Sun’s out — time to go out? Maybe, maybe not, depending on the reopening plan in your state and what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend. As families, couples and friend groups start to consider summer vacations, a road trip seems like a stellar idea. After all, you have more control when you travel via four wheels, since you can pack much more of your own (properly sanitized) goods, avoid airports entirely, and not be in close proximity to anyone you don’t know.
However, there are still safety precautions that all travelers should take, even if they’re heading out to a nearby mountain for a camping trip, renting a seaside Airbnb, or choosing any other getaway. For advice on everything from what to pack to how to protect yourself and others, we spoke with doctors and travel experts to figure out the ultimate safety guide to getting on the road.
Create a coronavirus kit
Even though restrictions are starting to loosen, case counts are unfortunately rising in many parts of the country. Dr. Suzanne Bartlett-Hackenmiller, an integrative medicine physician and the medical adviser for AllTrails, reminds us that you still need to make sure to bring and use your mask whenever you could be in close proximity to anyone.
She recommends creating a coronavirus kit of sorts that includes these essentials, along with extra toilet paper in case your rental isn’t stocked, and other goods. Tylenol, water and other basics could go a long way if you need them in a pinch.
Try this: Assacalynn 50pcs Disposable Face Mask ($22.98, originally $27.88; amazon.com)
During the pandemic, you can never have too many face masks. And when you’re on the road, hiking more or going into unfamiliar places, you may need a new covering more often. Many rentals may lack a washer and dryer, and camping doesn’t make it easy to clean a fabric mask, so these are better for a road trip, according to our expert.
Nostalgia in the Garden Face Mask by Alja Horvat ($13.59, originally $16.99; society6.com)
If you do have access to a washer and dryer, a fabric mask is always a good idea too. Society6 just launched more than 1,000 masks on its site, all of which are covered in art from independent artists. Best of all: A portion of all proceeds go to World Central Kitchen’s coronavirus relief efforts.
Don’t go off the beaten path
While part of the joy of exploring Mother Nature is seeing new and beautiful views, if your road trip includes a hike, stay on the marked path. Particularly now, when a jaunt to the emergency room with a fractured ankle could put you at risk for more severe problems, podiatrist Dr. Velimir Petkov suggests following the course.
“Avoid the temptation to hike off-trail and in unfamiliar or unmarked areas,” he warns. “You could get lost, injured or both.”
Try this: Cotopaxi Tarak 20L Lightweight Durable Backpack ($100; amazon.com)
If you intend to scale a mountain in search of great views of a waterfall, make sure you’re packed for the trek. A sturdy, waterproof and lightweight backpack like this one allows you to take first-aid materials, water, snacks and other necessities.
In the morning, when you set out on your adventure, your temperature will likely be comfortable. As the sun reaches its highest point, you’ll start to sweat inside your car. And at night? Certain areas of the country experience a dramatic drop in degrees. That’s why car expert and CEO of eAutoLease.com Zoriy Birenboym recommends packing everything you need to stay comfortable, including clothing for different temperatures.
“You don’t want to be caught without the necessities and have to look for places in areas you’ve never been before,” he says. “Make sure this includes staying updated on what the weather will be in the areas you are traveling through. It may get cold at night even though it’s summer, so you may not think to pack a sweater or extra blankets, but if it’s 50 degrees you may wish you had.”
Try these: Helly Hansen HH Lifa Active Solen Hoodie ($70; backcountry.com)
This lightweight option features moisture-wicking material that’ll keep you fresh while battling triple-digit heat. It also has built-in UPF to protect yourself from UV radiation from the sun. It’s ideal for daywear.
L.L.Bean Women’s Classic Cashmere Sweater ($159; llbean.com)
A cozy and simple cashmere-blend sweater will capture your body heat to keep you warm in colder temperatures. It’s ideal for sitting around the campfire in the woods or stargazing by the lake.
Make sure you get enough sleep
While many people have reported difficulty sleeping during the pandemic, thanks to anxiety and uncertainty, adequate rest is mandatory before a long car ride, Petkov says. “Do not drive while you are feeling sleepy. If you feel like you need rest, pull over and take a 30-minute power nap,” he recommends.
Petkov says that even if you did reap the benefits of seven to eight hours of sleep, a little coffee can never hurt.
Try this: Thermos Stainless King 40 Ounce Beverage Bottle (starting at $21.15, originally $29.99; amazon.com)
To keep your energy levels piqued, travel with coffee you can sip when needed. Reviewers love how long this thermos keeps hot drinks hot and how durable it is for everyday use.
Make as many reservations ahead as you can
As with any vacation, you want to make sure to plan, says Katie Key, president of Escape Campervans. This is true whether you’re going camping, checking in to a hotel, renting a vacation home or enjoying any other type of travel experience.
