Traveling with family members, friends or that special someone can be a pleasurable experience. However, traveling alone provides the opportunity for travelers to make their own schedules, and even make changes without worrying about how others will be affected. A solo road trip provides an even greater opportunity for planning an itinerary that can create wonderful memories that last a lifetime. Proper planning and preparation can ensure that every aspect of a solo road trip goes smoothly.
Get the Car Road Ready
Nothing spoils a road trip faster than car trouble. Preparing a car before a road trip is essential. A mechanic should check all the essential functions and elements of a car — fluids, hoses and belts, as well as the radiator, battery, brakes and lights. Worn or improperly functioning parts should be replaced. Wipers are often neglected but should also be checked, and wipers that are more than a few months old should be replaced. Using the penny test, check your tire’s tread. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head when placed head first into a tire groove, your treads are worn and should be replaced. Last but not least, make sure your registration and maintenance paperwork is stowed in the glove compartment.
Of course, despite the most careful planning, sometimes accidents or breakdowns occur. Being stranded alone on the road is anxiety producing even when drivers are close to home. On a road trip, an accident or a breakdown is even more stressful. Drivers should ensure that their car insurance coverage is current — and copies of insurance policy paperwork are stowed in the car along with the registration.
New cars are covered under dealer or manufacturer warranty against malfunctions and accidents. For cars that are no longer under warranty, a third-party car service contract for extended warranty service provides peace of mind. The best extended warranty plans include 24/7 roadside assistance, available rental cars and comprehensive bumper-to-bumper repair service.
Navigate Unfamiliar Roads
Cars equipped with GPS can make navigating unfamiliar roads much less stressful. However, drivers should not rely on GPS alone. Especially in rural areas, GPS directions may be less accurate than in the city. And in urban areas, GPS often misses important circumstances such as road closures or less than ideal road maintenance. With or without GPS, prior online research can alert drivers about local speed limits, toll roads, local landmarks and the general lay of the land.
Local travelers’ bureaus, chambers of commerce or municipal websites are also excellent sources for local information. Local guides are often available for walking trips in urban areas — search Airbnb‘s Experiences section for something you’re interested in.
Staying Safe on the Road
One of the best aspects of travel is interacting with new people, especially locals. At the same time, staying safe on the road is essential. Solo road travelers should follow the same common sense practices as any travelers — avoid wearing showy jewelry or flashing around large amounts of cash to minimize the risk of robbery.
Along with arranging a tune-up, make sure you have a full tank of gas before starting the trip. Solo drivers should keep car doors locked while inside the car and avoid driving alone at night. In case of breakdowns, stay inside your car and instruct would-be good Samaritans to call for help.
It may seem obvious, but before you leave, double check that you have a car charger with you. But remember, talking or texting while driving is dangerous — and illegal in many locations. Instead, the phone should be kept accessible for emergencies. Consider downloading a mobile app like GasBuddy that lists gas station locations to minimize the risk of running out of gas in an unfamiliar location.
Many women avoid traveling alone, especially by car. However, following the tips listed above helps to maximize safety for women as well as men. In addition, many women carry pepper spray or learn basic self-defense moves. Other safety measures for women include downloading special apps on their cell phones like MayDay or Tripwhistle.
Hit the Road!
Solo travel can be liberating and exciting. A solo road trip can provide adventure and the opportunity to make memories that last a lifetime. However, proper preparation before hitting the road is essential to ensuring that the trip goes as smoothly as possible. Having the car checked for proper functioning minimizes the risk of breakdowns on the road. Obtaining and maintaining proper insurance and warranty coverage provide peace of mind in case of accidents or breakdowns. Finally, following commonsense safety precautions are also important for both men and women. Once the proper preparations for the trip are made, all that’s left is to hit the road!