Raise your hand if the last several months of quarantine life have induced vivid daydreams of escaping to new and fascinating places that aren’t your living room. Now, raise your hand if those aspirations involved stepping onto a crowded plane and sharing your row with a serial armrest thief, who may have a less-than-reasonable interpretation of “social distancing.” If you’re like many Americans, traveling by air can be a stressful affair on any occasion, but add COVID-19 into the mix, and the prospect may seem downright unconscionable. This is why transportation experts have reached a somewhat unanimous conclusion about the immediate future of travel – the car is king (again).
In late July of this year, Generali Global Assistance (GGA), a global travel insurance corporation, released the findings of its Future of Travel survey. Having surveyed 11,000 individuals across 11 countries in the US, Europe, and Asia, it was found that 73 percent of Americans planned to go on a vacation this year, proving the travel bug is alive and well post lockdown. 47 percent said they would be traveling domestically for their main trip while only 5 percent said they would travel outside of the US. A strong majority of respondents (72%) intended to drive their personal vehicle on their getaway while another 9% would take advantage of rental car services – suggesting that 81% of travelers will be cruising along our nation’s highways and byways.
So, why does this all matter? Because road travel itself is not only experiencing a boom, but it has also changed substantially in light of COVID-19. The team at Maryland Road Trips wholeheartedly believes our state possesses some of the best mountain-to-sea attractions contained in a relatively small land area, and we want you and your road warrior companions to experience the best of it. But we also want you to be safe and mindful of the reality we’re currently experiencing. That being said, here are some travel tips to help your journey through Maryland go off without a hitch:
Know before you go
The Maryland Office of Tourism is not only an incredible resource for finding activities, but they also maintain a fantastic page dedicated to updates on Maryland’s travel guidance amidst COVID-19. While Maryland has taken aggressive efforts to successfully reduce positive case numbers, decisions affecting local business operations rest with county governments, so the state also provides an easy-to-navigate page for accessing each county’s COVID-19 resources. Need maps or guides when you get here? Our state-operated welcome centers are the perfect place to snag some helpful information. Plus, if you call ahead, they’ll bring materials right to the door if you’re not comfortable entering the building.
Check your social feeds
If you’re eager to hit that incredible brewery, delicious pizza spot, or quirky antique store, don’t just show up. Hours of operation and lines of service have changed for many small businesses, so check their social media channels prior to arriving so you and your fellow travelers aren’t disappointed upon finding a “closed” sign hanging in the door. A little Facebook scrolling can save a lot of hangry down the road (especially when pizza is on the line).
Pack your (COVID-19) essentials
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – because you have – but bring your masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. This great (read as: brief) resource from the Mayo Clinic offers some wonderful recommendations and insights that will help keep health and wellbeing at the forefront of your mind while traveling.
To ensure you and passengers get used to the rhythm of taking appropriate precautions, create an “enter the car/exit the car” routine that will make mask-wearing and hand sanitizing feel like second nature. Have kids in the car? Make the routine into a song! Whether they love it or hate it, they’ll certainly remember it.
Live life on the road (not inside a gas station)
Even pre-pandemic, one of the hallmarks of road travel was eating junk food as if tomorrow would never come. Let’s be honest – celery sticks once packed in your lunch are now replaced with party-sized bags of Doritos propped against the car’s shifter, and no one’s judging you for it.
In fact, you should lean into the idea of planning more substantial snack breaks (or even entire meals) for enjoyment in the car or at a roadside picnic table. By stocking up on food and drink prior to leaving, you reduce the number of stops in gas stations and convenience stores, thus saving you from unnecessary exposure to crowds. Invest in a good car storage system for all those treats, like this trunk organizer and cooler bag on Amazon.
Especially during peak vacation times, expect car travel to be heavy and even chaotic at times. While your aunt’s current hot take on the election may be an amusing Facebook post to read, behind the wheel is not the time to check it out. Designate someone in the car to be the navigator, so they can worry about directions. If you’re traveling alone, invest in a good smartphone mount to ensure your hands stay free at all times for things like holding the steering wheel and driving. Maryland has strongly enforced distracted driving laws, so don’t find yourself on the wrong end of a citation because you couldn’t put your phone down.
Keep it simple
The joy of car travel is in its simplicity. No security checkpoints, no checked baggage, no time-sensitive connecting flights – it’s just you and the road. Make your experience more enjoyable by embracing some minimalism and eliminating what might otherwise distract you from the unexpected adventures that await. A little planning on the front end will certainly keep things going smoothly from a logistical standpoint, but create some breathing room (of time) to be pleasantly surprised by your surroundings. The less frantic or rushed you allow yourself to be, the less prone you’ll be to missteps that might otherwise jeopardize your wellbeing.
Slow down, keep it simple, and allow the Free State to make those travel daydreams a reality.
Lead Photo: Shutterstock