“Many state parks are urging people to make reservations so they can predict overcapacity, and many are limiting parking capacity to reduce crowding,” she says. You should check various websites, call ahead, and ensure everything is in order before you fill up your tank and go.
Try this: Amazon Echo Auto ($34.99, originally $49.99; amazon.com)
Have a question about the weather, road conditions or operation hours? Ask Alexa while you drive, with this tech editor-approved device. It connects through your Alexa app on your phone and plays through the car’s speaker. Alexa can play music, check the news, dial numbers, add to your to-do list, update your calendar and much more.
Pack a first-aid kit
If there was ever a time to pack a first-aid kit, it’s now. Whether you scrape your knees or have an allergy attack, Petkov says it can always come in handy, especially if you plan on camping, hiking or biking as part of your road trip.
Try these: Adventure Medical Sportsman Series Medical Kit (starting at $39.99; amazon.com)
This kit has all the nuts and bolts and all the bells and whistles you need to treat common injuries or illnesses. You’ll find trauma pads, bandages, dressings, irrigation syringes, butterfly closures and many other hospital-quality supplies.
VSSL Camp Supplies ($129; amazon.com)
Consider this tiny yet mighty first-aid kit if you don’t want a bulky pack. It comes with 45 essentials including tweezers, thermometers, bandages, antibiotic cream and so on, all in a tube with a diameter less than 2 inches. Plus, it’s waterproof!
Appoint one traveler to be the drill sergeant
Though you may be tired of singing the “Happy Birthday” song while you wash your hands, soap and hand sanitizer are a great form of defense against spreading germs. Terika L. Haynes, the CEO and founder of Dynamite Travel, reminds us that drivers and passengers alike should be very mindful of keeping their paws clean.
“Each time the travelers enter the vehicle, they should apply hand sanitizer to their hands and also heavy-touch areas such as the steering wheel, drive shift and door handles,” she says. One idea is to appoint one person as the hand sanitizer drill sergeant, who will keep giving everyone a spray or a pump when needed.
Try this: Touchland Power Mist Aloe Vera ($12; touchland.com)
Particularly for travel — and for kids — a hand sanitizer spray is an easy way to keep up with the clean hands habit. We love the subtle scent of this version that protects and hydrates.
No matter if you’re traveling with toddlers, kiddos or full-grown adults, no one is a happy camper when they’re hangry. Especially now, it’s tricky to predict restaurant hours and availability, so having snacks handy can avoid headaches, according to Haynes.
“You may encounter restaurants that are not abiding by social distancing guidelines, and you do not feel safe,” she says. “Having to go back to the drawing board with travelers may take some time, so snacks will help to satisfy the appetites until you find a new dining option.”
Try this: Snack in the Box ($9.99; amazon.com)
Dr. Charles Park Richardson, president of TransWorld Med, says when you’re coming up with snack ideas, make sure to include nibbles that are packed with antioxidants to fight free radicals. These include berries, pecans and dark chocolate. You can store a bit of everything in these dual-compartment, 6-ounce snack boxes. You can see our roundup of nutritionist-approved healthy snacks here.
Power Up Trail Mix ($4.98; amazon.com)
This snack mix includes nuts, dried mango, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and more. There’s even an antioxidant-loaded mix.
Bring your own linens and towels
Even if you aren’t camping, Haynes says it’s smart to bring your own linens and towels just to be on the safe side.
“Several hotels are not offering housekeeping services to keep their guests safe,” she says. “Some hotels may readily have additional linens to offer to their guests, but others may not. The same is true with Airbnb hosts, who have to come up with their safety precautions.”
Try these: White Classic Luxury Bath Towel Set (starting at $34.85; amazon.com)
Reviewers praise this towel set — which comes with two bath towels, two hand towels and four washcloths — for its softness and absorbency.
AmazonBasics Lightweight Super Soft Easy Care Microfiber Bed Sheet (starting at $13.99; amazon.com)
Inexpensive yet comfortable, these soft sheets are ideal for travel. As soon as you return home, throw them into the wash and start planning your next vacay.
Protect your skin
You may not consider sun exposure while sitting in the car, but the rays can seep through open windows and cause you to burn — and UVA rays, which cause signs of premature aging, can go right throw window glass. And while there’s nothing that screams summer as much as roasting marshmallows or catching fireflies, mosquitoes are also drawn when we’re outdoors at night.
That’s why Bahar Schmidt, the founder of Eluxit travel agency, recommends going the extra mile to protect our skin with sunscreen and bug repellent alike.
Try these: Coppertone Pure & Simple SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion (starting at $15.99; amazon.com)
Pack a few bottles of this trusted sunscreen so the whole car can lather up throughout the trip. As a bonus, this waterproof formula will last you through dips in the lake or sea, too.
Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent (starting at $7.15; amazon.com)
To protect everyone from bug bites from bloodthirsty critters, buy this spray with DEET-free repellent that smells rather pleasantly of lemon.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.