7 Must-Haves for Solo Travel: Road Trip Edition

7 Must-Haves for Solo Travel: Road Trip Edition via KLWightman.com
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Recently, the team at Red Roof welcomed me on their podcast channel so that I could share my experiences with and advice about solo travelling. I had a blast talking with the hosts and I’m thrilled that they’ve invited me back in the future for a second conversation.

If you’re curious about my solo travel life—or eager to listen to my stories, particularly my snow blizzard survival story—I recommend taking a listen.

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I didn’t realize how intriguing solo travel is to many people. I live my life as just me, so the idea of traveling by myself is assumed and normal. But the reaction from this conversation, both from the podcast hosts and my friends who gave the episode a listen, was genuine fascination. It was as if I was describing a traveling concept that no one dared to dream about. 

Yes, you can travel alone. You just have to be smart.

I’ve discovered over the years, either by accident or from past mistakes, that there are some things I must have or must do before I hit the road. And if you’re itching to take a road trip alone, it’s a good idea to add these to your packing list:

Tuned-Up Car

You don’t have to buy an almost-new vehicle for your solo road trip—although that is what I did before I moved 2,000 miles across the country (I did have a co-pilot on that drive). But you should make sure your car is up to speed for the journey ahead.

I take my car in for an oil change about a week or two before I plan to take a long solo road trip. After they change the oil and rotate the tires, I ask for them to do a maintenance check. If there’s something important that needs replacing in my car, I can schedule it to be installed now instead of having it break while I’m on the road.

Maps (& a Sense of Direction)

I don’t care if you have GPS. You’d be surprised how often signal fails when driving down open highways. 

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Last year, I flew to Albuquerque and rented a car to drive to some of the NPS parks and monuments north of the city. If you’re driving through desert land outside of any city in the Southwest, chances are you won’t get a signal. Knowing this, I packed maps for every route I planned to take, so if my signal dropped—and it did—I was able to get back to my hotel room safe and sound.

To play it safe, pack state maps for where you’re going as well as route maps for each of your target destinations that are available online (this also goes for trail maps if you enjoy hiking on your solo road trips like I do). Before I hit the road, I take mental pictures as I guide myself through each route and review the directions of the major roads and expressways near or around my destination. 

I strongly urge you to freshen up on your sense of north, south, east, west. This can be crucial if you get lost or if your GPS isn’t as keen on knowing your location coordinates.

Itinerary

This piece of advice was a favorite on the podcast episode. And it could be something that saves your life.

Before any solo road trip, I write out my day-to-day itinerary. If I want to visit a park, I note the hike I plan to take as well as the trail mileage (for example, I may hike only three miles of a 20-mile trail). If I know the restaurant where I want to dine, I note its name and address. If I know where I want to stop to fill up my gas tank, I note it. I include rough estimates of times when I’ll be at each location and when I plan to drive.

I don’t keep this itinerary just on my phone. I email it to my family for their peace of mind. Most importantly, I print it out and have it sitting next to me in the passenger seat. If something bad happened to me while I’m away from my vehicle, search parties can narrow down their search in finding me based on my inked-out game plan.

This may surprise people, but this isn’t how I really like to travel. I prefer to define my target destinations and figure out the whens and hows later. Sadly, you can’t be that scattered when you’re traveling solo on the road because there are a lot of variables that can put you in sticky situations.

Bedding

I always drive with a sleeping kit. My car is prepared for all seasons if ever I need to pull over and snooze, whether I’m tired from driving or too cheap to book a hotel room. As you discover in my podcast episode, it’s something that was once a regular part of my solo road trip routine.

My sleeping kit includes alpaca blankets, a camping sleeping bag designed for winter weather, a camping pillow and an air mattress that fits in my car. How you want to sleep is up to you, just be mindful of your body’s needs during cold temperatures (as I was close to sleeping in my car during a zero-degree snowstorm!).

Food

I’m a vegetarian, so eating on the road isn’t always easy along a highway full of fast food. And since I consider eating a daily hobby more than a necessity, it’s important to have some grub that supports my dietary lifestyle.

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When I lived in Arizona, a few of my solo road trips were to Las Vegas (to ride the roller coasters, of course!). The best stopping point during the drive didn’t have a dining option that had a vegetarian meal. So I packed a lunch that satisfied my cravings in a cooler and munched in the car after fueling the car back up.

No matter your dietary preferences, food is often hard to come by when solo road tripping. You’ll thank yourself later by packing food that you know you’ll want to eat. I always carry protein-rich travel mix because it calms the stomach growls before I can sit down for a nice meal.

More Water Than You Think

Believe it or not, water can be just as hard—if not harder—to come by on a road trip. And since you’re traveling solo, you only have yourself to rely upon, especially when there isn’t a gas station or a drive thru for hours.

In theory, you think that you’ll drink less water because you want less stops. But staying hydrated is crucial to your driving focus. And you’ll find yourself naturally reaching for a sip the longer you sit behind the wheel.

I always carry five canteens of water in my car on my solo road trips. That may sound excessive, but you never know where the road will take you. On my last road trip to Richmond, I didn’t have an opportunity to fill up my canteens until a rest stop seven hours into my drive.

Shovel

I swear by this travel must-have. You can buy a compact shovel with a collapsible design so that you always prepared on the road. Even if you live in warmer climates, you never know when a shovel can be handy. As someone who now lives in a snow-prone climate, I use it every season to shovel my way out of my parking spot after a solid snowfall so that I can still get to work.

I didn’t think I’d need a car shovel during my solo road trip to Asheville—yet it was an essential tool during that road trip. You can hear that full story on my podcast episode.

What are your solo travel must-haves when you take a road trip? Share your favorite go-to in the comments section below.

2 thoughts on “7 Must-Haves for Solo Travel: Road Trip Edition

  1. Eric Stahl

    I am actually really looking forward to the podcast…. I have been reading for a while… now… I get a voice to add to blog!

    • Thanks, Eric! I’ll be honest: I cringed hearing my voice (as we all do at the sound of our own voice). Some of my stories are easier to share by speaking aloud than writing, so I’m grateful that I had this opportunity.

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