How to Plan a 7 Day Solo U.S. Road Trip?
The most important part of planning a solo U.S. road trip as a female is being FLEXIBLE with your travel plans. This road trip adventure was across the U.S. Southern states on Interstate 10 from Santa Monica, California going East to Sarasota, Florida.
My week long road trip started midday on December 30th and I arrived on January 6th in Florida. I combined solo days with visiting friends. So.. not truly solo the entire time. My tripod came in handy for photos.
Pre-Planning Tips and Safety
- Time of the year is important. Even on the Southern route you can hit snow during the Winter. In New Mexico it was rainy and 38 degrees, and in Marfa, TX the temperature went down to the high 20’s at night. The Summer months can be extremely hot in the desert regions.
- Think about how many hours you are comfortable with driving each day. I drove 7-8 hours on average with a long day on the end of 11.5 hours. Remember to calculate in extra time for food and bathroom stops. Are you ok with driving at night. You will miss seeing some sites at night.
- 7 Days is tight to see a lot of sites. If you are interested in seeing more than 1 site a day extend the length of your trip. A longer trip will offer a more relaxing schedule and less planning with the option to stop for unexpected sites.
- Have your car serviced before you leave to make sure it is in perfect working order. Consider joining a road side assistance plan if you do not have one already. Most likely you will need to rent a car if you are only going in one direction.
- Have a rough idea of the sites you want to see and cities you would like to stay in and calculate the hours to each.
- Do you have friends along the route? I reached out to friends that I had not seen in 25+ years. We were excited to reconnect and they were kind enough to offer me to stay with them for the night.
- Do not make hotel reservations until the morning of your stay. This sounds nerve-wracking, but it will give you much more flexibility as to where you stop without hotel cancellation fees. If it is the high season, you will want to check on hotel availability a few days prior.
- Bring clothing for all types of weather. Rain jacket, polar fleece, boots, sandals. You will hit rain, cold, and perfect weather along the way.
- Download remote areas such as Marfa, TX & White Sands NP on Google Maps. You can lose your connection in some of these spots. Once downloaded, you can use Google Maps offline.
- Consider staying in towns versus hotels along the Interstate. As a solo female, I felt safer in these areas versus an interstate hotel.
Where to Stop Along Interstate 10 from CA to FL
Palm Springs, CA – Funky and Fun
Palm Springs is a must for a U.S. Road stop. The oasis desert city located about 2 hours from downtown Los Angeles used to be known for rich retired people like Bob Hope. It is now often ranked high on lists of the hippest mid-size U.S. cities. Stay at The Parker Palm Springs for its amazing mid-century design and fabulous restaurants. Head over to Palm Canyon Drive to check out shopping and to visit The Palm Springs Art Museum. If you plan your road trip right, you can be in Palm Springs for The Palm Springs International Film Festival or Modernism Week. Both events really capture the cool essence of this City.
Tuscon, AZ – Dramatic Sonoran Desert
Tucson is another great desert City located just off the 10. Spend the night in Tucson after 6 plus hours on the road from Palm Springs. Check into El Presidio Bed & Breakfast Inn. Only .7 miles to Downtown Tucson and feels like a country inn. Walk (during daylight) to Congress Street in the recently revitalized downtown area of Tucson. Grab a burger at Diablo Burger and some ice cream at The Screamery Make sure you get in bed early to wake up at 6:30 a.m. for a short invigorating hike in Saguaro National Park on the Agua Caliente Trailhead. Great hike and you won’t have to pay the entrance fee at the Park entrance. Jump back in the car to make it to New Mexico by sunset!
New Mexico – White Sands National Park
A brand new National Park as of December 20, 2019! Get off of I -10 in Las Cruces New Mexico and drive about 1 hour North on route 70 to this magical National Park. Make sure you have a full tank of gas as you will drive through a mountain pass to get there and you will drive 16 more miles in and out of the park to the dunes. The entrance fee for White Sands National Park was $10 for one person. Try to time it for sunset, as it is just gorgeous. Check in at the park store and rent a disc sled and some wax. The dune sledding was a blast! Get back in your car and drive the 4 hours to Marfa, TX.
