Let’s face it, planning a U.S. road trip for solo travelers is A LOT OF WORK. Right? Wrong!
There is a lot of articles about American Road Trips, it’s (almost) a national pastime here in the United States. However, there are no good articles that consist of America Road Trip Advice for Solo Travelers, so I decided to create one!
But why would you want to road trip the United States solo?
The great thing about traveling solo is you have the freedom to see what you want when you want to see it. Plus, you get complete control of the radio station!
So, why do I think America is one of the best places to go on a road trip?
Our Road System
It’s no secret that the American infrastructure is slowly deteriorating, but it just varies from state to state! (Just ask anyone from Oklahoma Avoid Oklahoma. Their roads are bad AND they have 11 toll roads in the entire state!!!! This is coming from someone who wanted to go to school there.)
If you avoid Oklahoma, the rest of the United States *should be okay. Just stick to the major road systems. So, what are the major U.S. Road Systems?
- Started in the 1950s by President Eisenhower.
- Speed limits vary from 50 to 80 miles per hour!
- The road is free!
- Over 48,000 miles of road!
- Rumor: 1 out of every 5 miles is straight and serves as a landing strip. It would make sense as the Interstate Act was passed during the beginning of the Cold War.
Numbered Highway Road System
- Over 157,000 miles of road
- The speed limit varies from 50 to 70 miles per hour!
- You can drive from Bangor, Maine to Los Angeles, California
- Dirt Roads
- State Highways
- Scenic Byways
- Hundreds of thousands of miles
- Basically, you can travel anywhere
We have every type of scenery/ecosystem!
If you know where to go, you can climb a mountain, chill at the beach, and be in a rainforest in one day! (Oregon) Seriously, we have it all. We have over 100 different Level III ecoregions! But the climate varies with the United States. Be prepared!
These pictures were taken less than 24 hours apart!!
We are (mostly) nice
Yes, we are not known for being quiet, but most of us are great people!
Now that I have have hopefully convinced you to visit the United States, here is specific U.S. road trip advice for solo travelers
1. Stick to the lower-48
Sure, Alaska and Hawaii are beautiful, but I highly recommend sticking to the lower-48 United States for your road trip. Anchorage is over 2,000 miles from Seattle, which is about 36 hours of non-stop driving!
Plus, avoiding Alaska helps mitigate any potential border issues when you travel into Canada. Don’t get me wrong, Canadians are nice people. But you just want to avoid the hassle of acquiring a second visa. (On a side note, I really want to go to Alaska now.)
As for Hawaii, the distance is the issue again. (And also a lack of land.) Hawaii is a seven-hour flight from the United States mainland! Instead, try to visit Southern California. The beaches are just as nice, and the weather is just as good.
2. Rent an eco-friendly vehicle
Most American families will rent or buy a HUGE RV to use on road trips. After all, it is easy to rent one, you can cook your food in the small kitchen, and you will avoid expensive hotel costs. (Some people even sleep in Walmart parking lots!)
But for the solo traveler, I recommend an eco-friendly option like the Prius! Or if you need more space, the Hyundai Elantra. 😉
I like green energy and being eco-friendly. But you also will save A LOT of money by renting an eco-friendly car. (When you are a solo traveler, you know this is important.)
However, why do I NOT recommend using an electric vehicle? The United States does not have the infrastructure for electric cars. Hopefully soon!
American Tip: In the United States, we have an app called Gas Buddy. You can enter your location, and it will show you the cheapest gas prices around. I use it when I need gas, and I love it!
3. Get a National Parks Pass
If you want to experience nature, I highly recommend buying the National Parks Pass. For only $80, you can visit any National Park, Forrest, or Wildlife Refuge for an entire year! That is over 2,000 sites!
The entrance fee to one National Park is already $20 per day/week, so you would begin to save money after the 4th national park! (Visiting four National Parks in a state like California is doable.)
An ultimate road-trip always consists of visiting various national parks, but you should camp in one too! You may be thinking, “I can’t go off-roading in the Prius.” And that is true. You may have to park at the parking lot and hike to your camping spot!
