Hitting the open road is a liberating experience, and it’s even more so when you go it alone. When you’re a solo traveler, your fate is 100 percent within your control. You can pick any destination you want, decide how far you want to travel each day, listen to your favorite playlists, and eat wherever and whenever you want. In short, traveling alone means you don’t need to make any compromises or bend to anyone’s will just to keep the peace. We’ve compiled this list of solo road trip ideas to help you to come up with possible itineraries for your next adventure!
Tips for Successful Solo Traveling
If you’re planning to travel solo for the first time, you may find yourself searching for some road trip tips online. One of the best pieces of advice you’ll get is to start small. Instead of making your first trip a cross-country adventure, consider making your initial outing a day trip that’s at least relatively close to home.
That tip is particularly relevant if you recently got your first RV and plan to use it for your travels. By staying close to home, you’ll be able to call for help if you can’t figure out how certain features work. You’ll also give yourself the chance to experience how your home on wheels handles the road without the pressure of having to drive too far.
Here are some additional road trip tips you can put into practice as early as today:
- Check your coverage: Make sure you have the right insurance for your upcoming getaway. Travel insurance, roadside assistance, car insurance, and/or rental car insurance are examples of the types of coverage you may need to secure if you haven’t already done so.
- Identify the sites you want to see and the places you’d like to visit: Once you pick your ultimate destination, pick the stops you’ll visit along the way and the things you want to see at each layover. Choose a scenic route, so you can enjoy the sights while you roam.
- Create a schedule: Depending on what you plan to do at each stop, you may find that you’ll need to budget more time at certain locations than others. Create a schedule and do your best to stick to it to ensure you can do as many things on your bucket list as possible.
- Map your route: Creating a schedule and mapping your route go hand-in-hand because you really can’t do one without the other. To make sure your planned route is accurate, use at least two navigation tools to confirm your path. If you need help planning your route and are a member of AAA, you can contact AAA for help putting together a map of your trip. And don’t forget to consider the time of year when plotting your roadmap. In addition to weather concerns, certain roads can be more scenic during specific seasons, while other routes might be more likely to be under construction. Be sure to factor those elements into your travel plans.
- Book your accommodations: Unless you’re going RVing, you’ll need to book accommodations for your layovers. With some host sites like Airbnb being more forgiving with cancelations and reservation changes due to the pandemic, there’s no reason to wait until the last minute to book a stay because it’s increasingly less likely you’ll get hit with a penalty if your plans change unexpectedly.
- Pack the minimum: If you’re not going to embark on your solo road trip in an RV, do your best to pack the bare minimum. Suitcases and duffle bags will seem to get heavier the more you have to lug them into hotel rooms, and they will literally get heavier if you buy a lot of stuff during your time away from home.
- Get your vehicle checked out: No matter what kind of automobile you’re planning to travel in, it’s crucial for you to have the vehicle checked out by a trusted mechanic before you leave town. Knowing your automobile is ready for the rigors of the road will give you lasting peace of mind during your trip.
- Stay in Touch: While you don’t need anyone to babysit you while you travel alone, you should let a friend, family member, or coworker know where you’re going. Before you leave, share your route with your confidante and make plans to check in daily. You and your buddy should decide in advance what actions your colleague should take if they don’t hear from you after a certain period of time. And while we’d never suggest texting and driving, do keep your cell phone nearby so others can reach you in an emergency!
Solo Road Trip Ideas for U.S. Travel
In many instances, road tripping is more about the journey than the destination. While that’s the case, planning a road trip itinerary is a crucial part of the journey you’ll experience because it will determine all the things you can do and see between your starting point and where you ultimately end up.
The Big Apple to the 1000 Islands
A one-way trip from New York City to the 1000 Islands is just over 350 miles. This road trip starts in one of the world’s biggest and busiest metropolises where you can enjoy casual eateries, high-end restaurants, and everything in between.
While some people feel like NYC is expensive, there are plenty of free or low-budget things to do in The Big Apple. Wandering through the Upper East Side or the West Village doesn’t cost a thing, for example. You can visit Central Park without spending a dime, too.
If you want to see where a popular brew is made, you can take a free tour of Brooklyn Brewery. Tours kick off every half hour between 1 pm and 6 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Just be aware that the brewery tours are very popular, so you’ll want to get in line early.
When you’re done exploring New York City and enjoying all of its countless offerings, you’ll have plenty of cool places to stop as you make your way up to the 1000 Islands. A surprising number of people have an interest in glass. If you’re a member of that cult-like following, you’ll want to stop in to see the Corning Museum of Glass in the appropriately named city of Corning, NY.
