As many states start to reopen and some of us are back to business almost as usual, we might be more likely to get back out on the open road. Although new vehicle sales surpassed $1 trillion in 2017, Americans aren’t especially eager to buy a new car — but they might be eager to take a trip in their existing auto.
It’s summer, after all, so it’s understandable that you might be itching for a vacation. Since 92% of employees say vacation time is important to them — and there’s no doubt that we’ve all endured our fair share of stress over the last few months — it makes sense that you’d want to get away from it all for a few days.
But just because businesses are back open doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over. On the contrary, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in many parts of the country. Ultimately, it really isn’t the best idea to take any kind of trip right now. Conditions are changing quickly, which means the best-laid plans could be canceled abruptly. Still, if you’re determined to plan a trip, there are things you can do to reduce risks and have an enjoyable time.
How to Have a Healthy Road Trip During COVID-19
Stay Out of Hot Spot States: States like Arizona, Texas, and Florida are experiencing surges of confirmed coronavirus cases, so those locations aren’t going to be your best option for a road trip. Not only will you increase your risk of contracting COVID-19 while you’re there, but you may be forced to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving back home. In fact, there are now 16 states on the list of those that require travelers to quarantine upon arriving in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. As such, you’ll probably want to stay in the general region in which you live — so if your home is in the tri-state area, you’d be better off road-tripping to Pennsylvania or Maine than heading down south.
It’s also important to note that, while some people want to escape to more isolated areas, doing so could potentially burden rural healthcare systems if your vacation leads to a case increase. It might also mean you won’t have access to care that you need (or the creature comforts you want). If you do decide to go off the grid with a camping trip, don’t go so far off the grid that you’re putting yourself or others in danger.
The best-case scenario here is to stick close to home. Going on a “staycation” or taking a day trip is a much safer option, in many cases. And if you’re able to scratch your road trip itch by camping out in the backyard or by planning out a post-pandemic trip instead, you’ll probably be better off.
Be Smart When Packing: Packing for any trip can be stressful, but you’ll need to be even more focused when preparing for health and safety guidelines. You’ll need to bring masks, disinfecting wipes, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, paper towels, a first aid kit, water, electronics chargers, water, and snacks, of course. Insect repellent is a must, as is sunscreen (despite the fact that only 86% of people say they sometimes or always wear sunblock in the summertime), since you’ll likely be spending a good amount of time outdoors. You may also want to bring along a thermometer to monitor your temperature during the trip. AAA recommends that you bring along health insurance cards and any other travel documentation just in case. Since you won’t be doing much dressing up during your trip (since fancy dinner-and-movie dates are essentially out of the question), you’ll have extra room in your suitcase for the necessities. Bring as much food with you as possible to avoid the potential for contamination.
Avoid Crowded Locations: Some restaurants and other businesses may be open, but capacity is limited — and you’ll never know what kinds of precautions are being taken, since they’re largely up to each individual organization. Therefore, you’ll want to avoid crowded locations like bars and restaurants (if applicable) and stick to outdoor activities and take-out dinners. It might not be the flashiest of vacations, but it’s really the best way to stay safe. If you need to stop at a gas station during your trip, proceed with extreme caution and touch as little as possible. Continuing to maintain social distancing measures will prove key.
Opt For a Short Trip (Or Put It Off): You may like the thought of taking an entire week off to see the country, but that simply isn’t a good idea right now. If you do decide your trip can’t wait, you’ll want to keep it short. Spending a couple of days at most in a hotel (even one that’s taking major precautions) and on the road will decrease the risk you’re taking — and make no mistake about it, taking any type of trip during a pandemic does present a risk. If you’re in a position to put off your trip for now and come up with an alternative, that’s certainly encouraged. And even if your road trip is technically a necessary one, you won’t want to dawdle.
As much as a vacation sounds tempting right about now, the reality is that any unnecessary travel comes with inherent risk during a pandemic. By taking as many precautions as possible and making smart decisions, you may be able to lower those risks — but keep in mind that waiting it out until conditions have improved will make for a much more enjoyable getaway.