Five Things to Consider Before Planning Your Next Road Trip

By Alyssa Gilbert

Whether you’re eager to explore new destinations or want to rediscover places in your own backyard, driving has become an ideal mode of transportation for many people during these uncertain times. I recently returned from a ten-day road trip with a couple of friends that extended from California to Texas, COVID-free. Although the circumstances were out of the ordinary, it was the perfect cure to our Zoom fatigue. We were able to lower the risks associated with travel by making a few adjustments. Here, I’ve outlined five safety measures you should consider before hitting the road

Picking a destination

Avoiding hotspots should be the first thing you factor in when picking a destination for your next road trip. Try researching nearby cities or smaller towns instead. It’s the perfect time to explore lesser-known locations off the beaten path, like Marfa, Texas or June Lake, California.

Travel policies and restrictions are constantly changing from state to state, from highway shutdowns to mandatory quarantines. When planning a trip, it’s important to check the guidelines that have been set by the local governments. In our case, we were unable to book a hotel in New Mexico due to the mandatory quarantine at the time. Luckily, the restrictions were lifted in time, and we were able to stop in Las Cruces to visit White Sands National Park. Like any road trip, it’s good to travel with people who are flexible and can go with the flow when things don’t happen as planned. 

Pro Tip: State and local health department websites are a great resource to use when deciding on a destination, but be sure to check back for updates as your trip gets closer.

Pandemic packing essentials

If you’re anything like me, you can never have too many disinfectant wipes! Use them to clean high-touch surfaces such as gas pumps, doorknobs, and elevator buttons. Keep a cloth mask with you at all times, and be sure to pack disposable masks for those forgetful moments. Pack nonperishable snacks to avoid stopping too many times for food. Face shields provide an extra protective barrier from potential respiratory droplets in addition to a face mask. Other essentials to bring with you include gloves, hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol content), vitamins, and a thermometer.

Pro Tip: Keep a pack of gentle baby wipes with you to wipe your face throughout the day. This will help prevent “maskne,” acne caused by wearing a mask.

Planning where to stay

Airbnbs and private rentals offer fewer person-to-person interactions, but the level of sanitation will vary considerably. Fortunately, a lot of hotel chains have ramped up their cleaning procedures to put travelers’ minds at ease.

During our ten-day adventure, we opted for a combination of camping, private rentals, and hotel stays. Everywhere we stayed created a sense of comfort by minimizing interaction with staff, providing contactless check-ins, or using digital keys. When we arrived at our rooms, the remote controls and high-touch surfaces were often wrapped in plastic, and the cabinets were sealed to indicate they had been cleaned.

If you’re not quite ready to check back into a hotel or occupy a rental, there are other options that make it easy to avoid crowds, like camping or hitting the road in an RV. These options allow you to have more control over how and when you interact with other people, not to mention a lot of fun!

Pro Tip: No matter where you stay, be sure to disinfect high-touch surfaces, wash the dishes, and open the windows upon arrival to bring in some fresh air.

Road safety

Before heading out on the road, you’ll want to make sure your vehicle is in good shape. Get your oil changed, make sure there’s air in your tires, and ensure your battery is still going strong. There was no way my car would have made it to Texas and back without a fight, so I opted for a rental car.

Similar to hotels, rental car companies have adopted more comprehensive cleaning measures to put their customers’ minds at ease.

If you stop to get gas or use the restroom, be sure to wash your hands or have the hand sanitizer ready. Using drive-through or curbside pickup options are safer than in-person dining.

Pro Tip: You never know when you’ll need roadside assistance. Whether you’re traveling to a town nearby or a more remote location, make sure at least one person you’re traveling with knows how to change a tire. Also, consider bringing a spare key!

Socially distant activities

Now is the perfect time to reconnect with nature and explore the great outdoors. Instead of going to crowded theme parks, opt for kayaking or apple picking. There are so many outdoor activities that naturally keep you at a distance from others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a mask, staying six feet apart, and regularly washing your hands. When traveling, these recommendations are no different. Pay attention to your surroundings and make sure the people around you are adhering to the guidelines that have been set.

Pro Tip: These are uncertain times, so it is best to book activities with companies that have flexible cancelation policies.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a mask regardless of vaccination status. Please check the CDC website for updated guidelines.