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Everything You Need to Know for Your 2020 Road Trip

I’m calling it: 2020 is the year of the road trip.

So much has changed in the past few months. From performing daily tasks like grocery shopping and schooling from home, sometimes I find myself wondering if this is real life or a movie.

For travelers, canceling a vacation seems like a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. That said, it’s completely okay to grieve letting go of that dream trip you’d planned. And until you can rebook, I say focus on planning something new. It’ll be smaller, but more attainable, as well as a safer way to experience new place in this uncertain time.

This summer, Americans will be traveling the old fashioned way. No, not by covered wagon (though actually… no, never mind, I think the Oregon Trail was a much more fun computer game than a real-life experience). I’m talking by car! Van! RV! Motorcycle! Yes, friends, we will be hitting the open road, and I for one cannot wait.

Are you thinking about a road trip this summer? Here’s a few things to keep in mind.

AAA Travel is a sponsor of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love, but the opinions listed here are all mine. 

The One-Tank Road Trip

Planning a summer road trip? Read this first!

The travel industry is making a big push for the one-tank road trip. That means you’re basically filling up near home, then driving a total of 300-ish miles (man, you Prius owners have it good right now!).

Not only does this limit your exposure to other people, but a single tank of gas is pretty darn cheap—in fact, the US has the lowest gas prices in 17 years, according to AAA. Though prices are expected to rise over the summer, it’s still an economic way to travel.

Does keeping your trip to one-tank seem… boring? Au contraire! Think about all the places in your own state or area that you’ve always wanted to visit, but never prioritized. I’ll bet you’ve thought, “I’ll get to that [canoe area/national park/charming small town] one day.” Guess what? Today is that day. We often take what’s close and convenient for granted. This is the summer to be a tourist in our own backyard.

Your Best Travel Resource

When it comes to planning a regional trip, nothing beats your state’s tourism board. These websites do deep dives on local attractions and under-the-radar-places the big travel sites and media companies don’t have the bandwidth to unearth. Go to your state’s tourism site and you’ll find all sorts of incredible resources on planning road trips, along with scenic stops and mom-and-pop shop along the way.

My Favorite Travel Apps

Yes, there is an app for everything. But they are not all created equal! When it comes to road trip apps, I love iExit. Open the iExit app on or near any interstate nationwide. It finds your location automatically, shows you exits ahead, and what services are available at each exit. It even shows gas prices!
The Around Me app suggests nearby restaurants, bars, ATMS, grocery stores, banks, hotels and more. Especially great if you’re walking or driving around a new city.
When it comes to navigation, Google Maps is the gold standard. They just launched new features that inform travelers of COVID restrictions along their routes. They also include specials feature to find local businesses.

Plan Ahead, and Book Direct

Planning a summer road trip? Read this first!

We’ve become accustomed to booking online, often through third party sites. If you’re thinking about staying at a hotel, campground, or renting a house or cabin, might I suggest booking the old fashioned way, like on a telephone? Talking to a real person onsite will give you the most accurate information on what the area and property is like right now. Also, it makes any changes to your reservation easier to deal with.

Alternatively, you can always book through a travel agent (here’s why that’s an excellent idea).

BYOF

Planning a summer road trip? Read this first!

Yep, that’s right… bring your own food. You don’t need to plan on eating every single meal in your car, but nothing ruins a trip like a car full of hangry people—especially when you don’t know what will be open along the way. Bring a solid cooler and pack snacks, fruit, jerky, whatever. Get those mouths fed before they start complaining about your decision to listen to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors for the eleventy-millionth time.

Bathrooms

Ah, yes. Bathroom breaks are an essential part of road trips, and you never know when you might need to make one. Check ahead to see which welcome centers and rest stops are open along the way.

And throw a roll of TP into the glovebox.

And hand sanitizer.

Just in case.

Do Your Research

COVID19-related rules differ from state-to-state, county-to-county, even between towns. Thank goodness for this interactive map from AAA showcasing state-by-state restrictions that may affect road trippers. It should be noted that things are changing so quickly that the map may not always be up to date. Double-check rules with local government and tourism boards.

Masks and social distancing

Planning a summer road trip? Read this first!

Currently, several states require people to wear face coverings in public. Many others recommend it. And, as mentioned previously, some counties, cities and even specific shops have their own rules.

Regardless of your personal feelings of social distancing and masks, if you’re going to hit the road this summer, bring masks for the whole family. Remember, you are the visitor, and respecting local rules is a must.

 

Tolls

Everyone’s favorite road trip activity: paying tolls. Many states have closed cash toll collection (and the few that have not are saying drivers paying cash should expect long delays due to reduced staff). That doesn’t mean they’re free—just that you’ll be expected to pay via a transponder (like E-ZPass) or by mail/online (they can scan your plate and send you an invoice via mail—technology is crazy!). Look up the local tollway details prior to leaving so you’ll know what to do.

