It seems obvious that road trips to places within a few hours of home will be what the majority of Americans will be doing for summer and fall travel plans. As we struggle through a second wave of COVID-19 positive cases the future of travel in general is uncertain, but based on what we have seen so far, some things will be different no matter what.
Of course, it’s still a good idea to stay home if you can, but if you want to visit nearby family or just see some new sights for the day, the good old-fashioned road trip is definitely back into style. Gas prices are still fairly low, which makes a road trip much more affordable than flying. No matter how you travel, be prepared for some things to be different, and to be more self-sufficient than you might normally need to be.
Travel Lane County is encouraging patience and understanding with businesses as we move through reopening. The agency has pulled together helpful guides, including a blog about what to expect at attractions, restaurants and hotels during the phases of reopening.
“When you do venture out, think about what you’ll need before you leave, pack what you need so you don’t need to make unnecessary stops, and call ahead to make sure your destination is open and to make sure you are familiar with its specific requirements,” according to “Reopening Lane County: What to Expect in Phase 2.”
What will change about traveling?
There’s much that is changing about travel. The U.S. Travel Association published new hygiene guidelines formulated by medical professionals to help guide companies on what they need to do to be safe. The guidelines emphasize things that will become the “new normal” in travel. For instance:
- No-contact payments
- No-contact food ordering and pickup
- Enhanced sanitation everywhere
- More public hand sanitation stations
- Health screening at travel checkpoints or places like hotel check-ins
How to plan your road trip
The most important thing is to not assume everything will be open. Always call ahead. Not only may your destination have decreased hours or availability (such as admitting fewer people), destinations along the way may not be open either.
Expect to see closed bathrooms or longer lines at rest stops (if they’re open). Don’t assume that gas stations will have public bathrooms—they may not be able to or want to accommodate the increased cleaning that would be required to keep it open to the public.
Restaurants and attractions should be cleaning more, but it’s wise to take your own wipes and hand sanitizer and sanitize things like doorknobs, your table, shopping cart, etc. You will likely see plexiglass shields at more counters and food service facilities everywhere.
Take your mask with you, and wear it. Many places are requiring customers to wear masks. In Washington state, businesses will not be allowed to serve a customer who is not wearing a mask.
Wearing one while you are in public places may be uncomfortable, but it protects others by limiting the spread of droplets through coughing and sneezing. It also encourages social distancing. If there are designated spaces to stand or directional signage, honor it. Be aware of where your body is in relation to others and keep a respectful distance. Keep in mind that restrictions and guidelines vary by state state and sometimes by county. Check ahead by visiting the government site for information.
Hotels are offering phone or online check-ins to limit exposure and allow guests to skip the lobby altogether. Take advantage of those options where you can. Hotels have also stepped up their cleaning procedures to keep guests safe.
At Inn at the 5th in Eugene, for example, housekeeping staff is deep cleaning guest rooms and sanitizing high-touch items like remote controls, wine bottle openers, notepads and pens by securing them in sealed plastic bags. Travel Lane County says that some hotels may keep rooms vacant for 24 hours between guests. And once you’ve checked in, housekeeping may not clean again until you have checked out, unless you specifically request it. Room decor and extras, like magazines, may also be pared down to the necessities both in the rooms and in the lobbies.
Many restaurants that are open in phase 2 are accepting dine-in patrons, but they only accept online orders. This may require you to open an online account before you can place a food or drink order, even if you are sitting at a table with servers standing nearby. If you don’t have a smartphone or you aren’t comfortable entering your payment information into an online ordering account, seek out restaurants that are accepting dine-in customers and in-person orders. Even then, exchanging cash or handling credit cards may be minimized or eliminated. This may mean doing some research before heading out on your trip.
During phase 2 at least, restaurants are providing paper menus at tables and recycling them after use. Don’t expect kids at your table to automatically get crayons and coloring books, so think about bringing your own if you’re traveling with young ones.
Many restaurants have eliminated some seating to reduce their capacity. For a busy restaurant, this may mean longer wait times before you can be seated. Restaurants may require reservations or table time limits. If there is a wait for a table or a wait for take-out food, customers may be asked to wait in their cars or outside the restaurant with a buzzer. Plan for these type of inconveniences and do what you can to keep yourself comfortable.
In late May, the TSA announced new airport rules. There will likely be fewer paper boarding passes, and less physical handling of boarding passes that aren’t electronic. Load your boarding passes onto your phone and hold the phone yourself while scanning.
Passengers are now allowed to carry up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer. The TSA has instructed that passengers remove the hand sanitizer out of their bags before it passes through X-ray screening. When you are removing things like belts, keys and wallets, place them in a clear bag and then place this in the bin, rather than putting your items directly in the bin. This will reduce your risk of transmitting germs or picking up germs from items that are placed directly in the bin.
Be prepared to have your temperature taken, and possibly even a rapid COVID-19 test taken before boarding. Frontier Airlines now requires passengers to complete a health form during check-in to confirm that they are not ill and that they understand the airline’s new health policies. People who hit 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will be flagged for additional screening and may have to rebook their trip.
TSA agents will be wearing masks and gloves. Some airports require that passengers wear masks. Some airports, like Los Angeles, are restricting people inside the airport to ticketed passengers only, so plan to say goodbye to your friends or family before you get there. With all these new protective measures and enhanced cleaning protocols, plan to arrive even earlier than you normally would, just in case.
Airport lounges may be closed, or may limit the number of people admitted inside. Many planes are reducing or eliminating in-flight food and beverage service, especially on short flights. Plan ahead to bring your own snacks and drinks. You can bring an empty water bottle and fill it after you go through security.
While all that may sound scary, most of is just some common sense: wash your hands often, avoid touching things you don’t need to, and plan for your own food, beverage, and comfort needs just in case the services you’re used to aren’t available.
What to Expect in Phase 2: eugenecascadescoast.org/blog/post/reopening. This blog will be updated with FAQs and information as Lane County moves through the phases of reopening.
What to Expect at Local Hotels: eugenecascadescoast.org/blog/post/open-hotels. Highlights some safety features and expectations for folks venturing out to hotels.
Ready to Dine out Again?: eugenecascadescoast.org/blog/post/open-restaurants. Protocols for restaurants
U.S. Travel Association new hygiene guidelines: ustravel.org/toolkit/industry-guidance-promoting-health-and-safety-all-travelers.
TSA security screening process during the pandemic: tsa.gov/coronavirus.