How to Safely Take a Road Trip While Social Distancing

What is the safest way for you to make a road trip while social distancing? The dangerous life that the coronavirus pandemic has caused has obviously set traveling on the back burner this summer for almost everyone, including you. 

For many weeks now, you’ve probably been willingly or unwillingly locked up in your house with nowhere to go, right? You may have been going crazy from several weeks of social distancing and doing the same thing over and over at home. So, you’re bored stiff, like everyone else.

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By now, you’re probably wondering when you’ll finally be able to safely leave your home to go to the gym or to the park. When will you be able to safely hop on a plane again and take a flight to your next vacation destination?

Nobody knows!

Thinking of taking a road trip
Thinking of taking a road trip?

Right now, hopes are very slim. Everything looks grim because the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic is not getting any better than when it first started.  

Everyone seems helpless! 

The days when you could get up in the morning, hop in your car and go anywhere you wanted to seem like they’re now in the distant past. From the information that we have today, there’s no end in sight yet to this nightmarish COVID-19 pandemic that’s been going on.

Staying busy at home

If you’re staying at home, and you can’t work because of the pandemic, there are many ways to keep yourself busy without getting bored or depressed. Check out my article on How to stay busy during social distancing and discover many ways that you can keep yourself engaged and entertained during social distancing.

This is especially important if you’re usually a sociable and outgoing person. For someone like me who’s an introverted person, I’m not really bothered about being stuck at home. Moreover, I still go out to work as a nurse four to five days a week. 

If you absolutely have to leave home

Whether it’s advisable or not, you may have decided to take a drive or a road trip. You just want to leave your house and go somewhere, anywhere! You can’t take being stuck at home anymore, and you want out.

You’re probably looking for something different from the monotony of staying indoors day in and day out. The problem is, what is the safest option for a road trip that you can make at this time?  

Well, you’re not alone. 

Just like you, many other people have also decided to get a breath of fresh air and take to the roads. A road trip is a perfect answer to your boredom. 

At this time, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that people should restrict car travel to essential trips only. However, you may have already decided to skirt the rules a little and travel somewhere by road.  

Time for a road trip

If you’re planning to travel, there are precautions you should take to make your trip safe. For safety reasons, it may not be advisable for you to travel by air at this time, even if the airports have reopened. Your safest travel option is to take a road trip by car.

Time for a road trip
Time for a road trip of fun

If you’ve decided to go on a road trip, you’ll need to sit down and do some brainstorming on how to plan your trip. You must take into account mandatory safety measures that are in place while you’re on the road.  

Personally, I’m planning to travel to Maryland by road as soon as I can take time off work. My research showed that it will probably take me about three days to get to my destination, my twin sister’s. 

I have just completed personal research of my own that will help me on my intended trip. It’s a little eerie for me because I’ll be traveling alone for the first time. 

However, I need to see my sister, so I’m gonna go. I’m sharing these small tips so you’ll be on your way too. You should be able to safely take a road trip while social distancing by applying the following tips:

Plan a short trip

Plan to make it a short trip. Staying away from home can multiply your risk factors for coronavirus. Longer travel distances will mean more stops on the way. 

More stops mean more contact with other people or objects that may pose a risk for you. For safety and security, try to avoid long distance traveling at this time.

Traveling with friends?

If you’re traveling solo,  you should formulate the right traveling strategy to suit your personal circumstances. However, if you’re traveling with friends, it is safer to travel in small groups. This will help you to avoid the high risk of exposure. 

road trip with friends
Take necessary precautions when taking a road trip with friends

If you’re traveling with friends in your car, limit the number of people you travel with. Make sure that not too many people are fitted into one car. The more there are of people traveling, the higher the risk of any of you contracting the virus. 

 In the days and weeks before your intended road trip, try to stay in constant touch with those you’re going to travel with to make sure that everyone is well, and not sick. This is a must-do.

When you take these precautionary measures, you’ll minimize your exposure to risks and maintain safety measures. 

Plan ahead

After you decide where you’re going, you need to plan your road trip ahead of time. Plan your route and how you’ll get there. If possible, use detailed maps to find out where hotels, gas stations, and rest places are located.

Plan your road trip
Plan your road trip ahead of time

Prepare an itinerary about what you will do once you arrive at your destination. There are some states in the US that are reopening at this time, some are not. 

Make sure that you have enough information and factor those into the choices you make. Keep track of what’s currently happening at your destination location and what’s likely to be happening on your arrival date. 

You can find information from the CDC website or a number of other resourceful sites that provide details about Covid-19 outbreaks, hot spots, opened tourist destinations, and more. You should also listen to the news to update the information you have. 