 

Shop & Eat Local

When possible, go out of your way to support local businesses. Get takeout from local restaurants. Skip the big box stores when shopping for supplies and hit up an independent hardware store (which, by the way, are so much fun to explore—from trinkets and board games to soap and camping supplies, they have it all!), gift shop or bookstore. So many breweries sell growlers and crowlers (aka 32oz cans of beer) to-go—often stuff you cannot buy in liquor stores. Everyone is hurting financially right now, and your money makes such a big impact when it’s spent with small businesses.

Are you planning a road trip this summer? Where are you going? How are you planning ahead?

This summer, Americans will be traveling the old fashioned way. No, not by covered wagon (though actually… no, never mind, I think the Oregon Trail was a much more fun computer game than a real-life experience). I’m talking by car! Van! RV! Motorcycle! Yes, friends, we will be hitting the open road, and I for one cannot wait. Are you thinking about a road trip this summer? Here’s a few things to keep in mind.

This Post Has 15 Comments
  1. When we are uncertain of rest stops we take a rain poncho with us (not the clear kind). These make a great cover up when someone needs a restroom and there are no bushes to hide behind. Put on the poncho and you are covered for your potty stop. We call these “poncho stops”. Lol

  2. Hi Samantha,

    We travel NJ, PA, NY every weekend (to get out of Brooklyn). Just to add to your article, we have found that it is easy to find bathrooms in supermarkets, Home Depot, Lowes, and Wawa just to name a few. Almost every area we have been to requires masks when entering stores. The essential stores are open but not much else right now. Shopping is not fun like it used to be (I can only spend so long with masks on before needing real air). People do come too close without a mask at times.

    Thanks for your weekly Go Live I truly enjoy all of your behind the scenes information. You are getting those of us with wanderlust through this time and I wanted you to know I really appreciate it. I have also noticed that true talent is shining through during this time. You are able to have a wonderful flow in your Live times and I get the impression you could probably fill more time. You are so natural and it is obvious you don’t need the backup. I’ve seen others where I said – oh my gosh they need their team lol.

    Thanks again for all you are doing. I appreciate you and your husband giving so freely of yourself for our benefit!

  3. Thank you for this post! I have a vacation rental cottage and we’ve seen a recent uptick in guests booking over the last 2 months. I appreciate your suggestions like BYOF; the small village where our cottage is located has limited resources (i.e. toilet paper, hand sanitizer, some meats, etc) and respect local rules about masks (carry extras with you)! Of course the local restaurants and shops still appreciate your business at the drive-through/curbside/outside dining and visiting their shops, but please be patient because not all are up to full speed with employees.

    Wishing All Serendipitous Travels,

    Sophie

    Two other thing I would like to add is to: Respect Our National/State/Local Parks—Remember to pack out what you bring in and What Smoky Bear 🐻 says: “only You can prevent forest 🔥 !”

  4. Yep, my wife and I had reservations for Paris and Edinburgh in May……that didn’t happen. Rescheduled for September…..probably also a bust. We’re on Ohio, thinking about the Oregon coast for this autumn…..should be nice.

  5. We’ve been road tripping all summer. Combining day trips with intrastate trips. Always do our research on the current protocols. Saves being surprised and disappointed when you arrive! So far, many destinations in FL + TN, IN, KY, NC, & GA. Heading out west before the year’s end. We made a pact that all U.S. destinations will be by car. Time to revisit the good ol’ USA!

  6. We already made our 2020 road trip! Texas to California and back. Studied the highway mileage to determine our stops, called hotels to ask about their county rate of virus, cleanliness, etc. and found great safe hotels going and returning home. Hotels are really stepping up to be safe and non-touch. We of course had plenty food/drink in our van to stop for lunches under shade trees. Other than that only take out food. We used the very clean rest stops on I-10 and I-20 and I-8. This was early June prior to increased rate of covid across the Southwest. Wore our masks, had plenty of hand wipes, sanitizer and disposable gloves for filling the gas tank, wiping surfaces, etc. We all quarantined ahead of time in order to get together for family trip to see more family in Cali. We’ve always loved family road trips; this one just required much more attention to safety. But it was a great and memorable family trip. Thanks, Samantha, for reminding us all that road trips can be great! Now, we still need to reschedule a trip to Nova Scotia, but that must wait.

  7. Since returning from Costa Rica last March, all 3 of our remaining 2020 trips were cancelled. One has been re-booked to 2021. I already had booked a cruise in 2021 last year and recently booked a tour for 2021. I won’t stop traveling! I live in NJ and decided to explore my state. So, in July, we booked a cabin in a campground near Cape May and spent a week in that area. There was plenty to see and do, and just relaxing in a change of scenery lifted my soul! We enjoyed outside dining once a day. The cabin had a full kitchen so preparing simple meals was easy. For the fall, I have several days trips planned. Following Samantha’s guidelines-the drive is less than 300 miles, taking our food, and enjoying what is possible to do now.

  8. Great article Samantha – and fun! We plan a road trip in September. To add to your Tolls section, check out “Uni” toll pass based here in Florida. I hate getting endless toll bills in the mail and the fees seem higher than normal. My research into passes that work in lots of states led me to it – works in 18 states, of which I hope to travel in at least 8 of them up the east coast. And it is portable so we can use it in our RV rental. Safe travels!

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