Ready for a Road Trip? What to Know Before You Go
Learn the things to pack, and how to prepare, for COVID-19 travel
Emma Bateman Frasure, 70, took several road trips this summer, doing some things she had never done before: Packing a safety and cleaning kit, and calling ahead to shows and attractions to confirm they were open and to make sure they hadn’t altered their hours.
This is just an example of the way in which the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many people travel.
Frasure first drove about eight hours from her home in Mountain Home, Ark. to pick up her 13-year-old granddaughter for a one-month visit; from there, they took a couple of shorter trips for shopping, sightseeing and shows in Branson and Springfield, Mo. The pair ended their travels by meeting up with Frasure's son in Nashville where the family also did some sightseeing.
Before embarking on each journey, Frasure packed plenty of hand sanitizer, masks, antibacterial soap, sanitizing sprays and cleaning supplies to clean the motel rooms.
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“I was pretty conscientious before with washing my hands, not touching my face while away from home and using hand sanitizer, but made it a point this time to clean the motel rooms — at least the often-touched surfaces such as door knobs, handles, the bathroom sink, toilet and television remote,” says Frasure. “I always check the bed (for bed bugs), but also sprayed the sheets and pillows with disinfectant spray.”
RV Trips and Cabin Rentals Are Up
Brooke Johnson, owner of Tumbleweed Travel, a Telluride, Colo. company that books all-inclusive RV road trips and camping excursions, says the number of people taking RV and camping trips has “gotten crazy” this year.
“I went on a trip and looked for a spot at a campground in California and found the very last one,” says Johnson, who adds that her phones have remained busy since spring.
“Once people rent or buy their RV, they have their own bedroom, bathroom and kitchen; people feel safer farther away from [other] people, and outdoors,” she says. “Going in an RV is a great way to camp now, especially for people who don’t consider themselves as ‘campers.'"
"Normally, our clients want to stay in resorts and higher-end hotels. But this year, people want less interaction, and space."
Johnson says people have been renting or buying a variety of campers and RVs, from the pop-up pull-behinds to large luxury RVs. “The camping vans also seem really popular right now,” she says.
Angelina Zeppieri, a luxury travel advisor for Elli Travel Group in New York City, says she has definitely seen an increase in the number of road trips her clients are taking this year.
“They were previously traveling abroad, but with the virus, we are seeing a lot more local road trips, especially in the Tri-State area around New York,” she says.
Zeppieri’s clients have also been asking for more private rental bookings, including cabins.
“Normally, our clients want to stay in resorts and higher-end hotels. But this year, people want less interaction, and space,” she says. Zeppieri saw such an increase that she formed a group of private owners to rent their homes in the Catskills.
Both Johnson and Zeppieri say they have seen most RV and cabin owners take extra care in cleaning and sanitizing them.
“I have seen many [cabin owners] hiring professional cleaning and disinfecting companies, doing extra things to put their guests at ease, such as covering the remote controls in plastic and putting up signs advising of the steps taken to clean and disinfect and when it was done,” says Zeppieri. “I’ve even seen them adding extra time between guests. So, instead of a guest checking out in the morning and the cabin being rented by evening, they may be giving it twenty-four hours.”
5 Steps For a Safer and More Successful Road Trip
In addition to packing a safety kit for each member of your family that includes masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, you might also want to include cleaning supplies for your room or accommodations.
Here are five other tips:
1. Check for state-to-state travel restrictions, closures and altered hours. Terika L. Haynes, owner of Dynamite Travel in Melbourne, Fla., says there still are plenty of states with state-to-state travel restrictions. She recommends checking with state and local tourism boards for guidance, as well as other information on closures and restrictions.
“Many travelers have experienced surprise closures and travel restrictions when they’ve left their state,” says Haynes. “The restrictions have been changing frequently, so I would suggest calling ahead and checking again several times before your trip.”
2. Pack snacks and possibly meals. “There are a few things you may encounter, such as finding restaurants unexpectedly closed or out of business,” says Haynes. “Or you might find restaurants not abiding by social distancing guidelines and you don’t feel safe. Also, your hotel may have their dining options and restaurants closed.”
Frasure also advises travelers to remember to get up and wash their hands after handling menus, or at least use hand sanitizer.
"There are a few things you may encounter, such as finding restaurants unexpectedly closed or out of business."
3. Call ahead and learn about cleaning protocols. Whether you are renting an RV or cabin or staying in a hotel room, Zeppieri recommends phoning ahead and speaking with the owner or manager about their cleaning protocols.
“Ask the time they are allowing between guests,” she says. “Make sure you’re comfortable with it before booking.”
4. Bring your own linens. Surprisingly, when researching many hotels, Haynes found that most aren't offering housekeeping services during a guest’s stay. “They’re asking guests to get clean towels from the desk,” says Haynes. “Of the many I checked out, I only found one currently offering housekeeping services.”
While you can spray the sheets and pillows, as Frasure did, it may also make you feel more comfortable to have your own linens.
5. Book early for fall. As the summer travel season winds down, you may find it easier to book into hotels. RV and cabin rentals for the late summer and fall still remain robust, especially since this is normally a popular time for retirees to travel.
By planning ahead and taking precautions, Frasure says, she had a good time with her granddaughter and adult son.
“I felt really safe and we visited quite a few places,” she says. “I believe if you follow recommended precautions and wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, wear your masks and social distance, you can have a pretty safe trip.”