Plan on all the things that you need, including a lot of hand sanitizer. Try to keep your vacation limited to within the boundaries of the states that you know you can travel to. This is because there are some restrictions on domestic traveling.  

Choose a destination that’s not overpopulated

If you are determined to travel, do so with safety primarily on your mind. If you decide to visit outdoor places at your chosen destination, make sure that there are wide-open spaces and an adequate air ventilation system. 

In many states, outdoor recreational activities like hiking trails have reopened. Make sure that the location you intend to go to is not swarmed with people. 

Before traveling and booking your hotel and other places you’d like to visit, do your research. Find out the COVID-19 infection rate for the state or city you’re planning to visit. 

You should plan to avoid places like parks or popular beaches. Rather, you should choose lesser-known destinations. It will be easier to maintain social distancing at such places.

Have a backup plan

You should have a Plan B backup plan just in case your go-to spot is crowded or full. If this happens, you should switch over to your backup plan. Always have a backup plan before you leave home. 

Having a backup plan will make your traveling smoother and less stressful just in case your original plan fails to go through. Your backup plan may include anything from outdoor camping to renting a house in the woods or by the beach, or just driving around. 

All those options should be safe for you since you’ll be away from other people. Ultimately, you want to be safe and not risk your life.

Tourist locations on your route

Tough times of the coronavirus pandemic may have adversely affected your ability to choose a more favorable or favorite travel destination. It may also have affected the convenience of exploring scenic locations on your way to your final destination. 

At this time, almost all well-known tourist attractions have either been closed or are void of tourists. Find out good locations that you can safely visit on your way. Remember, do not compromise on your safety.  

Rent a house or beach house, rather than a hotel

Experts advise that it’s better to stay in a house rather than staying in a hotel. Renting a house is a better option because you can clean and sanitize the house when you arrive and have full control thereafter. 

Make sure that you rent a place that ensures an effective cleaning protocol that guarantees the safety of both guests and hosts. Read the ‘cleaning protocol’ of the rental company and make sure you understand and agree with the terms. 

It is also a good idea to take your own safety tools and hygiene kits and supplies so that you can enjoy your time there without worrying about germs. This is because some leasing agents and even some hotels may charge you extra for providing you with additional cleaning supplies. You should, therefore, travel with enough supplies of your own.  

Staying at a hotel?

On my intended trip to Maryland, I will be spending two nights in hotels on my way before I finally arrive at Bowie on the third day of my trip. I’m glad that I’m traveling solo, so I don’t have to worry about anyone else but myself.

If your final destination is a long way away, you will likely find the need to have rest stops. If you decide to stay in a hotel, you should consider telling the hotel staff that you’ll pass on housekeeping services. 

Housekeeping Services
Opt out of housekeeping services

Turn down the housekeeping services so that you can clean your room yourself if you need to. Since you’ll probably be spending only a night or two at the hotel, you may not need to clean it at all until you check out. You don’t want any strangers coming into your hotel room while you’re in there.

Also, in the hotels, there are too many elevator buttons. There are also many people coming in and out of the hotel rooms for services and general housekeeping activities. 

Remember to wash your hands frequently if you’re using elevators. Consider using an object or wearing a glove to push the elevator buttons. 

Try to avoid indoor hotel bars and restaurants. Instead, choose outdoor hotel bars and restaurants where visitors are less frequent. 

You can get infected with coronavirus by touching your face. It is therefore advisable to use extreme good hand hygiene practices wherever you go while you’re staying at the hotel. Have a small bottle of hand sanitizer on your person everywhere you go.

Check cancellation policies and look for good deals

You should look for hotels, lodges, cabins, and other types of rental properties that offer risk- free booking. That way, if you cancel your trip due to the pandemic or any other reason, your money will be refunded (fully or partly at least). 

Many hotels have flexible cancellation policies. If you choose to book your hotel online and you receive your contract via email, read the entire contract before you sign it. 

Read between the lines. Read all the hidden terms and conditions to avoid any future surprises and chaos. Search around various hotels in the different places where you plan to make rest stops so you can see what’s being offered in each one. 

Be flexible and remain positive

Try to be positive and open-minded because you never know whether you’ll be able to travel according to your plans or not. Remember, you want to make your trip fun because you were looking forward to it. Don’t let little hiccups ruin your motivation to have fun and enjoy your trip.


Stay positive on your road trip
Be flexible and stay positive

If your plan doesn’t work out well, you shouldn’t panic. Keep a safety net and think positively about the idea that at least you tried to travel and you’ll try again later when it’s okay to do so.

