We know. We didn’t expect 2020 to play out like this, either. Summers are for jet-setting, passport-stamping, and getting away from it all. And yet, for most of us these days, the faraway destinations still feel, well…a little far off.
The good news is that travel isn’t totally canceled. With gas prices at historic lows and more than two-thirds of travelers (according to a U.S. Travel Association survey) preferring their own car to any other type of transportation, road trips are officially this year’s escape hatch. Not to mention, they’re an expert-approved way to beat those cabin fever blues.
Whether the mountains are calling your quaranteam or you’d rather hit the beach, the best road trips are about so much more than just getting there and back. Here’s why it’s the perfect time to feed your wanderlust within driving distance—and expert tips to make the most of the ride.
1. Nature is the ultimate RX for stress.
Have you ever felt like your entire body lets out one big exhale as soon as you leave the city (urbanites, looking at you)? There’s a science to that. “We know that being surrounded by nature reduces our blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones,” explains Francine Lederer, PsyD., a psychologist in Los Angeles.
Studies show a potent link between nature and stress relief, providing a balm whether we’re on the verge of burnout or just feeling stuck in a rut. Many physicians around the world actually prescribe nature therapy—or its mystical-sounding term, “forest-bathing”—for reversing physical and emotional exhaustion. Other benefits of communing with nature include boosting mood, clarity, creativity, even immunity. In other words, it’s the perfect antidote to all the doom-scrolling and distance-learning that’s likely monopolized much of your year. So go ahead and roll those windows all the way down.
Trip tip: Filling your itinerary with outdoor activities is key, but try a daily grounding exercise outside, too. When you can, Lederer recommends slipping off your shoes and taking a moment to feel the grass or dirt under your toes. Do an early morning yoga flow by the water at your hotel’s outdoor pool. Meditate for a minute at the top of your hike. “Whenever we take a break from the noise, it allows for a more present experience between the mind and body,” says Lederer.
2. Safe, clean accommodations are within reach.
Planning overnight stops? If you’re wondering what hotel stays are like right now, rest assured that many properties are following new standards of cleanliness and safety. Choice Hotels, the hospitality leader behind brands like Comfort Inn & Suites, Sleep Inn, and Quality Inn, has long been a first choice for road trippers, vacationing families, and business travelers alike. Now, with their holistic Commitment to Clean, they’re scrupulous with regard to deep cleaning, disinfecting, hygiene, and social distancing. Side note: Did you know every Comfort hotel has been recently renovated and refreshed?
Booking on ChoiceHotels.com, guests know they’re getting the lowest nightly rates, easy cancelations or adjustments if travel plans change, free wifi, and—in most locations—free breakfast (don’t worry, no buffet though!), providing peace of mind throughout every trip.
Trip tip: If you’ve only got a long weekend, plan to stay two nights in the same place and explore the area. Cramming a lot into a three- or four-day road trip could end up leaving you more exhausted. And don’t head home as soon as you check out! Plan a chill activity for the last day to maximize your time. (If you can swing a longer trip, book two separate stays with Choice Hotels by September 7, and your third stay is free*!).
3. Road tripping is code for team building.
Road trips are a special breed of vacation for one simple fact: You can’t “airplane mode” your way from point A to point B. The logistics, navigation, and pit stops along the way all inevitably involve communication and collaboration. “Many of us lost access to our office spaces, sports, activities, and gyms that provided a feeling of tangible connection and community,” explains Lederer, so a road trip might just be the thing an isolated couple or family needs to feel reconnected again—even (and sometimes especially) with each other.
In Lederer’s experience, “people usually find that family and partner dynamics improve and siblings get along more easily. There are freedoms of getting outdoors, including the ability to explore, that you don’t normally have in a confined space.”
Trip tip: Plan for activities along your route that keep the teamwork going. With hiking, for instance, you’ll decide who’s going to choose and pack the snacks, and who’s in charge of the trail. “Figuring out what roles each of us play helps bring back that sense of community we’re lacking,” says Lederer.
4. You don’t have to leave the dog behind!
You’re not the only one begging for a change of scenery. One of the biggest advantages of taking a road trip is getting to bring along the whole family for the adventure, four-legged members included. You’ll of course want to book a pet-friendly hotel. Many Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites welcome up to two furry guests, and there are thousands of locations across the country, so you’ll never have to worry about finding a spot wherever you’re headed.
Trip tip: A successful road trip with pup-in-tow is all about preparation. Before you head out, do your homework to see which restaurants, parks, and activities can accommodate dogs right now—sites like BringFido.com and DogFriendly.com are super helpful.
5. There’s no wrong way to road trip.
It goes without saying that you’ll want to research your routes and destination ahead of time, knowing that we’re still in social-distancing mode—and even more so in certain states. You know the drill: avoid crowded locales, wash your hands, pack sanitizer, and wear a mask when you’re around other folks.
Beyond that, whether you’re traveling solo or with your family, scoping out the seaside or hitting the hiking trails, you’re doing it right. And if you’re “working from home” while traversing the country? We won’t tell.
Trip tip: Just start planning it.
Ready to book your epic road trip? Head to Choice Hotels for the lowest rates on their nearly 7,000 family-friendly properties across the country and easy tweaking if your plans change.
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