On the road again....
July 21, 2007 12:05 PM   Subscribe

What should I do/pack to prepare for my first solo roadtrip?

I'll be leaving tomorrow to drive from San Francisco to Victoria, BC. I'm excited- it'll be my first time doing the drive solo. I'm planning to spend two nights on the road, one in Arcata, CA, and one in Portland, OR.

I've had all my fluids checked, will get my tires checked. I'm making some mix CDs and looking for some good podcasts to download. I'll go and buy lots of snacks for the road.

Anyone have any other suggestions of things to pack, things to watch out for, places to stop at, or any other advice to make my trip as fun, easy, and adventuresome as possible?

posted by purplefiber to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
download a bazillion podcasts. radio on the way will suck. check out the scenic byways website. make sure you have a car charger for ipod, laptop or whatever you take along. all days inn and many other cheapo hotels have free wifi you can access from the parking lot and so do most public libraries. whenever you get into a town and want to eat somewhere, you can stop by such a place and consult yelp or delocator.net ...
posted by krautland at 12:14 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

i'm jealous! --

- take a grocery bag for trash
- take a small cooler to keep you drinks cold.
- study/take a map and look for detours/ sites you'd like to check out... or even just drive by or through
- if you know what cities your going to stop in, surf for hotels =now= for a better choice, and make a reservation... at the end of a day of driving you don't want to take "what you can get" (unless you want the adventure of the unknown)
- it's better to go overboard on your tunes/podcasts, your moods will change and you'll want a deep pool to choose from.
- get at least one tacky, cheap souvenir from one of the many gas stations you'll be stopping in.
- consider taking a small recorder to capture your adventure.


- if you're going slow, stay to the right!!!

have fun!
posted by mrmarley at 12:24 PM on July 21, 2007

Talk to people when you stop in places. That always makes roadtrips better.
posted by Pants! at 12:27 PM on July 21, 2007

Bring more music/podcasts than you think you'd ever listen to, and bring a variety of stuff as well. You never know what you'll be in the mood for after your eighth hour of driving.

Bring a cooler and throw some cans of pop, bottled water and cool snacky things (carrot sticks? yogurt? etc.) in it to keep you energized. Don't have as many heavy, carb-y foods when you still have a lot of driving ahead of you for the day.

Give yourself enough time that you can stop and check out random cool stuff you might happen upon along the way or take a few pictures of a scenic stretch of coastline or whatever. You'll thank yourself later.

If you're taking Highway 101 for any part of your trip, Road Trip USA usually has good suggestions for things to check out.

If you find yourself getting tired, pull over and take a nap, walk around, get a drink... most people watch out for this at night but a sunny afternoon and a boring stretch of highway can lull you to sleep as well.

If you don't have one, get one of those basic road emergency kits (you know, the kind with jumper cables, flares, flashlight, etc.) just in case.

And not to get all hysterical on you, but keep your wits about you and trust your instincts. It's not dangerous as a female traveling alone per se, but if you get an icky feeling about a particular rest stop or person or something, trust it.

Have fun!
posted by AV at 12:37 PM on July 21, 2007

This forum is quite helpful.
posted by nitsuj at 12:40 PM on July 21, 2007

Light blanket
Extra pair of shoes/flip-flops in case one gets wet
Emergency cash
posted by xo at 1:09 PM on July 21, 2007

The Portland-Bellingham part of the trip is the least interesting. If you have books on tape or other distractions, it would be good to save them til your last day. When I take road trips, I bring postcard stamps with me and an address book. When I find a neat postcard at some place, I stop and drop some random friend a note. They seem to appreciate it and it's a nice way to stay feeling plugged in if you're otherwise off the beaten path. You can also do this and mail postcards to yourself as a nice physical record of your trip.

Also, if you haven't already check out the 99 other posts tagged roadtrip. Some of them are similar.
posted by jessamyn at 1:31 PM on July 21, 2007

Carrots and peanut butter. I used to ride buses 'round the great United States and lived on them. You don't need a utensil and there's no clean up.
posted by MarshallPoe at 1:35 PM on July 21, 2007

Do you have an AAA membership or something similar? My 20 year-old daughter and her friend just made this exact same roadtrip, only it was roundtrip to San Francisco starting from Victoria. She has a newer car, but I bought her an auto club membership just in case. I thought it would be awful to break down along the way and not know who to call.

