With the arrival of summer and the lifting of restrictions across the country, many Americans are making travel plans, myself among them (I've got a new granddaughter in Montana whom I am dying to meet). While it is a relief to most of the population to have the freedom to travel, doing so during an ongoing pandemic requires careful planning and consideration in order to ensure your safety and that of others.
I tend to be a careful planner anyway, but this week as we mapped out our route and made other preparations, I felt a need to be even more detailed in my efforts. I learned some things in the process. I hope you'll find my lessons useful as you plan your own road trip.
It's always helpful to do a little research before traveling cross-country, but it's absolutely essential at the moment. All fifty states are in some phase of reopening, and every state has different guidelines and a different timeline. What's more, some states are readjusting their proposed timelines in the midst of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
I highly recommend researching the reopening plans for each state you'll be visiting/driving through. You'll want to pay particular attention to the guidelines at your final destination as some states/communities are still requiring out-of-state travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The following resources are helpful in determining the current restrictions for a given state. Both of these sites are updated regularly.
Another important topic to research when planning travel within the United States is how to keep yourself, your family, and others safe and healthy. I recommend the following resources for travelers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
Route - Rest Areas
As a traveler I have a knack for pulling off at a less-than-desirable location for an emergency bathroom break only to get back in the car and discover a rest stop three miles down the road. While it may be fine to wing it under normal circumstances, I recommend carefully mapping your travel route so long as there's a pandemic going on. At the very least, it's good to get a feel for where the rest stops are located and identify good places to stop for food and/or gas.
You obviously can't control your need to stop entirely, but it's good to know your options. Having just traveled from Kansas to Tennessee (another new grandbaby), I can tell you that there are a wide range of standards in play with regard to sanitation and patron safety. Rest areas are a nice option (if you don't need gas or food) because there tend to be fewer people around, and there is plenty of open, outdoor space to social distance while stretching your legs and getting some fresh air.
I recommend packing at least some food in order to reduce the number of interactions you need to have while on the road. While most restaurants are now open (assuming they survived the shut down), many are only offering drive through or pick up services - even in states that are fully 'open'.
I'm not a huge fan of eating and driving at the same time (or sitting in the car and eating), so I tend to look for places that offer outdoor seating. If we know there is a rest area not far from where we're stopping, we might pick up food and take it to the rest stop for a picnic as well. If you're staying in a hotel, ordering in or picking up food to take back to your room may be your best (or only) option.
When it comes to lodging, I recommend choosing a nation-wide hotel chain and sticking with them for a couple of reasons. The first is the potential for earning rewards. We once rented two beautiful, spacious suites on the coast of the Indian Ocean in Oman for three nights for free by cashing in our Marriott rewards points.
The other reason for choosing a chain that you like and trust is quality. It can be difficult to sleep well when you're on the road. Finding a place where you're consistently comfortable can greatly enhance your travel experience. What's more, large hotel chains are much more likely to have well thought-out, company-wide regulations and procedures in place for things like sanitizing and ensuring guest safety.
One of my favorite things about road trips is visiting new and interesting places along the route. If you're traveling across the United States, you're in for a treat as there are hundreds (if not thousands) of amazing sites to see - everything from the weird and quirky to the majestic and awe-inspiring. The best way to ensure you don't miss any hidden treasures is to do some research.
A simple way to research attractions is to do an internet search for the highway you'll be traveling (i.e. roadside attractions I-90). You can also go to any of the major travel booking sites (Expedia, Travelocity, etc.), click on their "Things To Do" tab, and enter a city you'll be visiting. Another option is simply to search "things to do in (enter name of city)". You can also check out the list of resources in the box below.
Looking for stuff to do on your next road trip? Try some of these resources.
In doing the research for our upcoming cross-country trip, I discovered some things with regard to attractions that I hope you will find helpful in planning your own trip.
Once you've done your research, determined the route you'll be taking, planned your stops, and decided on any activities you want to pursue, it's time to solidify your plan. I highly recommend creating a travel folder or binder for keeping track of all the information pertaining to your trip. Your folder could include:
Driving for hours on end can be an adventure. It can also be incredibly dull and surprisingly tiring. One of the downsides of boredom is that your eyes can get heavy. If you're the driver, this is obviously a problem. Another downside is that one tends to get snacky which can lead to overeating (which can also make you drowsy!). These problems can be reduced with a little planning.
To combat boredom, hubby and I like to listen to lectures from The Great Courses. I highly recommend their streaming service (affiliate link). We also enjoy listening to podcasts, or reading aloud to one another as we travel. When our kids were younger we played a lot of car games. as well
To curb overeating, try packing some healthy snacks and/or scheduling your eating.
Click on the image below to download my Road Trip Daily Planner page.
It can be difficult planning a road trip at a time like this, but it can also be hard to abandon summer plans, especially after spending several months cooped up at home. With a little research and planning it's possible to keep yourself and others safe while on the road.
Please note that I am not, in any way, advocating for irresponsible behavior during this ongoing pandemic. Quite the opposite. My hope is to help people with travel plans (either essential or non-essential) to be informed in order to make choices that will keep everyone safe. I urge you to be considerate of others, follow proper hygiene procedures, practice social distancing, and respect the ordinances put in place to protect the public in whatever state you may be traveling through.
Do you have a road trip planned this summer? If so, I invite you to share any additional tips you may have for staying safe and enjoying the road in the comments section below.