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  1. Default 8000+ mile 21 day solo roadtrip

    Hey guys, just seeking some advice regarding an 8000+ mile 21 day roadtrip I plan on taking in a few weeks. I won't post the specifics for safety reasons but my basic itinerary is: Detroit, MI area to Omaha zoo to Denver, CO to YNP to Crater Lake to Oregon Coast to Olympic National Park to Glacier National Park to Badlands National Park to Theodore Roosevelt National Park to Northern Minnesota to the UP to Sleeping Bear and back home. There's a ton of "fillers" in between to break up driving time but these are my main attractions!

    I'm a 23yo female and will be going alone (yes I know I'm weird!) I have a 2013 Chevy Sonic with only 16,000 miles on it, but have tentatively booked a Hertz rental for 3 weeks, $630 (avoided the underaged drivers fee using my USAA membership). First, is a rental car my better option here or should I drive my own car instead?

    I plan on camping in national parks and my car along the way and have purchased all the supplies needed in order to reduce costs eating and lodging. I hope to stay under $100/day for everything, including about half of that for gas (assuming at least 30mpg), and then food, lodging, and attractions/souvenirs. My goal is to stay below $3000 for the entire trip. Buying an $80 national park pass too. Attainable? Or nah?

    As a solo traveler, and a female to boot, I am aware that extra precautions are in order. Firstly I plan on camping in family friendly campgrounds and will car camp or find a motel if I feel unsafe. I've purchased pepper spray, a whistle, and have several knives in my car and on my person at all times. I'm very vigilant and assertive when I need to be. I don't plan on telling anyone I'm alone and will be sending my family text alerts regarding where I'm at every day (if phone reception permits...). Taking someone else is not an option.

    Finally, what do you guys think of my rough itinerary? I know it's alot of places but this is kind of a last hoorah before I start medical school so I want to make it count ;) Plus I like driving (especially scenic driving!). I'm currently an EMT and drive an hour each way every day commuting to work, and then drive at least half of my 6 hours shifts daily (so 5+ hrs a day driving is usual for me). Extending the trip is not an option, though I may be forced to cut out some places :(

    Also if you have any quick stops you'd suggest along the way I'm all open ears! (or if anything I've posted is overrated let me know!) I know that some places (Glacier, YNP, etc.) I could spend a week or more in, but I'm not a backpacker atm and can zip through attractions more quickly solo while not taking away any of the enjoyment. If you can't tell already I tend to be a bit restless in my day to day life and am a wanderer at heart! ANY advice would be greatly appreciated! My family and friends all think I'm crazy but they just don't understand!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA! That sounds like a whirlwind trip, to me, who is used to doing 8000 mile trips in 40 days, but it sounds like you've got some things planned. Here are some comments I'll make:

    First off, renting a car vs driving your own. If you are used to your car, it serves you well, is in good repair, and you have a slush fund (or your car is still under warranty) for repair, then I'd take the car you own. If your car doesn't have emergency road service plan with it, then pick up a AAA membership instead of forking out for a rental. It's good peace-of-mind and you get free road maps to boot.

    Camping is cheapest and fairly safe at state parks and national forest campgrounds, though some of them are a little bit off the road. Still, when my husband and I were younger and on strict budgets, we often found those kinds of places to be quieter than your commercial campgrounds. Best pick up a tent, a sleeping bag and a pad, and maybe even a cheap camp stove, if you haven't already. A Chevy Sonic isn't really going to let you sleep in it, not the restful type of sleep you need in order to travel each day.

    As far as the $80 annual pass for the NP's are concerned, check with for each park you want to go to, see what it costs, and do the Math. We didn't buy one on our last trip, because our costs came to $70 without it. If the math shows it would cost more at each gate, then buy the pass at the first gate you come to. YNP was $25 last year for both YNP and Grand Teton together.

    Pepper spray isn't going to be an easy thing to use if you are woken from a sound sleep. We have a regular here who travels solo all the time and has never needed to protect herself. Use your instincts -- if a place doesn't feel right, it probably isn't, so get out of there. Don't take firearms of any sort into the NP's, and keep knives out of sight so they won't be used against you.

