As warm weather signals summer’s nearing presence, it’s hard not to have vacation on the mind.
But with the coronavirus pandemic disrupting vacation plans, many are looking for an alternative way to spend their summer — and for some that means hitting the open road.
Tourism industry experts have proclaimed this as the summer of the road trip.
And with a piqued interest in road tripping comes a boost in RV rentals and purchases. RV Share, a national RV rental service similar to Airbnb, has seen a 1,000% increase in RV rental bookings as of May 19 from early April.
“Americans are clearly more ready to travel than they have been in months,” Amir Eylon, president and CEO of tourism research firm Longwoods International, said in a release. “And they are becoming more confident about welcoming visitors to their communities as well.”
Additionally, GasBuddy — a tech company that finds real-time fuel prices for customers — found in a study that one-third of Americans plan to hit the road this summer.
However, while road trips can offer a potentially budget-friendly and safer way to travel, the Centers for Disease Control is still urging people to stay home as much as possible and practice social distancing.
Nevertheless, for road trippers still looking for a getaway, they will need to do more planning and preparation than they might have done previously.
Here are nine tips from the CDC and the American Automobile Association to help travelers stay safe out on the road.
Use a travel agent
Utilize the expertise of a travel professional to help you plan a trip. With parts of the nation still seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, careful planning and preparation are increasingly important to ensure a safe and fun vacation. Along with alerting you of travel advisories, agents can help travelers plan more cautious road trip routes, which avoid high-populated areas and places with significant COVID-19 case numbers.
Pack “new” essentials
Since living amid a pandemic is the new normal, travelers should now add a few more essential items to their packing list before heading out on the open road. As other states may require people to wear masks while out in public, travelers should bring face coverings as well as disposable gloves, disinfecting wet wipes, sealable disposable plastic bags, tissues and hand sanitizer.
The CDC recommends that travelers bring a sufficient amount of alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) and keep it somewhere that is easily accessible. Additionally, be sure to have supplies ready prior to the trip, as there’s no guarantee they’ll be available where you’re passing through.
And because traces of the novel coronavirus can live on some surfaces for days, the CDC also recommends bringing EPA-registered disinfectant and cleaning supplies to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces. If renting an RV, be sure to disinfect and clean it thoroughly.
Schedule a tune-up
After months of stay-at-home orders and limited driving, vehicles may need a tune-up to ensure they’re in working order. Before getting on the road, travelers should schedule a maintenance appointment for their vehicle and have battery, tire, brake and fluid checks performed. Also, be sure to sanitize your vehicle once it's home from the shop.
While out on the road, travelers should limit the number of pit stops they take to keep interaction with others — as well as touching common surfaces — to a minimum. But because stops are bound to happen, road trippers should properly sanitize themselves before and after visiting gas stations, rest stops or places to get food and supplies.
To prevent frequent stops, it’s wise to stock up on food and drinks to keep in your car or RV. But if one does need to stop to get food, follow CDC guidelines by utilizing a drive-thru, curbside restaurant service or stores.
Health officials recommend using disposable gloves while pumping gas, instead of wiping it with a disinfecting wet wipe. Also, utilize debit and credit cards when paying to eliminate face-to-face interactions that happen during a cash transaction. Cards can always be disinfected after being used.
Opt for wide open spaces to visit
Health officials are still calling for people to practice social-distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If road tripping, it’s wise to avoid crowded destinations. However, travelers can take advantage of national parks and more rural places, such as Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota.
Do your homework
If not using a travel agent, be sure to review pandemic restrictions throughout your travel route because they can vary from region to region. It’s important to know what rules are in place for visitors and residents, and the CDC recommends checking with state and local authorities, even when passing through.
AAA has a map of the country with that information at tinyurl.com/yccjkero.
Be a step ahead
Even when not traveling amidst a pandemic, AAA recommends travelers be prepared for emergencies and other potential hiccups on the road. Bring a well-stocked first aid kit, a mobile phone and its accompanying car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, and a basic toolkit with reflectors or emergency flares.
For those traveling in the car with children, pack games and snacks to keep them entertained and satisfied.
If travelers have plans to stay in a hotel during their road trip, be sure to make reservations beforehand. While most major hotel chains along the interstate are open, some are still closed due to the pandemic.
Additionally, the CDC recommends that travelers clean and disinfect all high-touch hotel surfaces, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, remote controls, toilets and sink faucets.
If planning on staying in a hotel for more than one night, travelers may want to skip their daily housekeeping service in order to limit the room’s exposure to outside germs.