How I Solo Travel: Road Trip!

Discover my tried-and-true methods for planning the perfect short or long road trip. From preparation to execution, get the inside scoop on how I make every journey a success. #HowIDoIt #RoadTrip

How I Solo Travel: Road Trip!

We all plan and execute our solo travels differently. Some of us have whiteboards, some of us use templates, some of us just haphazardly plan on the fly. There’s no right or wrong way. We all have our ways of making this happen. This guide series is meant to explain my process of planning a solo trip from start to finish.

I'll never forget a road trip I took on my own coming back from Washington D.C. It was the winter of 2003, and I was in my second year of college. I was on, what was becoming an annual trip with my friends in college, and every year we would see different faces and names but the trip would stay the same. Anyway, we had a few people who volunteered to drive down and we would carpool, and I was one of the drivers and drove down there. It was an 8 hour drive from where I lived, hopping on Interstate 95 and passing through New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and eventually Washington D.C. The friend whom I would drive home with ended up leaving earlier, and no one else needed a ride so I drove all the way down and had to drive myself back home. I didn't know what to expect! I packed my stuff, and headed home. Now, keep in mind that this was in 2003, way before satellite radio, podcasts, and audiobooks were popular. I had a CD player in my car, but I wasn't in the mood for CDs. Instead, I turned on the radio and in each city I passed through, I found a station or two and cranked up the music. When I reached Philadelphia, I stumbled upon a radio station (which no longer exists) that played what we now call "road trip music" - a collection of hits from different decades. It definitely made the drive much more enjoyable. I made a few stops along the way, but this experience taught me a valuable lesson. With the right music or podcasts, and with the right planning of stops along the way, you can do a road trip on your own. In this guide, i'll talk about how I plan for road trips, no matter how big or small.


The Short Road Trip (3 hours or less)

I consider this to be a "short road trip", as it is generally a destination that is within 3 hours of my "home base", which could be a hotel or my residence. Going back to the planning stage briefly, I usually have a specific destination in mind, and will look for other activities to do around that destination. Google or Apple Maps comes in incredibly handy in times like these. If i'm traveling, this often factors into my decision to visit a destination. As I mentioned in the planning stage, I like to use a city more as a "hub" where I would visit the city but also I might check out nearby states and cities, especially if there are places I want to visit. If you've read my travel stories and day trips, you can see the connections! I will also use Google or Apple Maps to plan my route to get there. For short road trips like this, I usually drive my own car and try to keep the mileage low, but I always make sure it's in good shape. Safety is key, and I believe in taking care of my car before any issues arise, even if it's a bit pricey! I usually try to schedule oil changes and preventative maintenance beforehand, and it's important to check for any issues that could arise. I have roadside assistance just in case something goes wrong. Like with a flight, I always have audiobooks, podcasts, and a Spotify playlist ready to go on my phone. I have a satellite radio subscription that I can use in a rental car or my own vehicle. This helps me avoid relying too much on cell service, since those "unlimited data" plans aren't always so "unlimited"! I prefer to take state or interstate highways to my destination and usually stop along the way for a restroom break or to grab a drink. It's a good chance to stretch your legs too.

The Long Road Trip (More than 3 hours)

These are more rare for me, but these trips are generally 3-6 hours at the most from home to my destination. Anything beyond that, i'm flying. This type of road trip more closely resembles a trip I would take where flying would be involved, along with a hotel room or residence rental. Additionally, I opt for a rental car to avoid putting excessive wear and tear on my own vehicle. I allocate a budget and treat this trip similarly to a flight to a destination. However, like a short road trip, I make stops along the way for meals, restroom breaks, and to stretch my legs. I also make sure to load up on music, podcasts, and audiobooks. Generally, I take the highway, but there are many picturesque state highways that are just as efficient. The beauty of America's roads is truly remarkable, whether it's a long or short road trip.

The Difference

Road trips have their advantages and disadvantages over flying. You have to remain alert at all times, you're adding miles to your car, gas prices can get insane, you're risking a tire blowout, you're at the whim of traffic and construction projects, and it's not as safe as air travel. On the other hand, your baggage stays with you (I guess you can "check" your baggage in your trunk?) and you're in control of the time and you're in control of any stops. More importantly, have you ever stopped because you see it's the scenic spot? It's a great way to take a break, stretch your legs and breathe in some fresh air. Whether you're "on schedule" or not, it's important to stop and smell the roses. As much as I love flying, and I appreciate the time savings, there's something memorable about a road trip that just can't be duplicated.


Final Thoughts

I have taken several road trips throughout my life. When I talk about traveling with friends and coworkers, I often bring up a more recent example of visiting the state of Texas back in 2019. I visited the Dallas area, and budgeted in my trip, a visit to Austin and San Antonio on the tail end of my trip. As you can see from the map below, it doesn't seem like a long ride, but it is! 6 hours to be exact, but it was worth it. Texas is such a beautiful and varied state, and should be on your list to visit when in America. It's also quite massive. My mother was concerned about me being close to the Mexican border (this was before America's current issues with the border), and I had to explain to her that the border was well over 2 hours away...even in San Antonio. Nonetheless, whether you decide a short or long road trip, load up on music, and make sure you plan in a few stops not only for the bathroom and food breaks, but more importantly, for the scenic breaks. We only have one life to live after all.