I’ve been on a couple of road trips in these past few years and even though it’s become common nature for me now, I can remember clearly how I felt for my first ever road trip all by myself. The weeks before I felt all tough and cool but as the dates of the trip came closer I was freaking out! If you’re reading this going on you first solo road trip don’t worry, It’s not as scary it might seem 😉 Anyways I hope that these tips will help you on your way.
1. having a loose plan
Starting with this one: having sort of a plan. I don’t think its necessary to plan your whole trip front to back but I do think its kind of handy to know what you want and where you want to go especially if it’s your first road trip and you’re not really sure what to expect. My first road trip I started in Germany and went through Belgium, France, Switzerland and then back to Germany again. I had everything planned before I went because I was kind of freaked out by the whole idea of doing a road trip on my own and it gave me some comfort having everything planned beforehand. I had booked all the hostels and Air BnB’s and mapped out all the routes and calculated the driving time. That last one was where I went wrong on the first day. I had not calculated road works, toilet breaks and traffic jams. I ended up driving most of the day and arriving at my hostel when it was already dark. So something I’ve learned from that is to always over calculate the driving time and try to add in extra stops so I only drive 3 or 4 hours a day (instead of 8-10 on my first trip). Also having everything booked in advance will give you some peace of mind however it doesn’t give you much freedom. If you like a particular place a lot you can’t stay a couple of days longer (well you can but cancelling the place you were supposed to go would be a waste of money). So do what fits for you. Maybe only book the first one or two nights and go from there.
2. check your car
Before you leave make sure your car is all checked out. Fill up the oil and coolant, put some air in the tires etc. And also if you don’t already have it maybe get a road side assistance insurance for the days you’ll be on the road. On my first road trip I drove in my small old car and having that insurance made me feel more comfortable driving it. (I didn’t need it in the end so yay to my car!)
3. country rules/vignette
I know going on a road trip has that carefree feeling of “just go” but if you don’t want to come home to find some tickets in the mail one day you might want to check the road rules of the country you’re going to and see if you need a vignette. The countries I needed a vignette were Switzerland and Austria. For Austria you can get them before you drive into the country at gas stations and isn’t that expensive at all. Last time I paid € 9,00 for 10 days. For Switzerland it’s a bit more expensive around 37 euro’s. There’s a special lane at the border to buy one or you can get it at gas stations before you enter the country. So definitely check what the speed limits are and if you need a vignette before driving to a different country.
The most important part of the whole trip of course: snacks! What is a good road trip without some snacks! I always try to find snacks that are easy to eat behind the wheel. I usually have a box of my snacks on the passenger seat when I’m driving alone. Nothing worse than when hunger hits and your snacks are on the back seat and you can reach them 😉
Not a snack but very important to me at least: I always fill up 2 or 3 big water bottles before I hit the road so I’m never without water.
5. make a fun playlist
Second most important thing is a fun playlist! For me it’s usually a combination of good oldies mixed with some new songs. I like to have songs in there that are hits around that time of year. That way when I hear them a while later it takes me right back to that trip.
6. be prepared for a night in the car
On all of my roads trip I’ve always brought a pillow and a sleeping bag. I’ve never planned to actually sleep in my car but I like to be prepared. You never know what might happen on the road or maybe you plan to spontaneously catch the sunrise on a mountain and want to sleep close to the hiking trail. Also in one of the hostels I went they had terrible pillows (like 1 cm thick) so I was super happy with myself that I had one laying around in my car.
I always keep some disinfect wipes in my car. I use them mainly for when I’ve put gas in my car, bought a sandwich at the gas station and I want to eat it with clean hands 😉
8. Update the navigation system
Make sure all maps are downloaded or navi systems are updated! My rookie mistake was to not update my navigation system. On my first road trip I borrowed the navigation system from my granddad and it wasn’t updated for 5 years. It drove me insane that it would lead me somewhere where the road didn’t even exist anymore and this happened a couple of times. Now before I leave I always check for updates or I download the maps to my phone just incase.
9. keep a journal
You will thank youself later for this. I’ve been keeping a travel journal for 3 years now with all my solo travels and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done! It’s so fun to read back the stories. As soon as I have some time I write some random things down about that day… what I’ve done, seen, how I felt. I cant wait to read all the stories when I’m old 😉
Yes last but not least… just relax! Things might not always go as planned. You’ll end up in traffic for hours, a road has been blocked, the place you wanted to visit is closed… It will happen and there’s nothing you can do about it so you just gotta roll with it!
I hope these tips for your first (solo) road trip will be helpful. Let me know where you’re planning your trip to!