Read this before you take your summer road trip

NBC News health editor Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom shares her top tips to safely road trip during a pandemic.
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By Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD

While many summer vacation plans have been put on hold, an old-fashioned summer road trip can be a great way to see out-of-town family and friends, or just get a change of scenery.

Driving a few hours can be a safe and secure way to travel if you follow some simple guidelines. And if you’re traveling out of state, make sure to check ahead of time to comply with local guidelines.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Keep a supply kit in your car

Plan ahead for any potential stops along the way. Put disposable gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and wipes in a sealed container or a few zip-lock bags.

Pack your own meals and snacks

Limit your risk at public restaurants and rest stops by packing your own meals and snacks. Take along a small cooler to keep perishable items cold. The added risk is not from the food itself, but from exposure to multiple strangers potentially not adhering to social distancing and mask wearing guidance.

Avoid extra liquids

Limit your intake of all drinks so you can stop less often (or not at all!) to use a public bathroom. You won’t risk dehydration after a few hours in the car.

Using a public restroom

Avoid using a restroom on the road if you can. Ask everyone to make a final bathroom stop before you leave, and aim for about three hours before stopping. While viral transmission is unlikely through urine or fecal matter, the risk comes from being in a small, poorly ventilated, indoor space where it is hard to socially distance. But if you do need to stop, take these precautions:

-Wear a mask or closely-fitted face covering

-Use gloves if you have them (throw them out before leaving the bathroom)

-If the space is crowded, wait until most people leave

-Don’t touch anything unnecessarily (supervise any children closely)

-Put the toilet lid down (if there is one) to flush; use your foot when you can

-Wash your hands for 20 seconds after using the toilet (use a paper towel to turn off water)

-Avoid the hot air dryers, which blow germs around; use a paper towel

-Get in and out as quickly as possible

Wear gloves when pumping gas

The easiest way to safely pump gas is by wearing disposable gloves, and throwing them out after you’ve put back the pump. If you don’t have gloves, it’s ideal to wash with soap and water for 20 seconds, but a generous amount of 70%+ alcohol-containing hand sanitizer is suitable.

Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D. is the NBC News’ health editor. Follow her on Twitter @drfernstrom.