Road Trip

5 tips for road tripping during the COVID-19 pandemic

Navigating the ins and outs of a road trip during a pandemic can be tricky.

Photo by Jovanmandic/Getty Images

America is getting out, stretching their legs, willingly being cooped up in their car for hours rather than their homes. That's right, it's road trip time. Before you head out on the road, there's a few things you need to consider for traveling during this national health crisis - take it from someone who just got back from a lengthy road trip.

Check local regulations.

Not only do states have different regulations, there are variances between counties and towns as well. Check the regulations the day before you leave - they're prone to changing quickly. While some regulations effect dining hours and service, some impact things like public restrooms, wearing a face mask, and public gatherings.

Make planned stops.

Waitress with face mask serving family with children outdoors in summer on terrace restaurant


Photo by Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

Don't just play it by ear when it comes to bathroom breaks and meals. Planning ahead will help you determine what is open and where, as well as the regulations that come with dine-in service versus take out. Remember, not all service station bathrooms are open and you might not be able to just pop in to a fast food restaurant for a bathroom break. Many rest stops and parks also have closed bathrooms.

Remember to bring cash.

With the coin shortage and the switchover to cashless payment for most businesses, it's important to remember that tolls booths still run mostly on cash-only service. Bring an assortment of bills (lots of ones, not as may fives and tens) and coins to help you achieve exact change when going through toll booths to ensure that you don't have to get change and expose yourself (and the tollbooth worker) to additional risk.

Pack personal protective equipment and other supplies.

Young mother squeezing hand sanitizer onto little daughter's hand in the playground to prevent the spread of viruses

Photo by d3sign/Getty Images

If you have a few days before your trip, consider ordering a package of disposable face masks to keep in your glovebox or center console. You'd be surprised how easy it is to spill on your usual mask, drop it in a parking lot, step on it, or get it stuck between the seat and center console. What if it suddenly breaks? It's good to have a back up. The last thing you want to do is arrive at your destination out of luck.

Check and double check your car's emergency gear.

Being self-reliant is more important than it has been in recent memory. Before you set off, double-check the situation of your spare tire, making sure that you'll have the tools on-hand to change out a flat on your own if you need to. Don't remember how to change one out? Watch some YouTube videos and brush up on your skills.

You may want to consider purchasing a roadside rescue kit as well. These usually contain jumper cables, a shovel, reflective sign, tools, a flashlight, and more to help in the event of an emergency.

Refill fluids that need it. Stock the first aid kit and make sure that you have a few bottles of water and a clean cloth or two in reserve just in case.

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Honda notified dealers of upcoming supply cuts.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Honda, like all major automakers today, is truly a global operation. Though it produces plenty of vehicles here in the United States, many of the components it relies on for manufacturing come from elsewhere in the world. That means Honda, like the other auto giants, needs its global supply chain operating smoothly in order to prevent disruption. Unfortunately for Honda dealers and potential customers, disruption is what's about to happen. The automaker recently sent a letter to its dealers, forecasting reduced vehicle supply in the coming weeks.


2021 Honda Ridgeline No. 19 - Honda Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc


The dealer letter, posted to the Civic XI forum and fan site, was dated August 25 and confirmed by a dealer upset with the development, according to Automotive News. In the letter, Honda cites the ongoing pandemic and microchip shortages as major factors impacting its production efforts. Total shipments to dealers could be cut by up to 40 percent, but not all models will be affected to the same degree.

The letter noted that supplies of the Pilot and Passport SUVs will hold steady, and shared that production of the Civic hatchback is on schedule. However, the situation is fluid and could change at any time, so there's a chance that timelines could speed up or slack off as necessary.


2022 Honda Pilot Some models will see more cuts than others.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc


Honda is just the latest in a long line of automakers struggling to keep pace with demand in the face of several converging global crises. In an effort to keep vehicles rolling out of factories, General Motors has implemented selective feature cuts in some of its new vehicles, such as the removal of engine start/stop tech from some trucks and SUVs. Earlier this month, Ford Motor Company told Mustang Mach-E buyers to expect delays of at least six weeks as it grapples with the chip shortage, and will temporarily reduce production capacity at a few of its plants.

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Family driving

Can your family live with a convertible?

Convertibles are fun, but can your family handle the size and driving experience?

BMW

Testing convertibles is always great fun, but they sometimes show up when the weather isn't ideal. Here in Maine, our drop-top driving season is fleeting, which can make for a tricky time driving with the top down. This year, however, a 2021 BMW 430i Convertible showed up in early August and I had an entire week of sun to soak up in the open air. I have two children, however, and own a three-row SUV to haul them, their friends, and all the accompanying gear. Squeezing into a convertible is possible and even fun at times, but it got me thinking: Could a convertible be a car we could live with on a daily basis? The answer for me is no, but there's more to the story, and I'm certainly not ruling out a drop-top purchase for my family at some point in the future.

Of course, none of this came as a surprise to me. Last year, I tested the BMW M850i Convertible, and while it was a blast, there was nothing about it that screamed "family car." This BMW is no different, but my younger daughter's shift to a booster seat from a full-size harness car seat made the back-seat fit for both of my kids much easier. Now, it's a little easier to see how the 430i Convertible could be a perfect weekend or summer car for a family that is already set with roomy daily drivers.

Here's how owning a convertible might play out for your family.


2021 BMW 430i Convertible The BMW 430i Convertible is premium, inside and out.BMW

Open-Top Fun – At a Cost

This BMW's price tag lands in the mid-$50,000 range with a few desirable options, which is about right for a premium brand convertible. There are much cheaper options to be had, however, in the Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro. Both cars come in a convertible format and can be found for around half the price of the BMW. There are performance and luxury penalties when moving to the less expensive options, but for most people the draw of a convertible is the open-top experience itself. You don't absolutely need screaming performance or a top-notch interior to get the full convertible experience.

Good in Small Doses

My kids are over the moon about riding in a convertible for a while, and then spend the rest of the time complaining about noise, bugs, and wind. Rolling the side windows up helps, and models with a retractable rear windscreen are even better, but the reality is that some kids are not the best at dealing with outside-the-norm car experiences. More often than not, we'd end up driving for half an hour or so with the top down, a few more minutes with the windows up, and then the rest of the time with the top closed. That's no fun in a small car that feels even smaller with the top up.


2021 BMW 430i Convertible If your kids are like mine, the open-top experience comes with some tradeoffs.BMW

Weather Woes

I get that most of you don't live in Maine like I do, and that your spring, summer, and fall months extend longer throughout the year. You're able to enjoy the open-top driving experience more often than those of us in New England, but there will still be times that driving a convertible is less than enjoyable. If you live in Florida, for instance, how often are you going to want to drive with the top down when it's 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity under the bright sun? Even with the wind in your hair, that will get old. Keep this in mind if you're shopping for a convertible.

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