“Steer clear” of common mistakes on the road that spread COVID-19.
In general, experts caution against traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, driving may be one of the safer ways to travel—if you’re careful. For the safest car travel during COVID-19, it’s important to have a plan to limit exposure to others and reduce the spread of the disease.
Risks of Car Travel During COVID-19
To avoid making mistakes that spread COVID-19 when traveling, it helps to know the potential risks. For starters, whenever you make a pit stop on your travel, you may have exposure to people from other regions. Here’s the problem: This can transfer the virus from one geographic area to another, causing outbreaks in other communities.
While car travel allows you to limit contact with other people (and you can take off your mask!), it’s almost impossible to avoid public places completely. You’ll need to stop at gas stations, places to get food, or possibly hotels. All of these are an opportunity for the virus to spread.
Reducing the Risks
You can’t eliminate all the risks of car travel during COVID-19, but these tips can help protect yourself and others.
1. Don’t travel if you’re sick or have been exposed to COVID-19.
It might seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating. If you’ve been exposed, you should quarantine for 14 days at home to avoid potentially exposing others. Having symptoms yourself, or have tested positive? You need to isolate at home until you get cleared by your physician.
2. Wear masks in public places (e.g., gas stations and hotel lobbies).
Masks and cloth face coverings reduce the release of respiratory droplets—which may or may not carry the coronavirus—from your mouth and nose. When possible, avoid places where people are not wearing masks.
3. Sanitize and disinfect.
Pack disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer. (Here are other items you should pack when traveling during COVID-19.) In general, you should try to avoid touching any surfaces in public areas, but of course, that’s easier said than done.
Use alcohol-based disinfecting wipes on gas pumps before touching or on surfaces in your hotel room, for example. When possible, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after touching surfaces in public areas. Whenever soap and water aren’t accessible, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Keep a bottle in your car’s cup holder for easy access.
4. Avoid indoor dining at restaurants.
Indoor dining may be a high-risk activity during COVID-19, even in your hometown. That’s because lots of people are sitting and talking without masks, for extended periods of time, in an enclosed space. For these reasons, it’s safer to stick to takeout and drive-through options. Better yet, pack your own food if possible.
5. Choose your lodging carefully.
Do your research and pick your lodging before you leave your home. Look for places that have prevention practices in place, such as:
- Increased disinfecting practices
- Limited or regulated use of public spaces like pools or fitness centers
- Plexiglass barriers at front desk
- Mandatory mask policies in public areas
Traveling During COVID-19
It’s tempting to hit the road and escape the pandemic stress. If you choose to do so, understand the risks and do your best to minimize them. After all, your actions affect not only you, but also everyone you come in contact with.
Want more travel tips during COVID-19?