Let's start this right off by me admitting to not being any kind of safety expert here. Because that I am not.
What I am is a woman who loves taking solo road trips. During my most recent solo trip I received comments from fellow women saying they wouldn't be brave enough to do this.
Seeing as how I can be the biggest coward when it comes to hiking or camping by myself I figured I should compile a list of tips for peace of mind if you're considering a solo road trip in your future, but are feeling hesitant.
But why should I stretch myself to go travel solo around the country? If you're thinking this then let me give you the 2 main reasons I travel via solo road trips.
1. It's to feel a sense of freedom and adventure that I only get when I'm alone with the open road in front of me. Sure road trips with a partner can be fun, but in the season of life I'm in I find that if I wish to take a road trip I better be okay going it alone than finding a partner.
I'd rather push myself from my comfort zone to see new places over staying at home and living vicariously through others travel posts on Instagram.
2. When you fly you have a more strict schedule to stick to whereas road tripping allows for spontaneous choices along the way to your destination. You get to see more of the country by driving in it rather than over it.
Which brings me to the 7 tips I use personally to stay safe while road tripping alone the U.S. as a female.
1. Create an Itinerary and share it with a trusted friend or family member.
Choose one person to check in with and who knows the general itinerary of where you'll be on each day you're gone. Anymore people then that and your trip starts getting muddied with all the various people to update daily.
My husband was left with my itinerary and I made sure to check in each day and I also warned him when I would be out of service for a day or more.
Now there are times when your itinerary will change on the road. This is actually why I love traveling this way because you can alter your plans as you choose with relative ease. It's hard to know where you'll want to explore more or how long it'll take you to get from point A-B so don't feel you need to stick to the itinerary. Just remember to send a quick update to your contact of where you're at.
2. Avoid rest stops at night or when near deserted in the day time.
I think we've all heard stories of crimes or trafficking in the dead of night at rest stops. Some of them are scary enough in the daytime, let alone night. When I do find myself driving at night I tend to pull into those travel gas stations. There are also fast food restaurants to pull into and I'm not above pulling off the road when there's a pull-off area and peeing outside.
3. Trust your gut.
This ties into the tip above. If a stop feels sketchy at all listen to your intuition and get out of there. That happened to me at a rest stop. I felt exposed and like it might not be safe to use the bathroom. There was two other vehicles there with single men.
Was I unfairly profiling them? Perhaps, but my gut told me to get back on the road and find somewhere else to pee so I got back in my car and drove until I found a better feeling spot. I always like to trust my gut and be extra cautious. It can't hurt right?
Pull-outs along highway roads in isolated areas can be excellent pee stops.
4. If camping, pick sites that are more populous.
Not pictured, all the other tents behind and to the sides of me while camping at Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
When it comes to camping with others give me all the privacy and remote campsites please!
However when it came time to my first solo camping road trip I decided to opt for more populated sites so I might actually be able to sleep through the night without worrying too much about my safety.
Going this route means you'll need to pay to camp, but it's well worth the peace of mind that comes when there are families camping all around you.
I chose to stay in national parks and also took advantage of the site Hipcamp (think airbnb for camping and non-traditional stays).
If you're interested in Hipcamp here's a link to sign up through me and receive $10 off your first booking!
I'm not affiliated, just a fan that also gets a $10 credit for each person who signs up via my link.
Camping on a horse farm in the middle of Missouri that I found on Hipcamp.
Now you may be comfortable camping more remote locations alone. In the future I hope to do the same. What it comes down to is your comfort level.
5. Pick a Self Defense Tactic You're Comfortable With
I'm a petite woman who made it to a yellow belt by the skin of her teeth in Taekwando in middle school. In college I would walk from my car to my dorm room with my keys between my knuckles.
Basically I'm not the most prepared for defending myself if need be. I decided to buy some pepper spray for the trip for peace of mind. I took it into the rest area bathrooms with me and had it out nearby when I slept at night. I never had to use it, but it gave me such peace of mind so I was able to rest easier.
Choose something that you feel comfortable with handling that can help defend you. Take a self defense class, buy a taser, or pepper spray. Hopefully you never need to use these things, but we must prepare as best we can.
6. Limit number of hours you drive at night.
Driving at night can be difficult when you're in unfamiliar places. It's one thing to zip along winding roads that you know like the back of your hand and another to driving along in the dark on roads you've never travelled before.
Now interstate driving tends to be safer at night, but I found myself on my last road trip driving north on an Interstate in New Mexico at night and was getting quite anxious. The speed limit was 75 mph, the landscape was in the middle of nowhere so quite dark out, and I realized that my astigmatism makes it so lights have more a halo effect making it harder to see.
Another trip I found myself driving along a winding Kentucky highway and decided to drive just a bit more as the sun was setting before I settled into a random motel. As it got dark a storm came on that had me crawling 5 mph with the windshield wipers on full blast with almost zero percent visibility. That was a white knuckle situation for sure.
7. Don't share your location on social in real time.
Now this one may only really apply to those with big followings on social media, but I think it's a great practice to adopt in general for how to share where you go in the world regardless of follower count.
So this means don't geotag your pictures until you've left the area. You can for sure share where you explored or stayed, but just not in real time okay when it's only you in a foreign place.
Don't share where you're headed either. You can give generals, but when I was on my last trip I would share where I explored and camped at the previous day and never shared where I was headed next.
Allow your trip to be a bit mysterious to others. They don't need all the details to enjoy your posts.
Well that ends this list of 7 tips to traveling solo on the open road!
I hope you found some of these tips useful for planning your next or maybe even your first trip. This is not all the tips I could have for you, but I feel they were the most important ones I followed that made me feel as safe as possible.
Now this world is crazy and unexpected things happen all the time no matter how prepared we are so I'm in no way saying that by following these 7 tips you'll be 100% safe.
I know that I'm never 100% safe, but hey that goes for all of us regardless of whether we're at home, at a local spot, or traveling around the world.
Instead I hope that these tips will allow you to be more aware of your surroundings and encourage my fellow worst case scenario worries to feel confident in exploring more of the world around them regardless of whether they have someone to travel with or not.
There is so much newness to explore and we should feel confident in exploring on our own and not waiting for others to see it all with us.