I travel a lot for work, and my stays are usually long-term. Now, I could fly to each temporary new home, but I’d rather have a car during my stay. And until I win the lottery (or marry a gazillionaire), rental car prices are a little hard to swallow. Skipping the flight and driving my own car suits my frugal little heart just fine.
The car may be old, but it’s completely mine. Why take on a loan payment when my little go-mobile is puttering along just fine? Yet, I’ll admit her age inspires a little road trip apprehension.
My first long-distance solo trek was a bit nerve-racking. What if I got a flat? What if the oil ran low? What if my car broke down and the small-town tow-truck driver was NOT a handsome, intelligent, cultured, benevolent millionaire-who-drove-a-tow-truck-because-he-liked-to-help-people? Who, then, would sweep me off my feet and into the blissful quiet happily-ever-after of this charming small town? Before my runaway imagination got too carried away, I created a plan.
Before a long trip, I always take my car to my trusty mechanic for a trip check. It costs less than $50, and it’s well worth the peace-of-mind. My hero mechanic goes over the whole vehicle and checks hoses, fluid levels, tire tread and pressure, brakes- anything that can cause major trouble down the road. Also, if my car is close to its oil-change date, I go ahead and have that done, too. It pays to be thorough! A quick check by a pro can catch little things before they become big problems.
Of course, as good as my mechanic is, he’s not clairvoyant. There’s always a chance something could go wrong. So, I always carry a few essentials in my trunk.
Behold my car-care trunk pack. I keep:
- quart of engine oil
- quart of transmission fluid
- quart of power steering fluid
- jug of coolant
- jug of washer fluid
- roll of paper towels
- laminated sheet that reminds me how to check/change the different fluids
And it all fits neatly into a little basket
**Coming soon! A future “Single Girl’s Guide To…” episode about how to check and top off vehicle fluids!**
Another item I pack before each trip is an apron. Oil and transmission fluid can turn a fabulous outfit into a tragic mess. Fashion disaster is easily prevented with this classic solution.
It’s important to keep plenty of drinking water in the car. If I do get stranded somewhere, I definitely want to have water on hand. I’m less concerned with having food with me, because let’s face it, I could live for a month off the fat of one thigh. I’m fairly certain I won’t starve to death, but dehydration is no joke.
Bringing a cell phone is a no-brainer. How else would we Instagram our adventures? But, there are some accessories I always carry with me. These precautions make sure I’m as safe as possible. First, I make sure my GPS locater is turned on. This is important in case you get really lost, because loved ones or emergency crews can find you via your cell phone’s GPS signal! A secondary charger or battery can also be a literal life-saver. Sure, you probably have a car charger. But if the car battery dies, and there’s no access to an electrical outlet, that secondary charger may be what saves my life.
My brother gave me this car emergency kit, and it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Plus, it’s compact and all fits into a briefcase-sized carrier, so it doesn’t take up valuable trunk space that I’d rather use for my travel souvenirs. In it are:
- jumper cables
- glow stick
- emergency blanket
- can of fix-a-flat
- first aid kit
- nylon rope
- screwdrivers & wrenches
- duct tape
- utility knife
- emergency drinking water
- “help” sign
Also – a flashlight always lives in the console between my seats. It’s proven useful more than once in non-emergency situations (It’s amazing how many things fall under the driver’s seat!). In spring and fall at clock-change times, when I change the batteries in my smoke detectors I also change the batteries in my emergency flashlights. No batteries = no light!
** Coming Soon! A future “A Single Girl’s Guide To…” episode about how to jump start a car! **
Special note on weather:
While on road trips between May and October, I keep chains in my trunk, as well as a stylish-yet-functional pair of winter boots, gloves, and those air-activated hand warmers. Meanwhile, I never let my gas tank fall below half a tank. Most people who die in blizzards get stuck on the roads without enough gas in their car to stay warm until help arrives. If this worst-case-scenario becomes a reality:
- Put on as many clothes as you have with you and cover any exposed skin.
- Turn your car off to save gas.
- Check your tailpipe to make sure it’s not blocked. Then, every once in a while, start the car to warm it back up, then turn it off again. Be sure to check that tailpipe periodically to make sure it stays clear, otherwise you’ll have a problem with carbon monoxide backing up into your car – and that’s deadly.
- Turn your hazard lights on and pray.
**Coming Soon! A future “A Single Girl’s Guide To…” episode about how install tire chains!**
Here’s a link to a helpful book called Extreme Weather by Bonnie Schneider. It’s a valuable tool for learning to survive extreme weather disasters.
Finally, I always leave a detailed itinerary in my home, and with at least two other people (usually my mom, my dad, and my sister). This includes my dates of travel, my destination, my planned route, and any hotel stops along the way. And, of course, no single girl road trip checklist is complete without a current AAA membership card.
Traveling as a single girl can seem daunting, and there are definitely risks of going it alone. But, with a little preparation and a few precautions, solo road trips can be exhilarating experiences full of fun and safe adventure. These practical guidelines make it possible!
So go on, Single Girl! Get out there and see the USA in your Chevrolet!