Road Trip Tips in the Time of COVID-19


Welcome to the Summer of Road Trips! With international and air travel on hold, this summer is a great time for a family road trip! Before COVID, we road tripped to NYC almost every other month to visit family. We’ve learned a lot about how to survive those drives which range from 4 – 8 hours depending on traffic!

Below are some tips for a successful road trip with kids—whether you explore closer to home or on a cross country RV trip!

Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

Sanity Savers in the Car

Visually Show the Distance
During your road trip, you will inevitably be met with the most asked question, “Are we there yet???” A great idea to show your kids the distance to your destination is to move a clothespin along a string inside your car. You could even make it a game: whoever whines the least gets to move the clothespin!

Good Traveler Awards
We have a family tradition of wrapping small surprises in brown paper bags and giving them to our kids at certain travel intervals. My mom named them Good Traveler Awards (aka GTAs) when she traveled with us kids from Egypt to Germany as kids! It’s incredible what a $1 toy car or coloring book in a brown lunch bag can do to brighten the mood in the car! Use these little surprises to curb the “are we there yet?” questions!

Snack Hack
Pull out your child’s old school lunchbox for a fun way to eat snacks while on the road! It may be a special treat to use their lunchboxes again after months at home this spring.

Car Activities
I’ve found that investing 5 minutes into a family game will lead to kids to play independently pretty quickly. We’ll often start with a game of family I Spy or the ABC game and after a few rounds, the kids will continue and my husband I can chat. I have more ideas for free activities and activities under $10 over on my personal blog. We also never leave home without clipboards with paper, audiobooks loaded from the library, and headphones.

Bathroom Breaks During COVID-19 Road Trips

The number 1 question I’ve received about road trips is “How do we safely do bathroom breaks?”

There’s lots of online research you can do (for example, I just went down a rabbit hole learning about “toilet plumes” from the Washington Post!) to determine your level of comfort with public bathrooms this summer. Below are a couple of other useful ideas that I found while researching for our own road trips this summer.

Portable Kids Potty
There are tons online but we used this one from Amazon for the past 5 years and loved it. I’ve found I could use a grocery bag (double up!) instead of buying the expensive liners.

Toilet Seat Covers
These are more important now more than ever! I love these extra-large, individually wrapped ones from Amazon because I’ve found the cheaper see-through ones do not hold up with a child.

Bathroom Finder Apps
Did you know there are ratings for public bathrooms?! 2 of the most used apps include:

    • Sit Or Squat (available from iTunes and Google Play) was created by toilet paper company Charmin to help you find a clean public restroom. They have a map view and show info like baby changing tables and a Cleanliness Rating!
    • Bathroom Scout (available from iTunes and Google Play) has more than 1.5 million restrooms listed globally! It also includes a map view and rating feature for the cleanliness of the restroom.

Don’t Use the Jet Air Dryer!
My last tip in my bathroom hygiene research (never thought I’d type that!) is to avoid the hand dryer. Even though hand dryers are great for the environment, right now studies show that it’s safer to use paper towels. One study showed “there was 5-fold more virus dispersed to clothing. Surface contamination was more than 10 times higher after jet air dryer use compared with hand-drying by a paper towel.” – Healthline, April 17, 2020

RV Rental

Renting an RV is a wonderful way to escape and adventure this summer! You get to take your accommodations and bathroom with you!

You can rent an RV from a private owner (much like renting from Airbnb) from and Outdoorsy. The latter has a great page with all their FAQs and COVID-19 policies including: “Outdoorsy owners are required to meet our high standards of safety and cleanliness, which includes cleaning their vehicles with disinfectant and antibacterial/antiviral cleaner before and after each rental to help prevent the spread of germs between travelers.”

If you are new to the RV world, I highly recommend checking out The Hambricks at The Traveling Child for their great info on What Vacationing an RV Looks Like and 6 Tips for First Time RVers.

Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

I would love to hear in the comments if you are exploring somewhere fun this summer with your family!

Also be sure to check out other DC Area Mom Collective posts from last year with tips on road trips with a baby, short road trip ideas from last summer, and a family’s 2,500-mile road trip with zero screen time!