6 Clean air tips for your next road trip

Exploring the open road can be a fun, personally enriching adventure that allows us to experience incredible scenery and see the world with a newfound perspective. But road travel can also expose us to unhealthy pollutants and harm air quality.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to minimize your exposure to highway air pollution, so you can have a great journey, breathe clean air, and cut your emissions footprint.

Here are six tips to enjoying a clean air road trip this summer.

Tip 1. Choose a clean air destination

Start your journey off right. It’s a good idea to choose exceptionally clean road trip destinations, places with a better record for clean air than their peers. If you are wondering how a destination on your bucket list stacks up air quality-wise, the 2023 World Air Quality Report is a powerful resource.

Some big tourist destinations enjoyed surprisingly great air quality in 2023. For instance, Las Vegas, Nevada experienced a good air quality for much of the year.

Air quality in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 14, 2024. Source: IQAir.

If you have your heart set on visiting certain places known to have poor air quality, those locations may have cleaner air during certain times of year than in others. For example, wildfire smoke may be a concern in the western United States, especially during certain months of the year. It might be better to either pick a different destination or schedule your visit when seasonal issues are less of a concern.

Even the cleanest cities can be impacted by air quality events like wildfire smoke.

Even the cleanest cities can be unexpectedly impacted by air quality events (like wildfire smoke). It’s important to keep an eye on your current air quality and to plan for the week ahead. The AirVisual App for Apple or Android includes real-time air quality updates and a 7-day air quality forecast.

Real-time air quality, a seven-day forecast, and health recommendations from the free AirVisual app. Source: IQAir


Tip 2. Be clean air prepared

Prep your car to reduce emissions

Do your part to reduce emissions on the road by ensuring your car is as fuel-efficient as possible: (1)

  • Service your vehicle regularly.
  • If your car uses diesel, make sure the particulate filter is emptied regularly.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated.
  • Turn off your car when stationary in traffic. Leaving the engine running when the car is not moving can release many harmful pollutants into the air around you, as well as wasting fuel.

Pack accordingly

If the air quality changes for the worse while you’re on the road and you still want to go outdoors, a snug-fitting, KN95/FFP2 mask can keep you from breathing dust, pollen, and air pollutants.

Tip 3. Optimize air quality while in the car

You can and should cut down your exposure to air pollution caused by vehicles. Research shows that living and working near roadways can impact your lung function and lead to asthma and cardiovascular disease (2).

To lower your exposure to in-car pollution on the road:

  • Keep a buffer between your vehicle and vehicles in front of you, especially diesel trucks.
  • Roll up your windows at stop signs, traffic lights, or in heavy traffic, close your windows, and set your air on recirculate.
  • Travel those forgotten byways – exploring winding back roads mean less traffic, less traffic lights, and oftentimes, better scenery than you’ll find on the highway!
  • If you’re going to stay on the highway, plan to avoid cities during rush hour traffic.
  • Deodorizers or car air fresheners aren’t substitutes for fresh air. They’re pollutant sources – volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
  • Run a car air purifier. A car air purifier with HyperHEPA Plus particle filtration technology captures commonly found highway pollutants in your car’s interior and prevents them from reaching your breathing space.

Tip 4. Sleep safe and sound

Air pollutants aren’t limited to the road. Your motel room may appear clean, but the indoor air quality could affect your health and comfort during your overnight stay.

Dust, pollen, mold inside walls, and VOCs from cleaning materials can all affect indoor air quality.

Dust, pollen, mold inside walls, and VOCs from cleaning materials can all affect indoor air quality in hotels and other lodging.

Keep your room’s air quality healthy:

  • If your room’s air quality is poor, open windows and ventilate the room.
  • On high pollen count days or when the outdoor air quality is very poor, keep windows closed.
  • Bring a portable personal air purifier for your room. Setting up a personal air purifier on a bedside table or desk will mean only clean, filtered air reaches the space where you breathe.

Tip 5. Enjoy the clean air outdoors

Maybe “hitting the road” means not getting in a motor vehicle at all! Instead of driving, consider finding travel alternatives that let you spend more time outdoors – hike, run, camp, walk, or cycle those beautiful vistas already close to home.

Big cities like Washington D.C. and New York City have huge parks found on maps of the USA – the National Mall and Central Park respectively – that are fully accessible by public transit; or you can run, walk, or bike to those destinations.

If you still want to get away, look for a nearby national park and spend your visit outdoors, outside of your car (3). Check out the park nearest you and see which outdoor activities you can enjoy.

Tip 6. Plan longer trips!

To deepen your appreciation for a place and lessen your carbon footprint, try planning longer trips and staying in one place. This will prevent excessive travel-related emissions, help you connect with locals, and support the local economy.

Alternatively, opt for a nearby domestic stay or staycation.

The takeaway

Before your next road tip getaway, take control of your air quality. Using these tips will ensure that you and your fellow travelers enjoy the health benefits of clean air, safeguard the environment, and most importantly, truly relax on your road trip.

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