Safe journeys: Experts tell you what to do for road trips during the pandemic
Karen Downey was prepared for the trip. Full tank? Check. Know the route and where to stop? Check. Hand sanitizer? Lots of hand sanitizer.
“It was a good trip,” said Downey, of Cortland, noting that the family stayed in her parents’ home in Pennsylvania, playing card games, making tie-dyed shirts and going swimming.
To be extra safe, she made sure to fuel up on gas to reduce stops. On the one bathroom stop, she made sure sons Daniel, 11, and David, 7, used hand sanitizer.
The summer of 2020 may not be one for international travel or taking a cruise, but vacationers may still be eager to go someplace new, said Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations and corporate communications for AAA of Western and Central New York.
Americans will take about 700 million this summer, which is down 15% from last summer, the first decline in summer travel since 2009, according to AAA travel forecast statistics.
The vast majority of these trips — 683 million — will be by car, which saw only a 3.3% decline from the summer before. In comparison, travel by planes and trains or cruises will be down 73.9% to 15.1 million trips and 85.5% to 9.3 million trips, respectively.
With COVID-19 restrictions preventing Amercians from traveling to Europe and cruise ships canceling cruises, Carey said AAA expects to see more people take shorter, closer-to-home trips initially and if they feel comfortable with that, go on longer trips across the country.
Forl New York residents, travel might first look like day or weekend trips to the Finger Lakes, Thousand Islands and the Adirondacks, Carey said. If travelers get more comfortable with this approach, they may extend to Cape Cod, Myrtle Beach or go out west to visit national parks.
“I think more people are staying home, staying local,” said Cindy Benz, a co-owner of Cortland Travel Center.
Benz has said that “pretty much everything has been canceled to the fall” in regard to large scale travel with tour companies and cruise lines canceling trips, which is when the majority of her clients.
Like Carey, Benz expects more people to take driving trips.
“Honestly, I think people are going to visit family and not so much go to a resort area,” she said.
Benz has worked to rebook many of her clients’ trips to the Caribbean and Mexico to 2021, when they hope the virus and its restrictions will have passed.
People traveling by car should remember and practice social distancing guidelines, Carey said. Pack masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.
Also expect changes at the destination, including reduced housekeeping.
She also recommended that people wipe surfaces or objects before they touch them, including gas station nozzles and TV remotes.
“These are just extra steps you can take to make sure you’re as safe as possible,” she said.
AAA has also updated its TripTik planning map on its website with coronavirus restrictions to help notify travelers of what they may face on the way.
Then there’s the return trip. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that people returning to New York from states with increasing rates of coronavirus in the south and west — California, Texas, Arizona and Florida, to name a few — will have to quarantine for 14 days upon return.
Whatever people may choose or wherever they may decide to go, Carey suggests travelers contact a travel agent first.
“We always remind people that travel is a personal choice,” she said. “People should choose a trip they are comfortable with at their comfort level.”