6 Prep Tips for a COVID-Era Road Trip
By: Eric Rosenberg
Road trip safety is an important focus for any family hitting the pavement.
Though there's no bulletproof solution to staying 100 percent safe from COVID-19 while traveling, you can make preparations to best safeguard your family wherever your adventure takes you.
1. Get Your Personal Protective Equipment in Order
Whenever you get out of the car, you will need to have masks ready for the entire family. Depending on how long your road trip is and the types of masks you have, you may need multiples for everyone in the family. You might also consider disposable gloves for gas stations and ATMs.
2. Stock Up on Sanitizer
Running water and soap isn't as readily available when you're on the go. Whether someone in your family pumps gas, heads into a convenience store or indulges in a hike, you're going to want sanitizer to keep your car a germ-free zone.
Though you'll most likely come across hand sanitizer for sale, it's best to take no risks and bring the amount you'll need for your entire trip. If you're in doubt, bring an extra bottle to ensure you don't run out. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends alcohol-based sanitizers that are at least 60 percent alcohol.
3. Understand Your Dining Options
In some areas, restaurants may be completely open for dining in, while others are take-out only. Before driving to your next destination, look up local virus guidelines and regulations so you know where you'll be able to find something to eat comfortably.
To ensure you don't get stuck in a hungry situation, pack at least a few road-trip friendly meals so you can feed the family if local restaurants and stores are closed.
4. Don't Pick a Last-Minute Hotel Room
In the old days—back in 2019!—you could take a road trip and count on finding a last-minute hotel room using an app or looking for neon-lit "vacancy" signs. Now every city, county and state has its own rules on hotels and tourists. For example, the State of California released guidelines for its hotel industry. Some hotel chains, such as Marriott, also have their own virus guidelines.
To avoid an unplanned night of camping, make reservations ahead of time and try to stick with hotels that are working hard to keep guests safe during their stay.
5. Avoid COVID Hotspots
Of all coronavirus travel advice, one of the easiest to follow is to avoid areas experiencing a major outbreak. COVID hotspot maps are available from both government agencies and reputable news sources. The CDC lists active outbreaks of all major diseases and infections here, while this online hub from NPR includes COVID-specific maps and hotspot trackers for the U.S. that are updated regularly.
Just as you would avoid taking your family to any other dangerous locale, it's a good idea to avoid regions experiencing rising COVID cases or severe outbreaks. If you do have to pass through a high-risk area, try to keep the kids in the car and drive straight through. Check the news every morning so you can update your plan if needed.
6. Have Fun in the Great Outdoors
While there is still much to learn about COVID-19, we know that you are safer when you are outdoors and away from other people. Thankfully, this is a country with 62 national parks, 83 national monuments, 19 national preserves and countless additional state and local outdoor areas to explore and enjoy. Check out this full list from the National Park Service.
Plan ahead to have fun, avoid crowds and enjoy everything that America's wilderness has to offer. If you're planning on evenings in a hotel room, RV, or tent, don't forget to bring along some favorite board games to bond with your family while staying entertained.
Eric Rosenberg is a freelance writer specializing in finance and investing. His writing work has appeared in Business Insider, Investopedia, Huffington Post, and many other outlets. Rosenberg also consults about financial management and small business solutions.