    Donna, who doesn't think you're crazy

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Roadtripping solo.

    Hi and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    As a fellow female solo roadtripper you're not weird at all.

    The benefits of using your own car are that you are driving a car with which you are familiar, and which you can take wherever you want to go. On the other hand, despite that rental cars have restrictions with going on unsealed roads, you may be getting a car which is more fuel efficient. If you take your own car, be sure to have a AAA roadside assistance membership. The AAA is also the place where you get good maps of all the States you will cover. These are not only invaluable while planning, but essential when on the road. These maps will have all the scenic routes marked on them. They will also show all NP and SP and SF. They also show a little triangle or tent on the map where there are public lands campgrounds. Good maps have a wealth of information. Don't leave without them.

    8000 miles will keep you on the go for at least 14 days, which leaves a week for sightseeing. $100 per day is a good benchmark, and yes, by all means get the annual pass. You can check on the NP website the cost of the parks you wish to visit, and see the saving. Generally it is 4 major parks pays for it.

    Not sure if arming yourself with a variety of weapons is a good thing. I - a septuagenarian grandmother - have travelled some 200000 miles without anything, and have never felt threatened. Your common sense will keep you safe, just as it does at home. As you say, if you do not feel right, move on. I have camped in BLM camps as well as State Parks and Forests, mostly between $10 - $20. Having something like pepper spray or knives could end up being used against you. They are not items one uses logically if/when woken from a deep sleep. If I were you, I would leave them all at home. The most I have is my alarm button on my car remote. That at least would let others know. But I have never felt need to use it.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I don't think you are going to find a rental that's more fuel efficient than a Sonic, and if you want something you can sleep in comfortably, it will get worse mileage and will cost significantly more to rent than an economy car.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    When you mention YNP are you talking about Yellowstone or Yosemite? Either could fit into that point of your trip.

    The only thing in your current outline that's a bit odd, is going from Glacier to Badlands to Teddy Roosevelt. It would probably make more sense to do TR before Badlands, even though you'll have to go back north again to get to the UP. If YNP means Yellowstone, then you could do Badlands while heading to Yellowstone (possibly skipping Denver). Otherwise, I'd probably only do one or the other, as TR and Badlands are somewhat similar parks, and hitting both would add a lot of miles to a pretty full itinerary.

  6. Default

    When camping out west u sometimes will not have cell service. So u might just want to get spot tracker device it show your family were u been and will able to sent a message u r ok. Just a thought

  7. Default

    I'm really leaning towards bringing my own car! It certainly adds some flexibility. And I believe my car is still under warranty (typically 3 years right?). I'll look into the AAA membership! I'd probably be the type of person to accidentally shoot myself so no guns for me and knives are for more of a utility purpose but I'll use them if I have to! Pepper spray was an impulse buy and I'm hoping the whistle will be useful :P Thanks for the reply and validation that I'm not crazy haha. It's a crazy trip but I've been to YNP and the Tetons before and I'm not going to get another trip for a while so I have to make this one count :) I have all the camping essentials ready including a charcoal grill. Not a fan of propane in general so I'll be using charcoal and wood to cook my food. I'll look into the spot tracker device too!

    I'm talking about Yellowstone :) and the return trip from Glacier is a little odd since there is virtually nothing to do in northcentral Montana vs. alot more to do in SE Montana and NE Wyoming so that's why I was going to Badlands area and then Teddy Park. My original plan was actually to do the badlands before yellowstone without colorado and I'm leaning towards that again even though I really would like to see Denver, it might just be too much for this trip :/ touchee on the TR vs badlands. That's what I was afraid of. Honestly part of it is I wanted to hit every state in the area and don't want to skip ND if I can help it :)

    Thanks again guys! My only other concern would be camping last minute in state parks... I might be in Glacier for July 4th and this one in particular worried me. And I hear yellowstone can be hell trying to find a camping site in late June unless you're up at the crack of dawn, and I know (at least for the first day) I have to drive from a few hours out to get there so that wont be possible. I can deal with sleeping in my neon for a night or two if I have to. I know it's small/cramped but I'm a 5'7'' female and have slept on smaller couches tbh :P

