A few weeks ago, we set out on a road trip during a pandemic and so many of you reached out looking for tips to travel safely by car during this bizarre time. I’m not necessarily saying travel is a *great* idea right now, but, the reality is, most of us will probably need to get from point A to point B in the near future and, if you’re like me, you feel more comfortable with idea of driving than flying.
Side note: we DID fly one way to Texas because we were picking up a car from family there and the flight was a million times better than I expected. Maybe that’s a post for another day (I covered it in detail in my Insta stories), but I’d recommend flying Southwest since they aren’t filling planes and going on an off hour. We almost always fly Southwest domestically since we have Companion Pass, but it was an awesome and safe experience start to finish.
Road Trip During a Pandemic
I’m going to do another post where I get into where we stopped, what I’d recommend, and how to navigate the drive from Texas to DC, but, today, it’s all about what that experience meant embarking on a road trip during a pandemic. Neither of us had ever done a multi-day road trip before and it’s something I definitely want to revisit in a post-COVID world.
As you likely know if you follow me on Instagram, we were traveling from Texas across the south. We stopped in Hattiesburg, MS, Laurel, MS, spent the night in Birmingham, AL, stopped in Chattanooga, TN, spent the night in Asheville, NC, stopped in Roanoke, VA, and then made our way home to DC.
And, with that Southern route, y’all had questions. For those of us in our East Coast bubble, we’ve heard horror stories about the coronavirus situation in the south. I was terrified to trek down there. But, I was pleasantly surprised almost everywhere. Maybe things were different earlier this spring and summer, but people across the south seemed to be masked and social distancing now. Perhaps they were scared into submission, but I’ll take it.
Asheville, NC, though, needs to get it together! This is where we saw, hands down, the worst mask usage. There were multiple times where we had a non-mask wearing group congregating in front of us and then tried to cross the street only to find more people not wearing masks.
We spent two nights in hotels, both of which we booked with Chase points (I mean, what else are we using them for right now?!). Since we wouldn’t be spending much time in the hotels themselves, we went for modern, but not necessarily super luxe options: Indigo by IHG and Curio by Hilton. Both hotels were operating under an abundance of caution. That’s been the #1 question I’ve gotten: how were hotels?! Look, we’ve stayed in a bed and breakfast since this pandemic started and had an amazing experience, so I wasn’t too concerned when it came to our stay. But, if you are concerned, rest assured, hotels are doing their best.
Both hotels had closed down their restaurants for in-person dining, their front-desk staff was working behind plastic barriers, elevators were limited to a certain number of people (though we never shared one), and housekeeping is only upon request. We even saw over the top precautions like a key card being handed to us in a UV box or a sticker on the door proving no one had been in since it was disinfected. They want people to feel safe and to stay safe and that was incredibly clear in every action they took.
When it came to stopping on the road, we did feel comfortable eating outside at restaurants, which is not something we’ve done in DC. When we sat down at a beer garden in Birmingham while we waited for our take-out dinner, we were so thankful to be somewhere where there’s enough room to have outdoor tables 20-ish feet apart. That’s not something that’s possible in a big city and I wish it was. Also, granted we stopped at fairly hip places, all restaurants seemed to be requiring masks and utilizing technology: QR code menus, contactless payment, etc. Seriously, QR codes are the winners of the pandemic.
We stopped for gas, restroom breaks, etc. along the way and I always saw everyone in masks. Yes, even in rural Texas, masks were required. Rest stops in Virginia and North Carolina, however, were a different story. I expected better from my fellow mid-Atlantic dwellers, but it was no masks, no way. Note: I’ve heard that the Northeast is the opposite! Gas stations unmasked and rest stops masked. Go figure.
Tips to Travel Safely By Car Right Now
So, with my rambling experience in mind, whether you’re hopping in the car for a quick drive or going on a cross-country adventure, here are a few of the things I’d keep in mind to travel safely on a road trip during a pandemic:
- Wear your mask. This should go without say, road tripping or not.
- Bring your hand sanitizer. Yes, you should always wash your hands after using a public restroom, but it doesn’t hurt to give yourself an extra douse of sanitation. Plus, it comes in handy anytime you get gas or pick up food.
- On that note, bring along disinfectant wipes. It’s never a bad idea to give any surface a quick wipe, from a door handle to a table.
- Have plenty of snacks and water. We didn’t want to chance it by stopping more than necessary, so we had both snacks and water in the car to limit our stops to only those intentionally planned places.
- Plot out your stops ahead of time. This probably goes for any road trip, but it definitely put us at ease to know where we were stopping and look into precautions beforehand. If a restaurant didn’t have outdoor dining, we weren’t going.
- Look at a hotel or Airbnb’s safety policies online. If they’re not listed online, don’t hesitate to give them a call to walk through it.
- If you don’t see masks, don’t go in. Pull up to a gas station and no one is wearing masks? There will be another. Don’t risk it.
- Quarantine after returning. Many states have quarantine restrictions put in place but, regardless, just use common sense: keep an eye on how you’re feeling, don’t go hang out inside with a big group, and get tested a week or so after you return.
Lastly, remember to relax just a bit! Don’t relax your precautions but, remember, you can still live your life and have a little fun, as long as you’re safe about it.