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Another Year of the Road Trip: Tips for planning your summer on wheels

People are looking forward to the Great American

People are looking forward to the Great American Road Trip, even as the masses return to flying. Credit: Getty Images/Nevena1987

Road trips were different in 2020. These are the new rules for 2021:

Covid safety should still be on your radar

With states lifting restrictions and mandates, you will still have to pay attention to local guidelines on quarantines, mask ordinances, curfews and dining restrictions. Your best resources are the government websites of wherever you are headed, or you can use AAA's COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map.

Your experience will vary depending on the law of the land, so be prepared to encounter the return of unmasked partying in Florida or, on the other side of the spectrum, bring proof of a negative coronavirus test or quarantine for 10 days if you want to go to Maine.

Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist with the COVID Tracking Project, recommends focusing on maintaining good hand hygiene, opting for contactless check-in and check-out at hotels when possible, wearing a mask and keeping a healthy distance when around others in public, even if you're vaccinated.

Malaty Rivera also says travelers should consider getting coronavirus tests if passing through high-risk situations.

Travel adviser Linda Jelencovich recommends people get travel insurance for worst-case scenarios, from trip cancellation to health emergencies. "They could get sick, or something happens and they have to get medevaced back."

Have a destination in mind, but leave room for improvising

You can wander with points of interest in mind, relying on your map app of choice, or choose a tried-and-tested route. AAA has guides you can follow for peace of mind.Road-trip veterans encourage travelers to have an outline of a trip, or a final destination in mind, as they plan the journey.

Plan longer stays ASAP

Jon Gray, chief executive operator of RVshare, an RV rental and listing company, advises having trip flexibility changes if you're planning on staying in one place for a while. His tip is to book those longer stops ahead of time. As with last year, camping, RV rentals and national park visits are going to be on the minds of cooped-up Americans opting for outdoor-focused trips.

Think major national parks (Yellowstone, Grand Canyon), coveted camping destinations (lock them in at rec.gov or Hipcamp.com), the Pacific Coast Highway, the Hamptons, Florida and Cape Cod.

Pack with intention

You've decided on your road trip; now you need to pack. Where you're staying will change your packing situation immensely.

When the pandemic hit, Haley Hamblin, a photo editor for The Washington Post, and her fiance spent the last year road-tripping around the country. The couple has camped, stayed in Airbnbs, budget hotels, at friends and family's homes.

Instead of suitcases, they use plastic bins to keep life organized.

Make sure your vehicle is ready for the trip

If you haven't been making a regular commute, or your car has been sitting around for a while, consider getting it checked out before you take off.

Richard Counihan, CEO of DigniFi, a site that offers personal auto repair loans, says commonly overlooked car parts are batteries, tires, fluids, belts and sensors. All of these should "be checked before hitting the road," he says.

Travel Extras