Staying Safe during your COVID road trip.
When I was a child, my grandparents, farmers in the Midwest, would occasionally take us on long weekends or week vacations in the summer time. We would drive through the landscapes that they knew best. We’d pile into their full-size RV (my brother, sometimes a cousin or two, my uncle, and me) and head to the cabin or even travel further north.
We’d stay up at the cabin, a one-story blue structure with windows overlooking the lake. We would go fishing, play cards (grandparents were always trying to cheat), and sit by the roaring fire at night roasting marshmallows.
On one particular trip, we stopped along the way to visit relatives and went all the way up to Canada. At this time, we didn’t need passports to cross the boarder if you were only going for the day.
I was in grade school at this time and spent much of the drive looking in awe out the window because I had never been this far away from home before. When I think back on those outings now, I’m grateful that my grandparents thought to show their grandchildren our beautiful rugged state.
In recent years, when most of the frequent travelers I know were trying to get somewhere, it was usually on a plane – to The Caribbean, on a cruise, or someplace in Europe. I once told my step-daughter that we should take a road trip around the U.S. and her response was, “that’s a long way to drive”.
Road Trip During COVID
Yet all over America the coronavirus pandemic has sparked a quiet awakening to our surroundings. By May, two months into lockdown, I noticed a growing restlessness among people I know. By June and July RV sales were going up. In some areas, I read, they were up 170 percent. And county and state parks were hitting their busiest year yet.
On Facebook, I began to notice that friends and family were taking summer vacations, but instead of flying they were road-tripping in cars or R.V.s.
For the most part, I enjoyed checking out my local state parks. But I too, grew restless, bored, and a little anxious myself as time went on. So, in July I got into my car and joined the great stream of cross-country travelers driving 333 miles to Grand Marais for a week vacation.
The vacation was much needed. Relaxing.
Should you take a road trip during COVID?
However, embarking on a road trip is no simple undertaking. Even more so with a road trip during COVID. It’s important to pack absolutely everything you are going to need and you must consider everything. From making sure your vehicle is in working order, knowing where you are going and if there is a gas station every so often.
While COVID cases continue to rise and fall around the world, it’s a good idea to keep up to date on if the state your road tripping in is safe and accessible.
Despite the many precautions we have been taking in the past few months, COVID has not gone away, it remains a serious risk throughout the world, and some countries and regions have seen a resurgence of the virus.
But the desire to travel hasn’t gone away, either. Being in lockdown for weeks at a time, makes us want to get out of the house even more. I know I do. The smell of fresh air and feeling the wind on your cheeks feels almost just as good as sliding your toes into the sand after that long of being cooped up.
So, that means a return to the all-American road trip. But people looking to protect themselves against the virus know that it won’t be a simple return to the road. There are safety measures to be kept in mind. Precautions to be taken. Plans to be made.
How Safe Is It To Road Trip During COVID?
Avoiding public transport and flights might be at the top of your mind. However, there still may be some restrictions while taking to the road as well. But just how safe is a road trip during a pandemic?
Car travel does still present unforeseen risks, such as making stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks. These situations can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and surfaces. Get the full list on how to stay healthy while traveling here.
Road Trip During COVID Safety Tips:
- Carry a mask or two on you at all times.
- Carry sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer
- Wash your hands thoroughly
- Camping is a good option – just in case hotels aren’t offering the most COVID-safe facilities
- Bring your own pillows and pillowcases
- Wipe down hotel surfaces or seats and facilities before using them
- Wipe down handles and buttons at gas stations before using them
- Pre-book if you can
Know Your Route
Plan your route before you leave home. Check to make sure there are no restrictions in the places you are traveling through or your destination. There might be relevant travel advisories you need to be aware of, such as changes to toll collection and rest-area food sales.
Do you need to quarantine if you’re arriving from a hot spot?
If you cannot run the risk of extra costs or loss of work associated with quarantining, you should consider possibly doing a staycation.
Be Aware of Shutdowns
It’s also especially important to call ahead and confirm which attractions (such as any local attractions or theme parks) and hotels are open. You will want to understand capacity limits.
If dining at a restaurant doesn’t seem worth the risk, eliminate as much contact as possible and order takeout or use the drive-through. You could also take the food to an outdoor location to eat, such as a lake or park.
Pack to Protect For Your Road Trip During COVID
Pack to protect you and your family on your road trip during COVID.
Now more than ever, it’s important to pack up your car with hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, sanitizing spray, face masks, gloves, and maybe even a thermometer. And keep practicing good and frequent hand-washing.
If you can, pack your own snacks and drinks so you reduce the need to go into rest stops and expose yourself to others.
And, of course, on any road trip, pack an emergency kit in your car. The list includes: car charger for your cell phone, first-aid kit, blanket, drinking water and snacks for everyone including pets, flashlight with extra fresh batteries, rags or paper towels, basic tools including duct tape, road flares or reflectors, ice scraper or snow brush, jumper cables, traction aid (sand, salt), raincoat, and a shovel.
These items, obviously, won’t be applicable to everyone reading this. However, it would depend on where you’re going on your road trip as well. Be realistic about your plans and where you are going.
Testing vs. Quarantining
Post-road trip during COVID, travelers should lay low for a little while. Stay indoors for a few days after returning and avoid contact with other people as much as possible. The only way to get to near-zero risk of transmission is to quarantine.
Testing can provide some peace of mind, but it can’t offer a guarantee. Even the most accurate tests can fail to detect an infection around 20 percent of the time.
Of Course, no matter what kind of travel you’re planning right now, there are many considerations to weigh. Local Businesses and economies need the tourism revenue, but tourists, even vigilant ones, can bring along the virus. Tiny rural hospitals are easily overwhelmed – as are pristine natural landscapes, by careless, often illegal campers and their litter.
In a larger sense, however, our collective rediscovery of America, its great beauty and deep sadness, might help us feel more compassion for one another, and acquire a greater realism about who our fellow Americans are and what they need.
How do you interact with another person, sip a cup of coffee they have prepared for you, or handle their carefully tended vegetables at a farmer’s market, and not see their humanity?
My hope is that all this traveling through and into the heart of America will make us look up, around, and beyond ourselves, to see our country with greater clarity, and its people, our people, with far more empathy.
If you’re traveling with your kids, check out these fun things to do on a long road trip. Or check out this master list to help prepare you.
If you’re looking at planning a road trip and not sure where to go, check out these inspiring road tripping in the USA ideas.