The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
By Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life
We’ve had to make plenty of adjustments in our travel plans during the pandemic. Seasonal rituals like spring break and Thanksgiving dinners have given way to Zoom gatherings and e-cards.
While some people still braved airports and boarded planes, air travel has taken quite a hit. Being on buses, in airports, or using public transportation can put you at higher risk of contracting coronavirus, according to the CDC, which advises considering other plans or delaying your travel.
What might those other plans be? If you’ve got cabin fever and want to get out, consider a short road trip as an alternative to air, train, or bus travel. You’ll still have to take some precautions, but it’s a lot safer than sharing an airport or plane with people you don’t know — who may be infected.
The light at the end of the proverbial tunnel may be in sight, but we need to stay vigilant as the new year begins. Even with a vaccine, immunity could last less than a year as with other coronaviruses, so annual surges could continue through 2025 or even later. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Before you leave
Be sure your insurance is in order, and your car’s running smoothly. Check your oil, wiper fluid, spark plugs, brakes, and tire pressure.
Have your paperwork in order and make sure you have access to it, especially if you’re out “in the middle of nowhere.” You never know when you’ll need to refer to crucial documents, and they won’t do you much good if they’re all tucked away in a lockbox or file cabinet at home.
Before you leave, do a thorough inventory of everything from your medical records to your pet identification, from your income information to your will and living trust, and have them in one place on the cloud so you can get to them remotely. If you’re going far from civilization, it’s not a bad idea to shop around for a Wi-Fi booster, too.
Stay ‘open’ on the open road
The whole point of avoiding terminals and depots is to get away from crowds, where the virus is most easily spread. Stay away from popular attractions such as beaches and amusement parks as much as possible; aim instead for out-of-the-way places. You might want to try one of the 10 least-visited national parks, for example.
If you’re ready to really go off-road, buckle up in a four-wheel-drive vehicle and hit the dirt. First, make sure your insurance covers you for driving in rough terrain vehicles and environments. You’ll be about as safe as possible from COVID-19 beyond where the asphalt ends.
Monitor the weather
The new year gets underway just after winter’s arrival, so it’s important to stay abreast of storm forecasts and road conditions. Monitor your GPS for road closures, and download a weather app on your smartphone. You can check in with different locations and check out the 10-day forecast, overnight freezing temperatures, and other key facts.
In cold conditions, avoid traveling at night if possible to minimize the threat of black ice. Thick fog and whiteout snow are other conditions to be aware of and avoid.
Scope out places to stop
A lot of places will still be closed, especially in pandemic hot spots, so make overnight reservations ahead of time, whether you’re staying in a motel, hotel, cabin, or campground. Do some research to find out which accommodations are open, and which are the safest.
Be safe at gas stations, too, by going during off-peak hours and wiping down the handle and keypad before you pump. Some stations provide gloves, so don’t be afraid to ask. And be sure to wear your mask if you go inside to pay.
Safety even extends to rest stops. Many may be closed, and others may be using porta-potties (these may be common at parks and campgrounds, too). They can be blessings in disguise, giving you your own space — away from others, who may be spreading the virus. Portable restrooms are cleaned regularly and thoroughly, so don’t fret. Just bring hand sanitizer.
Have an emergency kit ready
When traveling in winter and/or off the beaten path, it’s easy to get stranded if your car breaks down, so be sure to have everything you need to repair your vehicle and signal or call for help.
Start with the basics: jumper cables, a jack and tire tool, screwdrivers, socket wrenches, and electrical tape. If you’re traveling in cold conditions, bring along snow tires, an ice scraper, and blankets if you have to stay warm in a dead-battery car. Bring along extra antifreeze and motor oil; a flashlight, flares, and an extra smartphone car charger, too.
You can never be too prepared when you’re on the road, and that goes double during a pandemic, even one that’s winding down. Hand wipes, face masks, soap, and nontoxic hand sanitizer are musts. The next few months will be critical to getting the virus under control, with vaccine distribution and safe practices. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay home. Hit the road safely, and have fun.