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Solo road trips call for smart preparation

By Barbara Neff

Airline pilots file a flight plan with the FAA before taking to the skies. In similar fashion, we need to file our travel plans with loved ones before embarking on a long road trip alone. Solo road trips can be the essence of pure freedom, but the wise plan carefully. Simple precautions are in order for solo travelers, regardless of age or gender.

Certainly, vehicles must be in their best possible working order. When getting the oil changed and the tires rotated before a long drive, let the technicians know about your trip. Ask them to take a look at every sort of general maintenance item one needs to check before logging many miles.

Study a map before taking to the open road. GPS is a way of life now, but what if you lose cell service? Knowing where you are along the way in relation to nearest towns adds a layer of safety. Even smarter, jot down the names of hotels in those towns and make note of other services available in them. Know the mile markers for their exits. In case of being stranded, knowing that you are at mile marker 286 and the next closest town is at Exit 302 can be reassuring.

Start a group text the day before you leave. Let your brother, sister, children, or close friends know that you will be on the open road and to expect check-point texts from you. For example, let them know that you will text a hello each time you stop to get gas or eat. Text when you arrive at your destination. This practice helps create a comforting feeling of having traveling companions.

Regardless of travel plans, you should have at all times essentials in the trunk of your car that you never remove. While driving in winter, and in remote areas, essentials such as a blanket, water bottles, candles, matches, a flashlight with extra batteries, granola bars, and an extra battery for your phone could mean the difference between being comfortable and barely surviving in the event you are stranded.

Many auto insurance companies include roadside service with regular coverage. Thousands subscribe to service companies. Know who your roadside assistance company is, and have the phone number stored in your phone and in your glove box.

Choosing time of day for travel is an important factor too. Leaving before the sun comes up might create the need to travel in darkness for while, but knowing that daylight is on its way is far better than traveling into the night, especially when fatigue is factored in. Regardless of the original travel plan, sleepiness and fatigue necessitate stopping.

Stock up on easy-to-access, healthy snack items and beverages. Your drink cup should be easy to use by simply lifting out of the cup holder. Take snack items out of their packaging before hitting the road and put into an easy-open zip-style plastic bag. It is never a good idea to let your knees take the wheel while you wrestle with the wrapper on string cheese.

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