car rental road trips amid covid-19Photo Credit: Shutterstock

With summer just around the corner, many of us are looking ahead to a few more months with no travel plans. Others are ready to venture out and take advantage of newly lifted stay-at-home orders, cheap gas, few crowds and an abundance of hotel deals.

If you are inclined to travel, some types of trips feel like relatively safe bets if your aim is to keep your distance from others:

 

Instead of Flying, Rent a Car

 

The next few months of 2020 will be the summer of the road trip. Recent Harris Poll tracking surveys suggest that Americans are planning summer road trips that stay relatively close to home, rather than longer journeys that require getting on a plane.

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According to a recent article in Business Insider, renting a car is a comparatively safe way to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, experts say, being in a car alone or with family members is much safer than traveling by plane, train or bus.

All the major rental car companies have ramped up their sanitation protocols lately, but if it makes you feel better, you can bring disinfecting wipes and give the vehicle a once-over, paying special attention to the steering wheel, dashboard console, window controls, and other high-touch areas.

Here's everything you need to know about renting a car during the pandemic..

 

Visit a National Park

 

Set in some of this country's most beautiful landscapes, national parks are what the historian Wallace Stegner called "America's best idea." There are 62 national parks in all, each one different from the next.

Most national parks are beginning to reopen around the country. The vast majority of them offer tent camping and many also offer cabins as an alternative to staying in a lodge. You'll need to book ahead, and it may be easier to find open dates at the end of the summer or early fall.

 

Book an Extended-Stay Hotel

 

The category of hotels known as "extended-stay" or "long-stay" is full of brands you know—Hyatt House, Embassy Suites, Extended Stay America, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, Homewood Suites, and a dozen others that end in "Suites." Conceived for business travelers who need a place to stay during long stints on the road, these properties often offer separate living and sleeping areas plus full or galley kitchens and other amenities to help you be as self-sufficient as you like. The term "extended stay" is a bit of a misnomer, since you can stay for a night, a weekend or longer— your choice.

Better yet, many hotel brands are offering terrific deals right now.

 

Rent a Vacation Home

 

If your goal is to limit interaction with others while you visit a new destination, consider renting a short-term vacation home at the beach, in the mountains or beside a lake through Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway or a similar platform. You'll get your own "home away from home" space with everything you need without the chance of crossing paths with hotel staff or other guests. Best of all, you can peruse as many photos as you like in order to find exactly what you want at a price you can afford.

 

Rent a Houseboat

 

Can't find the perfect lake house? Consider renting a houseboat instead and drop anchor in an isolated cove. Some popular houseboating destinations include Lake Mead in Nevada, Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, Lake Cumberland in Kentucky, Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia and dozens more. You can rent a floating vacation home from Houseboating.org, as well as Airbnb and other vacation rental sites.

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Rent a Campervan

 

If you like the idea of a Western US road trip in something between an RV and a tent, consider renting a JUCY campervan, which is a custom-made campervan or mini RV that offers an affordable alternative to RV camping.

In the United States, JUCY rentals are available at three locations: San Francisco (Oakland Airport), Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

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There's even a very basic kitchen in a JUCY campervan, comprised of a five-gallon water tank, sink, two butane stove burners, a small fridge, some dishes, utensils, cutting board, and pans.

 

Wait for Fall Foliage Season

 

If you're really skittish about traveling this summer, consider waiting a few months for what is arguably the best road trip season of all. Autumn means leaf peeping—the perfect excuse for a weekend road trip to view colorful fall foliage in the region where you live. From Vermont to California, we have picked beautiful autumnal hotspots to explore across the country. So snag a rental car, pack your camera and look forward these eye-catching locations.

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