The coronavirus kept many of us at home for months. It disrupted our lives in numerous ways including our ability to travel. That said, we recently took a quick 48 hour trip to the Outer Banks. It’s about 7 hours from our home base in Asheville, North Carolina. If you’re finally thinking about traveling or are ready to get back on the road in your camper van, read on to see our thoughts on how to road trip safely during Covid. One of our top tips includes a DIY camper van toilet. Keep reading to learn how to make your own.
What to Pack
All of the normal gear that you would take on a camper van road trip still applies. We’ve got a full post on camper van essentials as well as a camper van clothing packing list. But in addition to the basics like a stove, cookware and an atlas, you’re going to need a few additional items. Here’s some specific coronavirus items we brought with us on our road trip:
This one is pretty obvious. You’re going to need hand sanitizer for those times when you can’t use soap and water. Be sure to purchase the kind of hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Also, the FDA recently shared a list of hand sanitizers that are made with a dangerous chemical called methanol. Check their list to make sure that you do not have a product that is unsafe.
At a minimum, you’re going to need at least one face mask. Depending on how long your trip is, you may want more. Cloth face masks are the way to go since you can wash them and re-use them. At this point, you probably have several masks and you may want to consider bringing all of them in case you won’t have a chance to launder them. In addition, you’ll be able to use a clean one each day rather than putting the same old soiled one on your face.
Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
Staying clean while on the road is a constant battle. Even before the coronavirus was a part of our lives. Now that it is, we make a point to regularly, several times a day, wipe down the surfaces in our camper van with disinfecting wipes. These wipes will work on hard surfaces like your steering wheel, dash, door handles, radio knobs, shifter, etc. We have been using them regularly and have not noticed any discoloration to the plastic. Do not use these disinfecting wipes on your body or as a baby wipe! Also, you may have to search around for a while to find these. We refused to link to the Amazon seller that was selling them for $17.00 a pop when you can normally buy them for $6.
A thermometer? Yep. A fever is one of the symptoms of coronavirus. A normal temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celcius. A temperature of anything about 100.4 is considered a fever. Consider bringing a thermometer with you so that you can take your own measurements without having to stop or access a clinic or doctor’s office.
Health Insurance Cards
This may sound like a no-brainer to carry your health insurance cards. But sometimes, if you haven’t traveled in a while, or you’re only going for a short trip, you may forget to pack them. Put them in the camper van in a safe spot and double check before departing. That way, if you have to access a medical facility, you can do so much easier than if you forgot them.
Plastic Grocery Bags
We try to have as little environmental impact as possible when traveling but we have resorted to carrying a few plastic grocery bags with us in our camper van. Their main function is acting as a barrier between our hands and the nozzle when pumping gas. We still hand sanitize after pumping, but it’s one additional precaution that we’ve taken that helps give us peace of mind.
DIY Camper Van Toilet
These Cleanwaste GO Anywhere Toilet Kits use an environmentally friendly ‘Poo Powder™’ which helps gel up human waste and reduce odor.
This DIY Camper Van Toilet was one of the biggest upgrades to our camper van. It also didn’t cost much to make. You’ll need a 5-gallon bucket, a few Cleanwaste GO Anywhere Toilet Kit aka a WAG Bags, and a section of a pool noodle. (We actually used a section from an old, soft surf rack that we had on hand and didn’t need anymore in place of the pool noodle. Any old polyethylene foam should do the trick.)
We did a good bit of research into this method before using it and actually tried it out at home just to make sure it would actually work on the road. It did. Oh, and for those of you who try to travel according to the Leave No Trace principles, these bags are recommended not only by the LNT program but also the National Forest Service.
The two best parts of this DIY Camper Van Toilet? One: The WAG bags can be thrown away in any dumpster or trash can after they have been used. Two: They come with a zip-close puncture-resistant storage bag to give you a little extra leak protection.
If you don’t want to make a DIY Camper Van Toilet, you can also buy a Cleanwaste Camper Van Toilet.
The Cleanwaste Camper Van Toilet folds down and offers a more portable solution than the DIY bucket which takes up a bit of room. It also has an actual toilet seat as opposed to a pool noodle. It’s also much more expensive than the DIY hack.
Want something in between the DIY toilet hack and the Cleanwaste Camper Van Toilet? Check out the Luggable Loo.
How to Road Trip Safely During Covid
In addition to the supplies we packed in our camper van for our first road trip since the coronavirus, we also have some additional recommendations on how to travel safely.
Leave the cash and coins at home
One of the ways to reduce your contact with others and germs is to pay with a card or with your phone. Whenever you can use touchless payments, go for it. In some cases, you may actually be able to earn fuel points, nights in a hotel or air miles by using a card.
Plan and research
The whimsical nature of the classic American road trip may be a thing of the past. At least for now. We recommend that in order to travel safely during covid, you plan out your route and lodging. Research ahead of time and make reservations. This will eliminate you having to come into contact with numerous campground hosts. We reserved our campsite in the Outer Banks 35 days ahead of time. The campsite host took our information over the phone, allowed us to pay via credit card and then when we showed up we just rolled right into our spot. We never even met him!
When it comes to where you’ll camp, care should also go into this. When researching campsites, we wanted to have a site that had access to water. We also wanted to be able to make sure we could be outside and six feet away from other campers. The site was also one of the smaller campsite we’ve been to. It only had 31 campsites as opposed to some which can fit hundreds of people.
Be willing to adapt your plans
Hot on the heels of planning is the ability to change those plans. For example, we planned on walking around the campground the first night we arrived but there were a ton of people walking around without face masks. Though we were outside, we were uncomfortable being around so many people. We decided to stay close to our site and then got up early to explore when everyone else was still asleep. If you can adapt on the fly and are prepared to do so, you stand to have a much better experience than being upset when you have to change.
Stock up on supplies
In addition to the covid-supplies mentioned above, we also made sure we left with enough food and water for the entire trip. We never once had to go into a grocery store and were therefore able to eliminate our exposure to the virus. Though we love to try new restaurants when we travel, we did not feel comfortable doing so. We ate 8 out of 9 meals in our van (disinfecting our hands and our surfaces before doing so). The 9th meal was a pizza we picked up to-go after completing 12 hours of running. This is one of the easiest things to do but still one of the most important tips for traveling safely during covid.
Make sure your camper van is in good working order
One of the best things you can do before road tripping during Covid is to make sure that your camper van is in good working order. Get an oil change if you’re close to needing one and make sure your tire pressure is where it needs to be. Top off all of your fluids. Test your battery. All of these basic, routine maintenance items become even more important during coronavirus. A smoothly running vehicle will limit your reliance on others who may have to assist if you break down. Don’t even get us started on the problems we’ve had with our Ram Promaster…
How to Road Trip Safely During Covid Recap
Though it felt good to get back on the road, two nights and three days was plenty for us. We were both eager to get home and happy to have made that first trip. That said, it the trip wasn’t for work, we’re not so sure that we would have made it. We continue to see numbers rise here in North Carolina and around the country. At this point we have no further plans to travel again but we had a good enough time that we haven’t ruled it out. We’re keeping a close eye on the numbers, limiting our exposure, and hoping that we get a vaccine soon.
Still not sure what to think about how to travel safely during covid? It may just not be the right time for you. In the end it’s not worth getting sick. Each traveler needs to measure their own risk and make their own decision based on what’s right for them.
Thanks so much for reading our tips on traveling during covid. Please leave your comments with us, especially if you have tips or suggestions that have worked for you. We’d love to hear from you.
Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley are travel writers, photographers, and the authors of Authentic Asheville.