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  1. Default First Solo Road Trip , and Slightly Scared

    im 20 years old , i live in ohio , and im planning on heading down to Georgia on may 21st (2015) to stay with a friend for a bit ... all the road trips i have ever taken , have been drove by someone else since i as of then , didnt have a license ... so this will be my first trip by myself , and i will be driving it ALL .... i have always said , i LOVE driving ever since i got my license .. but this is a little scary .. i have never drove this far . and i have never drove on a highway with more then 3 lanes at a time ... .. google maps gave me 3 routes i can take , but all of them seem to have what my family likes to call "Spaghetti Junctions" that go from 3 lanes to 4 lanes .. and sometimes 5 lanes ..... and i was never taught what lane to be in , when the highway has more then 3 lanes ... a little advice would help .. im really excited to go on this trip .. i can read a map thanks to my mom , and will be printing the directions of course ! aaand my friends mom is sending me up a GPS just to be safe ! so im not scared to get lost or anything , its just navigating my way safely .... i have always been told im a really good driver , but to just worry about the other drivers around me , since people seem to get distracted easy when driving .. was thinking of avoiding those "S.J" parts by dragging my trail over a little , would make my drive longer .. but it may be a better idea ?

    my plan is to get this trip done all in one day .. 7am - when ever i get there .. but depending on if i get tired ill be finding a rest stop to nap at , since i cant get a hotel/motel room since you cant , till your 21 for some odd reason ... or all the ones i have been to that is ..

    again ~ if you have any advice about my "Spaghetti Junction" and Lane dilemma ! it would help me out greatly , and maybe even help me get over the fear of that ! lol and wish me luck on my 700 mile drive ! ahahaa .....

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default a few thoughts

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There are a few things that stand out to me about your trip, where it looks like you've fallen for some pretty common myths and misperceptions.

    First, Trying to do a 700 mile trip in one day is generally not something we recommend, especially for a solo trip, and even more so for your first big roadtrip. In real world conditions, that's 13-14 hours on the road. As a comparison, that's farther than a professional driver is allowed to do in one day because of safety laws. If you were experienced with long haul trips, and/or had multiple drivers, I wouldn't worry much about doing 700 miles as a one day sprint, but I'd really rethink this idea in your situation. Even getting out on the road the evening before, and getting a few hours down the road could be a big help to making this trip more safe and enjoyable.

    since i cant get a hotel/motel room since you cant , till your 21 for some odd reason ... or all the ones i have been to that is
    While there are some hotels that require you to be 21, they are very much in the minority, and usually apply to specific situations (i.e. Vegas casinos). As long as you are over 18, and aren't traveling with minors, you should have no problems at all finding a motel.

    google maps gave me 3 routes i can take , but all of them seem to have what my family likes to call "Spaghetti Junctions"
    i can read a map thanks to my mom , and will be printing the directions of course ! aaand my friends mom is sending me up a GPS just to be safe !
    Without having any idea of where you're going, beyond the huge targets of "Ohio" and "Georgia," we can't really offer you any specific advice for routes, but this is a good point to remind you of the dangers of leaning too heavily on electronic tools.

    First, while Google gives you 3 route options, those are hardly your only options. They might not even be your best options. Looking at the maps yourself will give you a much better idea of what would work for you - especially since it seems like you are interested in avoiding major urban areas if possible. It's good that you know how to read a map, and if you make the most out of that knowledge, you'll have a much better trip.

    I actually would not recommend printing out the step-by-step directions from a computer mapping program. Too often, people become dependent on them, and focus more on what's on the directions, than what's actually happening on the road - and if you miss a step, or something changes because of construction, traffic, etc - you quickly could get lost and struggle to get back on track because you're looking for what's "on the page."

    Similar rules apply for a GPS. People can get so focused on what the machine is telling them, that they don't pay attention to what the roadsigns are actually saying. A GPS will also insist on taking you on what it deems is the most efficient route, which again, may not be the best route for your situation. It's not a bad tool to have, but it's best features are for finding a specific address in a city, and you do have to be careful when using them on long-haul trips. There have been plenty of times where if I had followed what my GPS told me to do, I would have gone a long way from where I really wanted to go.

    I suspect you may also enjoy reading our Road Safety tips from Uncle Bob, especially this tip about dealing with multiple lane highways, although read the comments too for a larger discussion on the topic. If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask.

  3. #3


    For a hotel, find a chain in your town that will allow you to pay for it in advance with a credit card.

    I agree, that is too far to drive in one day. 2 days is very reasonable.
    As this is your first long drive by yourself, think about adding a 5-15 minute "get out and walk" stop about every hour to hour and half. It will help you to stay alert. Also, gets oxygen moving into your brain and body.

