How to Prepare Your Vehicle For a Pandemic Road Trip

There’s no doubt that the novel coronavirus has thrown all of our plans for a loop. Concerts, plays, conferences, and graduation ceremonies have all been canceled. And while 35% of weddings are outdoor occasions, many of them have had to be postponed or significantly scaled back in order to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

But while you may have had to delay your vacation during the early months of the pandemic, many people are hoping to get away (and to so safely) as we head into the fall and winter. And although traveling by plane is still technically an option, it’s generally much safer to utilize your own personal transportation to get from point A to point B. Despite the fact that accidents are the third-leading cause of death in Colorado, driving in your own vehicle typically comes with a much lower risk than getting on a plane, train, or bus. In other words, this might be as good a time as any to plan a road trip.

Still, you’ll need to take proper precautions if you’re planning a pandemic road trip. Aside from knowing where to stop and where to stay, you’ll need to prepare your vehicle in advance. Here are just a few tips that can keep you safe and healthy while you’re out on the open road.

Take a Test Drive

When buying a new car, taking a test drive is normal. But you might also want to adopt this practice as you prepare for your road trip. Take a short trip — maybe to somewhere that’s a half-hour away or spend a few hours running errands — to assess whether there are any obvious issues with your vehicle. If you observe any strange sounds, odors, or dashboard lights, you should bring it into the shop or consider whether another vehicle might be better suited for the trip. Be sure to give yourself enough time to have the vehicle service or to find an alternative so that you don’t have to put off your vacation even further.

Schedule Necessary Maintenance

Even if your car isn’t acting up, part of preparing for a road trip is to have all necessary upkeep taken care of before you leave. This might involve anything from replacing the windshield wiper blades (which you could easily do yourself) and changing the oil to having a new battery installed. Keep in mind that while a trim piece that costs only $5 to make can carry a 5,000% premium at the retail counter, there are certain maintenance tasks that should be handled by the professionals. And if your car is due for its inspection or you need to renew your registration, roadside assistance membership, or driver’s license, make sure to check those off your to-do list well before you’re scheduled to leave to avoid any legal complications.

Stock Your Emergency Kit

Assuming your vehicle is in excellent working order, it’s time to pack up your car. In addition to your clothes, personal effects, and snacks, you’ll need to bring along an emergency kit to ensure you stay safe in the event of an emergency. This emergency kit should include jumper cables, flares, tools, a flashlight with extra batteries, first aid supplies, blankets, a fold-out map or GPS device, trash bags, a car charger or portable phone bank, spare change, duct tape, rain gear, a snow brush, cat litter (for traction), bottled water, and non-perishable food items. In the era of COVID, you’ll also want to include hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, extra soap, face masks, and gloves. Keep in mind that the more self-sufficient you can be (i.e., bringing your own supplies, rather than buying them on the road), the lower the risk that you’ll come into someone who has coronavirus.

Ultimately, it’s best not to go on a road trip if you or someone in your household has a higher risk of complications related to COVID-19. Even if you’re not in a high-risk group, taking a vacation is a non-essential that many of us could do without for now. But if you’re intent on traveling outside of your area, even for just a few days away, you can at least do everything you can to prepare your vehicle for anything that might occur.