My partner and I recently took our first road trip since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. We're both lucky enough to have been able to seamlessly transition to working at home full time. So other than necessary trips like the grocery store, we've been homebound.
A family friend's wedding finally prompted us to hit the road. We waffled for weeks on whether to go, but in the end, decided that we could do so while being safe. Active cases had come down at the time in our home state of Ohio and the wedding was in rural New Hampshire, an area of the country with few cases. Plus, it was an outdoor affair, further easing our worries.
We took two days to make the nine-hour drive to our home base in the lovely town of Keene, N.H., and took a slightly longer, more scenic route home, but did that in one long day. Along the way, we learned a handful of things about road trips in the current climate.
1. Check your accommodations early and check often
Our original hotel reservation, made in January, would have been simply canceled had the hotel not re-opened back up the week before our visit. But surprisingly, we were never notified of this. If you have a hotel or attraction booked, call and email to check and make sure that the business is open and operating.
Sometimes, only skeletal staffs are working, so you may not get an emailed response very quickly. And just because a property reopens, that doesn't guarantee it won't shut down again, if local infection rates spike again. Plus, some properties only allow "essential travelers" such as medical workers, so make sure you'll be allowed to book.
2. Know that different states have different rules
Before you leave, make sure to check the official government website for each state you'll be traveling to or through. Until recently, states such as New Hampshire required out-of-state visitors to completely self-quarantine for 14 days once arriving. That would make a visit impractical for many travelers.
Additionally, Maine was requiring the same, with the added stipulation that visitors bring enough groceries with them to last the 14 days!
3. Be flexible
Realize that some places are simply not open, or the information isn't necessarily updated on attractions' websites. We had hoped to see the Women's Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, N.Y. but it was closed to the public. And a planned stop at a state park in Vermont-to stretch our legs after many hours of driving-was scuttled.
It appeared to be open according to Google, but once arriving, we discovered that it was closed to the public for another few days. Instead, we quickly recalibrated and spent an hour wandering around the lovely little town of Wilmington, Vt.
4. Just wear your mask
No one claims that face coverings are 100% effective is stopping Covid-19, but they certainly help reduce the spread when worn correctly. Many states or localities are now requiring people to wear them when in stores. Our hotel in Keene required them when in all public spaces. While in one gift store in rural Vermont, the manager told a couple who entered behind us in no uncertain terms that masks were required for them to come into the shop
While many businesses also offered hand sanitizer for the public, we kept two small bottles in the car and made sure to use them every time we came back from any type of outing, regardless of whether we recalled touching anything.
5. It's nice to take it slow
We found that traffic was nonexistent, whether on tollways, freeways or the back roads. But instead of hurrying, we took some extra time to venture into a few of the cities we passed through. We had nice, unhurried lunches-both al fresco!-in downtown Syracuse and Binghamton, N.Y.
We found that most businesses were open, and people were happy to see customers and interact with visitors. In a strange summer like this, many people are feeling like road trips seem to be one of the safest options to get back into travel.
For us, it was a small step back into this important part of our lives, and it was worth the small amount of risk, given our ages and health. Sometimes, we forget that part of the pleasure in travel is in the getting there, and this trip was a wonderful reminder of that important lesson.
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