In March of 2020, U.S. air travel dropped by 51% compared to 2019, and it’s plummeted far more since then. The fear around air travel is understandable. Imagine being tens of thousands of feet in the air within an enclosed space for hours and you hear someone cough…and cough again…That experience alone could cause someone a panic attack right now. But just because Americans’ fear of flying has skyrocketed, doesn’t mean that their craving for adventure has died. They’re just finding new ways to explore the country.
More and more Americans are hitting the road for that great summer road trip. In fact, so many are doing so that there is some concern road trips could be a new vector for the virus. But, like with any time you step outside of your home during this pandemic, the consequences will rely heavily on the personal responsibility you take. If you have decided to use those backlogged vacation days to rent an RV or load up the van and see the country up close, here are ways to prepare for a COVID-19 road trip.
Find hotels with outdoor entry
If you plan on staying at hotels, do some research and find those with outdoor entry, or multiple entry points. In some cases, hotels have several entrances and exits throughout the property, and you can book a room near one of the less-crowded entrances, allowing you to go in and out without walking through the main lobby, and passing other people.
If you enjoy camping, then consider sleeping under the stars rather than in a hotel room. That way, you bring your room with you, everywhere you go, via your tent, and you know exactly what cleaning protocols have been taken, and who has been in there. Just keep in mind that that will mean using campsite restrooms. If you aren’t comfortable with that, invest in a portable camping toilet for personal use.
Rent an RV
If you want the shelter and conveniences offered by a hotel room without having to deal with check-ins, lobbies, and potentially high prices of hotels, consider renting an RV. Just be sure to map out RV resorts and other places you are allowed to park your RV overnight where you’ll have access to some amenities like on-site markets for breakfast and showers if your RV doesn’t have one.
Don’t drink too much on the road
We aren’t talking about alcohol (though definitely don’t drink that on the road) – we’re talking about general fluids. Stay hydrated, of course, but don’t indulge in lots of sodas and Big Gulps and juices, just for enjoyment. There aren’t many public restrooms open right now, so you can find yourself with a full bladder and nowhere to go.
Wear gloves at the pump
You’ll need to fill up your tank often and there’s no getting around that unless you drive a hybrid. Gas stations come with pumps that thousands of other hands have touched. Bring a large box of disposable gloves, and wear a pair when pumping gas. Wear your mask at the pump if there are others around, fueling up, too.
Download gas station apps
Many major gas stations now have apps that allow you to input credit or debit card information, and pay from your phone, so you don’t even have to touch the keypad at the pump. If you want to be extra-prepared, do all grocery shopping at a market chain that has an affiliate gas station, earn all of those gas points, and save as you go.
Consider a gas can
It may be a good idea to have a gas can on hand, and full, just in case you run out of gas on the road. But also, using a gas can nearly eliminate the need to go to gas stations, so you can fill up, safely away from other people, and never touch a grimy pump.
Consider single home AirBnb’s
Single home AirBnbs are pandemic-friendly for several reasons. First off, they have kitchens, meaning you can stock up on food, make meals in the house, and avoid restaurants during your stay. They also mean that you aren’t sharing circulated air with others, the way you do in a hotel, or even in an apartment complex.
Bring plenty of masks
Bring lots of masks. Buy a mega pack of disposable ones and just keep it handy in your glove compartment or center divider. Disposable ones might be the best way to go on a road trip, since you may not have access to laundry to wash your reusable masks.
Be aware of hot spots
Keep an eye on hot spots while you’re traveling. A city where you booked a hotel months ago may have been a quiet zone for COVID-19 then, but now it might have seen a surge in cases. If you had planned on visiting a place that’s now a hot spot, change your trip. Know that many hotels are currently understanding about COVID-19 cancellations, and offering refunds as late as the day of check-in.
When you can, grocery shop
Continue to eat much in the way you (hopefully) have been eating at home. Namely, grocery shop and cook for yourself more than you dine out at restaurants. Consider looking for hotel rooms that have kitchenettes so that you can store food and cook there. Pack lunches in coolers for those hours on the road, so you don’t need to stop and eat at restaurants.
Be in touch with hotels
Keep in touch with your hotels. It’s important to know if they’ve closed down again due to new regulations in the area, or if they’ve recently had anyone stay in the hotel who was confirmed infected. Ask what safety protocols they’re taking, and what measures they’re using to sanitize the rooms. They’re used to these questions by now, so don’t be shy about asking.
Pack safety items; stores may be out
Think of everything you might need to help keep you healthy on this trip and pack it. Hand sanitizer. Gloves. Thermometer. Antibacterial wipes. Masks. Don’t rely on the option to buy these on the road, as many areas are still seeing shortages of some of these important supplies.
Have backup activities
You may arrive at some landmarks and find that they’re overrun with tourists, making it difficult to keep six feet of social distance. Find out when quiet times are and visit then. Have backup activities you can do if you find your first-choice destination is too crowded.
Identify test spots
It’s a good idea to get tested along the way. Everyone can do their part to help stop the spread of COVID-19. If you’re traveling from city to city and state to state, you should consider getting tested each week. Locate those test sites in advance. If someone in your party tests positive, turn back, and quarantine.