red car at beach packed with luggage and beach paraphernalia

6 Tips for Safe Road Trips

What's Old Is New Again in Car Travel

COVID-19’s shelter-in-place orders put the brakes on most travel in spring 2020, but as states start to reopen, what is travel likely to look like? There’s no doubt trips will be reduced, but ongoing cabin fever coupled with late-breaking warm weather will drive people to shore and beach locations, just in different ways. If you’re inclined to have a summer vacation in 2020, here are some tips for staying safe and planning a new old-fashioned vacation experience by car.

1. Go Back in Time. Modern day travelers would be considered extravagant by earlier generation standards from constant restaurant eating to short haul domestic flights. One way to approach a vacation in the time of COVID is to go back a generation and consider more modest travel means from picnic roadside meals to road trips instead of plane, train, and bus tours. In today’s environment, a car is your personal bubble where you can limit exposure to your travel companions.


2.  Don’t Let Lightning Strike.  During severe thunder storms, staying in a car can be a safe haven. According to the National Weather Service, if you hear thunder or see lightning, move to safe shelter defined among other places as a “metal-topped vehicle with windows up.” In these times, it’s can be helpful to consider COVID as a never-ending lightning storm. If you aren’t staying sheltered in place then stay sheltered in your space – ideally a car, truck or RV. Although part of the joy of traveling is getting out to see the sights, the new rule of thumb is to stay in your vehicle as much as possible while seeing sights out of the windshield.

3. Channel The Lone Ranger. When you are out on the open road you never know whom you’ll encounter. For your own sake, but also for the comfort of those you meet along the way, wear a mask. Masks are required, for instance, to board the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. They are mandatory as the crews and other passengers don’t feel safe seeing strangers on board without them. Who is that Masked Man? In these times, it should be all of us not just the Lone Ranger, . Like the Lone Ranger's mask, consider yours a new symbol of good – good hygiene and polite protocols for being in public. Even if you don’t feel it’s necessary for you, it helps others feel safer around you. Added tip: Have two masks or a bandana or scarf always on hand. If a flmsy ear string breaks, or your mask rips, you have backup.


4. We’re All in The Wild West.  Things that may have been acceptable in your home or on the road last year, may not be ok today including hugging people when you arrive somewhere; being up close, personal and friendly to people you meet on the road (they likely want you to keep your distance); or crowding to get closer to the front of a line. Even if spacing lines aren’t visible in all places you might visit, keep your distance from the people in front of you as you approach ticket counters, concierge desks, or other travel assistance services.

5. Assume Closed Quarters. Americans are used to many services being open at all hours. As you travel, assume that many facilities are either still closed, working on reduced hours, or require reservations. Several RVers, for instance, have been caught off guard with closed camp grounds or fewer camping services as they traveled around the country. Many hospitality services have had to cut staff and are trying to provide service with reduced resources while protecting their own employees from too many public interactions and exposure.


6. Don’t Travel Light.  Traveling light has become a badge of honor for many passengers particularly in the era of airline travel and baggage fees. However, the beauty of car travel is the ability to fill the trunk, glove compartment, and open seats with provisions for all types of circumstances. With many stores having limited supplies, it’s advisable to not only travel with your own food, but paper supplies and other necessities. 

New necessities can include freshly stocked first aid kits for the car; coolers for medications, baby milk and other perishable items; and electric beverage warmers that can run off of car attachments. Stocking up means being prepared in times when services we took for granted may no longer be easily accessible. These are new times, and as we all head into a yet-unknown new normal, it’s worth considering how to change travel protocols at least in the near term.  Although part of the allure of the open road has always been the serendipity of the experience, planning ahead is a good new protocol to make sure you’re not caught off guard, can stay as safe as possible in any situation, and don’t need to rely on already stretched emergency services throughout the country.

BONUS TIP:  Make use of any resources to alleviate road fatigue. That includes napping at rest stops, and using drive-on services such as the Cape May-Lewes Ferry that allow you to relax and move forward in your vehicle while not having to do all the driving!