There is something very freeing about sliding into the driver’s seat and heading out onto the open road.
It offers a chance to experience the world at a slower, more intimate pace than flying over in a plane. However, many women are hesitant to embark alone or with only women companions, not feeling prepared to meet the many challenges that can arise. I believe, however, with some advanced planning and preparation, women can indeed enjoy an extended trip by automobile.
I recently traveled to red rock country in Utah, a few states over from my home in California, USA. Several hiccups and inconveniences along the way inspired me to write this article, in hopes it helps other women set out, well prepared and ready to explore.
Plan Ahead – Well in Advance
Decide what you want to see, then calculate the distance for the round trip to decide if it’s feasible in the number of days you plan to be away. I can only comfortably drive about five hours a day, so I planned three nights of travel time each way.
I planned my overnights in towns that were interesting, either for their beauty or history, with sites in town that I could visit each morning before heading out, so I wouldn’t feel like those days were only consumed by driving.
I reserved my hotel/motel stays weeks before I left. Even though I was traveling in October, which is post peak season, many locations were still very busy, so I felt secure knowing I would have a confirmed reservation waiting for me at the end of a long drive.
Be sure to confirm your reservation, print out the information and carry a file of your itinerary, physical addresses, receipts and confirmations with you. If you book online and don’t receive a response, call. Some hotels, in more remote areas, are a little behind the digital age.
Share Your Itinerary
Send your plan to a friend or family member, so someone knows where you are each day. Check in with them on a regular basis, daily even, if that feels right to you. Be sure to include the contact information for the hotels so they can follow up if they don’t hear from you as arranged.
Check Weather and Road Conditions Frequently
If you’re driving over mountains or across deserts, the conditions can change quickly and dramatically. Be sure to watch weather patterns, not only for your location, but for the region, as storms miles away can cause flash floods or high winds.
Get Your Car a Check Up and Keep It Happy on the Road
Take your car to a trusted mechanic, explain the situation and ask them to check belts, filters, coolant, power steering and brake fluids, oil, running and headlights, tire pressure and the condition of the spare.
Know how to change a tire, locate the spare and review how to use the jack. Some areas may be beyond cell phone service or road service may not be immediately available.
Be sure to carry a pressure gauge with you and do a visual inspection every morning, ensuring your tires are properly inflated and there are no fluids leaking from under the car.
While on the road, top off your gas tank before leaving for the day. Never drive on less than a half a tank. You never know when you might get stuck behind a traffic collision, have to take a detour or experience prolonged delays for road construction.
Live mapping and online navigation have changed my life. I feel so much more confident with them to guide me. I use Siri on my iPhone but there are numerous other choices. Siri connects to the Maps app and gives me verbal directions well in advance. It also warns of traffic hazards, road construction, offers alternative routes, displays the speed limit and projects arrival times.
However, don’t depend solely on electronic devices, carry detailed paper maps of your route and know how to navigate with one. There are still many areas of the world where there is no signal to receive GPS support.
Things to Carry with You
I was 200 miles from the nearest store when my car displayed “Change Key Fob Battery,” and I realized I neglected to bring a second set of keys. I was lucky and made it to the store to purchase a battery without consequence, but it did make for a very anxious drive.
Here’s a list of items that will help ensure you have what you need to stay safe and comfortable when the unexpected arises:
- Extra set of keys – Store them separately, one in your luggage and one on your person, for example.
- Extra pair of reading glasses and sunglasses.
- Drinking water – One gallon per day per person if you’re driving through a desert.
- Nutritious snacks – Granola bars are a convenient source of calories that don’t need refrigeration.
- Blankets or a sleeping bag – If you get stuck somewhere at high altitude or overnight, you won’t want to waste fuel to run the heater and staying warm is critical.
- Phone car charger – Test it before you leave to be sure you have the proper connections. I also carry a fully charged external charger.
- Printed contact information for family and friends. We all rely on our smart phones to store our information these days, but if its batteries are dead, you won’t be able to retrieve any information in case of an emergency.
Travel is so important for me, not just as a welcomed relief from my everyday life, but to remind me how big the world is and how varied and exciting it can be when I get out into it. Staying safe and feeling confident in my abilities to venture out sets me free to experience more than the well-traveled path. I hope this article encourages you to do the same.
Happy trails and safe travels.
Let’s Have a Conversation:
Have you ventured on a road trip by yourself? Was it easy to plan and prepare for it? Why did you choose to hit the road rather than fly?