However, it is not always the case. Unlike what most people think, road trips can also be fun when you do it all alone. And no, it is not lonely!
I think it is, indeed, necessary!
My First Solo Road Trip
I remember myself, sitting at my cluttered (with paperwork, colorful pins, and supposedly motivational post-its) desk one busy afternoon. Looking at the clock, there’s only about an hour left before my shift is done. As I struggle to make my way through my workload, I suddenly stop and whisper to myself, “what the hell I’m doing?”
Well, obviously I’m working to survive this life. But it feels like I’m not living anymore! I’m like a robotic human with “working my ass off, 8, sometimes 12 (yes 12!) hours a day” as my default settings.
That’s when I suddenly have the urge just to do it— pack my bag, fill up my car, and drive to wherever the long road takes me.
Mind you, it took me the remaining one hour of my shift to fight that guilty voice (or perhaps that fear) inside me, stopping me from doing what it thinks as “stupid”.
In the end, I threw my hands in the air and said whatever, went to my supervisor and asked for a time-out. Maybe she saw the dull and struggling look in my eyes. And perhaps that’s why she just said, “Okay then, have fun!” and jokingly asked me to bring her souvenirs from wherever I’m going just to lighten up my spirits.
So, the whole night I planned. This was my first road trip. And no, I did not take anyone with me. It was just me, myself, and I!
Yes, I was scared. But, I knew I needed this. To make things balanced, I only went for a short, 2-day trip. But that solo short road trip changed me forever!
I don’t like being cramped in the car for long hours. But I do love sceneries and the beach. Thus, I took the overseas highway road trip. It was a beautiful, heartfelt and jaw-dropping experience. It usually takes 3-4 hours to drive this 113-mile highway, but it took me almost half a day, stopping every now and then to take selfies and enjoy the scenery. And from my Miami, I arrived and found myself enjoying the Cuban-infused culture of the sandy, beautiful Key West.
That trip is not only memorable. It awakens something inside me I don’t know. So, now I plan scheduled multi day-offs from work and checking off items on my solo road trip destination list. I do sometimes take my family with me, but most of the time, I like to do it on my own, or with my furry buddy.
So, if you’re like me, who finally convinced yourself to go and see the world for yourself, then here are some of my best tips to survive a solo road trip.
10 Tips To Survive a Solo Road Trip
1. Prep Your Vehicle
First and foremost, your only buddy on this trip will be your vehicle. So make sure that you have one reliable buddy.
Have your car inspected and tuned up at least a week before your trip. This should give you enough time for any repairs and problems required.
As your car gets inspected and tuned up, you have the time to cover and protect yourself with insurance.
Travel insurance should be your priority. I have never traveled without this. Depending on the coverage you get, travel insurance can reimburse the cost of medical examinations, doctor fees, medication cost and even accommodation to hotels.
It even helps cover the cost of getting your family to your bedside after an emergency or even return you home if necessary.
Regardless of how tuned up your car is, there’s still a chance of encountering problems on the road. From getting a flat to running your battery down or even a stupid mistake of locking your key in the car, roadside assistance should help solve the problem and allow you to continue your delayed trip.
3. Know Your Limits and Strength
Remember, road trips should recharge your spirits. So, never over-stretch yourself. Plus, there’s no one who will take over the steering wheel for you.
I can drive cross country alone the recommended 8 hours a day. Some can drive up to 13 hours without stopping. Others can’t sit still in just 4 hours.
If possible, I recommend not driving at night. And while there are people who are “nocturnal” and prefer traveling under the moon, your concentration level is just not the same. Plus, there are the headlights you need to face, causing strain in your eyes. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Whatever your limit is, make sure to get enough sleep, stretch your legs, take that stopover and talk with the locals. In addition, you should make a realistic limit for your car, determining how far the fuel can take you and how it reacts to a bumpy, dirt road.
Furthermore, when planning your road trip alone, you should also determine your strength. If you can only speak the universal language, then don’t go somewhere you think you’ll be crazy communicating.
If you prefer solitude or an introvert, then forget about the language barrier and go where your heart takes you. You can just drive through scenic routes or enjoy an aromatic coffee while you watch people and their culture.
4. Have a Rough Plan
You might have the urge of just going with the flow and seeing where you end up to. I like that too! But, hey, it is always better to at least research your route options and the kind of challenges you can face when starting your trip.
Check any possible roads you can take, the traffic, the kind of accommodation that fits your budget and more importantly, those heaven-sent fuel stations, towns, and stopovers for a nice stretching, bathroom breaks and replenishing— both fuel and food.
Make sure to have a map, whether the advanced GPS feature on your phone or the old-school physical paper map.
