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Solo road trip safety should be a top priority whether you’re planning your first solo road trip or your hundredth. Stay safe and prepared, and you’ll be able to overcome any challenges that arise and still have an incredible time.
The very fact you’re driving alone means you have to make decisions and take action if something happens: no one else. So, for you keen solo road trippers who are rearing to venture across the country, we’ve put together an ultimate guide to solo road trip safety, featuring 33 different tips and pointers.
Solo Road Trip Tips (Road Trip Safety Guide)
How to prep properly for a solo road trip
1 – Make sure you have a loose route planned out.
Every day you set out, make sure you have a target destination in mind. On a map, places can look a lot closer than they actually are, so be sure to check mileage.
2 – Pack all the essentials.
Print off an essential items checklist (you can use our solo road trip essentials guide) and go through the list, item by item (if relevant to your trip).
Once you have all the items you need, remember to pack everything up the night before your road trip. In the morning, you can simply load up your car and be on your way.
3 – Learn some car basics.
Knowing how to perform simple procedures on your car is going to be vital. You’re going to be on your own, so you can’t rely on someone else to do this for you if you end up stranded in a remote area. In the very least, you should know how to:
- Change a tire
- Check your oil level and add more oil
- Check your radiator fluid level and add more fluid
A simple Google or YouTube search will yield plenty of results that can show you how to do these things in a matter of minutes.
4 – Take your car to the garage roughly two weeks before your trip.
Make sure you get your car a full service. If there are any issues with your car, you should have them fixed before you hit the road. The older your car, the more likely the long-distance driving could cause problems.
If you’re unsure whether your car can handle the mileage without trouble, it’s worth looking into rental cars. That way, you’ll be getting a new car that can handle the long mileage.
5 – Decide how you’re going to get food.
Your food and water supplies will have to be restocked eventually, and you don’t want to spend all your time on the road eating only granola bars and other snacks.
If you’re planning to camp and cook your own food, make sure you have the necessary equipment and enough food to cover at least two meals a day, preferably three. If you’re bringing perishable food, make sure you’ve got a cooler to keep the food in.
6 – Take your wallet or purse with you.
Bring your credit and debit cards and some, but not too much, cash. Many campsites and places off the beaten track often won’t accept card payments.
How to stay safe on a solo road trip
As mentioned above, be sure to check off all the essential and, ideally, practical items on your list. Roadside assistance kits, first aid kits, fully charged devices, and food and water will all help you out of difficult situations, particularly if you’re going off the beaten track.
7 – Keep your documents in a safe place.
Lock them in a box, and place them in the glove compartment. It’s vital you have these documents on hand at all times, in case of an emergency.
8 – Make sure you’ve had enough sleep before driving.
Studies have shown people driving on just two hours less than their recommended daily amount of sleep (universally 8 hours, but varies from person to person) had reaction times similar, or even slower, than a driver under the influence of alcohol.
Driving tired can be dangerous, particularly if you’re driving along roads that go on for miles. It’s very easy to lose focus and sway off to the other side of the road. If you’re tired, make sure you have a good breakfast, or try to get a little more sleep, before getting back behind the wheel.
9 – Have your setup ready.
Don’t go fiddling about with your Bluetooth speakers or GPS route on your phone while you drive.
If you’re using your phone to guide you, purchase a mobile phone holder you can mount to your dashboard or windscreen, at eye level. If you keep looking down at your phone, you’re constantly taking your eyes off the road. Set everything up, and only then start driving.
10 – Remember to charge all your devices the night before.
This is especially key if you’re using your phone to navigate. This includes portable batteries.
11 – Stay within the speed limits.
On long roads, with little traffic, we tend to put our foot down without monitoring our speed too much. Don’t be in a rush to get to your next destination.
Take your time, enjoy the view, and make sure you’re entertained and in the right frame of mind at the wheel. If you need to stop, pull over and stop. A road trip is just as, if not more, about the journey, than the destinations.
12 – Be aware of other drivers on the roads.
Always keep your distance. If a large truck doesn’t see you and starts to switch lanes, you’re the one who’s going to come off worse. If you see a car swerving or moving erratically, slow down and give yourself plenty of distance.
13 – Check the weather before you hit the road.
If adverse, or extreme weather, is forecast, it’s probably worth staying where you are for a while longer and letting it pass. Driving in wet, windy conditions is going to increase your chances of an accident drastically.
14 – Be conscious of your surroundings.
If you end up driving through a dangerous part of town, lock the doors and keep driving. Don’t take any chances. Trust your gut, and just keep driving, or turn back if you have space and time to do so.
If you haven’t booked your accommodation in advance, the same applies for hotels and motels. If somewhere doesn’t feel right, don’t take the chance.
How to stay safe on a solo road trip as a woman
As well as taking into account all the tips listed above, here is a list of tips that are particularly useful for women.
15 – Keep a significant other, friend, or family member informed of where you are.
A daily check-up will keep their mind at ease, and let everyone know that you’re okay. If you’re in a particularly rural area, using a GPS transmitter is a great idea. You can also set it to send pre-written texts at a click of a button.
16 – Do not stop for people stranded on the side of the road.
The good samaritan in you may want to help, but as a solo woman, in a confined space, the risk is not worth taking. Stay inside the car, and continue to drive. If you want to help, pull over in a well-lit, built-up area, and dial 911 to let the police know the person needs help.
17 – Don’t let strangers know you are traveling solo.
If you go out to a bar, or a public place, and meet people, sure, have a great time. But don’t let on that you’re traveling alone. As harmless as someone might seem, you’re highlighting yourself as an easy target. Plus, if people know you have a car, they can very easily ask you to drop them off along your route.
