10 Road Trip Essentials When Traveling During The Pandemic

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How To Plan A Road Trip & Road Trip Essentials For Traveling During The Pandemic
Self

Many people are itching to hit the road in the months ahead, as traditional summer vacations turn into road trips, short-haul getaways, and staycations. 

While these trips can go a long way in easing people’s minds of their health concerns around traveling in a COVID-19 world, there are a number of steps travelers should take to protect themselves and their families when they venture out.

There are certain road trip essentials to keep in mind when planning a drive on the open road.

An important first step is preparing your space.

Many of us have adapted to a new normal of going out with masks and sanitizing at every turn. Travelers should prepare their cars in advance, ensuring they have enough masks, disinfectant wipes and sanitizer to use at every touch point — gas stations, restrooms, amusement parks and restaurants.

RELATED: 10 Fun Road Trip Games And Other Great Ways To Pass The Time While En Route

Limiting your exposure is more important than ever this year, so stock up on as much as possible before you hit the road.

Recommends Katie Key, president of Escape Campervans, “Shop at your local grocery or convenience store to make sure you have everything you’ll need — such as snacks, drinks, and meals — so you can limit the number of stops you may have to make along the way.”

Of course, masks and hand sanitizer are essential for when you do have to stop at a convenience store, rest area, or restaurant.

Here's how to plan a road trip while staying safe during the pandemic.

1. Bring your own water and toilet paper.

Consider picking up a couple of water jugs with an on/off valve to bring water, and fill them up at home before you leave. “Bring at least three liters per person, per day. Of course, bring more if you plan to clean dishes or have a pet,” says Key.

Also stock up on the essentials, like toilet paper. Having your own toilet paper on hand puts you one step ahead, allowing you to get in and out.

“Carry either a travel sized tissue pack, or even some paper towels will do the trick. Most outdoor restrooms also don’t have hand-washing stations, so carrying your own personal hand sanitizer is a must,” warns Glenn Gallas, vice president of operations for Mr. Rooter Plumbing.

2. Use protective eyewear when leaving the car.

With a recent report suggesting that COVID-19 can linger in an infected patient’s eye fluids at contagious levels, even after 27 days of contamination, it’s especially critical to practice safe eyecare while traveling.

“Since COVID has the ability to spread by aerosol transmission and respiratory droplets, being in the vicinity of an infected person can actually result in transmission through the eyes,” says Dr. Kevin Lee, eye physician and surgeon.

For instance, if someone who has the coronavirus sneezes, the droplets can actually enter through one’s eyes. Adds Dr. Lee, “I recommend wearing glasses — or, in this case, sunglasses for those sunny drives — as a protective barrier or shield from little respiratory droplets.”

3. Stock up on sanitizing products.

A common way for COVID to enter through the eyes is by touching your face or rubbing your eyes after your hands have come into contact with an infected surface. 

“People don’t realize how often they touch their face, so please be cognizant,” warns Dr. Lee. “Avoid rubbing your eyes or touching your face, especially after contact with public surfaces, and be sure to bring sanitizer and sanitize whenever possible.”

This includes surfaces in hotels, or even the steering wheel and gear shift in your car. Wipe down these surfaces with disinfectant wipes whenever possible.

Try these products:

  • PhoneSoap: This is a UV-C light sanitizer that kills 99.99 percent of germs in just 10 minutes. It's portable sanitizer that can clean your phone and other small essentials without being plugged in, and it also acts as a charger via an integrated USB port. 
  • Truly Hand Sanitizer Germ Killin’ Gel: A must-have for road trips, this pure, fresh and reliable sanitizer is made with a 70 percent alcohol and aloe vera blend so your hands stay clean and hydrated.

4. Pack towels and pillows from home.

COVID can also be transmitted by the use of shared face towels and pillow covers. So, advises Dr. Lee, “If you’re staying in a hotel, avoid using bathroom hand towels on your face. This is also true for shared pillow covers in common spaces, the family living room, and so on.”

Dr. Lee suggests traveling with your own pillowcases and towels in a clean bag to ensure there's no cross-contamination in any hotels you stay at. Remember not to share your own towels with family or friends!

RELATED: 10 Unforgettable Summer Road Trip Travel Destinations For Families

5. Be sure to bring wellness and first aid kits.

Safety is as important as ever. No one wants to end up in an ER or Urgent Care, sharing a waiting room with a virus carrier.

