How to safely take a family road trip during COVID-19

Many family travelers are understandably hesitant to board an airplane to travel in the age of Coronavirus, leaving us to rediscover an age-old family travel tradition: the road trip. Car travel allows us to take so much of the journey into our own hands, offering a safer if slower alternative to air travel. 

So how can you safely take a family road trip during COVID-19? To answer that question, we chatted with Tash Haynes, a Tacoma, Washington-based photographer and blogger who is all kinds of inspiring. If you're not already, be sure to follow Tash on Instagram and read her beautiful blog Wisdom & Courage for her musings on family travel, motherhood, and faith. Take it away, Tash!

Tash Haynes

Parennial Travel: What made you decide to take a big road trip to California at this time? 

Tash Haynes: We decided to get on the road to California because it was our daughter’s 8th birthday, we hadn’t seen family in a while and we travel monthly and hadn’t traveled as a family since February, pre-COVID and our entire family had major cabin fever. We just needed a change of scenery and to spread our wings a bit. 

PT: Have you taken major road trips before? 

TH: We have taken road trips. Our family wouldn’t consider this a MAJOR road trip, but we have driven to destinations on the east coast, the Carolinas, New York, several road trips around the Pacific Northwest and many road trips to California. Our girls are REALLY good travelers so as long as we are really organized, we can pull off a pretty adventurous car trip. 

PT: How was planning this trip different from trips you've taken in the past?

TH: This particular trip was a bit different because we were traveling to be with family, we had to be very mindful about our stops and how many stops we were going to take because of COVID. We needed to pack a bit differently because upon arrival, we would be blending two families together, and we wanted to take up as little space as possible. We also were traveling in a mid-size car and most of our trips are by plane, where we all get to pack luggage and where when we arrive we can kind of explode all over the place because it’s just our little family.  

PT: Was packing different?

TH: It was a bit different. We had to pack four people into two suitcases to preserve space in the car, and to leave enough room for camera equipment, and baby necessities, stroller, etc. 

PT: How did you handle stopping along the way? 

TH: The trip to California is about a 10-13 hour drive. So we started out driving really early, while the girls were sleepy — and we got six hours of the trip done, stopped for a long lunch/move your legs break. The remainder of the trip we would stop every three to four hours to gas up and stretch and let the girls run around a bit. 

PT: What were some of the challenges of traveling at this time? 

TH: I think because we were road tripping and in the comfort of our own family members, there were few challenges. Because I am pregnant and a heart failure survivor, traveling by plane isn’t an option right now, because of recycled air on the planes, so road tripping away from home is really our only option and that limits our choices of destination. The only other challenge was remembering to wear a mask anytime we stopped and took a break. It’s not the most convenient thing to do but the safest.  

Family Road Trip COVID-19

PT: Was it worth it? What were the highlights? 

TH: It was absolutely worth it. There is NOTHING like family and I think we have all come to realize that during this time. We got to visit Lake Tahoe, celebrate my eldest's 8th birthday, do fun photoshoots. My girls got to play with their cousins, build forts, homeschool together, and we got TONS of quality time with our family. 

PT: What did you do for accommodations? 

TH: We haven’t really traveled much while on social distancing. We have stayed at one hotel but that can be really boring because most of the amenities are not available.  On this trip, we stayed with my sister and her family, which was nice because they have mostly been self-quarantining like us, so we knew we were safe

PT: Advice for others planning a road trip during the pandemic? 

TH: Know what your family can handle, bring lots of distractions on the road if you have small children like me (8 and 1-year-old and pregnant with my third) like books, games, stuffy and tablets. Fun car games that can be played on the road and snacks that can be rotated in and out. Make sure you take ample stops and make sure your destination is one that provides lots of action when you arrive and for every hour that you drive, you should be staying at your location at least double the amount of time it took to get there. Our drive round-trip was approximately 24 hours and we stayed five days in California, which made the drive worthwhile. 

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