I’ve started traveling again….cautiously in this COVID-19 pandemic world we now live in. As we head into the July 4th holiday weekend, here are my observations and tips for prepping for a road. These are based on my experiences going on two Colorado road trips in the past two weeks to Ouray, Telluride and Vail.
Make a Stay Healthy Kit
Create a stay healthy kit to leave in your car so you always have disposal gloves, masks and hand sanitizer. Whether you’re on a road trip or not, this is a great idea. Here’s what’s in mine. I use disposal gloves for pumping gas. I put on one glove and use that hand only to touch the keypad and pump then throw it away. I have several mask options: multiple disposal masks, a cotton one and a neck gaiter. The gaiter is for outdoor recreation. I wear a gaiter (buff) on the trail and cover my face when passing someone. I have two small hand sanitizers in the bag. My stay healthy kit is in cubby on my passenger’s side door for easy access.
Check Destination’s COVID-19 Health Updates Before You Go
Each destination, town, and county has different regulations and are at difference stages of re-opening. Everything is fluid, so be informed before your trip by checking the county’s or town’s COVID-19 health update. You can easily do that by search keywords of the destination’s name and COVID-19 health updates, like “Telluride COVID-19 health updates.” All three hotels I stayed in included COVID-19 policies and procedures in reservation confirmation emails. When I checked in at Sonnenalp in Vail, they went one step farther and gave me a copy of Eagle County’s “5 Commitments to Containment” to follow.
Take Water and Snacks
I always road trip with at least a gallon of water. I use four 32-ounce water bottles and fill them up at home. I put them in a bag on the floorboard behind my driver’s seat. I never road trip without a small cooler of drinks and a bag full of snacks. My usual go-to’s in a small cooler are a green juice, sparkling water and a banana or two for healthy options on the road. I keep the snack bag packed in the summer so it’s easy to grab and go. My snack bag always has goodies from Honey Stinger, Larabar and Justin’s Nut Butters. These are three Colorado-based companies I love. The bars, waffles, gel chews and nut butters are also perfect for hiking and other outdoor adventures. There are packets of nuts and other bars for variety in there too. I have Nuun Hydration Sport tablets for quick electrolytes and honey sticks. From my experience hiking 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado, honey sticks are the fastest way to get an energy boost and easy on the tummy when you don’t feel like you can get anything else down.
Be Auto Aware
There are more campers, RVs and trailers on the roads than I’ve ever seen. More larger vehicles means traffic flow changes. Some drivers are RV newbies. Be auto aware and stay alert on the roads. As a travel journalist who writes for AAA National, AAA Colorado and AAA Carolinas, I also suggest making sure your AAA membership is up-to-date, especially heading into the holiday weekend. I have the premier membership level just in case I need a 200 mile tow when I’m out adventuring in remote locations.
Plan Bathroom Breaks
I learned from experience on my road trip to Ouray and Telluride that you need to plan bathroom breaks. A lot of rest areas and welcome centers are closed. This also applies to bathrooms in national parks, trailheads and recreation areas. When you stop for gas, take a bathroom break whether you need to or not. Down the road, you’ll be glad you did! Wear a mask in the gas station, wash your hands and use hand sanitizer when you get back in your car. I know it sounds like overkill, but that’s what I do.
Plan for Sunday Summer Slowdowns
If you live in a city with traffic congestion on summer Sunday afternoons, it’s worse this year with more people road tripping, especially in campers and RVs or with trailers. In Denver, there’s always big slowdowns on I-70 and 285 noon-6pm on Sunday afternoons. Plan ahead to get through the typical slowdown spots before noon or after 6pm on Sundays if you don’t want to be crawling along at a snail’s pace trying to get home.
Wear a Mask and Follow other Hotel Health Precautions
Checking into a hotel and your entire stay, frankly, is different these days. You need to wear a mask inside hotels. All three of the hotels I stayed in have signs to remind you to wear your mask. It’s for your safety and the safety of other guests and employees. For my stays at Ouray Chalet Inn and Mountainside Inn, they only allow one guest at a time in the office and face masks are required. That’s what you’re going to find at family-owned and smaller hotels. In Vail, I stayed at Sonnenalp. When I drove into this luxury hotel, Michael, the valet guy, asked me name while I was still in my car. He was wearing a face mask and gloves. Michael went inside to let the front desk know I was there. When I walked into the lobby wearing my face mask, I was there no more than two minutes and off to my room. There’s hand sanitizer dispensers next to the elevators, which are limited now to only your party per ride. There is no turn down service and they request you let the front desk know when you are out of the room if you want daily housekeeping. In the room, the mini-bar is locked, toiletries like q-tips and cotton balls are in small packets and glasses are wrapped in plastic after being sanitized. Sonnenalp is doing a wait period of 24-48 hours per room between guests. All three hotels have extensive cleaning procedures in place.
Enjoy Outdoor Dining, Drinking and Shopping
There’s extensive outdoor dining, drinking and even shopping now in tourist destinations. In Ouray, I sat outside on a restaurant’s patio for dinner and grabbed a latte through a Dutch door at a quaint local coffee shop. In Telluride, a portion of Colorado Avenue is blocked off for outdoor seat in the street. You can order drinks and food from multiple restaurants from your table. Vail already had tremendous outdoor seating, but restaurants have expanded it even more. You can also walk around with your cocktail in parts of Vail Village. While waiting for an outside table on the balcony at El Segundo, my friend and I ordered cocktails to go and enjoyed them along Gore Creek. Stores either have limited numbers allowed inside to shop or have racks outside for you to peruse. There are a tons of sales if you need some incentive to shop.
Fresh Air Fun
Best part of summer is being outside. Explore the free fun in town. In Vail, check out its art in public places, stroll through the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and hike along Gore Creek. Take a day trip up a dirt road to Piney River Ranch for water fun on the lake and to hike. My friend and I hiked to Piney Falls then enjoyed lunch out at a picnic table with a view. In Telluride, you can hike to waterfalls from town. Cornet Falls was a find on my last trip. Walk through their one-way farmers’ market, hike to and above the iconic Bridal Veil Falls, do the self-guided historic walking tour and ride the free gondola up to Mountain Village. You have to wear a mask to wait in line for gondola. As I witnessed, each car is cleaned before you get on, only your party is allowed in your car and all the windows are open for ventilation. In Ouray, do a self-guide historic walking tour. Climb the new Ouray Via Ferrata. It’s free if you already have via ferrata climbing gear (helmet, harness, lanyard and gloves). You can rent gear in town like I did. Do a guided tours if you are not an experienced climber or with folks who are.
Be Gracious and Patient
Even outside of the pandemic, being gracious and patient while traveling makes a world of difference. A little kindness goes a long way. Remember this is uncharted territory for all of us. There are so many procedure changes in destinations, restaurants and hotels. Be gracious and patient with staff. They’re doing the best they can to make sure you have a wonderful and safe experience.
Author Jennifer Broome is an avid road tripper. In two years, she logged over 30,000 miles driving, especially across the American West. Check out the Explore section for road trip and outdoor adventure inspiration.