Road trip checklist: How to prep for California car travel in the coronavirus


It’s officially summer, and many Bay Area residents may be itching to get out of sheltering in place and hit the road. But being in a pandemic adds another layer of planning and preparation for a road trip.

Dr. Jeanne Noble, director of COVID response for the UCSF Emergency Department, traveled recently to the Navajo reservation in Gallup, N.M., to help with COVID-19 patient care and had to think about ways to stay safe in unfamiliar places.

“The most important thing … is not to expose yourself to a large number of other people, especially if you get within a few feet of them and not everyone is wearing face masks,” she said. “Disease and infection spreads in close proximity to other people. If you’re freely standing in a group of people for 20 to 30 minutes, that’s where you get sick if someone happens to have it. … Meals in the park, going car camping, backpacking, enjoying the outdoors and getting in tune with nature wherever you are reduces the risk.”

We spoke to health experts and the American Automobile Association to get advice on what to include in a road trip checklist for the COVID-19 era: items to pack, must-dos ahead of the trip, and safety steps to take while on the road.

Want a cheat sheet to download, print out and take with you on your travels? Go here to download the top highlights from all of the tips and takeaways we list below. And for more information on how to road-trip safely as California reopens, visit our FAQ here.

Packing essentials and tips (in addition to your regular list)

Hand sanitizer: Bring a smaller bottle while out and have a larger bottle at the entrance of your hotel room for convenient access when you return.

Face masks: Each person should have at least one and preferably a backup in case the first one gets contaminated.

Disinfecting wipes or spray: Find a brand approved by the EPA to kill the coronavirus by checking the registration number. Diluted bleach and 70% rubbing alcohol will work for certain surfaces.

Paper lunch bags: If your mask gets contaminated, Noble said this is a good way to keep it separated from clean items and allow it to decontaminate. Paper bags are porous and breathable, so they are better for decontamination than plastic bags.

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