So you’re tired of being locked inside your house and are ready to travel to a place farther away than your living room. Sound about right? Oh sure, it’s been amusing driving through the empty streets in your neighborhood and feeling like you’re the only person left on the planet. Don’t act like you haven’t just hopped in the car to circle the block a few times so you wouldn’t go completely insane.
As states begin to open back up for business, more and more Americans will pack their bags and start taking road trips. Road trips, obviously something we focus on here quite a bit, will be back in style for the near future. For some, this will be a new thing. For the rest of us, we already know there’s nothing better than driving across America.
Here’s some advice on taking a road trip in 2020.
1. Bring along a mask.
I’ve talked to doctors that say how important it is that we wear masks in public. I’ve talked to doctors that say wearing masks is a total joke and that they only make people “feel” safer. When it comes to traveling in 2020, one thing is certain. Masks are going to be required in certain places you’ll want to visit. It may be a museum or some other attraction. Whatever your personal opinion or preference may be, have a mask in your car at all times so you’re covered if you need it. (No pun intended!)
2. Don’t be a cheapskate.
Of course, this goes for anyone that hasn’t been seriously impacted by the economic shutdown. If you’re still doing pretty well, don’t cheap out when you’re visiting new destinations this year. The travel industry has been decimated. Millions of American’s have lost their jobs in the hospitality sector and tourist towns have been forced to lay off employees. You’re more than likely to get great deals on hotel rooms and attractions as places desperately need visitors. Gas is cheap. Spend some extra money in these towns, especially the small ones and help them get back up on their feet. Buy something at a small gift shop, tip well in a local diner, or stay an extra night or two.
3. Don’t rely solely on travel apps.
We all love using popular phone apps to navigate us to roadside attractions or clean restrooms. However, you’ll want to plan a little bit more than usual. Just because a state has opened back up for business, counties or cities could still be on lockdown. Sadly, some businesses will not be opening back up. Be sure to call ahead and make sure the places you’ll want to visit are actually open. Make note of different operating times or special procedures so you’re not caught off guard. Not all of the important details will have been updated on websites or search engines, so it’s best to speak with someone directly if possible.
4. Have some patience.
Please remember that just like you, everyone else is trying their best to adapt to new rules and guidelines. You may have to wait a little longer than usual for a table at a restaurant or go through a few extra hurdles to visit certain attractions. Don’t be a jerk, or make things more difficult for workers. When your patience is being tested – just remind yourself that you’re not stuck at home rearranging the furniture for the 15th time.
5. Don’t let your guard down.
You’ve been so focused on staying close to home, washing your hands, and keeping a distance from others in the last few months. Don’t let the excitement of a road trip make you forget the basics. Washing your hands regularly should always be a priority when traveling anyway!
6. Don’t be scared.
This one is going to come down to personal comfort and that’s okay. I’ve heard some people say that they’re too afraid to eat inside a restaurant. However the same people have been going to Walmart or the grocery store and mingle through dozens of complete strangers. I’ve also seen people walking through stores wearing latex gloves that literally touch their car doors, keys, phones, and purses. Huh? Use a bit of common sense and don’t let fear ruin your travels. If you’re not personally comfortable yet to travel, wait until you’re ready.
7. It’s time to check off bucket list items.
Everyone has a list of things they say they’re going to do. If there’s one thing you should have figured out during the Covid-19 crisis it’s that life can be short and unpredictable. What if you don’t get another opportunity to see the Grand Canyon or visit Cooperstown? 2020 should be the year you start to check items off the ol’ bucket list. At the very least get started on plans to accomplish those goals in 2021.
8. Speaking of plans…
Get ready to be flexible. There’s so much confusion right now that great planning may not be enough. Odds are your road trip will be great and you’ll enjoy the much needed time away. However there’s always a chance that things could change in a heartbeat. Try and have a backup plan if possible, especially if you decide to visit an area that was once a coronavirus “hot spot”. Could you sleep in your car if you had to? Do you have some extra supplies stowed away for an emergency?
9. Get it in writing!
It’s important to get your refund and cancelation policies in writing that’s easy to understand. Don’t sign on to rent a condo or other property unless you are guaranteed to get your money back if an unexpected shutdown interferes with your trip. You’re likely to get a lengthy contract that has a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo that lets them weasel out of most anything. Send an e-mail to a property owner or manager and have those assurances sent back to you in writing. If they won’t do that, especially under the current circumstances, move on to another property that will. In general, most hotel chains seem to have been really great about working with guests. It’s rental properties that you need to watch out for. For the time being, book your lodging directly instead of through third party websites. It may save you a ton of headaches.
10. There are no “experts”.
Lastly – there are a lot of “experts” making predictions about travel and telling you that life as we knew it is over and nothing will ever be the same again. Ignore those people. The fact is that anyone that tells you exactly what’s going to happen in the next few months or even years, is guessing. That’s all. If we know anything from “expert predictions” – it’s that they are almost always off the mark or completely wrong. Unlike many of the others in my field, I remain optimistic and don’t buy into the gloom and doom scenario that has travel completely changed forever. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m right.
It’s exciting that travel is starting to come back even if it’s a bit awkward and abnormal for the near future. Just remember you’re helping to save America by taking these road trips and spending money in towns that desperately need it. Tourism accounts for about ten percent of the total U.S. economy and the recent shutdowns wiped out almost all of it. On behalf of everyone that relies on travel and tourism to make a living – thank you for getting back on the road. Be safe!