Summer Road Trip Safety During COVID-19
A few things to keep in mind when hitting the open road this summer.
Summer is coming, and with that, the need to travel — although it may look a little different this year. The current global COVID-19 pandemic has grounded many flights, forcing vacation goers to rethink their travel plans.
One option to travel, with freedom and flexibility? A good, old-fashioned road trip. Whether you want to drive across Canada or just to the next town over, here is what you should expect (and prepare for) on the roads.
Plan your trip
Heading out on a road trip may seem easy to plan: pick a destination, set the GPS, check your tires, and go! Managing your safety behind the wheel is number one, but with ongoing concerns around COVID-19, there are a few more considerations for your summer getaway.
Depending on your destination (an Eastern Canada road trip, perhaps?), there may be restrictions or quarantine regulations. Research your destination, as well as the route, for any closures or warnings. Check with government sources if you are considering travelling out of the country — tourism is considered non-essential travel, currently making your road trip to the USA a no-go.
If you’re booking accommodations, confirm your reservation with the host or hotel times before you depart, knowing that shifting regulations may close some places unexpectedly, without notice. Inquire about any new practices (such as health screenings) or adjusted services (like closed amenities) to avoid disappointment on arrival.
Be flexible in your planning, and accept that the public health directives change daily. Depending on COVID-19 cases, your travels may have to change or be postponed. Finally, think about what would happen if you, or someone you are travelling with, did fall ill while away. Smaller towns with limited health resources may be greatly impacted by additional tourists with COVID-19. How would you get home, and what would your quarantine look like?
Protect your journey
While roadside diners and gas station coffee may feel like classic road trip stops, COVID-19 has changed the landscape. Know that fast food is most likely only available for take-out, or outdoor eating. Stopping in cute towns along the journey may feel like a boost to tourism, but you may find yourself amongst shuttered stores.
Plan to travel with your personal hygiene toolkit: sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and a mask. This will protect everyone from potential transmission, whether at a restaurant or gas station. Take great care to sanitize often, including items like your debit card or car door handles.
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Choosing to take a rental on your road trip? Know that many car rental companies have increased their sanitization process, and are following social distancing guidelines for pickup and drop off. If you’re planning on taking to the roads in an RV, get in line — rental agencies are reporting a 650% increase in bookings, as families look at self-contained vacation options.
After self-isolating for so long, the idea of staying somewhere else may feel like quite the novelty. Hotels and Airbnb hosts are preparing to accommodate guests and make them feel comfortable even in these changing times. Look for Airbnb hosts to call out their Enhanced Cleaning Initiative on listing pages, and check your hotel booking for an outline of their cleaning practices. Hotel chain guidelines, such as IHG’s Clean Promise, have upped the cleaning ante with hospital-grade disinfectants, contactless options, and reduced use of high-touch items in rooms.
For road trips, both the journey and the destination are important. Plan to hit the interesting, outdoor attractions, knowing that typical tourist attractions —such as museums — may be closed to the public. If areas are still open, be prepared to wait a little longer for entry or access, as enhanced cleaning and screening procedures are still being ironed out.
If you want to dive into your destination’s food scene, check out local restaurant listings to see what’s available. Google has updated its Maps and Business function, highlighting if eateries offer dine-in, takeout or delivery services. You may still be able to order that local dish, but may opt to eat it picnic style at a park or have it delivered to your hotel.
With the regulations imposed in cities, camping may be a natural choice for some, especially those craving outdoor spaces and isolation. While sites and parks are opening, be aware of the hazards common areas may now pose: washrooms, boat ramps, and park general stores, if open at all. The fresh air may seem cleansing, but social distancing is still necessary in the wilderness.
Summer is synonymous with travel, and Canadians love to soak up as much as possible of this short season. As travel restrictions ease, plan your holidays to avoid disappointment, and aim to stay flexible throughout. Vacation responsibly; protect yourself, and others, from COVID-19 transmission throughout your trip. Travel is about embracing the unexpected — you’ll never know what’ll happen until you hit the road.