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Road Trip travel has increased as a preferred way to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’ve never road tripped before, yet still want to get out and explore, you might be intimidated by this method of travel. Have no fear, you’ve landed in the right spot. We have taken countless road trips across America as it is our preferred method of travel, even before the pandemic. Follow these tips on where and how to road trip safely during a pandemic such as COVID-19.
Are Road Trips Safe
If you want or need to travel, road trips are safer than air travel. Are they 100% safe? In short, no. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but anytime you are in public spaces you increase your risk. But you can safely road trip by taking several precautions.
Read through this document from the CDC on Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It’s updated frequently. Some key things to make travel safer:
During your trip, take steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:
- Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings.
- Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart (about 2 arms’ length) from anyone who is not from your household.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
- Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Where Can You Safely Road Trip
In the United States, you can safely road trip virtually anywhere. But, the rules are changing daily. I highly recommend you check out the states you’ll travel through’s updates on their main visitor’s bureau site. Find a complete list of State Visitor’s websites here. Even then, some states vary by county. Start big and go small. Seek out the rules for the destination you plan to visit.
Some states, such as New York, require a 14-day quarantine and health forms if you plan to stay. However, if you’re passing through on a road trip, it’s an exception.
Research what is open before you go as well. Not every attraction may be open. And, if they are open, capacity may be limited. If your intent is to travel, pick destinations with plenty of wide-open spaces such as the mountains or the beach.
Where to Stay during a Pandemic
Hotels are keeping on top of CDC approved cleaning recommendations, but if you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to call the hotel. If at any point you’re not comfortable with what they do or how they treat you, move on. Unfortunately, the travel industry has taken a major hit during the shutdown. Fortunately for you as a traveler, you have more options. Hotel capacity is down and they are eager to have you stay. Additionally, hotels have a more lenient cancellation policy.
I’d also recommend keeping it simple to book your travel right now and stay with the bigger name-brand hotels. Research, and book, ahead of time so that you’re not left with any surprises on the road.
Many of the big name hotels such as Hilton and Marriott, offer digital check in and keyless entry if you download their app. This is definitely helpful when reducing the amount of people you come in contact with.
Finally, don’t expect housekeeping to come in every day. In order to reduce exposure, many hotels are not doing daily cleaning of rooms. However, feel free to call them if you need your trash removed and fresh toiletries.
Staying with a certified vacation rental site such as VRBO not only gets you socially distanced from other travelers, they have steps in place to ensure the cleaning is EPA approved COVID-19 fighting cleaning products.
One key benefit of staying in a vacation rental is the option of having a kitchen. You don’t need to go out to restaurants if you’re not comfortable. Consider packing groceries, or opt for contactless grocery delivery through Shipt or Instacart.
Get even further off the grid by renting an RV through sites such as RVshare or Outdoorsy. They, too, are ensuring quality cleaning standards in their rentals. Rent one close to home, and you can safely road trip entirely self-contained. Just as with hotels, check out and reserve the campgrounds ahead of time to ensure they are up to par with your comfort level.
What to Pack
In addition to your normal items you’d pack to travel, make sure you have the following.
- Masks – both your own standard masks that you’re comfortable and a pack of disposable masks as a backup. These are fun colored options for a pack of 50.
- Hand Sanitizer
- Disinfecting wipes
- Disposable gloves – while the CDC doesn’t recommend the use of gloves in most situations, I prefer them when pumping gas.
What to Eat
Another way to minimize your exposure on the road is to pack your food. Not only is this a healthier option, but you also stop less and have less garbage. I have a couple of resources on what foods to pack for a road trip.
What about Bathrooms during a COVID-19 Road Trip
Inevitably, you will need to stop to use the bathroom on a long road trip. Keep in mind that in some areas, rest stops are closed. But if you do want to use a rest stop, they offer some outdoor space to get out and stretch your legs, always a good idea when you’re road tripping. Normally, I’d advocate for stopping at the Welcome Centers just inside each state’s border, however, I have found that these tend to be more crowded. Plan your rest stop stops by using an app such as iExit to know how far up the road the next one is.
You’ll also need to stop and get gas along the road, so using the bathroom at a gas station is also preferable. When you’re trying to limit the amount of times you stop, getting as much done as possible during a stop is best. This time however, I would recommend sticking to the bigger gas stations. Stops along the way at Pilot/Flying J truck stops are bigger, brighter, and cleaner in our experience.
Finally, if you opt for an RV, you can also ensure that the holding tanks have enough water for you to use the bathroom in the camper. Just make sure you have a full hookup or a dump station available when you stop.
What Travel Insurance does and does not cover
I’m a big proponent of getting travel insurance, even for a domestic road trip. However, travel insurance almost never covers cancellation due to pandemic crisis’ such as COVID-19. What travel insurance does cover is:
- Trip Delay, Interruption, or Cancellation Protection – we’ve used this in cases of hurricanes rerouting us.
- Medical expenses and evacuations
- Baggage loss
Again, if you have to cancel due to the Coronavirus, your best bet is to contact the hotels and rentals directly. Generally, they have a generous cancellation policy and you may not need the insurance to kick in. However, it’s always better to have it, and not need it, rather than need it and not have it.
Are you ready to safely road trip? What will you do differently? I’d love to hear your questions or comments. Feel free to comment below.