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  • Sheryl S.

Road Trip Tips

Who doesn't love a good road trip?! Planning for one during a pandemic looks slightly different. What to take? Where to stop safely? How do you protect yourself and others? While these questions are not necessarily new, the answers are not the same with a virus in the air. Here are a few suggestions from a recent cross-country drive! Feel free to share others ideas in the comments section below.

Tip #1 – Isolate and Test Before You Go

Once you decide to take a solo road trip, experts recommend isolating yourself as much as possible, 14-days ahead of time. It is also suggested that you take a COVID test several days before you go to ensure you are not asymptomatic and unknowingly spreading the virus. Even if you are camping and don’t plan on seeing others, there are stops along the way where you will inadvertently run into people.

Tip #2 – Map your Route

Gone are the days of walking into AAA and walking out with a TripTik. It’s 2020, so AAA along with others have online tools that show you rest stops, gas stations, accommodations, including where to stop mid-way or at prescribed intervals. And if you’re more comfortable talking with someone, AAA is still available by phone to help you out. I found myself using a few different maps and apps—while they were all close—the Apple map for directions is my personal favorite with its ease of use and consistently finds the fastest routes.

Here are several sites to check out!

A few other things to keep in mind while driving around the country:

  • A change in time zones

  • Tolls – some are open with people collecting actual money (dollars and coins) while others are closed, but with the snap of an aerial photograph of your license plate, you can pay online later.

  • And, last but not least, my personal favorite -- take a spare car key!

Tip #3 – Plan for Lodging

During these precarious times, it is essential to pick out lodging that offers clean rooms and “contactless” check-in and check-out procedures. My best advice is to read current reviews, understand corporate policies, and book ahead.

Another suggestion is to research COVID-19 cases in the specific county you are considering stopping in for the night. This can be a bit of a moving target, however, if the infection rate had recently (and consistently) been lower 30 or 40 miles away from a midpoint, I opted to rest there instead. And as much as I love college kids (having one of my own), it may be safer to pass by campuses for the time being. Unless of course, you are on a college visit!

I stayed at an Airbnb and the Fairfield Inn (Marriott) hotels between MN and FL. Both types of settings worked out well. I was impressed that hotel employees were masked and while the parking lots were full, the lobby and common areas were (sadly, stupid coronavirus) empty. I also considered staying at actual Bed and Breakfasts, and depending on your comfort level of being inside with people, this would be a nice alternative and way to meet others along your journey.

Finally, as far as meals go, DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats offer great, fast, and contactless delivery, right to your door.

Tip #4 – Pack a COVID-Kit

Bringing a few extra supplies brings peace of mind. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Plenty of cloth face masks. I also ordered face shields from Amazon and have seen them at Costco as well. Though I looked like I had beamed in from outer space, I felt as protected as possible!

  • Disinfectant wipes. Perfect to wipe down surfaces you come into contact with on your travels. (I was always the mom without Purell, now I clean everything from gas pumps to the phone in the hotel room.)

  • Extra bottles of hand sanitizer, making sure to leave one or two in the car at all times.

Not COVID-specific, it’s also a good idea to have a whistle, Mace, and a flashlight within easy reach, especially if you are traveling at night.

Tip #5 – Bring Snacks, Songs, and the Cloud

As someone who prefers eating in at roadside diners as opposed to driving through the traditional fast-food restaurant, I knew that sustenance was going to be limited for 1,200 miles. At the risk of looking like a college student, I packed a nice balance of healthy snacks and junk food to keep me nourished and awake along the way! And don’t forget water.

Other ways to stay alert and entertained--make a playlist ahead of time on your favorite music app or download podcasts and audiobooks. I recently learned about the amazing Cloud Library app, where you select your state and library, and can browse, borrow/download, and read books for FREE. Available for iOS, Android, Windows, Nook, Kindle, and more.

For me, driving across the country felt as though I was driving straight into a Normal Rockwell painting with vivid fall colors, offering a window out to some beautiful scenery. More importantly, it allowed for a window in and time for personal reflection. Enjoy the ride.

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