Are you heading out on the road for a fall break trip with your family? Are you thinking of just revving up the engine and going on a solo journey, wherever the road may take you? Maybe you just want to head out on a romantic sojourn with your significant other for a while, and you have the perfect long-distance destination in mind.

Well, gas prices are down this year, which makes a road trip — however far the destination — much more affordable. Plus, the COVID-19 pandemic has made flying to your vacation spot or using public transportation significantly less attractive than it might be otherwise. Traveling with only a few people is inherently safer. But road trips are best if you do a little bit of planning in advance and make sure all of the essentials are packed — and the list of essential items for a trip has definitely evolved.

Here’s our handy-dandy guide to 2020’s road trip essentials and a few tips for safety:

1. Plan Your Accommodations Carefully

On journeys past, you probably didn’t worry much about finding a place to sleep. Unless you were headed through a tourist hotspot or there was a major event like a convention, you probably just pulled into the first attractive hotel you saw and got a room when you got tired of driving. If you were headed to a dense urban area, you may have just booked an overnight stay at an Airbnb.

Finding safe accommodations today can be a little trickier now, due to concerns about the virus. Given the circumstances, it may be wisest to book a room in advance with a hotel that seems to be taking guest safety and hygiene protocols seriously. You can check out their policies online before you decide. (Then, when you get there, wipe down everything anyhow.)

One alternative you may want to consider is renting an RV for your trip — especially if you’re only going with one or two other people. You can bed down in the vehicle at night without worry about coming into contact with other people’s germs. A luxury RV can be rented for about what you’d pay each day for a nice hotel room, making it an affordable alternative with built-in accommodations.

2. Stock up on Cleaning Products and Hand-sanitizer

There’s one issue that you just can’t avoid on road trips: the need for the occasional bathroom break.

To be bluntly honest, using a public restroom out on the road was never that pleasant. Whether you used the facilities at a rest stop or waited until you got to a restaurant somewhere, public bathrooms just aren’t one of most people’s favorite experiences.

With the current conditions, you may be a lot more limited in your choices than before, so it’s wise to carry sanitizing products with you in your vehicle. Lysol and Clorox wipes are ideal for cleaning any surface you may need to touch when you’re in the restroom. They’re also great for door handles and latches. Hand-sanitizer is also easy to carry since it comes in bottles that are small enough to tuck into a backpack, purse or bag. (Just make sure that the brand that you buy has is at least 60% alcohol.)

Can’t find any hand-sanitizer? It’s okay: Plain-old soap and water are actually completely effective against contagion. You can take a bar in a plastic bag and some paper towels, instead of sanitizer.

3. Pack Plenty of Snacks, Water and Drinks

Dining out has gotten tricky, depending on your location. Some areas of the country have resumed in-person seating, while others are only allowing outdoor dining as the weather permits. Some restaurants may only be offering carry-out options.

Because of the constantly shifting dynamics associated with the virus, you can’t count on the availability of a quick meal while you’re traveling. Even if you try to plan ahead, there’s no guarantee that conditions will remain the same once you get there. What’s a good solution? Just grab a cooler and make sure that you bring all of your favorite snacks along, including things like:

  • Hummus and crackers
  • Cheese snack-packs
  • Carrots and celery
  • Grapes and apples
  • Protein bars and beef jerky
  • Trail mix, pretzels and chips
  • Bottles of juice and water

Aim for a variety and pack a little more than you reasonably anticipate using, just in case you happen to end up in an area at some point where most things are closed. You may also want to bring along some extra paper towels and a trash bag in case you end up eating some carry-out meals curbside.

4. Don’t Forget to Bring a Basic Travel Kit

Some things haven’t really changed since the pandemic started: You still need a basic travel kit for emergencies in your car, although exactly what “basic” means may have a few new additions. At a minimum, you want to have the following things in your travel kit:

  • First-aid supplies, including bandaids and triple antibiotic ointment
  • An extra cellphone charger and a fully-charged power stick
  • A blanket and flashlight in case you are stranded
  • A thermometer in case someone gets a fever
  • Disposable gloves to wear while pumping gas
  • Extra face masks for everyone on the trip

It’s also smart to carry a small amount of cash with you in case you encounter toll roads or end up somewhere that doesn’t accept credit or debit cards.

Finally, don’t forget to get up your playlist on your phone or dig out your CDs for the drive. Whatever the changes, there’s something absolutely mystical about heading down the highway with the right music in your ears.

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