From February 15 to March 18, I put almost 4,000 miles on my little Ford Focus, road-tripping from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Lafayette, Louisiana, to Crested Butte, Colorado, and then all the way back home. I listened to a million podcasts, ate a million bags of Combos and stopped at a million McDonald's to use Wi-Fi. And I did it all by myself. Here are six simple rules to follow for a solo road trip.

1.  Be Safe

Whenever people hear that a woman wants to travel by herself, their first instinct is to tell you about their cousin’s neighbor whose car broke down in Alabama and was never heard from again. Thank those people kindly and then ignore them.

You can ignore them because you’ve done the following:

  • Bought a cigarette USB charger for you phone and computer.
  • Bought a roadside emergency kit.
  • If you’re really worried (or if the people in your life are), install a phone tracking app so a few select people can know your exact whereabouts.
  • Put together a list of the numbers in your phone (because if something happens to your phone, you know you won’t remember anybody’s numbers).
  • Given someone your itinerary and the contact numbers of the people you’ll be staying with.
  • Packed some bottled water and granola bars in the trunk (so you won’t be tempted to eat them all).
 

Photo by Cory Bouthillette

 

2. Have the Vaguest Outline of a Plan

Half the fun of road-tripping is embracing all the funny/weird things that come your way. Precious Moments chapel? Sure! Fried okra and pecan pie for lunch? Okay! Visiting a huge lake in Nebraska with 100 miles of white-sand beaches? Dontmindifido.

You should have enough of a plan that you can tell your hosts which day you’ll arrive on their doorstep or make hotel reservations, but don’t schedule yourself too tightly. I like to limit driving to six hours a day and stop about every two hours to stretch and explore. I use Google Calendar to plan my trips and then share the calendar with my guy and my parents.

 

3. Stay Healthy

If you’re road-tripping for multiple days (or weeks!), it’s really easy to rely exclusively on gas station and fast food. Shockingly enough, sitting for six hours a day and eating only Combos and coffee will make you feel gross. Make an effort to stop at state parks and do some wee hikes, walk around new towns, buy your lunches from the grocery store’s produce section or just grab one of those salads from a fast-food restaurant. You’ll feel way, way better.
 

Lake McConaughy via Website. Courtesy of Nebraska Tourism Commission

 

4. Stay Entertained

You can only talk to yourself for so long. I amuse myself by trying to find the local station of any city I’m passing through and listening to one million podcasts (here are some of my favorites). Long trips are also a good time to put your phone on speaker and have deep-and-meaningfuls with far-flung friends.

 

5. Stay Comfortable

Under the heading of "obvious," a long trip in the car is not the time to wear your super-cute, super-tight vintage dress. If you’re going to be sitting for six-plus hours, wear comfy layers. When you’re driving through different climates you can put on/take off clothes as needed and you won’t get an angry stomach from that tight waistband. I swore by yoga pants, ballet flats, a T-shirt, cardigan and scarf.
 

Photo by Averie Woodard

 

6. Don't Get (Totally) Lost

I’m terrible with maps, which is why I’m going to marry my Garmin. If you’re not worried about your cell phone reception conking out, there are literally hundreds of navigation apps. Before I got my Garmin, I thought it would be “a good personal challenge” to rely on actual paper maps and the directions of locals. You guys, you’d be amazed how many gas stations don’t sell maps for their state and don’t sell maps for neighboring states, and how many people are unaware that Louisiana is south of Missouri. Be ye not so stupid as me. Use an effing GPS system.

This post was originally published at Yes and Yes. Head over there for many more tips on driving, traveling, relationships and overall awesomeness.​


By Sarah Von Bargen

Sarah Von Bargen has roadtripped 15,000+ miles, most of them solo. She has pretty specific ideas about the best car snacks, how to avoid speedtraps, and finding the best roadside attractions. You can see photographic evidence of her roadtrips here and get her downloadable roadtrip checklist here