To help with this, Key recommends, “Whether you’re planning on doing any camping, hiking, or just sightseeing along the way, it’s better to be prepared with an emergency first aid kit just in case.” Better safe than sorry, right?

Try these products:

6. Pack plenty of snacks.

Registered dietitian and General Manager of Verywell, Rachel Berman, has some healthy and nutritious snack ideas that will provide nourishing sustenance and last in a long car ride.

As more and more of us are choosing the road trip route vs. an airplane, these car rides can get pretty long. Not wanting to stop and risk exposure, Berman recommends packing snacks since it’s not always the smartest to snack on chips and cookies for hours on end.

These include:

  • HIPPEAS Organic Chickpea Snacks: A healthy spin on a classic favorite, this is a healthy legume baked into a light and crunchy chip.
  • Blüm Toasty Almonds: These almonds stay fresher for longer, making them easily portable with no mess to clean up.
  • Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP Popcorn: No microwave required for this popcorn! It's made with guilt-free ingredients that are delicious on the go.
  • BIGS Sunflower Seeds: These jumbo seeds come in a variety of delicious flavors. No matter your preference, they are ideal for road trip snacking.
  • Precidio Snack Box: Where are you going to store all your snacks? This box is great for keeping all your munchies in one place.

Another thing to keep in mind is that taking a road trip in the midst of a pandemic doesn't have to put your health at risk.

“When packing your bags for the road, consider taking along some specific snacks that will keep you energized and support your immune system,” advises Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet.

If you must eat fast food or snacks for convenience, try to integrate a fruit or vegetable into every meal or snack, ideally one high in vitamin C. Zinc also has some impressive potential to increase immunity.

Adds Richards, “Vitamin C is well-known for its connection to citrus fruits, but can also be found in bell peppers, broccoli, and spinach... Foods like wild rice, pumpkin seeds, cashews, beef, and oysters contain a decent percentage of zinc."

7. Get a real map.

This is important for those who are camping or hiking during their trip.

Says Key, “Assume there will not be cell service where you're going, or that the online mapping service will not work. For added peace of mind, take a photo of any trailhead maps you come across while driving.”

Instead of relying on your phone for directions, you can't be a good old-fashioned paper map.

RELATED: How To Protect Yourself From Coronavirus While Flying In 8 Easy Steps

8. Do your research beforehand.

When you hit the open road, it can be tempting to book last minute, or just drop into a restaurant or hotel on your route when you’re ready for a driving break. Instead, “In today’s environment, it is critical that you do your research in advance,” advises Ron Pohl, Senior VP and COO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts

Travelers should map their route ahead of time and make a call to each stop, especially hotels, to ask about their safety and cleaning protocols.

“When calling a hotel, ask about their own cleaning protocols, and ensure they are meeting or exceeding recommendations from key organizations, such as the American Hotel & Lodging Association,” adds Pohl.

9. Stay vigilant.

When you're at an establishment, be on the lookout for evidence that cleaning and safety protocols are being exercised.

Says Pohl, “The best way to protect yourself while on the road is to be aware of your surroundings. Travelers should feel empowered to decide what is best for them and their families when choosing where to eat, sleep and explore on their road trip.”

10. Be mindful when socializing.

If you feel it's safe enough to venture out socially, do so very gradually. Warns Dr. Frank Ong MD, CPI, CCRP, “Don't jump straight into visiting crowded restaurants, bars, or hanging out with large groups of people.”

Instead, choose a select few people to engage with on activities that can be done outdoors or in your home, such as socially distanced picnics, wine nights, bike rides, or hikes. People are now selecting their "quran-team" — a group of friends they trust to hang out with each other, and only each other.

“If you do see your friends, remember: sharing is not caring during a pandemic. Don't share food, drinks, clothes, or cosmetics. Once you're back home, be sure to take a shower and throw your clothes in the washer,” adds Dr. Ong. 

Always ask your "quaran-team" members if they've had symptoms or have had possible exposure before you all decide to meet.

“When meeting, especially when masks come off; remember to stay a safe distance apart, and avoid activities that require close contact,” Dr. Ong adds. “Lastly, keep your voice level down as potential spread of virus in respiratory droplets increases with increasing levels of excitement and voice.”

RELATED: 42 Best Virtual Museum & Travel Tours (And More!) For An Online Getaway During Coronavirus Lockdown

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.

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