Thousands of new RVers are hitting the road this year as a result of the COVID-19 virus. Americans have an itch to travel, but they’d prefer to do it while hauling around their own bed, kitchen, and bathroom these days. It seems like everyone wants to try their hand at camping. This isn’t going away anytime soon, and even seasoned RVers are asking tough questions about their travels.
My family lives full-time on the road, and I cover the RV and camping lifestyle closely at RVMiles.com, so I’ve been gathering a picture of what travel looks like today, and how it might change in the near future. I thought it’d be a good time to share some tips I’ve found helpful for getting out in the new normal.
We are guests in other communities
First and foremost, I think it’s important to realize that when we travel to a new state or community, we don’t pay taxes or elect officials there, so it’s a little difficult to argue with their rules. In fact, we should go above and beyond to show locals that travelers are nothing to fear, which could potentially help lessen travel restrictions in the future. Follow whatever the state’s mask laws are, whether you are indoors or out and near a crowd. The same goes for a business. If a grocery store requests that you wait outside until their reduced capacity allows for you to enter, please be understanding and follow their rules. Avoid unnecessary trips to places where it’s difficult to socially distance. Go the extra mile.
National Parks aren’t as socially distant as they sound
You’ve heard it over and over by now—”what’s safer than a National Park during a pandemic?” Well, there are a lot of people in parks right now, and they all go to the same overlooks and famous places, and they all use the same facilities. You can get away from people at most National Parks, but it might mean visiting more remote areas, or hiking away from the road a bit. But consider visiting less-trafficked national forests, recreation areas, or state parks instead.
Stay safe on the trail
Speaking of trails, if you’re a hiker, busy trails can mean close proximity to lots of people passing you on a narrow walkway. One-way loop trails are the best option. If everyone is heading the same direction, they’re less likely to cross each other. Invest in a Buff-type multi-function headwear. In the heat, you can get them wet and wear them around your neck, or as a headband to wick away the sweat. But they also make a great face covering. You can lift a Buff up from around your neck anytime you’re near a passing hiker without having to keep a mask on at all times.
Take 14-day quarantines seriously
You’ve heard of them. You might not understand them. Some states are implementing 14-day quarantines for out-of-state travelers. That’s two weeks of no grocery stores, gas stations…nothing. This is the governors’ way of deterring travelers. It might be best to just avoid that state altogether. That said, if you absolutely have to travel through another state, don’t stay more than a night or interact with anyone.
Enjoy low-risk activities
Hospitals, first responders, and healthcare workers are working extremely hard right now. Most are asking that we avoid all the other non-COVID things that could send us to a hospital. Be extra careful with your activity choices—especially you adventurers—so you don’t trigger an untimely rescue operation or surgery. Be extra cognizant of things like heat exhaustion, dehydration, and altitude sickness.
Get grocery pick-up
There’s no better time to get on the pre-ordered grocery train. We’ve really enjoyed putting in a Walmart pick-up order before we head to a new destination, and then loading it right into the trailer before pulling into the new campground. But it’s not just Walmart. You can get curbside pickup at most grocery stores, and even places like Home Depot.
Sanitize your campsite
Campsites aren’t exactly the cleanest spaces. It’s always a good idea—even outside of a pandemic—to wipe down the electric post, water spout, and the picnic table. Many RVers have made a regular habit of dipping the water connection into a bowl of bleach water (especially considering the number of people who don’t use separate hoses for freshwater and sewer clean-up). At the dump station, use your sink (or outdoor shower if you have one) to wash your hands before and after. Even gloves aren’t a good substitution for thorough hand washing.
Safely support local businesses
A lot of the places we may go this year rely on tourism from camping to keep their economy ticking. These businesses are hurting, even if people are getting out more now. Find out what restaurants and shops are doing in a new community and get some take-out or to-go growlers, and order souvenirs from their websites.
Plan, plan, plan
Now more than ever, it’s important to be flexible. As I’m writing this, several popular national park campgrounds have canceled reservations to reduce capacity. State rules are changing rapidly, and anything can happen. That campground you have booked 1000 miles away may close. That state may introduce a new 14-day quarantine. You want to have options to fall back on. You might also consider your home state as the best place to travel right now, so that when things do change, you can get home quickly. Many snowbirds are starting to figure out their winter plans, and of course, all of the popular wintering states are big hotspots right now. It’s time to come up with other camping options if Florida and Texas aren’t available to you.
Be a hero
As much as we’re all concerned about our own safety, it’s important to remember we’re all in this together. If you wish to err on the side of caution, assume you are a carrier and avoid contact with others. Mask up. Use hand sanitizer before touching a gas pump or entering a store or bathroom. Stay more than 6 feet away. Take care of your fellow humans and we’ll all get through this together.
Written by: Jason Epperson
Jason is the father and husband of Our Wandering Family (AKA RV Miles). He travels full time with his wife and their 3 boys in their 5th Wheel. Each week they bring a personal twist on the RV and camping lifestyle to thousands across the internet via their podcasts RV Miles, America’s National Parks, and See America.