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Marfa, TX – “Tough to Get to, Tougher to Explain”
Marfa’s town logo is very apropos “Tough to Get to, Tougher to Explain”. Marfa is 1 hour Southeast of I-10 in Texas’ high desert. Basically in the middle of nowhere! I chose to visit Marfa after continually seeing the image of the “Prada storefront” in the middle of nowhere on Instagram. The store is actually an art installation on route 90 on the way to Marfa from I-10. I missed seeing it as I was driving at night. Luckily, my hotel The Hotel St. George was a great stay (upgraded to a suite) and the town is quirky and unique. Plan to visit on a Saturday as not much is open. They call it “Marfa Time”. The town is known for art and culture in the middle of nowhere. A fun off-the-beaten path with a definite hipster vibe. Fun to check out once.
San Antonio, TX – Remember the Alamo!
Wow! San Antonio was a wonderful surprise! The history, lively nightlife and delicious authentic Mexican food. These were just a few of the things I experienced in a quick 12 hour visit with 8 of those hours sleeping. Most noteworthy was the amount of cool history in San Antonio! The Riverwalk and the Alamo. Did you know the Alamo Mission in San Antonio was built in 1718 and is a World UNESCO Heritage site!? The Riverwalk is younger, but you’ll feel like you have been transported to a European city. This South Texas treasure was built in 1929 and helps San Antonio to be ranked at the top of the “Most Romantic Cities” lists. Finally, don’t forget the yummy Mexican food at Mi Tierra Cafe. It is definitely a bit touristy, but sometimes you just have to do it!
New Orleans, LA – The Big Easy!
I can’t believe I waited this long to visit New Orleans. As a result, I will need several more visits, because there is a lot to see and experience in New Orleans. The architecture, the history, culture and the incredible food are in my opinion ranked up there with New York, San Francisco and many European cities. My day and a half visit included seeing some of The Garden District and some of The French Quarter. Make sure to take a walk in Audobon Park, sample some freshly shucked oysters at Acme Oyster House, get a Sazerac at Muriel’s and drink it on the balcony, a beignet & cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde and then head over to Baachanal for some jazz wine and charcuterie. Yep…go to NOLA very hungry..because you’ll be doing a lot of eating!
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Crystal River, FL – Swim with the Manatees!
Driving through Tallahassee, FL, I had the option to continue on I-10 and then jump on I-75 for the rest of the trip to Sarasota, FL. I opted to take the alternate via US-27 S and US-19 S/US-98 S. This route took me closer to the Gulf and through quaint old original Florida towns with cracker houses, bungalows and cottages. These small towns transport you back in time when residents sat on their front porches and enjoyed the Gulf breezes. Crystal River has become a bit busier as a result of people discovering that manatees swarm to the warm bays in cold weather. I did not have a wet suit to swim with the manatees, but I did stop at Hunter Springs Park. This park has a small beach and the manatees were plentiful in the water right off the beach. Most of all, this is a fun authentic Florida stop!
Sarasota, FL – Last Stop and White Crystal Sand Beaches
In conclusion here is a separate blog post that will give you a complete run-down on the wonderful city of Sarasota, FL
Why Every Woman Needs to Take a Solo Road Trip Across America
- It is really fun!
- You get to see this amazing beautiful Country
- You feel a sense of empowerment and accomplishment
- You can visit friends that you have not seen in years and realize how lucky you are to have those friends and reconnect immediately.
- You can ask for directions whenever you feel like it…lol
- If you have been Abroad multiple times but have not yet seen many of our U.S. National Parks…you are really missing out.
- You can set an example for your mothers, daughters, nieces, granddaughters, girlfriends and other females in your life that….Girls can do anything!
- You can taste the many unique regional foods that America has to offer and learn how to cook them.
- See the amazing different types of architecture across the U.S.
- Learn more about our U.S. history. If you are a visual learner like me..this is invaluable.
- Experience the different U.S. cultures and realize what a cool melting pot America has become in 243 years.
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