The pandemic changed travel for many of us. Some of us need a break but worry it could put our health and wallets at risk.

SAN ANTONIO — The pandemic has many of us dreaming of getting away from it all, but the coronavirus has many of us staying closer to home. That is no reason not to take a break.

 “Check off that backyard bucket list,” Melissa Dohman, a senior advisor with Travelocity.

That’s what most travelers are doing.

“Hotels within 20 miles of where people live have seen an increase this summer, and I honestly think that is just because sometimes you need a night away, so don’t think you that maybe you always have to take this big, grandiose vacation,” said Dohman.

Wherever you go, planning is key. Start by checking your destination’s local health guidelines.

“Understand whether or not your state has an arrival quarantine or if there are any travel restrictions in place,” said Dohman. “That will help you determine, OK, do I want take a road trip or trip out of state or do I really want to be looking at something maybe just within my own city or the state where I live?”

Research cleaning protocols at the place you are staying. Know the cancellation policy.  Look for free cancelations to give yourself some flexibility. Also, review rules for any activities like museum visits.

“Know there may be times for ticketing. So, you may want to reserve tickets in advance and things may not be running as regular as places really adhere to social distancing guidelines,” said Dohman.

Next, more people are road tripping, but because a lot of us are working from home, cars are sitting idle. When a car does not run for an extended period of time, it can have a negative impact on it’s performance.

“It can have some really negative effects,” said Tony Rositto, the San Antonio area manager for Firestone.

You may not make it far without doing some preventive maintenance. A Bridgestone Americas study found 61 percent of drivers plan to road trip this season, but only 25 percent take their cars to a mechanic for an inspection before hitting the road.

“Emergencies can be a little pricier than when it’s taken care of in advance,” said Rositto.

Do three simple checks a few days before you plan to road trip. Look at your car’s oil, battery and tires.

Check your tires using “Inflate, Rotate and Evaluate.” Look at your tire pressure and see if any of them need inflation. Rotate your tires every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. Evaluate your tire tread. Take a penny and insert it with Abraham Lincoln going in headfirst. You need new tires if you can see all of Lincoln’s head. Know you will need new tires soon if you see the tread is meeting his eyes or the top of his hair.

“Your engine really can’t make it far without it,” Rositto said.

Turn off your engine, pop the hood and find the oil dipstick. Remove the dipstick, wipe it off and reinsert it for an accurate reading.

“If it’s lower than the indicator level, if it’s dark, milky, gritty or black, it’s definitely time to have that serviced,” Rositto said.

Check that your battery is charged and healthy. Turn on your headlights without starting the engine and leave them on for 15 minutes. Then start your car.

“Now, if when you start your engine, those headlights dim noticeably, then you know it’s time to have that battery checked and might even be time to have that battery replaced,” said Rositto.”

Also pack a waterproof to-go bag with supplies like hand sanitizer, masks, water, snacks and a cell phone charger. Plus, pack one other essential before hitting the road.

 “Know that you may just have to pack some patience,” Dohman said.

At least it will not take up extra space in the suitcase.

Give yourself something to look forward to if travel is not an option right now. You can start vacation planning for next year. Just make sure you know the cancellation policy before booking.

“We have started to see that travelers are thinking about 2021 and in some cases 2022,” said Dohman. “So if you are saying, wow, I’d really love to have a vacation, I’m dreaming about that international trip, sometimes one of the easy ways to scratch that itch is start planning for next year.”

If you have a question for Eyewitness Wants To Know, email at [email protected] or call us at 210-377-8647.

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