Planning a Road Trip During COVID-19

Summer is upon us. Is it time to hit the road?

We are all simultaneously anxious to get out of the house after months of restrictions and still stay safe and healthy as we start venturing out. For those of us who live with type 2 diabetes and are at risk of worse outcomes from COVID-19, staying safe and healthy will take some extra thought and effort.

The CDC’s advice for protecting yourself and others from COVID-19 remains the same:1

  • Avoid close physical contact with others
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when you’re around others
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched frequently
  • Be alert for symptoms
  • If you feel ill, stay home

In short, the safest place to be is in your own bubble—away from crowds and new people.

Travel planning with diabetes & COVID-19

Because of this, a lot of people are looking to road trips as a way to minimize the risk of infection while still traveling. In your own car or RV, you’re more in control of your surroundings. You get to choose who sits next to you. You also get to decide when and where you stop and get out of the car. Ultimately, you can choose the route that feels safest to you.

As you contemplate hitting the road to see the sights and/or visit friends and family, keep in mind the ways you can minimize your health risks along the way.

Plan your route in detail

Traveling with type 2 diabetes on board already requires substantial preplanning. You have to make sure you take enough medicine with you, think about changes to your daily routines, and figure out how to protect your medical devices. All of this before even taking the first step out of your door.

With COVID-19 infections still spreading you’ll need to plan your road trip in great detail in order to minimize the health risks you face.

Research restrictions in every area you're visiting

Travel restrictions are in place across the country. Each community (at the state, county, and city-level) is deciding what restrictions to put in place for travelers and businesses. This is making for a patchwork of regulations. Some places are even requiring visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days from the moment they arrive. You need to know what restrictions are in place, not just at your destination but also along the way. You don’t want to get stuck somewhere you thought you could simply drive through.

Travel restrictions are continually changing in response to the spread of COVID-19. Check for the latest regulations by keeping an eye on the websites for the public health departments of all states and counties you will travel to or through. Consider alternate routes for your trip in case restrictions change.

Realize also that travel restrictions will affect how easy it is to find a public restroom or other services along the way. Don’t be surprised to find usually-quiet destinations crowded with other people looking for relief from cabin fever. Consider and map out alternatives in advance.

Assess your accommodations for cleanliness and safety

Whether you’re stopping at a hotel along the way or parking an RV in someone’s driveway, it’s important to consider the physical distancing and cleaning practices that will be in place.

Ask your host about COVID-19 precautions

In addition to changes to cleaning routines, ask about their physical distancing rules and any changes to services offered. If you’re parking your RV in a driveway consider what rules you want to put in place to minimize exposure.

If you’re not sure what to ask about at your lodging check out the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s guidelines for a safe stay.

Pack more diabetes supplies than usual

Don’t assume you can get whatever you need along the way or once you get to your destination. Businesses that are usually open and well-stocked, might not be. If the worst happens and you need medical attention, the local hospital might not be able to see you immediately.

Think seriously about everything you need to manage your diabetes and stay healthy. Normally you need medications and diabetes supplies on hand, but as long as COVID-19 is spreading you’ll also need to bring along PPE (personal protective equipment), disinfectants, and cleaning supplies.

Also think about the things that will minimize the number of stops you need to make or the number of times you need to go into a crowded space, like a grocery store. This can mean packing food that you would normally get on the way, like cold drinks, snacks, and prepared meals.

Have a plan for public acitivities

Thinking out how to handle common, but potentially risky, activities in advance can relieve some of the stress and apprehension that can come as you plan your road trip.

For example, stepping out into a crowd is risky, especially when not everyone is wearing a mask or keeping physically distant. Consider how you will respond to different situations. How many people are too many for you to feel comfortable? At what point will you want to walk away from the crowd? Will you look for a less crowded place to go to or return to your car?

Using a public bathroom is another nerve-wracking situation. CDC guidelines call for cleaning and disinfecting public restrooms regularly and making sure that hand soap is available.2 But you can’t always know when the last time the bathroom stall was cleaned. Will you use disinfecting wipes on the toilet seat and handle when using the restroom? Will you bring your own hand sanitizer?

Planning might turn out to be the best part

If, after thinking through all the details of your road trip, you’re a little put-off and not so sure you want to venture out after all, don’t be discouraged. The mere act of planning a trip can bring pleasure and provide some relief from the monotony and stress of staying at home. Planning a trip can give you something to look forward to, something to think about that’s outside your daily routine, and something to talk about. If you find thinking about your road trip plans becomes stressful you can simply put it away for another time.

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