Road-tripping is definitely not going to be the same this summer.
The COVID-19 pandemic has now stretched into the summer months, putting a pause on many planned vacations. It has also instilled some new limitations on the time-honored road trip, an American venture that is going to be a lot different in the summer of 2020.
The traditional gallup through New England’s six states, with stops at attractions and diners along the way, isn’t going to be a possibility due to strict quarantine laws. However, it can be replaced by a road trip of a different sort, one that will take careful planning and will be limited by state borders.
A summer vacation can exist, but it’s going to take a lot of learning about the ever-changing rules and phases that each state in New England is trying to implement., So, if you’re planning on hitting the road over the next few months, here are a few answers to some of the most pressing questions. Keep in mind, rules and regulations are changing each week, so be sure to check in with each state for the latest on its reopening process:
What is the safest way to get gas?
Odds are, unless you’ve been truly quarantined for the better part of the last three months, you’ve had to make a stop or two at the gas station at some point. So, while on the road, the procedure shouldn’t be much different. Except, it’s probably important to note that, unlike your friendly, neighborhood gas station, the one you might find right off the highway could have been deluged by any number of customers from any number of different states and levels of infection.
Therefore, drivers are going to be encouraged to use plastic gloves while pumping gas, and to dispose of them in a provided receptacle, likely located curbside. Be sure to use a credit card and pay at the pump so as to limit the amount of face-to-face interaction that a cash transaction, inside at the register, will require. Also, if you just can’t make the next portion of your trip without that bag of Combos from the mini mart, just be sure to follow protocol and wear your mask inside.
What is the safest way to pick up food?
Luckily, the easiest, fastest way to grab meals and snacks on the road is also the safest. Even in some of the more remote locations of New England, you’ll likely be able to find a fast-food restaurant with a drive through window, which makes contactless service a breeze.
Then again, you might not be in the mood for Taco Bell or Wendy’s for every meal.
Popular summertime roadside clam shack stops like the Beach Plum in Portsmouth, N.H. and Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar, in Eastham, Mass., are still offering favorites for takeout. Popular burger joint Wicked Fresh is also open for takeout in North Conway, N.H. Meanwhile, many places throughout the region, including the Woodstock Inn and Brewery, have started to provide patio service. Most require a reservation, due to the feature’s popularity, which may not make it the easiest prospect while on the road.
Indoor seating will slowly be introduced into New Hampshire restaurants, but it’s likely safest to heed caution and try to depend on the snacks you’ve packed in the cooler and depend on some stops with quick service.
What should travelers do before staying at a hotel, motel or Airbnb?
Here’s where the ultimate freedom felt on a road trip can get a little more regimented. Take Vermont, for example. According to Heather Pelham, commissioner for the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, travel restrictions currently in place in the Green Mountain State are the same for every type of lodging property. That means, as of June 15, visitors to the state must have quarantined in their home state for 14 days, and made a direct trip with no stops along the way, to their lodging property. That means no gas or sightseeing stops. Visitors traveling by plane, train, bus or other means of transportation, must quarantine at a Vermont lodging establishment for 14 days.
Those sorts of regulations mean that you can’t just hop in the car, take a few detours, then find a suitable motel along the road somewhere with a “No Vacancy” sign to spend the night.
Depending on what state county you travel from, there are no quarantine restrictions in Vermont, but these originations, for now, do not include most of Massachusetts and Connecticut. In Maine, residents of Vermont and New Hampshire can begin booking lodging without quarantine.
New Hampshire is requesting a 14-day period of quarantine before arrival at any of its lodging facilities as well. According to the state’s COVID-19 reopening guidance: “Operators should require a copy of a NH driver’s license or a signed document from the guest(s) attesting that all the person(s) staying at the lodging facility remained at a home for at least 14 days before arriving in New Hampshire, only going out for essential items and when outside of the home maintaining social distancing and wearing face masks when within less than 6 feet of another person during this 14-day ‘quarantine.’ Out-of-state guests should be made aware at the time of the reservation of the need for this requirement and signature.”
Airbnd recently released a new cleaning protocol for its hosts with step-by-step guidelines to help make guests feel safe. You can check out some highlights of the guidelines at www.airbnb.com.
Can travelers rent a car?
Yes, car rental outlets are open during the pandemic. But they are also trying to ease any apprehension customers might have about driving a vehicle recently occupied by somebody else by adhering to cleaning requirements. Enterprise, for instance, is committed to “washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets leading health authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20-plus high-touch points.” Those touch points include door pockets, seat belts, steering wheels, and areas between the consoles.
How safe are pools, lakes, and the ocean?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds.” However, the CDC has issued some guidelines for this summer’s swimming activities, including staying six feet away from others and wearing masks when not in the water.
The biggest risks for transmission may come in a public area outside of the pool, pond, or ocean. In these situations, use the same vigilance you normally would in any other public environment.
How can travelers stay safe using a public bathroom?
Ideally, you’ll be able to find a public bathroom situation without a door handle and touchless technology at the cleaning station. However, it’s probably safe to bet that rest room options might be limited while on the road, which means you’ll need to take extra precaution. That naturally means wearing a mask, but especially gloves, should you need to use the facilities. It’s also important to wash your hands, and use a paper towel, if needed, in order to open the door.
Will any attractions be open?
It depends. While some attractions, like the Mount Washington Auto Road, are planning on being busy this summer, there is still a lot of uncertainty for others in New Hampshire, particularly at amusement parks like Story Land and Clark’s Trading Post. Santa’s Village is aiming to open on July 1, but with some limitations. That includes the requirement to reserve tickets ahead of time. Most ski areas are gearing up with their summer activities and should be up and running, albeit, not at full steam (the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, for instance, is not expected to operate thus summer), during the next few weeks leading into July. Some spots, like Funtown Splashtown in Saco Maine, have already decided to close for the season, so it’s imperative to check beforehand and plan before making out your itinerary.
How can travelers learn about different state requirements?
It can all be quite confusing, particularly since each state is going through its own reopening phases. For the most up-to-date information though, you should visit the following before deciding to travel to any other state:
New Hampshire: www.visitnh.gov/covid19/reopening
Rhode Island: www.reopeningri.com