Summer is coming to an end, but there's still time to sneak in that 2020 getaway you postponed because of COVID-19. Ohio families, like many around the world, put their travel plans on hold this year because of the virus, but with travel restrictions easing in many states, it could be the time for that long weekend trip or overdue vacation.
Can I Still Take Road Trips During COVID-19?
In short, yes. In fact, summer travel has always called for safety measures, but there are some new COVID-19 precautions to add this year. If you’re getting ready to hit the open road, there are some things you’ll need to do to prepare yourself and your car. Before you go:
- Choose your destination carefully. In this unusual year, deciding where to travel takes some extra planning. Keep in mind that the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) advises against traveling to states with a positive COVID-19 rate of 15% or higher. If you visit a state with a high percentage of cases, the ODH recommends that you self-quarantine for 14 days after your trip, so plan accordingly. This site, which is updated weekly, can help you keep track of which states exceed the 15% rate.
- Check your destination's regulations. Different states have different requirements regarding the virus, so if you are traveling through multiple states, be sure to check each state’s regulations. This means a little more homework than usual, but it’s important to avoid surprises on the road. The day before you leave, it’s also a good idea to double-check hotels where you’ve made reservations to make sure nothing has changed that could affect your stay.
- Ask hotels about their policies. Staying safe when you stay overnight requires a few extra steps this summer. Limit contact with hotel staff by using online reservations and check-in, mobile room keys and contactless payment. Also, make sure that the hotel has updated its policies to ensure that frequently touched items (room keys, phones, light switches, elevator buttons, etc.) are being cleaned and disinfected regularly.
- Map your route. If you’ve always taken a casual approach to your road trip stops, you'll want to do things a little differently this year. This is the time to be more diligent in planning your route. Decide which rest areas, gas stations and attractions you want to stop at along the way, then check to make sure they’re open. Some rest areas may not be available, and not all restrooms are open, so have your route and stops planned before you leave — especially if you’re traveling with children.
COVID-19 Safety on the Road
Although traveling by car is one of the safest ways to take a vacation this year, there are still several precautions you should take to make it as safe as possible:
- Bring your own food. Packing your own food is considered the safest option, but if you want to eat at a restaurant, consider using the drive-thru or takeout options.
- Bring snacks and water. In case restaurants and rest stops are closed, you’ll want to have your own beverages and snacks for the road.
- Remember the hand sanitizer. Pack extra hand sanitizer and wipes in case you have difficulty locating it on the road. Use hand sanitizer after using a public restroom, and wipe surfaces like handles and buttons at gas stations before touching them.
- Wear your mask in public, especially if you’re not able to distance yourself from others. Some areas are stricter than others about mask adherence, so make sure that you know and follow the rules.
Safety Behind the Wheel
The COVID-19 precautions don't override the other important checks for road trips. Make sure your car is as ready for the adventure as you are. In fact, it may be worthwhile to have a vehicle safety inspection performed before you leave for a little peace of mind. Having a quick tune-up if one is due is also never a bad idea. Whatever the case may be, there are several things you’ll want to have checked before you pack up the car. Here’s a handy checklist:
- Tires: Your entire trip is literally riding on your tires. First, make sure there’s an appropriate amount of tread, then check for leaks and uneven wear. Make sure you know the correct tire pressure for your vehicle and check it after a long day of driving.
- Air conditioning: There’s never a “good” time for your A/C to go out, but a particularly bad time for that to happen is while you’re on a summer road trip. Have your mechanic check it to avoid a hot, uncomfortable car ride.
- Coolant: In addition to making sure you have enough engine coolant, inspect your vehicle for leaks that could cause problems on the road.
- Battery: Hot temperatures are hard on car batteries, so a quick check of the battery and charging system is a wise investment. If your battery is more than five years old, consider replacing it before you set out on your adventure.
- Oil: Staying current on oil changes means your engine will run more efficiently, something you always want.
- Wiper blades: Did you know that wiper blades need to be replaced every six to 12 months? If it’s been longer than that, invest in a new set of blades before you set out on a long trip.
- Brakes: Even if your brakes appear to be working fine, consider an inspection to make sure your pads and rotors are in good condition. If you haven’t had a brake fluid flush in a while, this could be a good time to have that done.
- Belts and hoses: Extreme temperatures — such as Ohio’s cold winters and hot summers — are hard on belts and hoses. Look for any fraying, stretching or cracking that might spell trouble down the road.
- Suspension: When your front and rear suspension goes, so does your ability to steer. Have it checked before hitting the road.
- Transmission: Flushing and changing out the transmission fluid regularly can help avoid problems like gear grinding, shifting difficulties, and general wear and tear on the inner-workings of your transmission.
Have Some End-of-Summer Fun
If you've heeded this advice, you can breathe easy, knowing that you’ve taken the precautions needed to keep your family safe, both inside and outside of the vehicle. Drive safely — and have a memorable time.