Road trips won't be the same this summer. Here's what you should plan for


Summer road trips will feel very different this year, with fewer cars on the road as the country begins to reopen slowly following restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

a view of a city street filled with lots of traffic: Cash tolls will return on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway on Tuesday May 19th at 6:30 AM. Cash tolls were suspended on March 24th as a precaution against the spread of Covid-19 and all tolls were collected either by E-ZPass or by the temporary toll-by-mail process. Toll collectors will be wearing gloves, face masks, and plastic face shields and drivers who intend to pay with cash are encouraged to wear face masks as they travel through the toll lanes.

Ahead of Memorial Day, the traditional start of the summer travel season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying home as much as possible.

The CDC advises people to not travel if they’re sick, are in a higher-risk group for the coronavirus or live with someone who is. Higher-risk groups include people 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions.

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But many Americans are considering road trips as a minimal-contact vacation option as opposed to the close quarters of traveling by plane. Those who do make summer travel driving plans may encounter checkpoints at state lines, quarantine orders, closed welcome centers and rest areas, and fewer open hotels and restaurants.

Social distancing guidelines remain in place, and travelers may be required to wear a face mask when they stop for gas, groceries or other supplies.

“I don’t think this is going to be like any other kind of summer,” said Joseph Allen, an assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health. “Everything is going to be very different.”

The good news? Travelers will benefit from the lowest gas prices in 17 years, according to AAA. The national average is $1.87, about a dollar lower than a year ago. AAA says to expect prices to rise above $2 over the summer as states reopen and demand increases.

Summer road trippers will need to do more planning and preparation than they might otherwise. Hotel reservations should be made in advance, directly with the hotel. Motorists should plan on eating take-out food or bringing their own. They should check ahead to see which welcome centers and rest stops may be closed.

AAA has an interactive map that shows state-by-state restrictions that may affect road trippers. However, information is changing quickly, spokesman Jim Stratton said, so travelers should check multiple sources to see what they should expect at their destination and along the way.

The National Governors Association also has a state-by-state interactive map that shows coronavirus-related state restrictions and conditions travelers should know.

Checkpoints and quarantines

Rhode Island and Florida require drivers entering the state to check in. 

Roadside checkpoints on interstates are set up to check for potential coronavirus cases. Drivers are diverted from the interstate to a rest area or weigh station, where they fill out a form provided by state police. Commercial trucks are allowed to bypass the screening.

Since March, Florida has required drivers from Louisiana, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to quarantine for 14 days, or the duration of their stay in the state, whichever is shorter. The restriction does not apply to airline employees, military personnel, commercial drivers or health care workers.

Travelers to Rhode Island must quarantine on arrival unless traveling for business. All cars with out-of-state plates are required to stop.

Texas ended roadside checkpoints at the Louisiana border in late April.

While most states may not have border checkpoints, some still require a 14-day quarantine for visitors.

Border crossings

The U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico land borders have been closed to nonessential travel since late March and will remain closed until June 22, the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday.

Welcome centers and rest areas

Some welcome centers and rest areas are closed, and travelers should check each state’s transportation department website for the most up-to-date information.

Masks and social distancing

Several states require people to wear face coverings in public: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Rhode Island. Many others recommend it.  

Social distancing guidelines remain in effect across the country, discouraging large gatherings and encouraging people to stay six feet apart.

Cashless tolls

State and regional tolling authorities across the country have closed their cash toll collection. If you don’t have a transponder such as E-ZPass, expect to be billed by mail. That includes the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the New York Thruway, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Ohio Turnpike toll collectors still take cash, but have been provided with nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. The Indiana Toll Road has advised drivers paying with cash to expect delays at toll plazas due to reduced staffing.

The Florida Turnpike has stopped taking cash tolls. Those who do not have a SunPass account will receive an invoice by mail. The Florida Department of Transportation is temporarily waiving the $2.50 invoice administrative fee.

The Maryland Transportation Authority has switched to all-electronic tolling at its bridges and tunnels. Delaware’s toll roads and bridges have also gone cashless.


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Posadas Elevates Safety and Sanitization Protocols in Preparation for Summer Travel

WHY IT RATES: The Posadas’ portfolio includes 16 La Colección Resorts properties located throughout Mexico and the Dominican Republic. —Codie Liermann, Associate Editor

Following weeks of halted operations that permitted time for extensive planning, Posadas is pleased to announce elevated safety and sanitization protocols, Travel with Confidence, currently being applied to all its 180 hotels and resorts in preparation for summer travel.

Posadas, which includes La Colección Resorts with 16 resorts spanning across Mexico and the Dominican Republic, is committed to providing travelers and employees peace of mind by implementing and enforcing thorough health and safety protocols using 3M products that are necessary today for the prevention of the contagion and spread of COVID-19. The company is already practicing these protocols at 16 hotels to house doctors treating patients in nearby hospitals.