You should remember that in the COVID-19 world of today, nothing is guaranteed and the outlook of things might seem grim at times. What is more important is that you prepare yourself to get back to normal life as soon as humanly possible, whenever that will be.

There’s a famous saying, ‘the more you try, the more you develop’. If your initial plans don’t pan out and challenges occur, think about reworking your plan, reboot your momentum to overcome the challenges, and succeed. 

Even if it doesn’t seem to happen now, things will likely fall into place in no time, and you’ll be able to make your trip. After all, trying out is better than doing nothing.

Driving versus flying

Are you undecided about whether to drive or fly to your destination? I hope not. I will not get on a plane to fly anywhere at this time, and I don’t think you should, either. 

At least, not yet. The safest option for traveling at this time is certainly by driving in your own vehicle. 

It's time for a fun road trip
It’s time for a fun road trip

Consider the current state of the coronavirus pandemic. Traveling by air is much riskier than traveling by car, especially if you’re traveling as a family. 

Airplanes have enclosed spacing that brings you in proximity to strangers. Also, traveling abroad or internationally is much riskier this summer than using domestic flights. 

You should avoid any international travel for the next couple of months. Traveling to another country means longer flights and more risk. If you have the option to forget about traveling by air at this time, you should consider doing so. 

Tips before you leave on your road trip:

  • Don’t forget any medications you normally take, especially prescription medicines.
  • Consult your physician and have a proper update about your health condition.
  • If you have a weak bladder, remember to take enough personal hygiene items for the trip.
  • Develop an exit plan for yourself in case you fall sick while you’re away from home. Keep a tab on nearby hospitals and clinics. Bear in mind that many hospital emergency rooms may not be able to take you in if you fall sick on your way. 
  • Take with you all the needed essential supplies and antimicrobial products.
  • Have your car serviced, tires checked and fluids topped off. Make sure your wipers are in good condition. If they’re not, consider putting new ones. It’s important that you know how to change a tire before you set out on your road trip. You can even get a book from Amazon that will teach you how to change a tire.
Changing a tire during a road trip
You should be able to change your tire during your road trip
  • Make sure your vehicle inspection and registration have not expired and will not expire soon, while you’re on your trip. 
  • There should be no underlying issues with your vehicle that could cause a breakdown during your trip. 
  • The car’s battery and  engine should be screened and certified okay at your car shop. 

Always wear a mask – don’t pull it downwards, then back on

Whether you’re traveling by car or by plane, don’t forget to always wear a mask when you’re not alone. Buy packs of disposable masks for ease of use and disposal. 

Wear a mask during your road trip
Always wear a mask during your road trip

When you want to eat or drink, remove your mask completely. Do not slide the mask downward on your face over your chin and neck, and then slide it back up. 

By sliding your mask downward on your face, your mask slides over your chin and neck, the parts which have not been protected by your mask. 

By sliding the mask back up over your mouth and nose, you stand the risk of introducing germs and anything else that was sitting on your chin and neck to your mouth and nose. That’s very unsafe practice when wearing face masks for safety.

Food and drinks

If possible, take your own food and drinks. Put your drinks in a cooler to keep them cold. If you’re stopping somewhere to eat, use a drive-through rather than going into restaurants or fast food places.

If there’s no drive-through and you have to go inside, avoid sitting next to anyone. Maintain a reasonable distance between you and others in the cafe.

Drive thru
For food on your road trip, use a drive thru

Try to visit those restaurants and bars that have limited seating. The safest option is to take your own food and drinks in your car.

Make sure you have a good` supply of napkins, disposable plastic cutlery, plates, and cups in your car. Heck, you may ever take a portable grill if you can, for the additional fun of warming or cooking your food. 

If you want to add some interesting twists to your outdoors, you can make your trip a mini DIY by cooking most of your food yourself and eating less of outside food.

Using the restroom on your way

If you have to use a restroom, find fast food places or restaurants with clean public restrooms. If possible, buy disposable toilet seat covers before you travel. It’s a good idea to always have toilet seat covers on you if you use restrooms in public places. I use them even when I’m visiting my friends!

using a public restroom on your road trip
Exercise caution when using public restrooms during your road trip

If you feel like it, wear disposable gloves when opening restroom doors whenever you have to use public restrooms. Per the CDC guidelines, remember to always wash your hands for 20 seconds every time you use the restroom. 

Rest stops

If you are traveling by road with young, restless kid/s you’ll need to take occasional breaks on your trip. Also, if your trip is a long one, you need to make rest stops. 

You may need to stay overnight somewhere on your route. This will ensure that you don’t drive when you’re very tired, sleepy, or worn out. 

Plan ahead of time how many hours of driving you will make each day before you take a final break for the day. You’ll need to rest your body in preparation for the next day. 

