Read Before You Hit the Road This Summer
As pandemic-related travel restrictions ease up and attractions begin to reopen across the Pacific Northwest and the United States, you may be eager to take a leisure or, as we now say, a “nonessential” trip.
You are not alone. Many people have a bit of cabin fever. In a study conducted at the end of this past May, one-third (33 percent) of U.S. consumers said they’d feel safe staying in a hotel for leisure travel within the next three months.
Even just thinking about and planning for your first out-of-town trip in months can be soothing, according to the National Geographic.
But before you go, make sure you are prepared for the new normal of taking a road trip this summer.
Open or Closed?
This is the biggest question. Make sure your destination as well as your planned stops along the way are open to nonessential travel and officially welcoming visitors.
For example, if your destination is in Idaho, remember the state entered the (final) Reopening Stage 4 of the Idaho Rebounds plan on June 12. But that doesn’t mean it is going back to business as usual. There still may be restrictions regarding social distancing and capacity, but most campgrounds, hotels, parks, restaurants and attractions should be open.
If your trip is in Washington state, keep in mind that cities and counties still are in varying stages of meeting phased local and state recovery guidelines in the “Safe Start” plan.
For example, in those counties that have moved to Phase 2, outdoor recreation such as camping is allowed if it involves five people or fewer from outside your household. Museums are open only in counties that reach Phase 3. Check Washington state’s Phases and Risk Assessment map to find out the current status of each county. The AAA COVID-19 Travel Restrictions map is another excellent source for up-to-date information about the status of a city or county across the U.S.
What to Pack
In addition to making sure your car is tuned up and ready for travel, be sure to repeatedly sanitize your car’s high-touch areas such as the steering wheel, seat, dashboard, door handles and buttons during your trip.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a helpful list of “Considerations for Travelers” in the United States during this time of coronavirus. In addition to doing a pre-trip check on the status of coronavirus cases at your destination, CDC recommends washing your hands often, of course, but also bringing along plenty of hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content and wearing face masks in public.
“Please pack enough personal protective supplies for you and your family pod,” advises Andi Day, executive director, Visit Long Beach Peninsula. “Shops may be in short supply of masks and disinfecting wipes.”
Many road trippers are creating “corona kits” with all the above as well as disinfectant wipes, antimicrobial laundry detergent, hand soap and bath amenities, garbage bags, gloves, a thermometer and plenty of tissues.
Although it may not be as big of an issue as it was early on, it also is a good idea to bring along some snacks, water and nonperishable food in case restaurants and stores in the area you’re visiting are closed or operating on reduced hours. If you are planning to camp, bring your campsite supplies, including toilet paper, if possible.
Once on the road, you may find parks, beaches and attractions closed or offering limited access. Bring along extra gear such as telescopes, binoculars, puzzles, books, games and other materials for activities to keep your crew occupied if local attractions are not an option.
With pent-up demand, so many unused vacation days and destinations slowly opening, it may be difficult to get a reservation at a hotel, a home share or a campground on the spot. Hotel booking may be particularly difficult if your trip is around an upcoming holiday, like Fourth of July or Labor Day. So make sure to book ahead. On the other hand, there also may be deals to be found in tourist-starved communities just beginning to reopen.
Beyond hotels, because of physical-distancing rules, which are likely to remain in force for quite some time, restaurants will have limits on how many diners may be seated at one time. Museums, water parks and other attractions also will be limited in the number of guests they can accommodate. To avoid disappointment, make as many reservations as you can ahead of time.
But just before you go, remember to do another round of checking and double-checking of local state websites and visitors bureau in case the situation has changed.
Use AAA Resources
In addition to the AAA COVID-19 Travel Restrictions map, AAA member travel counselors and resources can help you plan ahead for your road trip. “AAA’s member resources such as TourBooks Guides, maps and TripTik Travel Planners can be especially helpful this summer,” says Todd Nemish with AAA Travel.
“A new feature of printed TripTiks is that they include a QR Code to seamlessly scan and open the route on your mobile device,” says Nemish. “And once mobile, the TripTik Travel Planner can send directions to your phone’s map software for voice navigation.”
–Written by Harriet Baskas