Do you enjoy off-roading? If so, you’ll definitely want to check out the rugged terrain in Lewis County. Do you want to explore some intriguing hiking trails? Lawrence County has some of the state’s best hiking trails, so make sure you plan a layover near at least one trailhead.
After you make your way to the Thousand Islands, you’ll want to start exploring the St. Lawrence River Valley immediately. A wonderful way to get the know the area is to follow the Thousand Islands-Seaway Wine Trail. Established in 2007, this trail makes it a breeze for newcomers to tour award-winning, family-owned wineries, distilleries, and vineyards located in Cape Vincent, Clayton, Alexandria, and other cities. Of course, enjoying samples as you go along is a must, so be sure to book accommodations along the way!
Sin City to the Grand Canyon
Traveling solo from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon requires you to travel less than 300 glorious miles. This trip is one of the safest for solo female travelers and male adventurers because it’s largely done on interstates.
If you take Interstate 515 South and I-11 South, the Hoover Dam is only about 40 minutes outside Sin City. To visit or tour the dam, it’s wise to book a ticket in advance. The Hoover Dam is open to the public every day from 5 am until 9 pm, except Thanksgiving and Christmas day. Tours kick off throughout each day the dam is open. The first tour starts at 9 am and the last daily tour begins at 3:45 pm.
When you wrap up your visit to the Hoover Dam and start the next leg of your journey, you’ll only be about 95 miles away from the Grand Canyon’s West Rim. If your final destination is the Grand Canyon National Park, you’ll have to travel another 240 miles to get there.
Whether you’re heading to the West Rim, the canyon’s South Rim, or somewhere in between, we suggest you spend at least one night in the Grand Canyon Village. If you stay there, you’ll enjoy a breathtaking sunrise that will make an idyllic background for selfies.
Los Angeles to San Francisco, California
The quickest way to get from Los Angeles to the Golden Gate City is to take Interstate 5 Freeway. While that route will get you to your destination in about six hours or less, it’s a boring drive when compared to the Pacific Coast Highway. Although taking the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco means you’ll face a longer and trickier drive, it’s well worth it.
With so many things to see and do along the Pacific Coast Highway, it’s advisable to extend your trip over two or three days at least. If you love the beach and celebrities, you’ll want to schedule a stop in Malibu. The city’s beaches are some of the prettiest in The Golden State. After you have some fun in the sun, you can take a bus tour and see where some of the biggest names in Hollywood live.
Solvang is a charming town that looks like a replica of a quaint Danish village. Replete with partially timbered buildings, windmills that are reminiscent of Europe, and flowers that line the town’s streets, Solvang is a throwback to an earlier, simpler time that will melt your heart during your journey between LA and SF.
Morro Bay is a small fishing village that’s often overlooked by people who aren’t “in the know.” The town has a gorgeous state park and several estuaries that are worth checking out. When you visit the bay, you can see Morro Rock, which is the product of an ancient volcanic eruption. The rock juts upward for 576 feet, and it sits in a lagoon where sea otters and seals can be seen throughout the day.
The scenery at Morro Bay is spectacular, so you may want to have a picnic on the beach. If you want to get some exercise, you can go for a swim or rent a vessel and go kayaking around Morro Rock.
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Colony
You’ll find the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Colony in San Simeon, which is better known as the home of the luxe Hearst Castle. In 1990, there were fewer than 24 elephant seals in San Simeon, CA. The following spring, more than 400 elephant seals arrived on the beach on the south side of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.
No one is sure why the population of elephant seals grew so much year-over-year, but it has continued to do so ever since. Now, the beach is home to more than 17,000 elephant seals. The rookery is open year-round, and guides are present daily to answer questions from curious onlookers.
Additional Places to Stop During Your Drive to San Francisco
As you probably guessed, there are many additional places you may want to stop as you travel to The City by the Bay. Here are a few more places you may want to check out during your journey:
- Marin Headlands
- Carmel Mission
- Point Lobos Natural Reserve
Things to Do at Your Final Destination
Once you reach your final destination, you may wonder how you can get to know The City by the Bay. One of the easiest ways to familiarize yourself with the city is to sign up for a scavenger hunt, ghost tour, or bar crawl by Let’s Roam. These app-led, outdoor activities all have different themes that will take you to various parts of the city to see some of its most popular landmarks, experience its spookiest attractions, or get a taste of the nightlife.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Earlier, we made the claim that road tripping is often more about the journey than the destination, but Beaver Creek, Colorado can be an exception to that “rule.” We suggest flying into Denver International Airport, renting a car, and make the 130-mile trek to the town.