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default this and that

    Quote Originally Posted by aarena1992 View Post
    I'm really leaning towards bringing my own car! It certainly adds some flexibility. And I believe my car is still under warranty (typically 3 years right?). I'll look into the AAA membership!
    Your car certainly should still be under warranty. 3 years/36k miles is the minimum standard. While your car is under the bumper to bumper warranty, it should also include roadside assistance. Personally, if you don't need roadside assistance, I don't think AAA is worth it. There are other discounts and benefits that come with the membership, I just don't think those extras are enough to justify the cost of a membership - unless you need the roadside coverage - at which point it does become a good value.

    If you stick with the rental (which isn't a bad idea, as you seem to have found a pretty good price), you also shouldn't have to worry about any breakdown issues. I could see the rental being a bit more comfortable than the ultra small Spark.

    As a side note, how do you only have 16,000 miles on a 2 year old car, when you say you also have an hour long commute?

    I have all the camping essentials ready including a charcoal grill. Not a fan of propane in general so I'll be using charcoal and wood to cook my food.
    I'll say, I'm a huge fan of charcoal at home, but it is not something I like dealing with on the road. You need about a full bag full of charcoal to get as much cooking time as a small propane canister. There's also the issue of getting rid of the charcoal when you're done - especially since coals can stay hot for hours after you're done cooking. I do enjoy cooking over an actual campfire, but propane is so much easier, especially if you just want to make a meal on the go. Also note, there are some places where charcoal grills are not allowed because of fire danger (Badlands NP immediately comes to mind.)

    return trip from Glacier is a little odd since there is virtually nothing to do in northcentral Montana vs. alot more to do in SE Montana and NE Wyoming
    I'd pretty strongly disagree with the idea that there is "virtually nothing to do" in Northern Montana. I think it is a pretty amazing drive - and really defines "Big Sky Country." Frankly, with the amount of things you want to do as it is, enjoying the beauty of what's along the road seems like about all you'd have time for here anyway.

    My only other concern would be camping last minute in state parks...
    If you're going to camp pretty much anywhere over the 4th of July weekend, you should try to make reservations - especially at a National Park like Glacier where you have limited camping space. Both there and at Yellowstone, reservations could be a good idea - even if you try even a couple days before you arrive, you could snag an opening with someone elses cancellation.

    I can deal with sleeping in my neon for a night or two if I have to.
    I thought you had a Spark, not a Neon?

    Keep in mind, you can have limited options for safe and legal places to park for the night - especially around National Parks. You can't plan to sleep in your car overnight inside the parks, unless you're at a campground.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I have a 2013 Chevy Sonic
    That's neither a Spark or Neon. Bigger than a Spark, but still not very roomy. It replaces the Aveo.

  10. #10


    Safety tip: Keep car keys next to you while sleeping. If need be, you can press the panic button and let your car alarm scare away someone. It is better to avoid confrontation whenever possible.

    Safety tip: Have a check in person each day. This is what I am doing on my trip. They have the info on car, and info for the next day's route. (I tend to say "ohhhhh look there" quite often).

    Weapons: Not your best idea. Someone who knows how to handle the weapons in hand-to-hand combat, yes. But general person, no. Too easy for it to be taken from you and used on you.

    Camping: No on wood/charcoal. #1: The mess of them spilling, cooking time, fire, etc. #2 better options. I brought along my electric skillet and my car powered hot pot. The majority of campsites have electricity. Those that do not, cold camp with sandwiches, etc.

    Gas: YNP and Oregon will be over $3.50/gal. Just know that you have to budget a bit more in this area.

    National Pass: YES! You will be going to enough National Parks, Monuments, etc. that it will pay for itself. My 5th park on were all "free".

    Advice: Keep a journal of what you see, visit, think about, etc. You will be amazed later what you were experiencing at the time.

    Have fun, and don't worry. It is relatively safe to travel solo. Just trust your instincts.

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