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Road Tripping – Traveling Safely by Car to Explore the World Up Close

By Fran Braga Meininger October 29, 2022 Travel

There is something very freeing about sliding into the driver’s seat and heading out onto the open road.

It offers a chance to experience the world at a slower, more intimate pace than flying over in a plane. However, many women are hesitant to embark alone or with only women companions, not feeling prepared to meet the many challenges that can arise. I believe, however, with some advanced planning and preparation, women can indeed enjoy an extended trip by automobile.

I recently traveled to red rock country in Utah, a few states over from my home in California, USA. Several hiccups and inconveniences along the way inspired me to write this article, in hopes it helps other women set out, well prepared and ready to explore.

Plan Ahead – Well in Advance

Decide what you want to see, then calculate the distance for the round trip to decide if it’s feasible in the number of days you plan to be away. I can only comfortably drive about five hours a day, so I planned three nights of travel time each way.

I planned my overnights in towns that were interesting, either for their beauty or history, with sites in town that I could visit each morning before heading out, so I wouldn’t feel like those days were only consumed by driving.

Make Reservations

I reserved my hotel/motel stays weeks before I left. Even though I was traveling in October, which is post peak season, many locations were still very busy, so I felt secure knowing I would have a confirmed reservation waiting for me at the end of a long drive.

Be sure to confirm your reservation, print out the information and carry a file of your itinerary, physical addresses, receipts and confirmations with you. If you book online and don’t receive a response, call. Some hotels, in more remote areas, are a little behind the digital age.

Share Your Itinerary

Send your plan to a friend or family member, so someone knows where you are each day. Check in with them on a regular basis, daily even, if that feels right to you. Be sure to include the contact information for the hotels so they can follow up if they don’t hear from you as arranged.

Check Weather and Road Conditions Frequently

If you’re driving over mountains or across deserts, the conditions can change quickly and dramatically. Be sure to watch weather patterns, not only for your location, but for the region, as storms miles away can cause flash floods or high winds.

Get Your Car a Check Up and Keep It Happy on the Road

Take your car to a trusted mechanic, explain the situation and ask them to check belts, filters, coolant, power steering and brake fluids, oil, running and headlights, tire pressure and the condition of the spare.

Know how to change a tire, locate the spare and review how to use the jack. Some areas may be beyond cell phone service or road service may not be immediately available.

Be sure to carry a pressure gauge with you and do a visual inspection every morning, ensuring your tires are properly inflated and there are no fluids leaking from under the car.

While on the road, top off your gas tank before leaving for the day. Never drive on less than a half a tank. You never know when you might get stuck behind a traffic collision, have to take a detour or experience prolonged delays for road construction.


Live mapping and online navigation have changed my life. I feel so much more confident with them to guide me. I use Siri on my iPhone but there are numerous other choices. Siri connects to the Maps app and gives me verbal directions well in advance. It also warns of traffic hazards, road construction, offers alternative routes, displays the speed limit and projects arrival times.

However, don’t depend solely on electronic devices, carry detailed paper maps of your route and know how to navigate with one. There are still many areas of the world where there is no signal to receive GPS support.

Things to Carry with You

I was 200 miles from the nearest store when my car displayed “Change Key Fob Battery,” and I realized I neglected to bring a second set of keys. I was lucky and made it to the store to purchase a battery without consequence, but it did make for a very anxious drive.

Here’s a list of items that will help ensure you have what you need to stay safe and comfortable when the unexpected arises:

  • Extra set of keys – Store them separately, one in your luggage and one on your person, for example.
  • Extra pair of reading glasses and sunglasses.
  • Drinking water – One gallon per day per person if you’re driving through a desert.
  • Nutritious snacks – Granola bars are a convenient source of calories that don’t need refrigeration.
  • Blankets or a sleeping bag – If you get stuck somewhere at high altitude or overnight, you won’t want to waste fuel to run the heater and staying warm is critical.
  • Phone car charger – Test it before you leave to be sure you have the proper connections. I also carry a fully charged external charger.
  • Printed contact information for family and friends. We all rely on our smart phones to store our information these days, but if its batteries are dead, you won’t be able to retrieve any information in case of an emergency.

Travel is so important for me, not just as a welcomed relief from my everyday life, but to remind me how big the world is and how varied and exciting it can be when I get out into it. Staying safe and feeling confident in my abilities to venture out sets me free to experience more than the well-traveled path. I hope this article encourages you to do the same.

Happy trails and safe travels.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you ventured on a road trip by yourself? Was it easy to plan and prepare for it? Why did you choose to hit the road rather than fly?

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Angie Bean

I started to travel by myself after my spouse passed away. I was surprised that I did things “we” never did–like stop in a small town an eat at the local joint, pulling over to look at the light falling on the hills. I no longer saw the road as a way to get to the end. The journey became the most memorable part of travel.
Also, I learned to watch my back– literally. I strained it moving suitcases in and out of the back. Another surprise, I slowed down more and booked a message in Santa Fe on my way to Utah. Let yourself discover the unknown you. You become braver. Have fun. And take care of yourself!

Fran Braga Meininger

Such wonderfully encouraging words. Thank you, Angie.


Thank you for this! Taking a trip from Michigan to Arizona in January. I appreciate your confidence and suggestions!!

Fran Braga Meininger

Sorry, I missed your comment when it posted. By now, you’re back from your trip. I hope it was a wonderful experience!

Barbara Cummings

I started driving cross-country from Boston to S Oregon, alone, twice a year, in 2014. I’m a travel RN and I have grown children living on both sides of the US. Also, I have friends all over the country so I usually plan my drives based on stopping to visit. I’m able to drive 9-12 hours a day, especially if I know I’ll have 3-5 days at a friend’s ahead of a long drive. I tend to look for a gas station/travel center as soon as I have about half a tank of gas. It gives me an opportunity to get out, walk around, maybe take a bathroom break — there are several great places like Love’s, Pilot/Flying J, Buccees. Even the food options have improved in these “truck stops”. I “discovered” podcasts as a wonderful way to stay current and learn something along the way. I love my trips and learning more about all the different states.

Fran Braga Meininger

Thanks for sharing your experience, Barbara. What a brilliant way to incorporate travel into your professional life. Podcasts are a great suggestion, too.


Good tip, but are women out there really changing their own tires? I can’t imagine.


Great tips, i like that you’re helping people get out and look around — maybe one of my greatest joys! I would like to add a little note (for travel or even home) — i’ve practiced myself into the habit of locking my door whenever i get in or stop (newer cars autolock the door when you stop). No matter how confident we feel, we can be seen as out of our element, and subject to anyone who would take advantage). When we’re in our car – at the bank, searching for documents we need for a transaction, at home in our own drive gathering to go into the house, stopped at a new viewpoint looking at our map – it’s an opportunist’s dream when we’re distracted. Locking your door is not a paranoid act, but the act of someone who’s aware of their position when they’re vulnerable to an opportunist. Stay safe!

Last edited 10 months ago by Beth
Fran Braga Meininger

Staying safe and feeling secure is paramount to a memorable trip. Thanks for your reminder, Beth.

The Author

Fran Braga Meininger writes personal narratives about the years beyond youth, a time in a woman’s life that can be vibrant, fulfilling, and wonderful, despite – or perhaps because of – all that comes with age. She lives in northern California where she hikes, bikes and lives life in big bites. You can visit her website at https://www.theyearsbeyondyouth.com

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