Thursday, April 01, 2010

Solo Woman -- Six-Week Road Trip ?

Hi Mr Road Trip !

I just stumbled across your site and looks like an awesome resource for both where to go and how to do it. I really liked the plan one reader had to travel with a bike so he could cycle around at each location. I myself am planning a road trip of about six weeks in June and July, originating in Washington DC and ending in New York. I’d like to see “all four corners” of the country, and a lot in between, so I’m looking at doing the Oregon Trail, the Pacific Coast, the Southern Pacific and the Atlantic Coast routes (plus the northern part of the Appalachian route to take me up through New England and back down to NYC).

I’ve got a couple of inter-related questions about where to stay along the way. I would love to find cheap lodgings, but I’ll be a 25-year old woman traveling alone and I’d like to stay safe – what restrictions, if any, does that place on my lodgings? If camping grounds are safe and plentiful along my route, I would definitely invest in a decent tent. But I know next to nothing about this – are some camping grounds guarded overnight? How safe are they generally? Other cheap lodgings options I’ve thought of include using to find free places to stay in cities (this seems relatively safe because the couch-offerers get rated by previous couch-surfers), but I’d like to spend a fair amount of time in rural areas too. I assume that roadside motels are generally safe – are there any downsides to popping into your average rural roadside motel? As you suggested to another reader, I would consider buying a camper if I could find one for under $4-5K, but I’m curious about where I could park it at nights and whether you think it’s a safe thing for a young woman traveling alone to do. And are there any options that I’ve overlooked?

I’m not usually someone who’s overly concerned with safety, but I need to convince my family and my boyfriend that they don’t need to worry about me while I do this trip alone.

Thank you so much for this site!




Hi Sally --

Thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA. I have to say I am impressed by your plans and adventurous spirit, and will do anything I can do to reassure that your trip will be a great experience. Camping is definitely a great way to travel -- not only is it less expensive, but it lets you wake up in much prettier places (and helps avoid the temptation of watching too much cable TV in a motel room, which for me is both tempting and depressing.)

I am glad you like the website, and hope you get a chance to check out my Road Trip USA book, which has a lot more info and ideas (and pictures, too!)

To give you some specific responses, in my experience roadside motels are indeed safe and pleasant -- the ones you want to avoid usually look like places you want to avoid (which is why I strongly suggest travelers check out their potential accommodations while the sun is still shining, well before you start feeling desperate to find a place to sleep.) To my mind, motels that advertise rates by the month are often less salubrious -- and wherever you go, by all means ask to see specific rooms and get a feel for the bathrooms (and the proprietors) before you hand over the cash.

In general to save money and improve your chance for nice experiences, I would avoid bigger cities as much as possible in favor of small towns, rural areas, parks and forests, and wide open spaces.

I have never tried the couchsurfing mode -- but I definitely suggest you invest in a tent and a good air mattress (and maybe an ice chest and small butane stove). Also, look into youth hostels -- esp the ones run by the non-profit Hosteling International organization; there are 120 of these in 35 states (I'm reading from the website here...) -- and these cost around $25 a night, and may help you meet some like-minded fellow travelers.

Here's the HI Hostels URL:

I wouldn't really recommend you buy a camper, at least until you find out how you like to travel (And $4000 will rent a lot of motel rooms!) I like being outdoors, and have a camper myself, but usually end up sleeping outside in my tent -- the air is fresher, for sure. Alternating some nights tent camping with a few motel stays is a reasonable balance.

Before you set off on this six-week odyssey, I'd suggest you try some shorter trips, to learn how to pack / unpack and generally get in the road tripping spirit -- a couple long weekends will be good training for your summer marathon!

Also, for your big trip think about encouraging a few friends and / or family members to come meet you in places along the way -- this will help you establish an itinerary, and will break up the solitude (six weeks is a long time to be on your own.)

OK, these are some thoughts -- hope they help you make the trip a great one!

Drop me a line and let me know what you get up to.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


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Blogger *Kozziosko* said...

that's some great advice! I'm an Australian looking at doing a very similar trip next year but with a friend. Ok I'm going to buy your book :)

8:01 PM  
Blogger Dallas said...

In 2008 I did an 8 week road trip from Ontario to NY, NJ, PA, VA, WV, KY, TN, AK, TX, NM, AZ, UT, NE, CA, ID, WY, MT, ND, and MN.

I went with another girl and we camped the whole way. I wouldn't do it any other way. It is definitely cheaper and you get to experience the outdoors, meet people and save money on food because you can cook (if you have a small propane stove and other camping gear).

Hotel rooms are all the same. Camping in the desert is different than camping in the mountains, etc.

We stayed in state parks and national parks the whole way with an exception of 3 hotel rooms. 1 night we stayed in Murfreesboro, TN the night before the Bonnaroo Festival, we stayed a night in Austin, Texas and a night in Nevada because we were driving late.

Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions or advice.

my roadtrip photos are on there too.


12:15 PM  

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