Also, tune in to local radio stations. They may play songs you probably never heard off, but they are your best bet for info about the area you are traveling in— any route diversion because of accidents, closures, road works, etc.
5. Bring Your Four-Legged Buddy
I know it’s called a solo road trip. But, since our four-legged buddy is not another human being, I like to think he’s an exception.
And while most people think that dogs and cars are not natural friends, a road trip with a dog in tow can mean less stress and more fun. Just make sure to pack all your pooch’s belonging from his bowl, food, water to his bed, leash, toys and poop bag.
Before you hit the road with your furry friend, check one more thing. Does he suffer from allergies, gastronomic disorders, or dog periods? If you suffer from allergies, make sure to clean your car, bring some clean blankets, and take some medical precautions. If he has gastronomic disorders or a dog period, prepare some washable dog period diapers. Taking your pup along for a drive is now safe.
When staying overnight, make sure that your accommodation allows pets and you have his kennel with you. If you have time and energy, make sure to give him playtime and bathroom breaks a few times on the road. Lastly, always talk to your vet and make sure to get a clean bill of health before going on a solo journey with your best bud.
6. Stay In Touch
Having a “me time” and going on a road trip alone does not mean that you can just disappear without anyone knowing.
You need to have someone looking out for you. So, make sure to let someone at home know when you leave, your route, and your arrival at your destination.
A quick text message should be enough. Or if you have Wi-Fi, you can update them on social media or send them an email.
My parents support me in all my solo travel goals, but they still want me to check in every now and then so they won’t have to overthink and worry if I made it safely to my destination.
7. Light Travel
You’re traveling solo. That means you have the whole car space for your things right?
It allows you to manage your luggage and easily navigate the crowds. And regardless of where you’re staying— hotels, B&Bs, hostels or whatever— you’re going to be taking your luggage in and out when moving to your next destination. Plus, it is also helpful when going to the bathroom, since there’s no one to watch your luggage for you. Thus, having a single bag makes it so much easier.
I recommend getting a lightweight rolling convertible backpack, so you can just use it as a rolling bag whenever you get tired of carrying it.
For your car, it is a great idea to store a multi-head screwdriver, duct tape, pliers, flares, coat hanger or two. Don’t forget a car blanket and a first aid kit too.
Then here’s what you should load up— Food and water! So, have a nice cooler of food and drinks packed up so you can picnic along the way. It really is a delightful experience having to snack on your favorite chips without someone snatching them from you.
I’m not selfish, but it’s my Cheetos— go get yours if you want.
Also, I would recommend stocking up on plenty of water, not soda so you won’t end up dehydrated with all the bags of chips you bought. (I’m not judging.)
8. Have A Backup Plan
Traveling alone in an unknown place can be scary. I know you got it all planned, but what if something doesn’t go the way you want it to?
This is the reason why I always have a backup plan.
First is your phone. It does not do much good if it goes dead on you in the middle of nowhere. Thus, it is important that you bring backup batteries, a portable or car charger with you.
While you might have several credit cards, always take cash. This is useful in case you went to a remote place without ATM or your credit card gets flagged. When crossing borders, you should also keep copies of important documents such as passports in your bag or online like Google Docs. Take a hotel business card in case you get lost following the sceneries and need to hire a taxi in order to bring you back.
Having backup plans, you lessen the chances of being stranded or putting a dent to your budget to buy a necessity.
9. Blending In
Traveling alone, especially for women, you do not want to stand out and call attention to yourself as a lone tourist. Dressing that blends into their culture can help others accept you as a foreign traveler.
So, before going, research about the dress codes or cultural etiquette of the city or state you are visiting. Also, try to avoid dressing revealing or provocative dress. Don’t even wear pieces of expensive-looking jewelry and a target for scams, thief and even shops demanding higher prices.
Lastly, you need to enjoy the road! After all, it is a road trip!
Enjoy your destinations and every mile that leads to your destination. If you ever get bored (which is possible if there’s not a wonderful backdrop to wow you), bring along plenty of CDs, audiobooks and podcasts. Go on and hold a concert, like what I do for at least 2 – 3 hours of my drive.
Stop often. Take some Instagram-worthy selfies. Talk to people. Enjoy the air and the freedom that comes with solo traveling. And remember, always stay safe!
Why You Should Take Solo Road Trips
With a solo road trip, you’re on your own without having to wait or consider anyone. You do not have to schedule dates with someone, stop on places you’re not even interested in, eat and sleep in sites you’re not comfortable with.
You get to be 100 percent selfish! Selfish with your time, what you eat, where you want to go, when to go to bed and to get up and when it’s time to go home. Contrary to what people say, being selfish is good and healthy every now and then.
So, don’t hesitate. Pack your bags, start your car, and let’s go on a road trip!