If you’re considering a solo road trip, here are some must-knows and must-dos to ensure you stay safe and have an enjoyable trip!
Road trips could be considered one of the most exciting types of travel. Not only do you get to experience multiple destinations, but you also can view the incredible scenery, find hidden gems, and when road tripping alone, you have the luxury of creating your own timeline and be as flexible as you want!
Though traveling alone can often seem intimidating, especially for women; however, there are many steps you can take to ensure a safe travel experience that will reward you with many incredible memories.
After many years of solo road trips, including month-long multi-state journeys, I’ve come up with my best tips for staying safe!
Safety Tips For Women Traveling Solo On A Road Trip
Take Your Car In For Service (Before You Leave)
Many of us only bring our cars in for service when it is time for an oil change or if there is something to be concerned about. To avoid unexpected issues, it is vital to take your car in for service before you leave.
There are many things that could be happening under your hood that you may not be aware of and many of these issues could be fixed with a quick assessment from your local mechanic. Some good things to get checked are:
Your exhaust system has four main functions that are important to vehicle performance. It controls noise, directs fumes, and handles the performance of the engine as well as improving fuel consumption.
Steering and Suspension
Steering and suspension are two different systems that work together to keep your car controlled. They make sure that you have a nice smooth and stable ride.
Tires and Alignment
We are all capable of reading our dashboard and knowing if we need to add some air to our tires, but it is still beneficial to get them checked for possible nails, slow leaks and to make sure the tread is still viable. Stability starts from the ground up! Alignment goes hand and hand with tires. An alignment refers to the angle of your tires and makes sure they are coming into contact with the road properly.
Just because your brakes are working fine doesn’t mean that they don’t need service. Brake pads wear down over time, and depending on the length of your trip, it may be a good idea to get them changed a little earlier than usual.
General maintenance goes a long way. It typically includes a tune up, checking and replacing motor oil, radiator coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, wiper blades and brake pads. It is also a good idea to mention to your mechanic the length of the trip you are taking as they may make some additional suggestions.
It’s Worth It To Pay More To Stay In Safe Areas
As you are looking at where to stay along your route, be aware of the areas you’re staying in. Though the price of some hotels in the less-safe side of town may be tempting, it truly is worth it to spend the extra to stay somewhere you feel comfortable.
Aside from putting yourself at risk, there is something to be said for peace of mind. Knowing you are somewhere safe will allow you to enjoy your time more, and give you more flexibility to explore.
A quick google search can help you get a feel of the area you are looking to stop in. If you arrive to your hotel and do not feel safe, it is always worth it to cancel your reservation and search for alternative accommodations.
Packing can be stressful. You want to make sure you’re prepared for everything and anything, I totally get it! And even though you’re not dealing with luggage fees because you’re not flying, there are still downsides of over packing on the road.
First and foremost, the more you pack, the more bags you have to deal with and be responsible for, which can often be an added stressor. Try to limit your baggage so you can easily carry everything in and out of wherever you are staying.
Being able to keep all your belongings out of sight and in your trunk can keep you safe from thieves, or people who may prey on someone who is a long way from home.
Read more: Packing Light: How To Pack For Carry-On Only
Don’t Stop For Someone Stranded On The Road
This doesn’t just apply to people who appear to be hitch-hiking. On the road you may see some people stopped because of vehicle trouble, a flat tire, or any other reason. Though it may look like they need assistance. Stopping to help may put you in a compromising situation.
If someone looks like they are in particular distress, it is best to stay in your vehicle and call 911 if the situation calls for it.
Pay Attention To Details
When traveling with someone, we often overlook many details of our surroundings. Afterall, it does feel safer traveling with someone and letting them take the lead or allowing yourselves to be more relaxed when exploring. During a solo trip, that is not a luxury that we have.
Paying attention to the details of your surroundings can keep you safe. Be sure to make mental notes of signs, mile markers, where you may be parking, and landmarks. It may also be beneficial to take pictures for memory.
Not only should you pay attention to specific items but also how you’re feeling. If you feel uncomfortable in a certain area or situation, be sure to listen to your instincts.
Don’t Pack Too Much Driving Into Each Day
Driving can be exhausting, and without a co-pilot to keep you awake it can be difficult to make long treks. Plan to do all your driving during the day. Driving long distances at night in areas you are not familiar with can be stressful and dangerous.
