Solo Road Trip Advice & Must-Haves

Travel Tips and a Pre-Trip To-Do List Before You Hit the Road Solo

Words & photos by Luz Lituma

If you’re about to hit the road solo and feeling the jitters, let me tell you, you’re not alone! When set off on my first solo road trip I was super excited, but also was fearful of what could happen. Breaking down, getting lost, not having the right supplies, feeling uncertain (and maybe unsafe) in unfamiliar places are all valid things to worry about. It can take a couple of days to adjust and calm your nerves. I got in the mindset that I was going to take plenty of precautions and control what I could control. To help you feel more prepared, here is a list of things to check of your list before hitting the road on your own.

Take Your Vehicle in for a Tune Up

Getting maintenance done on your vehicle before heading out is a must. The main things to get checked are the tires and tire pressure, engine oil, that all the fluids are topped off, and that your windshield wipers are working. 

Keep Electronics Charged

Your smartphone is probably your primary mode of communication and navigation when hitting the road, so be sure you set off with a fully charged battery and a way to keep it that way. Same goes for any other essential electronics you’ll rely on! 

It’s always a good idea to have a fully charged battery pack handy. Something I can’t go without is my portable car battery starter that also allows me to charge my phone in case of emergencies as well and also jump start my car when my battery starts acting up. 

Gear recommendations: 

Obtain Proper Maps & Have a Good Idea of Where You’re Going

If you navigate with a mobile phone, download Google Offline Maps before you go! I think it’s the best feature Google Maps offers. You can select an area on the map that you’d like to download, and it saves it on your phone so you can still navigate when you don’t have service! It’s also great to be prepared in case technology isn’t cooperating, or you’re traveling in areas with limited services or long stretches between towns. Purchasing (or even printing) a paper map of the area you will be travelling through is always a good idea. 

If you have a set destination as a pit stop or stay for the night, know the address and any specific directions ahead of time. Even if you don’t have a campsite or hotel booked, it’s a good idea to have some idea where you’re headed, even if it’s just knowing the road you want to take or general area you want to explore. 

If you’re not sure, last case scenario make sure you know where the closest Walmart is so you can sleep there for the night. You can usually park at Walmart parking lots overnight without an issue. I personally find it comforting to park here when I’m unsure as to where I’ll be sleeping for the night! 

Stay In Touch With a Satellite Communicator

Purchasing one of these devices is pricey but it’s definitely a great investment if you’re going to be in areas where you don’t have cellphone service. A satellite communicator like the InReach Garmin helps you get in touch with loved ones if you are injured or need assistance when you have no cell phone service. There are steps you need to take to get the Garmin set up, so make sure you have it ready and tested before you hit the road!  

Gear recommendations: 

Tell Others Your Plans

Let friends or family know your trip itinerary ahead of time, with details like your route, planned stops, how to stay in touch with you, and estimates on when you’ll be certain places. You’ll all feel better knowing someone else has this information in case of emergencies! Apps like Find My Friends on iOS or Life360 for android can track where you will be going. These apps let you show your selected friends your gps location for further peace of mind!

Check Weather & Road Conditions

Make sure there are no storms or high winds on your route. Depending on where you’re going, elevation can change quickly. That can affect the weather and the wind patterns. It could cause an unpleasant experience if the weather isn’t right. 

Weather can also affect road conditions or closures, especially snow and heavy rain. 

A quick check with an area’s department of transportation or local news sites can keep you informed about conditions.

Stock up on Groceries + Fill Up on Water 

Buying groceries in smaller towns can be very costly and they might not have all the items you are used to. Before you hit the road, go to your local co-op or favorite grocery store and pack it all in a small cooler. Always carry plenty of water in your vehicle. 

Gear recommendations: 

Download GasBuddy

GasBuddy is an app that shows you where the closest gas stations are and their prices. That way you can compare and choose which location has the most affordable prices. I’ll never forget that time I filled up and gas would have been almost a whole dollar more affordable than one a couple of miles away. GasBuddy helps you with this! 

Always Trust Your Intuition

The hardest part of going on a solo trip is the part where you leave your house aka your comfort zone. Set a time you’d like to leave by, this will help you get out the door. It’s tough but once you’re out there you’ll appreciate the strength you had to do it. 

If you do get a bad feeling in your gut, don’t ignore it. As inconvenient it can be, move campsites, leave the gas station, skip the scenic route, etc and go somewhere you feel more at ease. I’ve shifted my mindset on how I see fear, I think it’s a gift that has kept me safe. “Fear should always be in the car, but not the driver’s seat” Whenever I feel uncomfortable I always FaceTime a family member. It helps calm my anxiety! Know you took all the precautions and that you are fully prepared for your first road trip! Get excited, you’re about to feel so empowered knowing you did this! 

With these tips I believe you’ll be ready to hit the road with more confidence and shake those nerves some of us may have.

Read: 6 Tips from a Self-Defense Expert for Personal Safety in the Outdoors


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