Road Trip Tips for Solo Travelers

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I’m driving to Minnesota for the holidays, and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be just Leo (my dog) and me for 2,200 miles – over thirty hours of driving time, plus stops for gas and sleep. I know from past experiences how important it is to be prepared for long drives by yourself, so naturally I’ve barely given it a thought. Rather than prepare for my own road trip, I’ve decided to share some of the road trip tips I’ve picked up over the years. It’s the old, “Do as I say, not as I do” shtick. I’m good at giving advice, but I’m not so great at following it myself.

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Tip One: Cut Back on the Caffeine

caffeine

This is the first thing that came to mind when I thought about what roadtrip tips I wanted to share. It took me a long time to figure this one out because it seemed counterintuitive. (I actually still struggle with this one because I really like caffeine, but I have gotten better about it). If you want to stay alert and drive for a longer period of time, then caffeine should help you, right? It can, but it doesn’t always. Caffeine is a double-edged sword. It may keep you awake and alert for some time, but there are also some potential consequences.

rest stop

Needing to stop more often is one of these potential consequences. Caffeine has long been considered a diuretic, which means it has a tendency to get things flowing (if you know what I mean). More stopping means adding time to your drive, which is something you may or may nothave. I, for one, hate stopping. When I’m driving long distances, I like to get big chunks of driving done in between each stop.

Another potential consequence is the crash that follows large consumptions of caffeine. The biggest issue here is not being sure when the crash will come. If you risk it, then you better hope you’re near a place to sleep for the night when it hits you. Otherwise you’ll find yourself drinking even more. By the time you do stop, you’ll no longer be able to sleep. Eventually, it’ll feel like your heart is racing, and you’ll start to feel light-headed and shaky. It’s not safe if you have more driving to do; and if you don’t, it takes a lot of the enjoyment out of arriving at your destination.

Tip Two: Listen to Talk Radio

I know a lot of people think talk radio is super boring, and it can be. Not everyone is interested in the same topics, so not everyone is going to enjoy it. I used to hate talk radio. I’d always find myself commenting on what the shows’ hosts had to say, even though I knew they couldn’t hear me. I wasn’t even necessarily interested in what they had to talk radiosay, but I enjoyed adding my own thoughts.

During one of these one-sided discussions, I realized how much time had passed without me being aware of it. It was keeping me engaged, which stopped me from zoning out. Even if you don’t care about the topic, talk radio is a good way to keep yourself alert. If you really don’t want to give talk radio a try, you should consider downloading a podcast or a borrowing an audio book. Finding something to keep you engaged is one of my biggest road trip tips because it can make all the difference in the quality of the trip.

Tip Three: Buy an Atlas 

As far as road trip tips go, this one should be obvious. I know smart phones have maps on them, but it’s never a bad idea to have a backup. What happens when you try to pull up the directions and you can’t get them because you don’t have service? You could leave the directions up for the entirety of the trip, but who wants to do that? This drains the battery and uses data, though the amount is admittedly small. Plus, your phone could break or stop working. The reality is, you never know what might happen, so why not be ready?

road trip

An atlas is nice because it includes every state and is usually more durable than a map. I don’t mind individual maps, but they add up quickly; digging through them to find the right one can be a pain. Maps are great if you need a more detailed look at a specific area, but for big picture stuff I’d stick with an atlas.

Tip Four: Give Cheap Motels a Chance

creepy motel

I’ve definitely gotten skeptical looks from people when I say I’m not picky about where I sleep. I’ve stayed at some shady motels and slept in my car at rest stops; not once have I run into any dangerous or harmful situations. Any concerns you might have regarding cheap motels are probably being exaggerated by your own mind. You’ve probably watched too many scary movies because it’s highly unlikely that anything bad is going to happen to you. Although, despite knowing this, I still wouldn’t stay at the Clown Motel.

Some people are less concerned about physical danger than they are about the cleanliness of a place, however. I’m not going to try to convince you that a cheap motel is just as clean and nice as a 5-star hotel; that would be dishonest. However, cheap motels aren’t necessarily as gross as you think. Many of the ones I’ve stayed at have been surprisingly pleasant. When I have stayed at places where I’m concerned I might pick up a disease of some sort, I’ve simply taken extra precautions like using my own blankets and not sitting on the toilet seat. Just remember, if you’re really uncomfortable at a place, you don’t have to stay there.

on the road

A road trip is about being on the road, right? So why bother spending a bunch of money on a hotel room that you’re only going to be staying in briefly? You might as well save your money and opt for a cheaper place. If nothing else, it might help motivate you to get up and leave in the morning. A nice place could be tougher to leave behind.

Road Trip Tips For Life

When you’re driving long distances by yourself it’s important to be prepared for anything. It’s not a bad idea to put together an emergency kit to leave in your car even when you’re not going on a long trip. Of course, it’s also not a bad idea to be prepared for any type of drive. I don’t have to do a whole lot of preparing before I go on a road trip because my car is usually stocked and ready to go, but I still try to double check everything before I leave. This way I can avoid a panicked tizzy when something does go wrong.

take your time

The last of my road trip tips is to take your time. Like being prepared, this is a tip that can be applied to any driving situation. Your destination isn’t going to disappear if you don’t get there when you thought you would. It’s better to get there late than to never get there at all. There’s no shame in saying you need a break.

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