In planning your trip, keep your daily hours of driving to whatever is comfortable for you. Be sure to err on the side of caution and not stretch yourself. I personally don’t like to drive more than about 8 hours in a day and if I’m traveling every day or every other day, I keep it under 5 hours.
Don’t Carry Too Much Cash
Just like having a full car, having a full wallet can attract pickpockets and scammers. In the United States, nearly everywhere takes credit or debit cards, and there is usually an ATM just miles from you at any moment. It truly isn’t necessary to carry large sums of cash.
In case of emergencies, carrying between $100-$200 would be reasonable. It is enough for a standard emergency.
Don’t Let Strangers Know You Are Traveling Alone
When meeting people out, avoid letting them know you are a solo traveler. If you are out, you could say that a friend is coming to meet you, in the restroom, or back at the hotel so strangers know that someone is expecting to see you soon.
Fill Up Your Gas Tank Early & Often
To be safe, make sure to plan to never let your gas tank get below ¼ full. This is a good rule of thumb so you are not stopping anywhere that makes you feel unsafe, or while it is dark out.
Keep in mind road signs that may show long lengths of road without gas stations available.
Stop At Places That Are Busy & Well Lit
Stopping at busy, well-lit places for necessities will keep you from being a target. Trying to make sure you stop during the day, or in a shopping plaza is ideal.
Making sure parking lots are well-lit for restaurants and hotels will also minimize attracting unwanted attention.
Let Someone Else Know Your Timetable
It is always good to give friends or family an outline of your plan so they have a general idea where you will be when. I advise going a step further and having specific daily check-ins or allowing some trusted people access to track your phone’s location.
Always keep someone informed about any deviations from your route or original plan so someone is aware at all times where you are.
Have Reliable Maps
Technology can be our best friend and simultaneously our worst enemy. Relying on your phone to guide you through your whole journey can be risky.
There are many areas where service could go in and out, or you may have phone trouble. Downloading an offline map, and bringing a paper map (like this National Geographic Road Atlas) or having printed out directions as a backup can be a very easy way to eliminate any possible problems on the road.
Read more: The Ultimate Packing List for Campers
Keep Your Phone Charged
Most of us plug our phones in at night so we start the day with a full charge. But just as it is important for your phone to be charged in the morning, it is important for it to stay at a safe battery level throughout the day in case of any emergencies.
It is best to not rely on just one singular charger. I’m sure we all have had experiences where we forget them, or they stop working. Bringing at least one extra charger whether it is a USB cord that you can use in your car or something fully portable.
Having a phone charger for your car can help you keep your battery level up as you can leave your phone plugged in as you drive.
Consider investing in a portable charger power bank as well. These are incredibly small and can fit in your pocket or bag. They can hold quite a bit of charge and are great for when you’re out exploring and do not have access to a standard charger.
Carry Extra Snacks & Water
Let’s be honest, part of the fun in a road trip is the snacks. Carry plenty of supplies on hand in case there is nowhere to stop, or if you feel unsafe stopping in a certain area. Keeping water and simple snacks such as nuts or granola bars are great options.
My favorite road trip healthy snacks include:
Mary’s Gone Crackers with Hummus
Baby Carrots & Celery Sticks
LyfeFuel (This is good when I can’t find anything else healthy. It’s filling, full of vitamins and protein, and it tastes great)
Download Safety Apps
There is an app for everything these days, and plenty of safety apps to consider downloading before your trip.
Popular safety apps include bSafe, ICE, Shake2Safety, Kitestring, Smart24x7 and many others. These apps offer features such as 24/7 monitoring, emergency alert, location-based services and can deliver instant or delayed messages. Many of these apps also worked with a locked phone screen and without internet access.
Be sure to thoroughly explore the app to familiarize yourself with it before your trip and have family and friends do so as well! This way, you will be comfortable and calm in case of an emergency.
Carry Pepper Spray
As an extra layer of precaution, carry pepper spray. Many women carry pepper spray daily around area’s they are comfortable in just to be safe. Pepper spray is easy to carry, legal in most states, easy to use, and very easy to come by.
You can purchase pepper spray keychain online and it’s also available at most brick-and-mortar stores. They come in many sizes so you can decide what with best work for you and your travels.
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