Thinking about planning a road trip during the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s not surprising that you’re seeking out advice about quarantine road trips. After all, there’s no better way to combine social distancing best practices with travel, especially in a country as big as the US.
As is the case with most things during the COVID-era, however, taking a road trip isn’t simply a matter of hitting the road. Bookmark our guide for the key things you need to consider to stay safe on your road trip during COVID!
Before setting your sights on the road and booking any travel, please always check local government guidelines. You can use our daily updated list of coronavirus travel advisories as one of your resources.
Read this before you travel during COVID-19
Before we get to specific tips about your COVID-era road trip, let’s go over some basic best practices. To start with, you’ll want to visit Skyscanner’s US travel restrictions page, which outlines policies individual states have put in place to limit the spread of the virus, in addition to restrictions on international travel. (TIP: If you’re also considering an international trip, you can find a map showing the places you can visit now at the end of this article.)
In terms of more general guidance for healthy travel, meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has created an informative hub about travel during the pandemic. Finally, if you’re considering road trip during COVID and need some inspiration about where to go, click here to read Skyscanner’s recommendations for 13 amazing American road trips.
Priceless quarantine road trip tips
- Prioritize nature
- Plan a picnic—or 10
- Get an early start each day
- Go off the beaten path
- Follow local guidelines in cities in towns
- Take advantage of contactless technology
- Make space to let loose
1. Prioritize nature
It should go without saying, but the best way to take quarantine road trips that minimize your risk of contracting COVID-19 is to stay in nature and away from other people. Thankfully this is easy in the US, whether you hike in national parks like Wyoming’s Yellowstone and Utah’s Arches, or drive along thousands of miles of Pacific, Gulf, or Atlantic Coast. Be mindful of any face mask regulations or social distancing requirements that exist within crowded areas of these national parks, but also take comfort in the fact that COVID-19 (like other viruses) doesn’t survive long in sunshine or open air.
2. Plan a picnic—or 10
Pre-pandemic road trip advice would recommend cute diners and restaurants along scenic highways and byways. You can still do this, of course, assuming that these restaurants are open, that you can maintain social distance, that you wear masks when you aren’t eating and, ideally, that you can find a table outside. However, a sure fire way to eat well on a COVID road trip is to pack your own picnic, and enjoy it in nature. Just be mindful of wildlife nearby—there are usually signs to warn you of any, such as in Yosemite National Park.
3. Get an early start each day
It might sound crazy to wake up early on your holiday, but doing so has many advantages—and not just hitting the trail (or the town center, depending on what kind of road trip you take) before everyone else is awake. Depending on the time of year you travel, this can enable you to see the sunrise, which in turn will put less pressure on you to wait around for sunset. Moreover, starting early allows you to begin your day with a sense of accomplishment, which is great for mental health—who doesn’t need a mental health boost these days?
4. Go off the beaten path
Let’s be frank: You’re not the only person who had the idea to take a road trip during COVID. Likewise, many Americans no doubt (who probably spent their PTO allowances abroad in recent years) have similar ideas of what they’d like to see in the US. Why not start ticking items off your list starting at the bottom? For instance, instead of California’s Joshua Tree, why not drive through Big Bend National Park in Texas, or New Mexico’s White Sands? The Overseas Highway leading to the Florida Keys is beautiful, but so is Michigan’s Great Lakes “Circle Route.”
5. Follow local guidelines in cities and towns
No matter how off-the-beaten-path your road trip during COVID takes you, of course, you are never really that far from civilization in 21st-century America. Since requirements for masks and social distancing can vary substantially between states (and change suddenly as well), err on the side of caution. Wear a mask if you’re in a crowded area, especially indoors, and dine and shop outdoors whenever possible. If you deliberately include a city or town on your itinerary, consider a place that’s easy to explore on foot, and with plenty of outside attractions, like New Mexico’s Santa Fe.
6. Take advantage of contactless technology
A less common-sense (but just as smart) tip for safe road trips during the COVID-era? Take advantage of contactless technology. When paying, for example, consider using mobile payment systems like ApplePay and Samsung Pay when you’re able to do so, or tapping credit and debit cards embedded with PayWave. Likewise, more and more unique US hotels offer contactless check-in, while rental car loyalty programs such as Hertz Gold Plus Rewards allow you to select a vehicle from your phone before you pick it up.
7. Make space to let loose
While it’s essential to be mindful of COVID best practices during your road trip, you shouldn’t let them consume your road trip experience. After all, a big purpose of traveling right now is to escape the dystopian reality we’re all living in! Once you’ve gone through the effort of removing yourself from risky situations, it’s okay to let your guard down and imagine things are almost normal, if you can. Likewise, while it’s important to remain physically distant from strangers, even in the middle of nowhere, you don’t need to be socially or emotionally distant. Smile (behind your mask), wave and say hello. We’re all in this together!
Frequently asked questions
While any mode of transportation will carry some risk, there are several best practices you can use during a road trip such as getting up early, using contactless technology, eating outside, following local guidelines, and more.
Most gas station bathrooms are open to the public again. Additionally, you can usually find rest areas that have regularly cleaned bathrooms with low foot traffic. Regardless of how clean a bathroom may look, remember to wear a mask, use paper towels to open doors, practice social distancing, refrain from touching your face, and thoroughly wash your hands.
In addition to a reusable water bottle and lots of road trip snacks, consider buying full meals to enjoy in the open air. Consider bringing multiple masks, gloves, medication, hand sanitizer, and soap. Read about 12 things to pack if you’re traveling right now.
Where can I go right now?
Now that you’re done reading our awesome road trip advice, why not think about traveling to most distant horizons? Skyscanner has created an interactive map that helps you visualize where you can go right now. Click on any country to see more details about policies, including quarantines, PCR test requirements, and more! If you interested in a specific one, sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.
We know travelers are keen to explore the world again and hope these road trip tips inspire some ideas. As is the case with most of life these days, taking quarantine road trips doesn’t require expertise, but it does necessitate mindfulness. You’ll want to not only follow established best practices but also have consideration for other people and their hometowns. No matter where you go, and whether you encounter more people or wildlife as you travel, we hope this article has given you the confidence to feel safe while on the road.