Tips for solo road trippers — travel North America in solitary style.
There are plenty of tips out there for road tripping, but how is it different to travel on the road alone versus with a friend, family member or partner? Take a look at the following tips and considerations you might want to make before heading out on your own so that your solo road trip is not only safer and easier, but it’s a lot more fun, too!
Consider your route. When you’re driving solo, you might be less comfortable behind the wheel during certain times of day or weather, so if possible try to tailor your route so you can have a drive you feel comfortable with the entire way. This might mean sticking to lower elevation, avoiding major cities or planning your road trip for a different season.
Download your music, podcasts, audio books and maps in advance. You never know when you’re going to run out of service while on the backroads or moving across state lines, so get your favorite content and maps lined up on your phone in advance. The bonus: This approach also allows you to use Wi-Fi and save on your data.
Know a bit about the weather, flora and fauna in the areas you’re traveling to. It’s not just for the education: Knowing a bit about the spaces you’ll be passing through will help you better understand what you should be packing for your trip, what poisonous plants and animals you should be aware of, and what weather you might encounter. Nobody likes being caught by surprise when it comes to hailstorms or rattlesnakes!
Get yourself a Bluetooth headset for phone calls. Hands-free is the safest way to make phone calls (and in some states, it’s illegal to do it any other way while driving). Bluetooth headsets can be as inexpensive as $25 and take all of the stress out of managing your phone while road tripping by yourself. Plus, it gives you more opportunities to talk to friends and family easily.
Get a roadside assistance plan. Even if you’re proficient at changing a tire, you never know when you might kill a battery or get stuck in the mud. When you travel alone, it’s harder to feel secure if something goes wrong with your vehicle while traveling, so it’s nice to have the safety net of a roadside assistance plan. If you need a tow, a jump, or you locked yourself out of your vehicle, help is only a call away.
Don’t drive when you’re tired. It’s a simple piece of advice, but when you travel solo it can be tempting to get from point A to point B quickly, and as the only driver you don’t have the luxury of sharing the responsibilities with another person. This means no passenger seat napping for you! If you’re going to be driving past dinnertime, don’t risk it—make sure you have a plan for where you want to sleep at night and be realistic as to how far you can actually drive.
Share your location (with the right people). Because you’re on the road by yourself, it’s difficult for anyone else to know where you are unless you’re proactive about it. It’s a good practice to let people close to you, like friends, significant others, family and emergency contacts, know where you are in case something happens. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s also a smart idea to keep your location private from those you don’t know well, such as strangers you meet in person or online. Make sure your privacy settings on social media are the level you want if you choose to share about your trip in real time.
Get a GPS communication device. Whether you’re on the road or the trails, if you’re out of service and something goes wrong, it’s important for you as a solo traveler to have a way to communicate with others. In an emergency, a GPS device can send emergency responders your location. It’s also a great piece of gear for sending friends and family messages when you’re camping or traveling in places that don’t have service, regardless of what’s going on.
Keep your snacks (and water!) close by. One of the most common (but avoidable) mistakes you can make when traveling is letting yourself get dehydrated or hungry. It’s easy to get so focused on getting from one place to the next that you forget about covering basic needs or think, “I’ll wait until the next stop to eat.” Get yourself a handful of snacks you love, fill up a reuseable water bottle, and make your empty passenger seat your control center for all things sustenance.
Stop and stretch your legs every two hours. It’s recommended you get out of the driver’s seat and go for a quick walk every two hours. Not only will this help you drive for longer every day you’re on the road, but you’ll feel less sore and more inspired to enjoy your time traveling.
Don’t forget to shower! Just because you’re traveling by yourself doesn’t mean you don’t want to feel clean at least once or twice while on the road. Look for showers at local parks, marinas, gyms, recreation centers and campsites. They are sometimes free or included with your visit, or can be purchased individually for a few dollars.
Stay with friends. One of the benefits of traveling is getting to see and experience places you otherwise might not, so while you’re on the road, phone an old friend and see if you can stay with them for a night or two. You’ll get to see how they live, catch up, and even get a load of laundry or a hot shower in.
Pro tip: As a houseguest, it’s always nice to return the hospitality with a gift card, making dinner, or getting a gift for your generous friend.
Join a Meetup group or volunteer locally. If you’re craving community while traveling alone, you can get more involved with the local community by finding opportunities to gather with others while doing some good. You can find opportunities online or by asking small businesses in the town you’re passing through. Typically folks will be happy to point you in the right direction because they know you’re here to be helpful.
Use apps like FaceTime or Marco Polo to keep up to date with loved ones. Sometimes all we need to feel more connected is hearing the voice of a friend or loved one. Fortunately, technology makes it easier than ever to keep in touch. Apps like FaceTime for real-time video calls, or Marco Polo for effective group communication, are not only fun for sharing your adventures but also take the sting out of missing birthdays or holidays while traveling.
Join online communities you trust to stay in touch with other travelers. Technology, especially social media, has not only made it easier to keep in touch with people you know well, but also to make new friends when you’re on a road trip. Small online community groups, through platforms such as Instagram and Facebook Groups, allow you to find people you identify with and develop relationships with them, or seek the support of a larger group who knows exactly what it’s like to be on the road.
All photos by Laura Hughes. In true solo fashion, Laura took all of these pictures using a tripod and camera timer.