Road trips are often taken in pairs or big groups, but going for long drives alone can end up being even more fun. When you're on a solo adventure, you don't have to conform to anyone else's agenda or expectations. You're the driver, the navigator, the DJ, and the only one eating all those road trip snacks. And while it may get lonely at times, traveling alone has a way of pushing people out of their comfort zones. However, it can also be dangerous. Anyone planning a solo road trip should take extra steps to prepare and keep safety top of mind.
Talk to the People Around You
It would be easy for a solo traveler to go days without talking to anyone but drive-through workers and gas station clerks, but the lack of human contact can start to take a toll on your psyche. Make sure you keep communicating with others, whether it be regular check-ins with your family and friends or, better yet, meeting fellow travelers on the road. Ask whether you can join a group on a hike, sit next to another solo traveler at a coffeeshop, or strike up a conversation with your camping neighbor. You may even end up with a temporary travel partner, if that's what you want.
Tell Someone Your Plans
The number one safety rule is to always tell someone where you're going. Call a parent, friend, or spouse before embarking on a hike, spending a day at the beach, or settling into a campsite at night, then check in with your point-of-contact when you reach your destination so they know you've made it safely. Better yet, share your location with someone on your phone or purchase a wearable tracker, such as a Fitbit or a more budget-friendly alternative.
Try to anticipate when you might lose phone service and call beforehand, but in scenarios when you can't, at least leave a note on your car that says where you are. This is important in the event of an emergency that would require law enforcement to look for you.
Bring Your Four-Legged Friend
Does it count as solo travel if you bring a pet along with you? Dogs and cats have been scientifically proven to relieve loneliness and depression in humans which must mean that they'd make great travel partners. You may run into limitations when traveling with a pet—there might be areas you want to explore that aren't dog-friendly—but on the flip side, you'll always have someone to talk to and to potentially protect you. Always talk to your vet and get a clean bill of health before embarking on a road trip with your pet.
Prepare Backup Resources
Your cell phone will act as a lifeline during your solo adventure, but it won't do much good if it's dead and you're in no position to charge it. It's a good idea to bring backups for your vital electronics like cell phone batteries and chargers. Put a charged-up old cell phone in your glove box for emergencies. Even if the cell phone isn’t connected to a network, dialing 911 will activate the emergency mode and allow you to communicate with first responders.
In the same vein, you should have backup resources on your devices, such as important documents (your passport, credit card information, driver's license) saved to your Cloud. It's best to pre-mark a route on whatever virtual navigation system you'll be using and have a backup of that, too. In addition to Google or Apple Maps, download Maps.me, which lets you download maps of certain areas and use the navigation offline. To keep an eye on tourist sites on the route, you can use an app like Roadtrippers or carry a National Geographic paper map.
Make Sure Your Ride Is Ready
The surest way to get yourself stranded is to not have your vehicle checked over before heading on a road trip. Go through the trouble of taking your ride to a licensed mechanic. Make sure the tires are good and you have what you need to handle any inclement weather. Get the oil changed, top off the fluids, check the brakes, and make sure the cooling system is in good shape. Have the manual handy in case a light comes on during your trip. Before you go, double check your car insurance plan and secure a membership to AAA for round-the-clock roadside assistance.
Stock up on Food and Water
It would also be wise to travel with a stock of non-perishable food items and water, just in case you must go miles without a suitable stop. You'll want to keep healthy, nutritious snacks on-hand and not just the standard road trip junk food. Be careful of your salt intake, as it can leave you dehydrated, and drink as much water as possible but avoid soda. For emergencies, keep trail mix, meal replacement bars, and dehydrated food packs in your car.
Pack an Emergency Kit
Accidents can happen, and if they do during your trip, you're going to wish you had made space for an emergency kit. The ideal kit would have first-aid essentials, blankets, and roadside hazard items such as flares and cones. Basic tools and jumper cables will come in handy if your vehicle breaks down and a flashlight is a must. In addition to car insurance, solo road trippers may also want to secure travel insurance, which covers things like medical emergencies, theft, and accident coverage while traveling. Allianz Travel Insurance, RoamRight, and Seven Corners all offer road trip-specific plans.
Don't Overdo It
You should never operate an RV or vehicle for more than 12 consecutive hours without an extended break. In fact, eight hours of active driving is plenty for most. After a full day on the road, your eyes will be heavy and you'll start to lose focus anyway, making you prone to accidents. Most highways in the U.S. are dotted with frequent rest areas where you can take a nap or stretch your legs. Some even give away free coffee to keep drivers awake. Do some research before you go and plot the good stops on a map to make it more exciting.
Load up on Entertainment
If you're relying solely on the scenery to keep you alert, you may get bored. Boredom can lead to sleepiness and sleepiness can be detrimental to driving, so prepare some upbeat playlists, audiobooks, or podcasts before you go. If you know that the sound of talking may bore you even more, then make sure you have enough music to keep the tunes flowing. For your safety, try not to resort to talking on the phone.
Have a Little Fun
Make the most of burning the miles by yourself, whether it means getting your favorite guilty-pleasure dessert, stopping by a roadside attraction you wouldn’t usually see, or buying yourself a few trinkets at a roadside stand. Spoil yourself. And don't be afraid to go to a bar, a coffeeshop, or sign up for a tour on your own.