Summer is usually the time for family vacations, but to get on an airplane or stay in a crowded hotel…for many the risks are just too high. This doesn’t mean you have to spend the whole summer staring at the same four walls of your house though.
The secrets to vacationing safely this summer are self-sufficiency and self-containment. Road trips are a great way to have both…and they're more fun than just camping in your own backyard!
Who Shouldn't Take a Road Trip
Before we dive in, if you or someone you quarantine with are immunocompromised, then it’s best to stay home. Road trips are less risky than other types of vacations, but they are by no means risk free.
Planning Your Trip
It may seem idyllic to meander down unknown paths and choose your direction on a whim, but these days, it’s best to plan ahead. You’ll want to go online to read which states are the best or worst with regard to the virus, and what the corresponding restrictions are. This way you can plan the safest route possible, as well as the route most likely to have services that are open should you need them.
According to a recent survey by the U.S. Travel Association and MMGY Travel Intelligence, 68% of travelers “feel safest when traveling by personal vehicle and when visiting outdoor destinations such as parks and the beach.”
When planning your road trip, you’ll also want to focus on the outdoors. A trip to the Mall of America may be on your bucket list…but it’ll have to wait. Road trips during COVID are all about plenty of fresh, clean air and open space to spread out from others. So, focus on parks, camping locations and beaches.
Deciding How to Travel
If you already own an RV, then you can skip over this section, because you’re good to go! If not, there are two options to consider depending on your trip plans:
Taking a longer trip or planning to stop at multiple destinations? We suggest renting an RV such as a motorhome or travel trailer. Avoid renting small pop-up trailers, as many don’t come equipped with a bathroom and you don’t want to be forced to use public facilities. While renting an RV means using a vehicle that has been used by others, the company you rent from should have disinfecting and cleanliness standards in place (and you can ask for specifics). You should also gear up with mask and gloves before you hit the road, and give the RV another good cleaning, just to put your mind at ease. Focus on high impact areas, such as light switches, doorknobs, and kitchen and bathroom areas.
Renting an RV gives each passenger more personal space than a regular car would, plus a lot more storage for packing everything you’ll need for the trip. Remember, self-sufficient and self-contained!
Taking a shorter trip with one, or a couple, destinations that you can reach in one day? Then you may opt to pack up your own car and rent a cabin or park model camper from a campground at your destination(s). We suggest this instead of staying in a hotel, because it’s much more private. You won’t have to go through busy lobbies or ride in elevators to get to your room. However, it’s best for short trips, such as a long weekend, because your car doesn’t have as much space for packing food and other essentials as an RV does. Like the RV though, we suggest doubling down on sanitizing when you arrive, just to be extra safe.
If you do plan to take your own vehicle, make sure to give it a thorough inspection before you leave. If you run into an issue on the road, it may be more difficult to find a service center that is open. So, before you head out, check your tires, tire pressure and pack a spare as well. Test drive your brakes for a grinding sound or a vibration which could mean they need to be serviced, and make sure your AC is running well at the same time. Top off your engine oil and other fluids, including windshield washer fluid. Finally, pop the hood and make sure all the connections (especially to the battery) are clean and tight.
Thinking of tent camping? Think again. No running water and no bathroom means you’re not self-sufficient or self-contained. As we write this, most campgrounds aren’t even open to tent campers yet.
Packing for Your Trip: Essentials
License, registration, and insurance information – Pretty obvious. Don’t forget them! Before you head out, it’s also important to review your insurance coverage. Make sure you’re protected should an issue arise, especially if you recently lowered your coverage due to driving less during the pandemic. Give as a call at (860) 785-4854 and we’ll be happy to review your auto and RV coverage with you, so you can get out and enjoy without having to worry.
Car Emergency Kit – If you’re taking your own vehicle, you’ll want to pack everything in our car emergency kit (except for a few seasonal items that you won’t need in the summer).
Virus Kit – Hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, disposable gloves, and plenty of face masks are essential. Also, don’t forget hand soap, dish soap for when you arrive at your destination. If you’re renting a cabin, bring some extra cleaning supplies too.
Food & Drinks – Beyond the emergency essentials in our checklist, pack all the meals, snacks and drinks you’ll need during your trip. Remember, self-sufficient! Reducing your trips to gas stations, grocery stores and rest stops means reducing your risk of exposure. The situation is constantly changing too. New restrictions could go into place partway through your trip, so if you were relying on stocking up on supplies in an area that has recently been shut down, you could find yourself in a tough situation.
Dishes, Cups & Utensils – Whether you pack reusable or disposable dishes and cups, it would really be a bummer to get to your destination at the end of a long day of driving and realize you’re going to be eating your meal out of the pot with your fingers.
Sheets, Blankets & Pillows – A comfortable trip is a happy trip. Be sure to pack sheets and pillows for the bed you’ll be sleeping in, as well as some cozy throws and travel pillows for snuggling up on the road.
Extra Towels – You never know when you’ll be caught in a sudden downpour, or spill water all over your seat 3 hours from your next destination.
Toilet Paper & Paper Towel – Absolutely essential. For obvious reasons.
Trash Bags – Always try to leave nature cleaner than you found it.
Fun & Entertainment
Camera & Charger – To capture all the memories, of course!
Portable WIFI – If you don’t have good service at your destination or don’t want to end up with a lot of data overage charges, a portable WIFI device can be a lifesaver.
In Car Entertainment – A really great playlist, iPad, a good book or two, or some travel games can make all the difference when you’re on the road. After all, there’s only so many times you can play “I Spy.”
Day Pack or Small Backpack –If you want to go hiking or to a beach, you’ll want a small bag to take just the essentials.
Toiletries, Toothbrush & Toothpaste – Again, obvious.
Laundry Bag – Keep your RV or cabin neat and organized by separating your dirty clothes from clean clothes.
Sunscreen & Bug Spray – As we said before, a comfortable trip is a happy trip. Don’t end up with painful sunburns or itchy bug bites.
Body Wipes – For emergencies, extra comfort on the road, or if you decide to do some hiking.
Lip Balm – Dry, cracked lips are as uncomfortable as bug bites and sunburns.
Mints – Sometimes you just need to freshen up a little.
Apps You May Find Useful
Maps.me – a free app that allows you to download detailed maps which can be used offline and without cell service. It also acts as a GPS.
GasBuddy – helps you find the best fuel prices, routes and plan your trip budget.
As soon as you get home, remove your shoes, put all your bags and clothes in the laundry (everything, even if you didn’t use or wear something) and get right in the shower. Then disinfect everything else you brought with you; put dishes in the dishwasher, wipe down your phone, cooler, and other items. This way, you’re protecting your home and other family members from potential contamination.
Also, try to lay low for as long as possible - but at least a few days - to avoid spreading the virus or anything else you may have picked up along the way.
Are you planning a road trip this summer? Share your photos with us on Instagram @spectrum_insurance_
Stay safe out there!