Family Road Trip Safety During COVID-19
The best and easiest way to protect your family from COVID is simply to stay at home. But summer is here, and after months of confinement, families want to get away. Remember, there is no vaccine for COVID, so even if you follow CDC and WHO guidelines, and are taking every precaution, there's no guarantee of safety.
Experts do agree however, that travelling by car is currently a safer option. Road trips provide you with a bit more control over your activities, and you can minimize your interaction with others. If you feel unsafe for any reason, you can get back in your car. Still, you need to be careful, even on a road trip. The virus is still active so don't let your guard down. Use common sense at all times along with the following tips, to keep your family as safe as possible.
Create a 'safety kit' so that you have these items on hand, anytime you need to make a pit stop. Your kit should include:
▪ Masks (to wear in all indoor spaces, attractions, and outdoors, when social distancing is not possible)
▪ Hand sanitizer (keep one in the cupholder)
▪ Disinfecting wipes
▪ Disposable gloves
▪ Thermometer (so you don't have to purchase en route in case it is needed)
Research your Destination
Check where the COVID hotspots are. It wouldn't be wise to head to a location where cases are spiking. Be aware of the local situation and follow local public health advice. Are masks mandatory? What's open? Will you be required to isolate for 14 days upon arrival? What reopenings have been paused due to further outbreaks?
If possible, wait until you get to your destination or hotel, to use the washroom. When on a long road trip, that may not be possible so if you must use a public washroom, just exercise caution, like you normally would. This time you may want to wear a mask. New research is showing that COVID-19 aerosols can spread into the air when flushing a toilet. This could be a concern when there are many people using public washrooms. The City of Toronto recommends the following guidelines which can be practiced anywhere you travel. Always keep a safe distance from others and spend as little time as possible in the washroom. Where possible utilize electronic push buttons or sensors to open doors, turn on sinks, flush toilets. When entering a public washroom immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. Minimize contact with frequently touched hard surfaces as much as possible. Prior to leaving the washroom, wash your hands again with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. If soap and water are not available, bring your own alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your face, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
At the Gas Station
The gas pump is a high-touch surface, so consider wearing disposable gloves when you get gas. You can also use disinfecting wipes or paper towels to create a barrier between your hands and the gas pump. Pay for your gas at the pump rather than inside, so you can decrease your interaction with others. Remove gloves or sanitize your hands before re-entering your car.
Where to Stay?
Since the virus is primarily transmitted via respiratory droplets between people, the fewer encounters you have, the more you are able to protect you and your family. For this reason, doctors and experts recommend that renting private homes are a low-risk option for disease transmission, compared to hotels. Hotels are frequented by a larger number of people, though many have implemented safety measures. But by booking an entire home, you're protected from interacting with others. If you want to limit your exposure, choose a house or cabin, such as those found on Airbnb. Airbnb, in particular, has also announced stringent new cleaning policies. If you don't want to clean up after yourself and prefer the amenities of a hotel, look for boutique-style hotels, standalone bungalows or cottages. Avoid high rise hotels which may have packed elevators in favour of properties or resorts that are well-suited to public distancing, and offer plenty of open outdoor space like beaches, lakefronts, and hiking trails. Or, consider hotels built in a way that will minimize time in enclosed spaces, such as hallways. No matter your choice, check for specific COVID cleaning and sanitization policies.
At your Destination
Once you arrive and check-in, don't linger and keep your distance from others. Most check-ins are now contactless. Same goes with using amenities or the pool — just keep a safe distance from others. Room service or take-out is probably a safer eating option since you have less contact with individuals. Outdoor patios are also an option if available. And while you should consider your room a safe haven, you still need to protect yourself inside it. Remember to use all the cleaning and sanitization items you packed.
Bring your Own Food
What is a road trip without great travel snacks? If your trip is less than seven hours long, pack your own food and snacks, so you don’t have to stop. A plug-in cooler is a great option. If your trip is longer, bring lots of staples so you don't have to shop at your destination. For dining options, a drive-thru is your best bet since eat-in options may not currently be available depending on where you're travelling. When interacting with someone in the drive-thru window, it’s important to wear a mask or cloth face covering. And if you must go into a restaurant to get food, wear a mask and use a barrier when touching surfaces, such as door handles.
At the Beach or Attractions
Simply said, avoid crowds at all times. If you get to the beach and it's overcrowded, leave and come back during off-peak times. Follow new protocols at attractions, such a wearing your mask and observing signage and guidelines for traffic flow.
While you might be tempted to travel with friends, you should only be road tripping with people and family who you live with or from your new and allowed social circle. If you're meeting up with distant family or friends, continue to practice social distancing.
For more information, visit the Government of Canada page for Travel restrictions, exemptions and advice.