    Knowing which lane you need, tend to stay toward the middle lane until directed to a certain lane. Write down the Hwy number and exit number where you can see them. It will help you to prepare to watch for the signage.

    Remember to enjoy the trip.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default As a solo traveller.......

    Since this is your first trip and it is solo, I would highly recommend that you take note of Michael's recommendations, and do this over two days. Trying to do it in less will possibly mean that it will also be your last solo trip, as you will be so tired and disappointed. I can assure you, solo roadtripping has many advantages. You get to choose the route, the music, the places to stop and the places to eat etc.

    Since you are good at reading maps, do not follow electronics blindly, but use your maps to build and follow your route, for all the reasons he mentioned above. Too many have got into bad situations just following a gps, this is made even worse when you are tired and are bound to believe everything it suggest. There are folk who have lost their life doing so.

    Look for a hotel a bit over half way. Have relative short driving days, take your time to pack up and get on the road. (Don't leave anything behind.) You will get to your destination in time to go for a walk, check out a place to eat and get back to your hotel in time to write a short synopsis of the day and have a good night's sleep.

    Furthermore, it will give you time during the day to have a proper break for lunch and allow you to stop and check out anything you see which interests you. There is nothing worse than having to say, "Gee, I wish I could have stopped for......" Pick out your route on good paper maps, and see what there is along the way. As already mentioned stop at 60 - 90 min intervals, and go for a short walk to refresh.

    I like the idea of booking the hotel before you leave home, but I would not pay for it beforehand. Carry a credit card. It is important that you check out the room before you pay. Make sure that it is clean, has a lock on the door which cannot be opened from the outside, such as the chain lock, and see that the smoke alarm has not been disabled. All reputable places will allow you to check out the room before you pay. Don't be shy to say if you feel the room is not going to be comfortable, or if you have bad vibes about it. They will offer you another room.

    If you do not already have a roadside assistance package, I suggest you get one such as AAA. It is a small price for peace of mind, even if you should only lock your keys in the car or have a flat tyre. AAA is also where you can get good maps of the States through which you will be travelling.

    Have a great trip.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    My first solo trip as a female driver was a 1500 mile trip. I remember being quite nervous about it, especially about the lane issues! The more you drive, the more relaxed you will be about those "Spaghetti Junctions" (love that name, though we always called them "the stacks"). The other responses have been "right on" with advice. Thank your mother for teaching you to read a map, and then use those maps or a good road atlas!

    I would also not recommend the Google or Mapquest print out, for the following reason: I printed one of those out this past summer, to help us find my uncle's house. Then one of the exits that the printout suggested I used, was closed for construction! Thank heavens we'd purchased a good city map before we got to that point, because I was able to use it to navigate us into the city. Google and Mapquest have not always got the most up-to-date construction information.

    I too don't like to pay in advance with a credit card. There are usually no refunds if you should have to change your plans at the last minute, you have car trouble, or you get there and find you don't like the looks of the place!

    One thing I did on my first solo trip, that both my dad and my future father-in-law told me later I should not have done: I started my travels before daylight. I still love to travel at that time of the day, but you don't want to have car trouble at that hour. You are vulnerable. Both men told me I should have waited until 7 or 8 am, when the sun was up. They both congratulated me for wanting to be into my destination before the dinner hour, though.

    I second the motion for a AAA membership. Ours has been our saving grace many times over the past few years!


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Hostels.

    till your 21 for some odd reason ... or all the ones i have been to that is ..
    If you are finding this becoming a real issue, you may like to look at hostels.

    Not knowing where your start or end points are, I am not able to recommend any in any towns. But as a senior citizen (hostels are no longer for youth alone) I have stayed at many hostels all over the US. You will find that they are usually cheaper than a hotel.

    A few things to remember if you have never stayed in hostels before. When staying in a dorm (great for company and cheapest) be sure that every bed is assigned a locker. Carry a medium sized pad lock for that purpose. [Never put anything valuable in lockers which you need to pay for to lock it - these can be accessed by management.]

    When away from home, be it in a hotel or hostel, always wear something on your feet in the shower. A pair of crocs or flipflops is ideal.

    Many hostels also have private rooms, which are usually a little under the cost of a hotel. Nearly all hostels have a minimum age or 18.

    Any questions? feel free to ask.


