The travel industry has taken a brutal blow during the pandemic, which brought the normally busy summer travel season to a grinding halt. Air travel has been hit particularly hard. Airlines are taking new precautions (some more than others), but many people are, understandably, still not ready to fly. Road trips are a great alternative to travel safely.
As the health crisis drags on, however, even the most reluctant would-be travelers are going a little stir-crazy. They’re eager to go somewhere, anywhere outside the four walls of their homes. They dream of the summer vacations they were forced to cancel or never got to plan.
But there’s some good news: Air travel may not feel safe, but road trips are still a viable option. Fall is the perfect time to hit the highway. The weather is cooling off, snow is still a couple of months away, and autumn leaves create colorful scenes along the road.
Besides, now could be the perfect time to tap into that accumulated time off you’ve been reluctant to use during the past six months — especially if your company operates on a “use it or lose it” PTO policy.
Keeping road trips closer to home reduces your risk. Chances are, there are plenty of things to do within a few hours of your home. Of course, you’ll need to take precautions to stay safe. However, it’s entirely possible to have a safe and sanity-preserving road trip if you’re proactive about it.
1. Plot your route
While it’s exciting to travel on a whim and make decisions along the way, that’s not the best strategy during a pandemic (nor during hurricane or wildfire season). Many businesses will still be closed — and even those that are open might not be safe. But technology is a great traveling companion. It can help you find where you’re going, and what you’ll find along the way.
Here are some steps to take:
- Look through your maps app and see what attractions are near your destination, then do web research on how places are operating in a pandemic-affected world.
- Book reservations ahead of time so you don’t find yourself stuck. (Some hotels and motels may allow you to reserve a room, but they might not be open when you arrive. Some may send you to another hotel nearby.)
- Become familiar with the local climate before you book. Are you heading to, or through, a virus hotspot? How many options are available? Knowing the answers before you leave can save you time and frustration on the road.
Destinations that offer outdoor experiences make it far easier to stay safe through social distancing. Road trips are a great example, like this Iceland road trip around the entire beautiful country.
2. Find wide-open spaces
One thing you don’t want to do is choose an outdoor destination where large numbers of people are congregating, like some beach destinations. If you want to visit a beach, look for one off the beaten path, like these uncrowded beaches in Europe.
Or, as an alternative, consider parks with multiple trails to hike, or lakes with plenty of space to spread out. Something to keep in mind: Many parks and outdoor recreational spaces offer porta-potties for visitors. Some have installed them to help users socially distance, rather than gathering together in a permanent restroom. Portable facilities are cleaned and sanitized frequently. Just make sure to use hand sanitizer afterward until you can get to a facility that lets you wash your hands.
3. Stock up on Road Trips essentials
Plan to bring as many essentials as possible with you so you don’t have to stop and pick them up along the way. It’s safer and cheaper. Plus, you won’t need to worry about finding empty shelves when you need to grab something on the road.
Items to pack include water, nonperishable food staples, snacks, adult beverages (if you prefer), medications, paper towels, toilet paper, bug spray, sunscreen, and anything else you can’t live without. You can find some backpacking tips for traveling light.
4. Build a safety kit
Road tripping makes it easier to socially distance and isolate, but don’t lose sight of the fact that the virus is still out there. To safeguard yourself and your traveling companions, you’ll want to take the precaution of building a coronavirus and safety travel kit. Pack a sealable plastic bin with the following items:
- Face masks — Bring several types to ensure that you’ll have enough clean masks, and also find a type that’s comfortable in your surroundings on any given day.
- Disinfecting wipes — Keep these in large and small packages where you’re staying, in the car, and in your pocket or bag. You don’t want to be caught out someplace without a way to disinfect surfaces.
- Hand sanitizer — Bring at least one large bottle and a few small ones, so you can keep one with you while you’re on the go and refill it as needed.
These are the three biggies, but you probably also want to include disposable gloves, rubbing alcohol, bleach, dish soap, small sealable plastic bags (to put used masks in), and large sealable bags to keep items in that need disinfecting. Also, don’t forget trash bags.
5. Check your finances
You don’t want to find yourself stuck somewhere without the resources you need, especially now. If you’re traveling on a budget, make sure you have enough financial wiggle room to respond if your car breaks down or you face another emergency. You’ll also want to know you can use your credit card without worrying that it might be declined. Check your credit score early in the planning process and take steps to ensure your credit is in good standing.
6. Have Road Trips fun!
Road trips are an excellent way to explore the world. You’ll see so many things you’d miss on an airplane. True, it takes you longer to get to your destination, but often, the joy is in the journey. And if you plan a custom trip with local experts, get the local knowledge for travel safely and see the best of the destination.
Use this time to kick back, enjoy your surroundings, and try something new. Have you ever driven a stick shift? If you want to do something a little adventurous, learn how to drive one before you go, then rent a vehicle designed for some four-wheeling fun.
This year has been an unusual one, that’s for sure — a few ups, but mostly downs. Planning a trip might be the perfect distraction: A recent survey found that planning travel made people happy, and booking a trip made them even happier.
Guest post written by: Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life