10 road trip safety tips for 2020

woman puts on hand santazier after getting back in the car

A good road trip requires planning and precautions to stay safe, and this is even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. The long days, warm weather, and freer schedules of summer have many people longing for the classic pleasures of cross-country sightseeing, adventuring, and R&R. Staying safe on the journey should be the first and foremost consideration as you plan your next road trip

To help you get ready to strike out for that wide-open horizon, we've compiled 10 tips on road-trip safety, including several specifically geared toward long-distance driving in the coronavirus era. 

family packs for a road trip

1. Pack wisely to minimize stops

Any run to a store, gas station, restaurant, or other public place increases your risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Packing is always key for a road trip, but it's all the more vital these days. Make sure to bring extra non-perishable food, water, medications, basic supplies, and other essentials to minimize the need to stop along your route.

2. Be prepared to disinfect—and wash your hands!

Bring hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and disinfectant wipes to clean doorknobs, faucets, tabletops, gas pump nozzles, and other surfaces. You can use hand sanitizer before and after handling objects others may have touched, but nothing beats washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, so do so whenever possible.

While wearing gloves can be useful when disinfecting spaces, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention considers them less effective as a general hand coverings, such as when shopping. Hand-washing, hand sanitizer, face coverings, and social distancing are more important, according to the CDC.

3. Be careful & considerate when planning your route

Research destinations and stopover towns ahead of time so you can stay away from “hotspots” where the virus is spiking. If you’re traveling from an area with significant COVID-19 levels, consider avoiding communities that aren’t seeing many cases.

Identify any popular or cramped attractions where social distancing may be hard to maintain (even if there are safety measures in place) and visit during less-crowded times or avoid them entirely. This is a great opportunity to discover more off-the-radar wonders instead.

4. Do your homework on overnight accommodations

Contact any hotel, motel, RV resort, campground, or similar lodgings where you'll be staying to find out what COVID-19 safety measures they’re taking. These could include requiring staff to wear face coverings, installing plexiglass shields at check-in counters, and facilitating social distancing with signs, cordoned-off pathways, and the like.

If possible, favor places that minimize contact through measures such as online check-in, contactless payment, and mobile room keys. Remember to sanitize and wash your hands frequently in shared spaces and when checking in to your room or unit.

See how major hotel brands are committing to health and safety

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face mask hangs from car mirror

5. Bring a cloth face covering 

Wear a mask or analogous face covering in public spaces, especially those where 6 feet of physical distance isn't guaranteed, like grocery stores, visitor centers, hotel lobbies, and crowded outdoor attractions. Covering your face is a way you can help protect others while enjoying a road-tripping idyll. Plus, masks may be required in many areas you visit.

6. Hungry? Opt for takeout, drive-thru, or curbside pickup

Depending on local regulations, eateries may or may not be offering dine-in services. The safest way to go, though, is by ordering takeout or curbside to minimize time spent indoors with others. If you can arrange delivery to your overnight accommodations, that's a good way to go as well.

If you do decide to eat inside a restaurant, make sure responsible precautions are in place—staff wearing face coverings, tables and/or diners adequately spaced apart, etc.—before committing.

7. Prepare your vehicle

Give your rig a close inspection ahead of the trip or, if you don’t trust your mechanical savvy, bring it to your go-to shop. Make sure the tires are in good condition and inflated to the right pressure (spare included), fluids are at adequate levels and have been changed within the recommended interval, all the lights are functioning properly, and wiring, connections, belts, etc. are secure and working.

RELATED: AAA's guide to maintaining your tires

Need a professional inspection? Through August 31, 2020, AAA members can request a free summer vehicle check-up.1 The check-up is available at participating AAA Approved Repair facilities and includes a 40-point vehicle maintenance inspection ($60 value). Offer not available in Alabama, Hawai‘i, and Tidewater Virginia. Find a facility near you.

friends buckle before drive

8. Don’t overdo the driving

Hours behind the wheel will wear down any driver's ability to stay alert and respond to dangers. Schedule plenty of breaks along the way, and switch drivers frequently if you’re traveling with others. That means plotting out your itinerary wisely: not covering too many miles in a single day, ensuring there are safe stopovers such as rest areas or parks along the route, and allowing buffer time so you don't feel pressured to push it.

9. Keep emergency supplies handy

Pack for on-the-road automotive emergencies, arming yourself with essential fluids, tools, backup parts, jumper cables, road flares and/or reflectors, warm clothing, and blankets. While you’re at it, double-check that your car insurance, registration, and driver’s license are up-to-date and valid.

10. Know what to do in bad weather

Check the forecast each day to get a heads-up on what the sky might be throwing at you along your route. Be wary of hydroplaning during rain—especially at the start of it—and pull over safely in downpours, hailstorms, dense fog, and other conditions that cause poor visibility. Exit highways or interstates if possible when doing so, otherwise make sure you’re parked completely out of the traffic lanes and using your hazards and other beacons so oncoming drivers notice your stationary vehicle.

AAA Travel alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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