handling sanitization and employee monitoring. Many hotels require a temperature check of each employee before they are allowed to clock in.
Items you May Consider for your Road Trip:
#5 Strategically Plan Your Stops
Inevitably, you will need to make stops along the road. Try to plan them strategically and accomplish as much as you can at each stop. For example, don’t stop at a rest area for restrooms, then a gas station for gas, then another spot for food. The more stops you make, the more likely you are to be exposed to new germs. Most major highways have pretty big truck stops where you can gas up, use the restrooms, and get food all at the same time. My husband and I were road-tripping in Ohio this past weekend and did find the smaller rest stops closed so it’s not a terrible idea to begin looking for a restroom before you need one.
Likewise, think about the order in which you do things when stopping. In the old days, maybe you pumped gas, went inside to get snacks, and finished your gas transaction when leaving. Now, we would recommend completing your gas fillup and immediately washing your hands before doing anything else.
If you’re worried about restrooms, you can always pack a portable toilet like my husband and I travel with when van camping. We suggest this, this, this and this to keep you prepared.
You may also want to take a look at The Restroom Kit. This discreet kit can easily fit in the palm of your hand or be slipped into the pocket of your shorts or jeans. Each kit is individually wrapped and sealed so you know it’s sanitary and includes the essentials you need to protect your bottom. You’ll find a toilet seat cover, yard of TP, tush wipe and hand wipe. These are perfect for those bathrooms you may find that are less than tidy or for smaller roadside or park restrooms that don’t have the amenities that other stops would have. You can purchase them here in sets of three, twelve or thirty.
#6 Minimize Overnight Stops
If you are road tripping to a destination, try to make your days a bit longer to minimize the number of overnight stops you have to make. For example, if you would normally split an 18-hour drive into three six-hour days, consider doing it in two nine-hour days. This will minimize the number of hotels or campgrounds you are staying in. The longer days may be tough on drivers, but it will be worth it once you arrive at your destination and you can kick back and relax.
#7 Plan Your Days to Avoid Crowds
If you plan to visit sites along your road trip, try to time it so you can avoid crowds. If you can camp or stay overnight near a National Park and be the first one there in the morning, you’ll have far fewer crowds to deal with, which makes social distancing much easier.
Or, plan your day to arrive at an attraction just before sunset when most travelers have already gone home. As much as we enjoy “winging it” on vacation, now is not really the time to play anything by ear. Parks and attractions can only do so much to enforce social distancing; the rest is up to you. If you have the choice, hit attractions in the morning; chances are greater that everything has been freshly cleaned.
#8 Minimize Contact with Others
When checking in at a hotel or campground, send only one family member into the front desk while the other wait in the car. If dining out, try to get carry out and assign one person in your group to retrieve the order. This way, only one person in the group is exposed to others, and ensuring everything stays sanitized is much easier, especially if you have kids in the group. I don’t need to tell you how much they can touch in a short period of time while the parents are checking in at the hotel!
#9 Don’t Forget Your Usual Road Trip Safety Precautions!
It’s easy to get totally wrapped up on pandemic precautions, but don’t let that get in the way of your usual road trip safety precautions. Make sure you get your car checked out to ensure it’s roadworthy and that everything is in working order. Make sure you have your credit cards and some emergency cash. Don’t forget the paper map in case you end up out of range of any cell towers. Make sure your driver’s licenses are up to date, as well as your license plates.
All of these road trip safety precautions may seem overwhelming, but once you hit the road and reach your vacation destination, you will be so happy you did it! Traveling in a pandemic certainly isn’t easy, but there’s no reason you can’t do it safely!
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