Surviving the Road Trip

I've been doing a lot of road trips alone lately for various reasons: heading out to jobs, visiting family, adventuring.

As a solo female, there are concerns. I've developed some strategies for minimizing the risks and maximizing the pleasure.

The Car
My car is a 1996 Geo Metro. It has over 118,000 miles. It gets 45 mpg which is really sweet when gas is nearly $3 a gallon. I've considered a new car, but with that comes high insurance premiums, body upkeep and expensive monthly payments.

I keep my car running with regular oil changes, new tires when the tread worn and trips to a good mechanic when needed. Its a stick, and I have the original clutch.

Before beginning a long trip, I have all the fluids checked along with an oil change. Get the tires rotated and make sure wiper blades are in good shape.  I keep my luggage to a minimum to reduce weight which also reduces gas mileage.

An Early Start
Early mornings there is less traffic. Before the sun rises, the air is cool and the air conditioner doesn't have to run. I used to dread going through St. Louis on I-64 but found out at 5 a.m no one is out there and you can cruise right past the Arch unobstructed. Early in the morning road construction is seldom an issue. Either the crews haven't started, or else traffic is so minimal you can glide right through.

Because I am a morning person and enjoy a early start, I always fill my gas tank before stopping for the night. Once I've check into my motel room, I check any concerns, like oil or windshield wiper fluid. My overnight bag, laptop case and coffee pot are brought into the room.

I bring a percolating coffee pot when I travel so the morning coffee is on first thing. An insulated mug and coffee cup give me about 28 ounces of the good stuff to get the caffeine going.
For these reasons, I skip motels which offer the free continental breakfast as an incentive to stay. Its about a basic clean room for the night at a good price in a decent neighborhood, close to my exit, nothing more. Now, if there's a pool and you have enough energy to take a dip, that's a nice perk.

The Food

If you can deal with instant coffee, like I do, the pot can be used to heat water only. Nearly boiling, this water can be used for instant soups, instant oatmeal, grits, tea, or other simple foods. Going out to eat is fine, but if you're on a budget, or just want to shower and chill, the ability to have a cup of soup and sandwich, chips and salsa can be very appealing.

I get snacks and sodas at a discount store like Walmart before heading out. There's more selection at better prices. Stopping for gas doesn't lead to indiscriminate food purchases that are usually way expensive and unhealthy. This is just my style. If I get hungry, or a little bored and sleepy, a snack can keep you going.

In Touch and Entertained

I keep my cell phone off except at gas stations while refueling. As soon as I stop, I turn it on, check or send messages, and get the gas pumped. Using the bathroom, filling the mug with ice (usually free) and turning off the cell phone are my last steps. This only takes about 15 minutes to accomplish.

I have an MP3 player with my favorite music on it. These are really handy devices because all the favorite songs can be stored and updated on them. Of course, the IPod works as well, but until my player gives up the ghost I'll be content to work with it.
This player gets it's power through the cigarette lighter adapter. The sound is amplified through the speakers of my radio which seldom can get a good station heading through the plains states.

I play simple number games to keep my mind sharp. Things like adding odometer readings to next turn off mileages, computing arrival times to the next city, conversion to kilometers, and half hourly accomplishments ( crossed into new state, filled gas tank, 20% of day's driving completed). These mental tasks may seem silly. I find it helps goal oriented people stay focused.


I found a person doesn't need many clothes while traveling. A good pair of cargo pants and comfortable t-shirt, solid shoes and sunglasses is standard wear. Nothing that says, "I have money" or draws attention. While traveling alone, a person just wants to blend in.

A couple guys came up to me at a gas station, asking for a ride to Salt Lake. They had backpacks, and claimed to be hiking. Of course, even if I had room, I would never agree. Limiting interactions is prudent. Let friends and family know when you arrive at the evenings destination, stay in touch. Paying with a credit card establishes a trail which can help to find you if something should happen.

I keep a Murphy box in the car. This box holds a hammer, screw drivers, pliers(regular and needle nose), tape, wire, scissors, plastic bags, and anything else which could come in handy in case of breakdown. A tire pump which runs off the cigarette lighter, jumper cables, quart of oil, break fluid, power steering fluid, a few rags, an ice scraper, and a couple quarts of drinkable water are also standard. There's a windshield repair kit in case a rock hits and causes a crack. This is a very good thing to have as well.


My Overnight Bag consists of normal hygiene things like toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion, nail file and clippers. Sleepwear, a clean shirt, socks, ibuprofen, plastic bag, a few snacks. Keeping this bag packed separately makes checking in and out of motels much easier than having to bring in the whole large suitcase.
My laptop has its own travel case, which also has the electrical cords for charging batteries for camera and phone pen and paper, glasses, camera and important travel papers including upcoming maps.


are places to get good driving directions. Even if you don't have a printer, you can find the directions, copy them into a notebook in an easy to read format for easy access while on the road. I like to highlight turns, and road names in bold. Mileages are handy for estimating times til the next turn.

Never drive when you get too sleepy. There are quite a few rest areas along the interstate system. I find heading north on I-15 to be fairly desolate, especially gas stations. When you have a quarter tank fuel up. Some of the stations are ridiculously expensive, but I felt it was convenience I was paying for not gas. It would be extremely inconvenient to be out of gas at 110 degrees 50 miles from town.

Feeling Good

It's really important to stay positive, healthy and feeling good when you're traveling alone.
If you feel rushed or push too hard to make miles you may make poor decisions.
For this reason I try to stop around 5 or 6 p.m. Looking forward to a good hot shower or tub bath, some t-v, some Internet with enough quality time for relaxation before bed is important to my well -being .
A good stretching session keeps the body limber after sitting for hours. Make it slow and smooth while watching some t-v, sipping some coffee and it will be a pleasant experience. Doing range of motion exercises for arms, wrists and feet are important too.
I seldom speed, especially in construction/ road work zones. The few minutes you may save driving is not worth a ticket, especially in a different state. The emotional havoc of being pulled over by a state trooper can ruin an otherwise good day, raise your insurance premium for years and waste a lot of time.
Fruits and vegetable snacks, whole grains and plenty of water keep digestion working and prevent constipation when sitting so long. A small cooler will keep them fresh. I arrange all my snacks and beverages on the passenger seat within easy reach along with any maps or driving directions.

By establishing a routine, with everything in its place and a place for everything you'll eliminate hunting for gear and save time. You'll feel safer and in control as well, which is very important for a good solo trip.

Deep Vein Thrombosis
Guard against this life threatening problem by staying well hydrated and walking around during rest stops. According to a Health report in Readers Digest, 300,000 people die each year from embolisms, most of them related to DVT. The medical explanation is" when a clot forms in the body's deep veins, and a fragment breaks off and travels to the lungs it may cause an artery-blocking lung embolism". I paraphrased that from the Digests article.

The article reported that if you've had a recent surgery, are sitting for extended periods, or are dehydrated, risks go up.

They recommend that if you are short of breath, feel persistent pain, swelling or warmth in your legs, stop driving and walk around. If things don't improve immediately, seek help.