1. Before you even plan your trip, book an appointment with your mechanic for a good tune up, oil change and general check. Ensure that they check the tire pressure, and that they also check the spare tire for any issues or problems. And, as always, compare your options of taking your car versus taking a rental. It may be more cost-effective to rent a car in the long run.
2. Consider signing up with an auto club, like AAA. Membership usually includes some great benefits no matter where you travels will take you, and depending on the services you select, you can even get coverage for rental car. As soon as your membership is in hand, program the emergency number in your phone.
3. Review your auto insurance with your agent to find out exactly what coverage you have in case you need it. Make sure you have all your insurance information in your wallet AND your car.
4. If you donít have a roadside emergency kit in your trunk, itís time to make the investment. I love Amazon for this, because you can read reviews and see what each one has. Some have accompanying first aid kits, while others offer 24-hour hotlines for help.
5. Along with the emergency kit, make sure that you pack extra, non-perishable foods in a small cooler that you keep in your car. Protein bars, granola bars, lots of water and whatever drinks you need. Remember that things with high sugar can actually cause you to get more tired, so when youíre driving, try to avoid sugary drinks like soda. If you want caffeine, try tea or coffee.
6. Know your own limits and donít push them. Make your mileage stops in reasonable stretches. If you need to drive 20 hours, try to break the trip up into 2 to 3 hour segments, and do your road research to find a place to stop, even if itís just to stretch your legs. If youíre going somewhere that you havenít been before, try to limit your driving to the daylight hours.
7. Be prepared for Ė ahem Ė ďickyĒ conditions at some roadside rest stops, especially if youíre traveling on state highways to get to your destinations. Pack hand sanitizer, a small bottle of hand soap, and your own toilet paper if you think itís necessary. On one road trip, I stopped at a nearly brand-new rest stop, but the plumbing still wasnít working, so there were a line of portable toilets set up. It was 95 degrees outside. I probably donít need to go into more detail than that.
8. Go off the beaten path and find your travel bliss! I love Roadsideamerica.com for the best of the eclectic, strange, and downright head-scratching things they find. Check it out!
9. Make reservations for hotels, dinners, and tours, if applicable, and if you want to. I find it helpful to do this to stay on track. When you stop for dinner each night or check into the hotel, make a habit of checking in with someone who will miss you if you donít check in.
10. Above all Ė be safe. Check out Security on the Solo Trip if you need some advice, but at MINIMUM, get yourself an ďIn Case of EmergencyĒ or ICE card that you carry with you at all times.
With a little planning, a solo road trip can be a fun, relaxing way to spend your vacations! Make 2009 your year for it!