Are Road Trips and Pit Stops Safe During COVID-19?

Consider going back later if the attraction is busy. On top of keeping yourself and your family safe, there’s a non-coronavirus-related bonus: You’ll get a better experience anyway when there are fewer people blocking the photo opportunities. Or you can just continue on to your destination.

5. Avoid contact with other people and objects in bathrooms (when you can).

“Bathrooms are a high-risk area for many different pathogens, including bacteria and COVID-19,” Dr. Cawcutt says. She recommends using a private bathroom (these single-stall options are sometimes marked as family restrooms) when possible to avoid being in a cramped space with other people. (One thing to note: The coronavirus mainly spreads through large respiratory droplets people expel that quickly fall to the ground, but in rarer cases it can also be airborne, meaning it can spread via smaller respiratory droplets that linger in the air. This means that technically you could contract the virus even if no one is in the bathroom but someone with COVID-19 used it recently enough that those smaller droplets are still in the air. The likelihood of this depends on factors like ventilation.) “If a more crowded bathroom is the only option, try to keep more distance between people in line and wear your mask at all times,” she says. A face shield may protect your eyes from respiratory droplets, so Dr. Davis recommends wearing one in addition to your mask when you’re in small, crowded spaces.

Try to minimize your contact with surfaces, such as door handles, though the key is to thoroughly wash or sanitize your hands after touching anything. “Physical abilities will limit who can open doors with a single foot, avoid touching the toilet seat, and avoid touching handles,” Dr. Cawcutt says. Just do your best to limit what you touch, and wash your hands immediately after using the bathroom. “I often will also use hand sanitizer again after exiting the bathroom if I had to touch the door to open it,” she adds.

There are other options for people who don’t feel comfortable using a public restroom. (We all have different amounts of risk that we are willing to take.) This Go Anywhere toilet seat ($80, REI) folds out into a portable toilet that attaches to a bag, so you can easily dispose of waste. Funnels like this one from Pee Buddy ($14, Amazon) are designed for people with vaginas and make peeing outside or in a vessel in the car a little easier. Of course, it’s important to be careful about where you stop since public urination may be an infraction on the state’s legal code. Look for private, safe areas and ask your family to keep watch if possible.

6. Stick to take-out meals or bring your own food.

You may have to stop and eat at some point if you’re on the road for hours or days during a future road trip. Dr. Swartzberg suggests opting for takeout instead of in-restaurant dining to avoid the number of people you’re in close proximity to. If you’re traveling with another adult, just one of you can go grab the food while the rest of you stay inside the car (or while the rest of you step out of the car for some fresh air while staying away from others).

Restaurants with outside seating are the best option if you choose to dine at an establishment, Dr. Swartzberg says. (Some restaurants have added enclosed outdoor seating, such as tents. This restricts airflow and is not as safe as outdoor dining, The New York Times reported.) Scan the area to make sure the restaurant staff wears masks, that as many patrons as possible are wearing masks when not eating or drinking, and that there is ample distance in between tables (at least six feet is recommended). However, eating your own prepacked food is the safest option, Dr. Cawcutt says. (Think sandwiches, salads, fruit, vegetables, and other items that can be stored in a cooler). The more time you’re around other people, the higher the COVID-19 transmission risk.

7. Ask about cleaning strategies in your hotel or Airbnb.

It’s possible to make your hotel or Airbnb safer if you need to spend the night somewhere, Dr. Cawcutt says. “Consider planning ahead and asking what the cleaning policies are and how long the accommodations were empty before you arrived. Also, ask if they disinfect the rooms,” she says. Some hotels offer mobile room keys and contactless payment options, which are good ways to limit your exposure to other people, according to the CDC. Wear a mask into the hotel, obviously, and open the windows and crack the door for a short period for better airflow, Dr. Davis recommends. He adds that it’s not likely you’d pick up the virus from other things in the room, like bedsheets. However, many hotels don’t wash the bedspread or throw pillows after every guest, so you might want to ask how regularly those are laundered. You can set the items to the side (and wash your hands after handling) as an extra precaution.

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