The Ultimate Guide To Planning A Road Trip Alone


Keeping your wits about you on that solo car trip

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Do you relish those long drives or do you dread spending that much time behind the wheel and just want to get it over with? Most of us will have to drive a long distance by ourselves some time or another, so why not ensure you're well-prepared with these useful tips for long driving stints cross-country? When you plan a road trip by yourself, there are a few things you can do to ensure it's trouble-free and enjoyable. You never have to fret about a solo road trip again, even if it's across the entire USA.

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Important Things to Remember

Long-distance driving requires proper planning. How to drive a long distance is easy if you simply plan it out step by step. Here are the most important things to remember on your car trip:

  • Road planning with rest stops. You should map out your route beforehand and know which roads to follow to your destination, how far it is, and how long it should take. Stopping points for refueling should be planned, too. Keep paper maps handy, in case you lose cellphone signal and can't use your phone's navigation. Schedule your rest stops every two hours to avoid getting drowsy behind the wheel - read through our article on how to avoid falling asleep behind the wheel here. If it's a multi-day trip, plan each day's distances and stops. Give someone your itinerary and periodically check in with them, and keep emergency services and/or roadside assistance numbers handy.
  • Food and drinks. Take along fluids and snacks to stay refreshed while driving and keep them within easy reach. Excessive salty snacks might dehydrate you, though, so try to avoid them. There are many healthy options, like fruits and vegetables, crackers, nuts, and energy bars. Avoid overly sugary snacks and caffeine if these make you jittery or anxious. Water is always the best, but tea, decaf coffee, or juice are great too.
  • Self-entertainment. There are many things to do on a road trip to keep yourself entertained but alert. Load playlists or podcasts on your phone or music player beforehand. If you have a music-streaming subscription service, download your playlists for offline use, so you save phone data while on the road and can listen to music when the phone signal falters.
Road Trip Planning
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Preparing Your Car for the Trip

We offer comprehensive advice on pre-road trip inspections here, but this is a summary of how you can ensure your car is also ready for your road trip alone:

  • Have it thoroughly checked before your trip by a professional mechanic
  • Have it serviced if its next service is not far off
  • Check your tires - including the spare
  • Do all of this preventative maintenance a week or two in advance, so you can address any issues that crop up, following that initial check

The best car for long-distance driving is comfortable and reliable. A truck or SUV can be a great road-trip vehicle with plenty of space, but their gas mileage is quite poor, so a smaller hatchback car such as a Mazda 3 or Toyota Corolla is far thriftier.


The Essentials to Take Along When You Plan a Road Trip

While snacks and music are all well and good, it's good to have the following in the car, too:

  • Jumper cables. Make sure that you also know how to use them.
  • Flashlight. At least one, preferably two, including spare batteries.
  • First-aid kit. Essential in any car.
  • Toolkit. A toolkit with a few basic tools can come in very handy.
  • Any other emergency kit. Other items depend on the length of your trip, the weather, or many other factors. These might include a sleeping bag, overnight supplies, or equipment you might need for snowy roads, like tire chains.

Safety Tips for Long Driving Stints

You have a set distance to cover, you have to stop for rest and fuel, and there is a speed limit. These things cannot be changed, so plan enough time for everything and don't rush. Remember your cellphone charger and make sure you can charge your phone in your car while driving, so you always have your GPS and phone ready. Wear cool, loose clothing, and check the weather en route and at your destination. Keep a little cash on you, not just credit cards; you never know where card facilities might not be available. The best day of the week to drive long-distance varies and may depend on so many factors, but an early start before rush-hour traffic is always best.

Stick to main, well-used roads, even if they are a little longer. Don't take shortcuts or alternative routes you're unfamiliar with. Obey traffic laws and keep your license, registration, and proof of insurance handy. Also, remember that laws differ from state to state. To this end, have a hands-free cellphone kit ready to take calls on the road if necessary. Still, it's always better to make calls at rest stops, and never text while driving. Rest every two hours and stop at a safe place to take a short nap if you're drowsy. Don't turn up the heater too high, either, because it makes you drowsy, too; rather keep the car cool inside. Lastly, avoid traveling at night.


There is no need to be apprehensive about your next long road trip if you know you have properly prepared for it. Follow the tips in this guide, and you will have a lot less to stress about. Nevertheless, you should customize this advice for your specific circumstances, such as when you cross international borders or have to deal with treacherous weather. Remember, the trip is part of the adventure, so prepare well, relax, stay alert, and enjoy the drive.

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How far can I drive per day?

You should be able to drive several hundred miles per day if you rest every two hours and stay alert and hydrated. Keep to the conservative side and don't push your limits.

How do I know whether I’m ready to drive alone?

If you haven't done it before, start taking progressively longer solo-driving trips in the months before to prepare you for how it feels and to familiarize yourself with the conditions of long-distance driving.

How can I overcome my fear of driving long distances alone?

By doing it more and by properly planning your trips, so you don't have to worry about so many unpredictable variables. Planning is the most important of all. That said, it is always best to have company and not drive alone.

How do I know what to expect on a long road trip?

There is no way to know what's going to happen for sure, so it's important to cover as many bases as possible when preparing: research routes, the weather, and the areas you're traveling in. Unforeseen factors might interfere, but they can be minimized with forethought and proper planning. While spontaneous, last-minute road trips may sound fun, planning is better and less stressful.

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