Travel

Travel is one of the top activities we hope to do often in retirement. However, this summer, travel is looking a lot different. Cruises are definitely out. Even if your international destination is allowing travel, you may have doubts about overseas travel. Most of us – actually, about 98 percent of those surveyed by National Geographic – don’t want to fly commercially, even to a domestic destination.

If you’re considering a road trip instead, that may be a safer way to vacation this summer. Infectious disease expert Joyce Sanchez agrees: “Generally speaking, driving is going to be safer than flying commercially, from an infection standpoint, because you can control how you reach your destination – who is sharing the car with you, what measures are used for disinfecting surfaces, where you stop along the way, and when you return.”

Whether you’re planning a road trip to see friends and family, or just want to get out and sightsee, here are some tips to plan a safe road trip.

Plan Ahead

This is not the summer for spontaneous travel. Plan ahead to reduce the amount of time you spend waiting in hotel lines and at restaurants.

At hotels, you can increase the number of contactless check-ins and payments by booking rooms ahead of time. Many hotel chains are moving away from keys and key cards and adopting “digital keys,” which let you check in and out using your smartphone. This reduces the need to wait in line at the front desk and decreases the chances you’ll need to interact face-to-face with hotel staff. Find out how hotels are responding to the pandemic by checking out their websites before you book. Look for hotels that have installed plexiglass at reception and require staff to wear masks. Find out what other changes they’ve made to their cleaning processes, too. These details show that they’re doing their best to keep their properties clean and safe for customers.

Plan ahead for meals, too. Many major chains and fast food restaurants have apps that let you pay through your phone, instead of handing over your card or paying with cash. Consider packing your own food and snacks when on the road, to minimize the need for restaurant and convenience store stops.

Check for gas station payment apps. Many large companies are encouraging contactless payment for gas, which reduces the surfaces, like card pin pads, that customers have to touch.

Also be sure to prep your body for a long car ride!

Research Your Route

Check hours of operation and available amenities and activities everywhere you’re planning to go. Many parks and attractions have reduced hours and limited activities. Some state parks, for example, are open, but their restrooms and food services may not be. Call ahead or check websites or social media for all attractions you want to visit.

Prepare to Sanitize

Make sure you have the supplies you need to stay safe and clean, including plenty of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes.

You’ll have to fuel up, and gas pumps are one of the most-touched surfaces you’ll come across on your trip. June McKoy, geriatrician and associate professor of medicine at Northwestern Medicine, recommends wearing disposable gloves when pumping gas instead of trying to wipe down the surfaces with wipes. Dispose of the gloves in the trash can near the pumps or seal them in a plastic bag to throw away later.

You’ll probably have to use a public restroom while on the road. Wash your hands thoroughly, and avoid touching the door handle on the way out (use a paper towel, or tote one in with you for restrooms that only have air-dryers). Use hand sanitizer after visiting the restroom.

Keep Your Distance

While sanitizing surfaces and your hands is important, touching objects isn’t the main way people are contracting COVID-19. The CDC tells us that it mostly passes airborne from person to person, so remember to social distance while on vacation. Stay six feet away from others, even at outdoor tourist spots like parks and scenic overlooks. Waiting for crowds to disperse may require extra patience and time, but it’s worth it. Instead of indoor dining, choose take-out or outdoor seating. Pack face masks, also. Many cities and states require everyone to wear a face covering while in public, and even if it’s not required by law, it’s the safe thing to do.