Your timing should be perfect. We've had a terrible rainy cold week but the forecast starting next Tuesday is for a return to sunshine. Enjoy!
posted by nelvana at 1:43 PM on July 21, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you all for the great answers so far, and keep them coming!

I'll definitely have to get a cooler- good plan. And postcards are a great idea.

As for podcasts... I've been really into RadioLab from WNYC lately. Is there anything else similar (or at least equally cool) out there that I should check out?
posted by purplefiber at 1:49 PM on July 21, 2007

Response by poster: Nelvana- yes I've got a BCAA membership... glad to hear Vic is getting warm again. And hey, maybe we should have a Victoria meetup in the next few weeks!
posted by purplefiber at 1:53 PM on July 21, 2007

Bring sunscreen and a light, long sleeve shirt. There's nothing more uncomfortable than one side of your body sunburned to a crisp (other than both sides, that is).
posted by B-squared at 1:55 PM on July 21, 2007

Take an adjustable wrench.
And a can of red bull if you get drowsy on the road.
posted by Iron Rat at 3:05 PM on July 21, 2007

oh yeah ... bring some decent food with you to eat while driving. you will be passing junk food and gas stations galore but only find something actually digestible every other day.
posted by krautland at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2007

Read Steinbeck's Travels with Charley and always carry Wet Wipes.
posted by solongxenon at 3:36 PM on July 21, 2007

Besides the good food a case of water and a case of power bars or similiar on the off chance you get lost or fall off the road or something.
posted by Mitheral at 5:43 PM on July 21, 2007

Something about Cheezits make them amazing snack food for car trips. Think about ducking over to the coast highway in Oregon (and maybe norcal too, but I don't know much about it). It'll be slower, but it can be a nice change from I-5. Plus, the pass in southern Oregon isn't very pleasant (though I wouldn't miss Shasta, if you haven't seen it - I'd even try to hit Shasta during sunrise just for the experience).

You could also think about doing part of the trip through Oregon on 99. If you jump over at Eugene you can rejoin in Salem, and there's a nice stretch of driving in between (if you take Peoria Rd between Harrisburg and Corvallis, that's a beautiful drive - take 99 from Eugene to Junction City, go on 99 East (not West - though if you aren't going to do Peoria, you definitely want 99 West) to Harrisburg, take Peoria Rd to Highway 34, turn left (west), then turn right on 99W in Corvallis).

Agreed that southern washington sucks to drive through on I-5. Bring lots of entertainment for that stretch.

If you weren't planning on staying in Portland, I'd recommend taking 205 around. I5 through downtown isn't the most pleasant experience.

I5 going by Salem is a speed trap. Watch the speed drop - it lasts longer than you think, and local police will grab you.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:36 PM on July 21, 2007

Oh, and check your brakes if you do go through southern OR on I5. That's not a place you want your brakes to go.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:39 PM on July 21, 2007

I once drove from Texas to Seattle--with no CD player, only the radio, and this was before mp3 days. So I had to listen to AM or FM radio. Both sucked, I at least had NPR. Too bad my 3 days on the road coincided with freakin' Pledge Week, so I had to listen to people beg for money rather than normal shows.

Audio is important. Don't forget those CDs and podcasts.
posted by zardoz at 1:46 AM on July 22, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone... great suggestions. Off I go!
posted by purplefiber at 10:53 AM on July 22, 2007

If possible find a GPS Unit. Also take the AAA road map in case if the GPS unit fails for some reason.

This is a personal thing, but do u hv on of those ergonomic car seats? If not take a small pillow (the kind that you hv on your couch) and you can use it as a support to your spine.
coz when u drive for long distance, sitting in the same pose, u may get a back pain.
posted by WizKid at 11:09 AM on July 22, 2007

Ditto a garbage bag. As a veteran of many road trips, I can tell you that your car will start to look like a landfill in a few days, especially if you buy food along the way rather than packing it in advance.
posted by media_itoku at 3:00 PM on July 22, 2007

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