As we begin to navigate the new normal, travelers must take extra precautions when planning road trips.
Despite the pandemic, Americans’ wanderlust has not waned. In many cases, it has intensified following weeks, if not months, of stay at home orders. Believing their cars will be safe cocoons from the virus, an estimated 680 million people are planning to hit the road this summer (so say the road trip experts at AAA).
But just because you may be going on vacation, does not mean Covid-19 is – the number of cases continue to climb throughout most of the country. It is not safe to simply pack your bags and hit the open road. Careful planning is required. Travelers must take into consideration everything from PPE to where to pee.
Before You Go
The first step is to figure out where you want to go. Experts agree it is safer to be outside in the open air than in enclosed spaces, so now is the perfect time to get back to nature. Explore our beautiful national and state parks or simply relax at the beach.
Many states are seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, especially in the sunbelt region, so you might want to check out the CDC’s Covid-19 Tracker to see the number of cases in your desired destination, along with those areas you will driving through to get there. Keep in mind, some states have mandatory quarantines for people arriving from hotspot states.
When road tripping during the pandemic, be sure to pack a car kit to keep you and your traveling companions safe. It should include plenty of hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and spray, face masks (at least one per day per person), and disposable latex gloves. Helpful hint: if you do not have gloves to wear when pumping gas, use a paper towel or Ziploc bag to touch the buttons and hold the nozzle.
Food for Thought
While we all enjoy our share of junk food when road tripping (hello Combos!), you might want to consider packing a cooler with prepared food or sandwiches along with bottles of water. Most highway rest stops have plenty of socially distanced picnic tables available. If you decide to eat at a restaurant, outdoor seating is your safest bet. Take-out is another excellent option. You can still sample local cuisine but enjoy it in the safety and comfort of your hotel room.
Speaking of hotels, the American Hotel & Lodging Association created Stay Safe guidelines in accordance with CDC recommendations to ensure its members are following best practices for guest safety during the pandemic. Many hotel brands have also instituted their own policies and procedures ranging from touchless check-in and check-out to sealing the rooms after they have been cleaned so guests know no one has entered.
All that being said, experts recommend once you get to your room, you wipe down all high touch surfaces (i.e.: light switches, doorknobs, bathroom faucets, remote control, refrigerator door, etc.) with disinfectant wipes. A heavy-handed spray with Lysol is also not a bad idea to kill germs.
Once you know your room is clean, keep it that way by keeping strangers out. That means skipping the daily housekeeping service. Helpful hint: a quick call to the front desk can have clean towels and linens delivered to your door.
Often times a room on the highest floor provides the best view and least amount of noise. However, when traveling during the coronavirus you might want to request a room on a lower floor so that you do not need to ride the elevator. With social distancing, elevators should not hold more than one or two people, so the lines can grow long – simply walking up a flight of stairs will be faster and safer.
You might also want to request a room near an outside entrance. This way you do not need to walk through the lobby, where crowds of people tend to gather.
Finding clean bathrooms is a challenge when road tripping even in the best of times, but more so now during the pandemic. Your best bet is to take advantage of state welcome centers and highway rest stops, as they have scheduled housekeeping service. These facilities should be fully stocked with toilet paper, soap, paper towels or air driers, and often times hand sanitizer at the entrance/exit.
Keep in mind, we are in a new normal and many typical roadside restaurants, including fast food, are closed for dine-in service. This means you can not access the rest room, even if you made a purchase.
Of course, the most important things to pack are patience, caution, and a sense of humor. No matter where your road trip takes you, it is bound to be an adventure and a trip to remember.
Connect with Stacey on Instagram @guided_getaways or check out her latest travel guide here.