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Tips for road trips during a coronavirus pandemic

Since summer is in full swing and COVID 19 rates are still on the rise in the U.S., people forego faraway vacation spots and opt for road trips instead. Like Dr. Emily Ricotta, epidemiologist in the Epidemiology Department of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Mental Floss that traveling is currently risky and the safest way to stay at home is safest. That means if you are on the road for a camping trip, a barbecue or any other socially distant event, here are some tips on how to get there germ-free.

1. Plan your route in advance.

Even if you choose a route that you know by heart, things may have changed since your last trip. How USA today explains that some states have updated their personal toll collection and grocery sales guidelines at rest stops, and the fast food restaurants you typically use for bathroom breaks may only be open to transit services. To minimize uncertainty and extra time to find a bathroom, plan your route, including stops before you set off.

2. Avoid traveling to countries with high COVID 1
9 rates.

States like Florida and Texas have seen dramatic spikes in COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks, and some are re-opening their plans to prevent the situation from deteriorating. “It is currently not a good idea to travel to high-incidence countries because it increases the risk of infection dramatically,” Ricotta says.

If your ideal beach or hiking trail is in a high incidence state, it is best to keep this trip for the next year and drive to a less risky place. And if your own state’s COVID 19 rates are high, consider postponing your trip until things have calmed down.

3. Find out what security logs are in place before going anywhere.

It is also a good idea to check beforehand whether locations take certain precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you know that a state prescribes wearing masks in public and prohibits large indoor gatherings and meals, you can decide whether it is safe enough to visit. The same applies to hotels, restaurants and other sole proprietorships.

“I think if you can call ahead and ask hotels and other facilities about their security protocols, you should,” Ricotta says. “If there is no record or no one can provide you with details, it may be better to find alternative accommodation.”

4. Pack travel kits with snacks, disinfectants, and other necessities.

An effective way to minimize contact with other people is to reduce the number of stops. Bring plenty of snacks and water – and maybe a thermos of coffee – to your car so you don’t have to go to convenience stores and stop at restaurants with drive-thrus or snack bars if you need a heartier meal on the go. Your travel sets should also contain plenty of hand sanitizers, hygienic towels, additional masks and disposable gloves so that you can remain sterile when you stop.

5. Opt for paper towels over hand dryers in public restrooms.

Because hand dryers can blow virus particles into the air, paper towels are safest. “I know some aerosol specialists who avoid air dryers (before COVID-19!), So I always choose paper towels when they are available,” says Ricotta. “In general, it is good practice to avoid anything that the virus can blow up.”

If you’re worried about coming across a rest area where the bathrooms aren’t filled with paper towels, you can always bring a few of your own. When you leave the bathroom, open the door with a paper towel so as not to touch it.

6. If possible, pay in cash with credit or debit cards.

Paper bills are a breeding ground for germs, and paying with cash also requires a direct exchange with cashiers. AARP recommends using a credit or debit card for transactions whenever possible and cleaning your card regularly with a disinfectant wipe.

7. Wipe the surfaces well before settling in your hotel room.

While many hotels have introduced stricter cleaning guidelines in recent months, you should still use these handy hygienic towels on table tops, counters, and basically anywhere you want to put your hands or things. “I would recommend wiping touch-sensitive surfaces such as door handles, taps and remote controls with antimicrobial cloths,” advises Ricotta. And it is best not to stay in the lobby or other common areas as you cannot control how often they are cleaned.

8. and 9. Wear your mask and wash your hands.

As always, stick to the two principles of COVID-19 prevention. First, wear your mask when entering a public place (including outside areas that are too crowded to allow social distance). Second, wash your hands regularly, especially after using the toilet or touching a gas pump or ATM.

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