Image: By Maridav

The summer is almost here and many are planning to take road trips to avoid crowded airports, train stations, cruise ships, and busses. A number of states have lifted some covid restrictions and relaxed some of the strict lockdown mandates. However, those planning road trips must still consult local requirements regarding curfews, dining, masks, and quarantines. Since these guidelines may change daily, check the state or local government website for your destination on a daily basis.

If you plan on taking a road trip with family or friends this summer remember your manners and be a gracious travel buddy. Most of us have been cooped up for the past year and may need an etiquette refresher before entering close quarters with your travel companions for an extended amount of time. Below we list 10 tips for being an excellent travel companion. 

  1. Drivers: Well before your trip discuss covid protocols. Has everyone, including the driver reviewed AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions MapDiscuss and agree on COVID protocols. Will passengers mask up during the entire drive? Has anyone been exposed? Are passengers vaccinated? Be transparent about each driver’s comfort level and respect their wishes. Also, avoid letting your fuel go below ⅓ or ¼  tank.
  2. Do Your Covid Homework:  Before departure, look at the coronavirus positivity rates.  plan rest stops with coronavirus case numbers in mind. Choose rest stops in regions where cases are more in control than others. Be aware that some regions treat protocols differently, for example, Maine and Florida or Texas.
  3. Bring Your Own Safety Items: Be prepared with extra disposable masks, antiviral wipes, hand sanitizer gel (avoid spray as it may irritate other passengers), and latex gloves. You may be asked to go into convenience stores or pump gas.
  4. Plan Restroom Breaks in Advance: Avoid small, local pit stops where sanitization may be lax. Instead, consider one of the 5,000 private truck stops and travel plazas following CDC and WHO coronavirus guidelines. These truck stops implement sanitation procedures and have installed payment counter plexiglass barriers according to the National Association of Truck Stop Owners (NATSO). Consider doubling-up or wearing a premium mask in public restrooms to avoid toilet plumes.
  5. Download Maps Offline: For times when you are out of satellite range and need access to maps, download maps in advance. In rural areas, gas and wifi may be unavailable for hundreds of miles.
  6. Contactless: Opt for as many contactless transactions as possible when making purchases, checking-in, and checking-out of lodging.
  7. Pack Extra Snacks: When preparing for your trip, pack drinks and snacks to avoid the need to pop into a roadside store. Remember to ask other passengers about allergies, like tree nuts or peanuts. Pack extra snacks that can be shared in individual servings such as AustinNutsDelysia Chocolatier, Pringles, apples, bananas, or power bars.
  8. Add extra days: If your trip is derailed due to a covid restriction, having room to maneuver relieves stress. Be gracious and have a good attitude. Last year the red light on the dashboard in our SUV came on about 90 minutes into our 12-hour road trip even though the dealership had just conducted a maintenance check the week prior to departure. We returned to Austin and discovered a replacement part wouldn’t arrive for 2 days. My brother had secured opening day tickets to Denver’s new Olympic museum. Due to this, we rented a car, transferred our gear, and drove 10 hours. Although it wasn’t pleasant then, we look back and laugh. It was an unforgettable road trip and we now depart several days early when possible.
  9. Offer, Offer, Offer: As a passenger, it’s considerate and polite to offer gas money. Although some drivers won’t ask their passengers for gas money, it’s up to the passengers to take the initiative. If you are unsure of the amount, consider the following: gas tank capacity, passenger number, distance, and whether the driver is detouring for you. If the driver declines your offer of funds, tuck it into an envelope with their name and place it on the driver’s seat without their knowledge. During stops along the way, you can also pay for their meals, beverages, snacks, and food. Just show your appreciation!
  10. Games & Music: For safety, the driver has control over sound level and activity, including music. Even if they’re playing your least favorite song, refrain from changing the station or pressing the next button. Instead, start a conversation with other passengers to learn more about them. Researching a car game such as 12 Best Road Trip Games for Families and 14 Road Trips Games Adults Will Actually Enjoy.

Wherever your travels may take you plan ahead, know the covid guidelines, and put safety first for a smooth road trip experience. If you’re prepared for potential bumps in the road, the journey is much smoother.

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.

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