“We understand that travelers will be more cautious than ever once they begin to travel again, and so will we at all our hotels in the Posadas portfolio. That is why we want to be proactive and transparent with all the measures being implemented to keep our guest and employees assured that every facet of our properties and operations have been addressed from guest services and amenities to operational procedures,” explains COO of Posadas, Enrique Calderon. “As we enter a new reality, we will be more than prepared to welcome guests in confidence.”

The following are the key areas that have been addressed at the hotels and resorts with new measures:

Cleaning standards have been greatly enhanced for every facet of the hotels and resorts. Posadas is collaborating with 3M for the use of its products, which are approved against SARS-CoV-2 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in public spaces, restaurants, amenities, guestrooms, reception areas and others. Cleaning frequency will increase with most areas to be disinfected every three hours, and high-touch surfaces and high-frequented areas even more. All items entering the resorts will be disinfected, including guest suitcases and other deliveries. Antibacterial gel stations will be available in all public spaces and on each floor and will be given to each guest upon check-in as part of their Health Kit, which also includes face masks, disinfecting wipes and an informational card on the virus.

Housekeeping procedures have also been elevated, with extensive training currently taking place. Among the new procedures include no servicing while guests are in their rooms, and guests will now have the option to forgo services during their stay and alternatively receive items to maintain their room including additional trash bags, towels and sheets. Upon check-out, all rooms will be disinfected by a maintenance staff member using a fogging technique to kill all bacteria, followed by detailed housekeeping service. Once complete, the room will be visibly sealed with a sticker to certify the procedure took place using 3M products. When permitted, the hotel will wait 48 hours before allowing the next guest to use the guestroom.

Distancing measures are also being implemented. For example, plastic barriers at reception areas are currently being installed at all properties and signage will be placed throughout the resorts and on the floor as reminders of adequate distances between individuals. There will also be smaller limits for people allowed in certain areas, including at the restaurants, in elevators and fitness centers. Other measures underway include new furniture layouts for restaurants, pool and beach areas, lobbies and lounges that allow for six feet of distance between groups.

—The Food & Beverage offering across all hotels and resorts will be adjusted with changes including reduced capacities to 50 percent; replacement of menus for disposable ones; and the suspension of buffet-style layouts, which will be substituted with grab-and-go options. The process for room-service will also be adjusted whereas menus will only be available on the television; waiters will no longer enter the rooms for set-up, and guests will be required to leave the table outside their room when finished. All delivery items will be protected as always, and all room-service equipment will be properly sanitized before and after each use. Ice machines for guests will be disabled; guests may make a request for ice delivery at any time. All these new precautionary measures will also be applied in the preparation and handling of food in resort kitchens.

—Safety and sanitation protocols are also being applied in maintenance and operational areas, with the use of upgraded cleaning products and increased frequency. Vendors and suppliers will also be held to the same standards, and new procedures will be implemented such as contactless delivery, among others.

Additional measures include eliminating all unnecessary materials and décor throughout the resort and in guestrooms that may promote the transmission of COVID-19 such as magazines and newspapers, small decorative items, notebooks, pens, etc. Other preventative measures include the continued closures of spas until further notice.

Employees will use additional personal protective gear such as N95 face mask and disposable latex gloves, in addition to being required to wear pants, long sleeves and closed shoes at all times. Regular training on best practices are currently ongoing and elaborate signage will be placed throughout as reminders for activities such as proper handwashing, sneezing etiquette and proper disposal of protective gear. Employees will also be required to increase frequency of handwashing to up to every half hour, maintain distance with co-workers, refrain close greetings, among other actions to avoid illness. Staff temperatures will be continuously checked and those who have any symptoms of illness must remain home.

“We are pleased to report that these new cleanliness procedures are already successfully taking place at 16 hotels in key cities throughout Mexico where we are housing doctors so that they can attend patients at nearby hospitals,” added Calderon. “We’ve contributed 15,000 room nights to healthcare workers and are committed to assuring best practices are in place for them. As always, the health and wellbeing of our employees and visitors is always our top priority,” he added

All of Posadas’ properties are continuously evaluated by either the Distinctive H norms, given by the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health of Mexico, and/or the Cristal International Standards norms, which reviews the quality and handling of food and beverage. Additionally, all hotels and resorts have access to a primary health doctor who can immediately assist for minor medical needs, while proper procedures and management for any potential COVID-19 cases with guests are also well-defined.

For the planning of these new safety and sanitation measures, the company consulted with both local and international resources such as the World Tourism Organization and is currently working with the American British Cowdray Medical Center for upcoming inspections. Posadas also served as a resource for the development of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s new guidelines “Leading Global Protocols for the New Normal.” The detailed outline of measures taking place at the Posadas’ properties can be found at www.posadas.com.

SOURCE: Grupo Posadas press release.

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