Make a reservation ahead of time and make sure the hotel or motel where you’ve booked is in a safe neighborhood.

Overnight rest stop during your road trip
Make hotel reservations in time for your road trip

Knowing the total miles to your final destination and how long you’ll drive each day will help you determine the location of your rest stops. With this information, you can book your hotels ahead of time. 

Helpful Tips

  • Remember to take your car phone charger
  • Don’t forget to take your own sanitizer
  • Have tubs of sanitizing wipes for wiping surfaces
  • Avoid touching your faces, and coming in contact with the people who are ill. 
  • Take your own toilet paper and soap
  • You’ll need disposable paper towels to turn off the faucet and wipe dry your hands. 
  • If you’re traveling with small children, keep a close eye on them so that they don’t touch anything or any surfaces. To keep them busy in between rest stops, have them work on coloring books or other fun activities. Do not forget crayons or colored pencils. How can I forget how a few years ago I’d traveled with my young son on a five-hour journey. I was very excited because I’d taken along a new coloring book I ordered from Amazon for the trip. However, I’d forgotten to buy colored pencils. It’s hilarious now, it wasn’t then! There’s nothing more frustrating than being distracted on a long road trip by an unhappy child who’s whining and crying because they have a coloring book and no crayons or colored pencils.
  • If possible take with you a potty training chair in the trunk of your car if you’re traveling with a toddler. Amazon has a Go Potty for travel which you can purchase for less than $20. Do not forget fun activity toys to keep your toddler engaged and busy also.
  • It will be great if you’ll take with you a first aid emergency kit for medical emergencies like scratches and bruises. 
  • If you’re a music lover like I am, gather a good collection of your favorite CDs or music collection of your choice. I love to jam my favorite music collections whenever I travel. This makes time fly by.

Have fun, play safe

Remember that your road trip is supposed to be fun. The best way to enjoy your trip without stressing yourself is to have the safest trip possible. 

Road trip and fun
Have fun on your road trip

Let friends and family members know where you’re going and the route you intend to take. Keep them updated on where you’re spending each night so they can check on you to make sure you checked in and out without hitches.

Try not to engage in risky behavior, and do not put yourself and your community in danger. Practice social distancing, wash your hands, wear your masks.

For your own security, don’t post real-time pictures of yourself and your location on social media. If you must do that, wait until after your trip.

Check the news frequently to keep yourself abreast of updates regarding the COVID-19 and the weather. Keep your phone fully charged and keep family and friends informed about where you are at various time during the day.  

Your takeaway

You don’t have to be an expert in the novel coronavirus pandemic. However, being well informed is very vital before you go on your road trip. The idea is to go on this road trip and have fun doing so if you observe safe practices.

Gather as much information as possible and equip yourself with enough knowledge about the recommended guidelines regarding COVID-19. It is advisable to know all that’s available to keep you safe during your road trip. 

 Before you travel, check the CDC website and other responsible sites that will help you to learn about how to protect yourself and what to do if you get sick while on your road trip. Keep yourself informed of any updated disease control and prevention methods. 

Know the COVID-19 symptoms and how to self check yourself for symptoms during your road trip. You should make plans on what to do if you get sick while on your road trip. 

When you’re well informed, you’ll have a good idea of when you can safely take your road trip while social distancing. 

Enjoy your road trip!

21 thoughts on “How to Safely Take a Road Trip While Social Distancing

  1. Thanks for this, I had never even thought about disposable teat seat covers. I’m not sure why.
    I found this post really useful, I agree with you, I won’t be going on a plane any time soon.

  2. Yes, I always see people with their masks around their necks – after a while, they pull it back on, up over their mouths and noses.
    That’s not a safe practice.

  3. Yes, the cancellation policies are definitely important now more than ever before.
    Thanks, I’m glad you found the tips useful.

  4. Hi Ana,

    great article! I guess this is now the new ‘norm’ for roadtrippin’!

  5. A road trip is the only holiday we are considering this year. I agree that you need to take a number of precautions as those mentioned here, but it’s better than flying!

  6. Thanks for these tips…very useful information. I need to stop pulling my mask downwards and then back on!!!!

  7. I found this a useful list, and I’m not even planning a road trip right now. A lot of these apply just for doing errands in town.

  8. A rental home is about the best option at this time.
    Thanks for your feedback, I’m glad you found some value in the post.

  9. These tips are great and we followed a few. We leave in a week for to stay in rental home in a less populated place only a 3 hours drive. We cannot wait.

  10. This is the best round up of ideas on how to travel safely right now that I’ve seen. Thanks for compiling this valuable information.

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