How to Drive Long Distances Alone

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Road trip! Well, except it's just, um... you. Not to worry—road trips can still be enjoyable when you are traveling alone, as long as you plan ahead.

Things You'll Need

  • Directions
  • Map
  • GPS
  • Cash
  • Entertainment of your choice
  • Bag of food items and basics for hygiene
  • Casual clothes, sunglasses and a sweatshirt
  • Any medications or necessities you may have

Cover your basics for travel. Your most important necessity is, obviously, directions. For this, you want to have the triple threat: printed directions, a map and a GPS system.

Start with the printed directions. If you are traveling to a friend or relative's house, ask them for directions first. It is sometimes easier to follow personalized directions than standard computer generated ones. However, if you don't have this option, you can certainly get by with directions from Mapquest, Yahoo! Maps, Google Maps and the like. Be sure to look over them beforehand and make sure they make sense to you.

After that, acquire a map that is relevant to your trip or multiple, more detailed maps if your trip will be extensive. Rand McNally provides extensive, easy-to-fold maps for most locations.

Finally, if it's in your budget, invest in a GPS unit. If you're taking a roadtrip, the unit will more than pay for itself in terms of convenience. Also, such companies as Garmin, Magellan and Tom Tom allow you to download new maps periodically, so you will always have current directions.

Make a budget. Determine how much the actual driving for this trip will cost and how much cash you will need on hand. Think first about gas, as this is usually the major cost on a road trip. If you have a credit card that offers cash back for gas purchases, bring this one with you—it will pay off. Then consider tolls, which many people forget. Have cash on hand, as well as change for the unmanned toll-stops that sometimes pop up. If you have an EZPass, great, but remember that they will still be debiting the toll fees from your account, so make sure you have enough in there. Finally, pull out enough cash for discretionary spending for things such as rest stop meals and small purchases.

Finally for your basics, make sure all of your accommodations are arranged. Book any hotels that you will need to stay at and plan where you will be stopping for a breather (yes, you will need them). Remember, don't try and be a superhero and drive the whole distance at once. Plan to sleep if you'll be driving for 6 hours or more alone. If you're tired, you are a hazard to yourself and everyone else on the road.

After the basics are covered, plan the entertainment. Think beyond the realm of just music on an iPod. Though that is a start, you'll need more than some songs to keep you entertained for a multi-hour drive. Consider what other types of media entertain you. If it's books, buy books on CD. If it's stand-up comedy, buy your favorite comedian's latest CD. If it's TV, download old episodes and burn them onto DVD or buy box sets. You can use a portable DVD player of laptop to play the audio—but remember to turn the screen around so you're JUST listening to the audio and keeping your eyes on the road.

Pack a bag to act as your co-pilot. Fill it with easy-to-eat snacks, bottled drinks and hygiene tools, such as deodorant, toothpaste and a toothbrush, and face wash. Driving is no fun when you feel dirty and greasy.

Plan your outfit. Something extremely casual is best, but make sure to pack a change of clothes if you want to look nice upon arrival. Make sure to throw in a sweatshirt so you don't have to overdo it with the dry heat most cars create. Don't forget sunglasses either. They're not just about fashion—they're a necessity when driving in sunny conditions.

Pack up any other items that you may need—this mean extra contacts, solution, glasses, medications, etc. If you'd be impaired without it, pack it.

Charge everything up. This includes your phone, iPod, GPS, etc. Even if you have a car charger, you shouldn't have to pick which device to charge en route.

Double check that all car-related information is on you or in the car. This includes your license, registration and proof of insurance.

Ask friends to call you for entertainment during the ride. Without any human contact, you may get a bit antsy. Ask your pals to give you a call, or call and catch up on those phone calls you've been meaning to make. Only do this if you have a mobile phone headset, though.

Sit back and enjoy the alone time.

Tips & Warnings

  • It always a great extra to invest in a roadside assistance program. AAA is the most widely known, but check and make sure all areas of your trip are covered. If not, you may want to invest in an alternate program.
  • Make yourself aware of the driving rules of each state. This includes speed limits, carpooling lanes, the state's stance on turn-on-red and police monitoring.
  • If you're a driver that likes the windows down and one-arm out the window, remember your SPF! Sound silly, but it's better to apply some sunscreen even if you don't need it that suffer a one-armed burn during your trip.
  • Driving by yourself can get expensive and leaves a big carbon footprint. Carpool if possible, even if it is only for a portion of your trip.

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