4. Do not bring a lot of stuff
Say it with me now, “I will not bring a lot of stuff when I decide to road trip across the U.S.”
Most people overpack on their trips, but this is not needed. The United States is a consumer-driven economy, and we have almost everything. And if you cannot find it at Walmart, you can have Amazon deliver whatever you need. (Seriously, they will deliver to Whole Foods lockers.)
Even if you decide to make your own food to save money, don’t worry about overpacking your personal cooking items. (See more about the U.S. food below.) More than likely, you are less than 40 miles from a grocery store. So, it is easier to get food and supplies, and this is just another reason to rent a small vehicle.
Pro-Tip: Another reason to not bring a lot of things? Souvenirs! I do not think we have a lot of cool and exciting things, but you might think so!
5. Purchase a cheap cell phone
Where do I begin…… there is no easy way to purchase a cell phone plan in the United States. We have 3 major carriers: T-Mobile/Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T. You can find other regional companies, but they typically use the same towers. So, what do I recommend?
Purchase a temporary burner phone upon your arrival to the United States. From gas stations to grocery stores, most places sell at least one option. Just don’t forget to purchase the minutes plan!
This may be less than ideal, but it is a great safety net. I broke down on the side of Interstate 70 and did not have good cell phone reception…. let’s just say it wasn’t fun. In rural America, the cell phone reception is extremely spotty.
For my extreme budget-conscious travelers: If you want to minimize cost, you can bring your personal phone. Most coffee shops have Wi-Fi, and you can always connect with your friends and family via WhatsApp or messenger. But if you get stuck without reception, this could be disastrous!!!
Also: It is always just a good idea to have a cell phone plan in case of an emergency.
6. How to find and meet people
Finally, you made it to the United States! Congrats! So, how do you start making friends?
Most housing accommodations are likely for individuals, so meeting people can be kind of difficult. If I had any advice, it would be to just go and start talking.
Usually, people are camping in the same location, or even hiking on the same trail. In my experience, most of these people are friendly. Just ignore the rude stares and start talking!
Not-so-fun-fact: Finding and building community can be difficult in the United States. I actually took a class in college about the wealth gap, social capital, and the way neighborhoods and communities are formed. Really interesting information. Highly recommend reading Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam.
7. Finding a place to stay
Unlike Europe, our hostel and couch surfing options are extremely limited. So, finding a place to stay in the United States is extremely expensive!! Most Americans will stay in hotels. But the AVERAGE COST OF A HOTEL ROOM IN THE UNITED STATES IS OVER $100 AFTER TAXES!!!!
Instead of spending an ungodly amount of money for a hotel room, I always recommend solo travelers use Airbnb. I am an avid user of Airbnb and have never been disappointed.
Budget-friendly option: You could always camp!
Our specialty is stealing other culture’s food, frying it, and then drizzling cheese on it. Confused? So am I.
Also, we love sweets. It isn’t uncommon to have a cinnamon roll for breakfast, a cookie with your lunch, and ice cream with dinner. If that sounds great to you, then welcome to America.
One quick note on fast food: Fast food is going to surround you on a road trip: hamburgers, tacos, and noodle bowls. If you can think of it, we have it. But fast food in the United States is awful for you. Instead, try to cook as much as possible.
9. Travel Insurance
We have talked about why every traveler should buy travel insurance. And let’s face it, most people would not imagine purchasing trip insurance for a trip to the United States. I did say the United States was safe!
However, my biggest fear for travelers to the United States is an unexpected medical bill. I have disappointing experiences I hate the U.S. health care system, especially for-profit insurance. It’s expensive, confusing, and extremely annoying.
The last souvenir you want from the United States is a $10,000 medical bill.
10. Have fun
Obvious, right? Climb that mountain! Spend that extra day in California! One of the best things about traveling in the United States is flexibility.
(This is also one of the best parts about a U.S. Road Trip when you travel solo….you can see whatever you want when you want to! We have (almost) everything you need for a perfect vacation!)
Well, that’s all I can think about when it comes to solo road-tripping across the United States. It can be an adventure, a hot mess, and of course A LOT OF FUN! What do you think, would you travel to the U.S.? What part do you want to see?