  7. Default

    i just want to thank everyone who has replied to me so far ! :) all seem to be positive ! and i have to say its a nice change ! lol ! all my family seems to be trying to scare me out of this trip , but im set on going !

    a little more detail of my trip - im leaving from Quaker City ohio , and going down to Griffin Georgia ,(going through , west Virginia , Virginia , north Carolina , south Carolina) its about a 11 hour trip and im estimating 3 extra hours for gas stops and rest stops for a break . i really rather just do it in one day , but i understand that , that most likely wont happen and ill be doing it in 2 days , i was going to leave on the 22nd , but decided to bump it up a day to the 21st , since i forgot it was memorial day weekend , so instead of Friday and Saturday , it would be a Thursday and Friday ,drive if i stop ,so i dont have to deal with horrible traffic it really all depends on how i feel half way down .
    im the type of person who has no trouble staying up for 32 hours at a time , so i wouldnt think a 14 hour trip would bother me much.

    i really much rather not stay at a hotel/motel on my way down , since im trying to be careful with money and all that i do have some money put back , just in case i have car troubles , but hopefully that wont happen . but if its a really cheap place i dont think i would mind paying that to stay the night .. or even a camp ground where you can just park and sleep . i been to see a friend down in NC once (took grayhound bus), and found one motel that allowed me to stay even though i wasnt 21 yet , ever where else i been told me i had to be 21 to get a room (went to like 4 different places), and some places , pretty sure they where trying to charge me more then should have originally been cause i looked like a unsuspecting young girl .... (checked the prices online) that was before i had a debit card though , so there was no booking it online then .... if i could i rather just sleep at a rest stop , and lock all my doors , and have my pepper spray close by ...

    once again , thank you for all the advice so far ! :) really helping me get over the slight fear of this trip ! .... i been told by so many people they think im to young to go on a road trip out of the state , even though im 20 :)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Your family is right.

    If you plan to do the trip as outlined above, then I agree with your family. I would be most concerned about your welfare. This trip CANNOT and should not be done in one day, especially not by an inexperienced long distance driver. Being able to stay awake for 32 hours is one thing. Being able to control a ton of metal at highway speed for that time, or only half that time, is suicidal. Your reflexes will be like those of a drunk.

    You must make plans for a stop along the way, and you must make that arrangements for that stop before you leave home. It is the only way you are going to be safe. Sleeping in your car does not give you a good night's sleep and rest. And if you were to do that at a rest area, you would be choosing the most dangerous spot of all. Locked doors and pepper spray do not make it safe. When are tired and drowsy your reaction time will not be quick enough to protect yourself.

    Do your family and all road users, as well as yourself a favour, and accept that this trip needs an overnight stop to allow you to sleep in a real bed and be refreshed for another day (or part of it) on the road.

    As the mother of five and grandmother of eight, I know what your family must feel like. I too am concerned about your well being.

    If hotels are not affordable, pick a hostel and stay in a dorm. At least you will be able to sleep in safety for around $25/30.


  9. Default

    ill have to keep that in mind , i been on tuns of road trips and always been able to stay awake till we got there , but never drove , i will have to find a place to sleep for the night , hopefully past the Virginia's cause it should only take me about 6 or 7 hours to get past all that , and i could probably find that place is mount airy , in north Carolina i stayed at 2 years ago for the night .. just forget how far away it was from the highway , lol im afraid im going to get lost and rack on another 2 hours or so .. lol i dont think ive ever seen a hostel , or i would stay there , sounds affordable , cause the motel in mount airy was kinda , dirty ..... lol but it was an old family run place , and the only place i could find that would let me stay at 18 ...

    but question ~ :) ... if my trip is about 14 hours long .. how many hours should i drive in one day ? or since my trip is about 700 miles , how many miles should i estimate to do in one day . that way i can figure out where i might be , to being able to find a place to sleep , and see what that area has to offer to stay at for the night :)

    thank you for helping me out with this .. no one in my family really said anything about not doing it in one day , they all said if i was going on the trip , i should be able to do it in 1 day .. but worried about me getting mugged and stuff ... more then getting in a car accident .

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Maybe a different route.

    Is Charlotte a must along the route? If not, you could reroute via Asheville. It does not add extra distance and is about two third of the way to Griffin. There is a nice hostel in Asheville with good ratings. (If noise bothers you take a pair of ear plugs.) For $28 you can get a dorm bed with locker assigned. (Take a pad lock.) This would get you to Griffin soon after lunch on the second day, and hopefully well before rush hour..

    Yes, staying awake while someone else is doing the work is very different from being on your own, and everything is up to you. I would not worry about being mugged. On the whole the majority of folk out on the road are wonderful. I take it you have a roadside assistance plan in case of a breakdown, etc. If not, I highly recommend as a female travelling alone you get one such as AAA. You won't want to be sitting on the side of the highway with a flat tire, and you certainly would not want to stop any other vehicle. It is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

    If you are carrying good maps, you will know when junctions come up, and see which lane to take. (Maps are free to members at AAA.) Do not attempt this trip with a gps alone. You should know well before the gps tells you, where to be on the road.


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