During these unprecedented times, we’re doing everything differently, from grocery shopping, working, homeschooling and even roadtripping. Just because you can’t hop on a plane doesn’t mean you can’t embrace the joys of travel. Roadtripping is the great American pastime, and it’s back in style, albeit with a few more COVID-safe precautions.
Below we’ve included a few pandemic road trip essentials to keep you safe while you enjoy the wide open road.
Depending on where you live in the U.S., your state or local government may already require you to wear a face covering when out in public spaces like restaurants, grocery stores, and highway rest areas. The CDC encourages wearing face coverings in public to help curb the spread of COVID-19. A mask is likely to be your most constant road trip companion during pandemic times. Be sure to pack a few extra so you have backups for when one gets dirty or breaks during your travels.
Alcohol-based disinfectant wipes
The CDC recommends sanitizing frequently touched surfaces as often as possible due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. While you’re out on the road, this means you’ll want to clean any surface you touch after getting back in your car to make sure you don’t bring any unwanted viral passengers with you on your journey. Alcohol-based disinfectant wipes are highly effective at minimizing the spread of the virus and easy to store in your car, making them perfect companions for a safe and sanitized trip.
Depending on the length of your journey and where it may take you, it could be a smart idea to have some disposable gloves on hand for specific tasks, like filling up at a gas station or wiping down a rented vacation home. Make sure you bring enough pairs so that you can toss your gloves after each use to avoid cross-contamination.
If there’s anything that can dampen the mood of a road trip, it’s the hefty fine and hassle that comes when you’re caught far from home without your essential documentation. Make sure you’ve got your license, registration and car insurance policy on hand and up-to-date so that you’re prepared in case you get pulled over. And remember to check that your car’s tags aren’t expired or going to expire while you are on the road.
Driving down long and winding roads can keep your head swiveling from side to side to catch all the views. While this is great for your visual stimulation, it can be a literal pain in the neck. When you're not driving, you can be nice and cozy with a travel pillow designed to help you get some shut eye on the go. The ergonomic design supports your neck and spine, which can be sore after a few hours on the road. Check out this list of the best from the NY Times.
Stupid Car Tray
This handy tool is the perfect packable for every road warrior, whether or not your time in the car lasts a few hours or days. The Stupid Car Tray’s innovative and versatile design levels a passenger seat to hold drinks, snacks, card games and more. It includes side hooks that are ideal for hanging a small trash bag - and keeping it from building up under foot. The straps keep your purse or backpack upright and not at risk of spilling the contents. Road trips are much sweeter when the car doesn’t start to feel like an episode of “Hoarders”.
If you want to kick it really old school, there’s no better way to get in the vintage road trip spirit than with an edition of the Rand McNally Road Atlas. The classic guides compile accurate, detailed maps and travel information and are known for being the ultimate road trip accessory. Each one also contains mileage charts, road construction and tourism information, along with a selection of national parks and insightful travel tips. If you are heading somewhere off the beaten path - where the map app on your phone may struggle for a signal - you’ll be excited to have a paper map on hand to help you find your way.
Portable car charger
The last thing any traveler wants is to stare into the deep abyss of a dead phone screen. It’s especially undesirable in a pandemic, when fewer places are open to offer directions or roadside assistance, and staying inside is a top priority for many. Avoid the hassle of a dead phone battery with a portable phone charger that you can plug into your car. If one didn’t come with your current phone, grab one for your model from your favorite online retailer.
You’ve probably already put together your music playlists, but what about a podcast playlist? There are so many good ones out there and a long road trip can be the perfect time to do a “taste testing”. Put together a collection of different topics and styles to see if there is one (or more!) that really speaks to you. If you don’t like it, skip to the next one. It can be a fun way to find your next binge-worthy habit.
DOT sites for rest areas
Many restaurants on the road have take out or drive through, but inevitably, you’ll need to use “the facilities”. So what do you do? Check out the Department of Transportation websites for the states you’ll be traveling through and bookmark the links. Each one will typically post the location, hours and what kinds of resources are available at each facility. If you’ve got the link saved, it can save you a lot of time (and stress) to find a stop when you gotta go. And don’t forget to add a spare roll of TP to your bag - just in case.
Pack your sense of humor
Road trips are supposed to be fun, but things can happen. So pack your patience and sense of humor. That flat tire in the downpour or the argument over who gets to choose the lunch stop will become funny anecdotes with a little distance and time. So don’t sweat it - and have a safe and fun trip.
Ready to pick out your Stupid Car Tray for your next road trip? Find it here.