18 – Be aware of your surroundings.
If you have a bad feeling about a place, motel, or hotel, keep driving. Try to avoid stopping in isolated areas late at night. If you can, stay in areas with plenty going on. If you’re camping, look for campsites where other people have already set up their tents.
19 – Try to keep your check-ins during the day.
If you’ve booked with Airbnb or Couchsurfing, you’ll be meeting your landlord or host face-to-face. Try to do this in the day, and not late at night. If you can, opt for hotels where you know there is a 24-hour reception or concierge.
20 – Be conscious of the way you dress.
While traveling, it’s best to dress to fit in and not stand out. You might also want to leave any expensive jewelry and designer items at home so you don’t become a target for thieves.
21 – Don’t carry too much cash on you.
If someone spots you pulling notes from your purse, you’re more likely to be a target. Keep cash on you, but in moderate amounts.
22 – Bring additional sanitary products.
It’s always good to have amble supplies, in case you’re far from a good pharmacy or supermarket.
How many miles per day is reasonable?
23 – 150-300 miles per day is reasonable per day.
Read below for an in-depth breakdown.
This is a tough question to answer, as everyone has different limits. Some people can drive for hours on end, and others will want to stop every 2-3 hours.
To make this easier to answer, let’s start at the extreme end, and work backward.
By law, professional drivers, such as truckers, have to take 10 hours rest for every 10-11 hours they spend on the road. That is the uppermost limit. In that time, most claim they will average around 600 miles if there were to drive non-stop.
From here, we can work backward. Seasoned road trippers will state they can do 300-400 miles, through to 600 miles at the extreme end. This is non-stop. As soon as you account for stops, you can expect those mileages to half.
As a rule of thumb, assume you are going to average 50mph. This will account for a combination of prolonged periods on the roads combined with any unforeseen circumstances and stops.
So, use 50 miles an hour as a gauge, and then think about your limitations. If you’ve never driven over 2-3 hours in a car non-stop, it’s probably wise to decrease your expected mileage.
At the end of the day, always remember this is your trip. You can do as few, or as many, miles per day as you like. Don’t let other people’s mileage influence you.
With that in mind, if you are looking for a concrete number to aim for, set your daily amount at 150-300 miles, and see how you feel. If you’re cooking on gas, up it. If you’re struggling, aim lower.
It’s better to have more time to play with because you never know what interesting things you may spot and want to stop for.
How many stops should a solo driver make on a road trip?
24 – Aim for at least a fifteen-minute break every two hours.
Again, more seasoned drivers will argue higher numbers. However, as a rule of thumb, aim for at least a fifteen-minute break for every two hours of driving.
Tiredness, as I mentioned earlier, is the number one killer on the road. At the highest end, you shouldn’t be driving any longer than eight hours a day.
It’s better to aim for lower mileage, and get to your destinations early, rather than aim too high and start to drive tired, or too fast.
You could also look at where every gas station is within a certain radius or the general direction of your route. That way, you can time your stops with filling up your gas tank, or picking up some gas station food or a few things you need.
Sleeping in your car on a solo road trip
If you’re looking to road trip on a budget, don’t have a good tent, or just want to try something a little more adventurous, sleeping in your car can be a great way to fully experience a solo road trip. Plus, you’ll save a lot of money and inconvenience along the way.
However, sleeping in your car is not without its challenges. These tips will help you stay safe and prepare properly.
25 – Pack plenty of layers.
If you decide to sleep in your car, make sure you’ve packed plenty of layers and blankets. At night, temperatures can drop drastically.
26 – Make sure you have snacks and water in the car.
At night, it can be difficult to find places that are open to buy food and drink.
27 – Keep all the doors locked at night.
Make sure you find an appropriate place to park for the night, such as a campsite car park.
28 – Don’t park near traffic.
Avoid parking in places where traffic comes through at night. These would include gas stations, near or just off highways, and busy areas within the inner city.
29 – Be mindful of where you are parking.
Pay attention to the parking signs. You could park in a place that is free overnight but paid from 6 am onwards. You could rack up a parking fee without realizing it. Some car parks and areas also lock down for the night, so you may be trapped inside until the morning. It may also be illegal to park in many areas.
30 – Make sure you crank one window down slightly.
This will help keep air circulating through the car. Only a very slight amount is needed. Don’t crank it down more than the width of a finger.
31 – Drive away from strangers.
If you awake to someone looking through the window or tapping to wake you up, do not open the doors. Resist the urge to be a good samaritan, stay calm, and climb into the front seat. Quickly start the car, and drive away. You’re on your own, so you must always put safety first.
32 – Do not leave the engine on.
While the temptation to turn the heating on can be strong, you’ll very quickly run out of gas and become stranded. Likewise, it is dangerous to keep the car running for hours on end while you sleep inside.
33 – Be careful if stopping in rural areas.
Not only may you be isolated and away from help, you may also have poor cell service or struggle to find a point of contact. Try if you can to at least stay near or in small towns.
If you are keen on going out into the wilderness, be sure to plan ahead with fully charged cell phone and battery, spare tire, healthy snacks and other food, and download maps for offline use.
Solo Road Trip Tips Summary
Road tripping can be a truly wonderful and rewarding experience, especially if you’re solo traveler and enjoy the solitude and adventure that comes with being out on the road on your own.
However, solo road trips can often come with more challenges than normal road trips with friends or family, and hence need to be planned for accordingly.
No matter where your cross country motor adventures take you, these important tips can go a long way to keeping you safe, informed, and aware of potential challenges. With a little forward-thinking, packing, and planning, you can focus more of your time and energy on exploring, taking the scenic route, and having so much fun, no matter where you’re going.
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