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Safe Travels: The New Road Trip Vacation
By Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life
If you’re like many people with a strong wanderlust, 2020 has been a rough travel year (or, not-travel year). Chances are, you had at least one — if not several — trips planned before the pandemic hit. But with travel bans, quarantine restrictions, canceled flights, and social distancing requirements, this year has been tough for those of us who live to travel.
Because air travel has taken such a brutal hit, many airlines have responded by taking precautions and offering a degree of flexibility. But even if you’re comfortable flying, it’s hard to make plans when airlines always seem to be canceling and consolidating their flights.
The good news is, road trips are more enticing than ever. You have complete control over your travel schedule, you can safely social distance, and you have the flexibility you need.
Prepare to leave home
For many of us, home has been a safe haven for about six months now. You’ve probably gotten very cozy (and perhaps did many home improvement projects) and may feel a little anxious about leaving for more than brief periods of time. It’s natural to feel this way, even if that feeling conflicts with your desire to travel.
Start by giving yourself some peace of mind; invest in a home warranty to cover any repairs and supplement your homeowners’ insurance. This way, if something does go wrong while you’re away, and you return to an HVAC or plumbing issue, you won’t have to worry about the cost of repairs on top of the travel expenses you just incurred.
Plan your route
While it’s fun to “wing it” and let the road lead the way, this isn’t the best plan during a pandemic. You don’t know what will be open, closed, or at capacity, so, you’ll want to have a game plan — and contingency plans — in place well before you leave.
Plan and book your accommodations, research restaurants with outdoor patios, and know where gas stations and rest stops are along the way (sanitized porta-potties are an option, too). The more research you do ahead of time, the less contact with others you’ll have. Then you can relax, knowing you’ll have places to stay and eat.
Set a viable distance
Road-tripping during a pandemic isn’t the same as the cross-country epics you may remember from childhood. While you can still head out on a long road trip, most people are taking shorter ones in 2020. Shorter trips pose fewer risks; you can avoid “hot spots” in different states (or countries) by staying closer to home.
During a pandemic, the last thing you need is to have your car break down or a member of your travel party get ill. Shorter trips make it much either to deal with such unforeseen difficulties.
Look for discounts and specials
Tourism is struggling, and many businesses are hurting while consumers struggle through furloughs and layoffs. In response, many companies are offering discounted rates to entice travelers to visit or use their services. It helps keep them in business and reassures consumers who are anxious about parting with their money during times of economic uncertainty.
Pack your essentials
These days, you don’t want to simply toss your clothes, toiletries, and other items into a bag and hit the road. You want to plan every detail. Every necessary item you forget to bring can mean additional contact with others who may have been exposed to the virus. Here are some steps to take to get prepared.
- Stock up on essentials before you go, such as food, water, nonperishable food staples, favorite snacks, and a variety of beverages.
- Pack toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, toiletries, laundry detergent, plastic bags, and similar supplies.
- Include a first-aid kit stocked with the basics, so you can attend to minor injuries that don’t require professional medical attention.
- Assemble a “COVID kit” in a sealable plastic bin with disposable gloves, disinfecting wipes, rubbing alcohol, small and large resealable plastic bags, hand soap, and hand sanitizer.
You’ll also want to bring along face masks or coverings. Depending on the climate you’re in, you might want to bring both disposable and cloth options. Make sure you have a variety to choose from so you stay comfortable (and don’t run out).
Look for adventure
Don’t let all this extra planning put a damper on your fun. Once you get the basics of your trip ironed out, look for ways to make it exciting. The pandemic may have changed the vacation landscape, but in the process, it’s also created opportunities to seek adventure in places we might never have considered.
If you’re following the experts’ advice to “seek the path less taken,” you might be trying something completely new with little to no experience. And, if you’re heading off-road, you might encounter some rough terrain.
Perhaps four-wheeling is your choice for entertainment (a stick shift often makes for a better experience), or ATV riding for a different type of thrill. It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you get some well-deserved relief from a very rough year.
After you’ve thought of everything, prioritized safety, and planned for anything unexpected, hit the road and enjoy your trip. Make some memories you can reflect on until you can get back to your routine travels. You never know: The road might open your mind to all sorts of future travel adventures.