Beaver Creek is an elegantly charming village that has a lot of activities visitors can participate in year-round. In the winter, you can ski and snowboard to your heart’s content. During the summer, you can go hiking, mountain biking, or sightseeing. If you like golf, you can play around on a lazy summer day.
When you visit Beaver Creek, you can enjoy all the amenities of an upscale resort while basking in the ambiance of a relaxed Alpine village. Nestled in the Vail Valley, Beaver Creek is a great choice for people who want to stay active and individual travelers who simply want to enjoy a serene getaway with plenty of spectacular Rocky Mountain views.
You’ll have an impressive list of local restaurants to choose from during your stay in Beaver Creek. Beano’s Cabin is an eatery you should make it a point to visit, particularly if you like horses because the restaurant allows its guests to visit on horseback!
Here are some other intriguing hotspots you may want to try:
- Beaver Creek Chophouse
- Coyote Café
- Grouse Mountain Grill
- Allie’s Cabin Wine Dinners
- Splendido at the Chateau
- Mirabelle at Beaver Creek
- Spruce Saddle Lodge
Cherokee, North Carolina to Waynesboro, Virginia
One of the most iconic and celebrated driving paths in the USA, the Blue Ridge Parkway connects Cherokee, North Carolina to Waynesboro, Virginia over 469 miles of roadway. Commissioned by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935 during the Great Depression, the interstate highway was originally intended to be a path that stretched from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Shenandoah National Park.
With nearly 15 million drivers exploring at least some part of the Blue Ridge Parkway every year, the roadway is one of the safest choices for solo female travel, solo travel for men, and travel for single parents traveling with young children. Even if you’re alone in your automobile, there will still be plenty of other travelers on the road that you can flag down if you experience a problem.
If you’re a supporter of ecotourism, you’ll appreciate the inherent design of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The parkway is a prime example of conservatism because it has no hotels, eateries, billboards, or gas stations along its borders. Instead, pristine natural landscapes line the sides of the road. The parkway has more than 200 amazing overlooks that provide excellent views in every direction.
Here are some of the places you’ll want to stop and soak in nature’s splendor as you make your way along the Blue Ridge Parkway:
- Jefferson National Forest
- George Washington National Forest
- Nantahala National Forest
- Pisgah National Forest
- Mount Mitchell
- Grandfather Mountain
- Linville Gorge Wilderness
- Julian Price Memorial Park
- Looking Glass Rock
Destin to Marco Island, Florida
Florida is one of the country’s largest states, so it only makes sense that it’s a veritable melting pot of culture, varying climates, and beautiful landscapes. If you travel through The Sunshine State from north to south, you can see a lot of the best of what the Emerald Coast has to offer.
As you leave Destin, you’ll want to head east to the capital city of Tallahassee. Once there, check out the Tallahassee Museum. If you like live theater, you may also want to catch a live performance at the Amphitheatre.
Do you consider yourself a foodie? If so, you’ll feel right at home in Cedar Key. That town is where you can enjoy some of the tastiest clams you’ll find anywhere. Once you’ve filled up on clams, head over to Three Sisters Springs to go swimming and kayaking with manatees.
If you bypass Tampa and Sarasota, your next stop should be in Fort Meyers. You can spend days enjoying Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach. After you soak up some rays, you can tour the former summer homes of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.
Next up will be a stop in Naples and Marco Island. Once there, you’ll be at the gateway to the Florida Everglades. To make your trip extra special, consider going on an airboat tour of the Everglades, which is an amazing experience that unfolds at breakneck speeds. While there’s no guarantee, there’s always a reasonable chance that you’ll see an alligator during an airboat tour.
If you’re not a fan of the water, you can take a walking tour of the Everglades. Just be sure you wear appropriate footwear and attire considering the weather and terrain.
Frequently Asked Questions
When you go solo, the world is your oyster! Try traveling from NYC to the 1000 Islands, L.A. to the Bay Area, or Destin to Marco Island, FL. See more solo road trip ideas and tips at AdventureBook.com.
Before embarking on a solo road trip, check insurance coverage, create an itinerary and share it with a few trusted friends, set a schedule, pack light, and get your vehicle checked before you go.
We think everyone should take a solo road trip at some point in their lives. There’s nothing like the feeling of traveling alone. The freedom, the adventure, and the self-discovery are intoxicating!