By Patricia Doherty
June 19, 2020
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Road trips are on the agenda for many vacationers this summer, even those who usually hop on a plane to faraway destinations. According to a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association in partnership with MMGY Travel Intelligence, 68 percent of travelers “continue to feel safest when traveling by personal vehicle and when visiting outdoor destinations such as parks (34 percent) and the beach (26 percent).” Nearly half (45 percent) of the respondents said they are likely to travel more by car.

Traveling with family and friends limits contact with others, and those travel companions are likely to be the same individuals you’ve quarantined with over the past few months. If any of your passengers have had outside contact, however, it may be advisable to wear masks inside the vehicle. As an aside, experts caution against wearing a mask when driving alone because of a potential reduction in oxygen and possible lightheadedness.

In the era of coronavirus, avoiding public transportation, crowded waiting areas, and strangers is considered a safer way to go. For overnight stops, plan ahead, so you can choose a property by price as well as by published cleanliness standards. Hotels listed on AAA's guide offer clean, comfortable stays.

Gas Prices Are at Record Lows

Low gas prices are another benefit of this year’s road trips, with per gallon averages just under $2, the lowest it’s been in the last five years. An app like GasBuddy helps road trippers with fuel prices, routes, and budget planning. Overall travel costs can be managed more easily on a driving trip, too. For example, a well-stocked cooler will help you save a significant amount on purchasing water, soft drinks, snacks, and meals.

When it’s time for to stop for a meal and some rest, a full-service roadside complex will be welcome. With a presence in 45 states, Cracker Barrel is a favorite for its food and homey atmosphere. Their published COVID-19 guidelines and cleaning practices make it a good option as well. Pilot Flying J also details their safety measures and offers fuel, food, showers, and truck stop services.

Get Your Car Ready for the Road

The Auto Club published a helpful checklist as a reminder to make sure your vehicle is as ready for your road trip as you are. It’s especially important this year, as availability of service might be limited, and fewer outside contacts are desirable. A good cleaning before you leave is advised as well. The CDC offers suggestions on how to sanitize your home, many of which are applicable to cars, too.

Credit: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Consider Renting a Luxe Ride or Rugged SUV

Your own vehicle might not be the best option for a long road trip, whether it’s because of its size or reliability. So why not rent one that’s bigger and more fun to drive? Picture a cute convertible for rolling down Highway One or a sturdy SUV for tackling mountain roads. Many newer models include Wi-Fi, satellite radio, navigation, wireless phone charging, and safety features like lane-keeping assistance, emergency braking, and blind-spot warnings.

Or, you can opt for a sleek luxury car for a smooth, stylish ride. Silvercar by Audi offers a range of vehicles, and their Contactless Rental services provide a safe experience before you even get on the road. It’s a “touchless way to book, locate, and unlock Silvercar rentals,” using a mobile app to minimize interaction with others. And thanks to the Delivery to You service, available at 20 Silvercar by Audi offices, your rental car will be brought to you and then retrieved from your preferred location. Silvercar is committed to following the highest standards of cleanliness, detailed in their 19-step vehicle cleaning process.

No matter the rental company you decide to work with, be sure to review their cleanliness policies, along with pickup, return, and pricing. Enterprise posts its cleaning procedures, as an example. Medical experts tell us that most COVID-19 transmission occurs through respiratory contact rather than contact with surfaces, but you still might want to wipe down the steering wheel, door handles, and other touchpoints with disinfectant wipes.

For budget planning, check with Offers.com for current deals, and look for specials, discounts, and low daily rates.

Credit: Getty Images

Make a List, Check it Twice

No matter what you’ll be driving, prepare a list of items that you’ll need and want along the way. Stock the cooler and double check before you go. Global Rescue’s medical operations supervisor has compiled some suggestions for a travel kit, including masks for everyone plus a few extras, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, isopropyl alcohol wipes for phones, travel laundry detergent to wash fabric masks, and a thermometer. Tips from AAA on auto emergency kits include an extra cell phone charger, first-aid kit, a blanket, flashlight, basic tools, jumper cables, and gloves.

Part of the fun of a road trip is the planning, so get out your maps, guidebooks, magazines, and decide on your route and destination. Know your roads, highways, and freeways to avoid detours and unexpected closures. Your local AAA can provide up-to-date road information and directions. Although it’s sometimes fun to meander without a specific plan, right now, it’s safest to stick with your planned route.

This year is a bit different from others as far as travel, so take extra care in checking on local guidelines for lodging and restaurants. Happy trails!