Hitting the Road? Here Are the Best Road Trip Apps
It’s finally summer: official road trip season! Whether you plan on traveling solo or with a van full of kids, here are some of the best apps to make sure your cross-country trip is a little easier, a bit more fun, and an experience you’ll never forget.
iExit tells you, in real time, when and where the nearest interstate exits are. It also tells you what you can expect to find at each exit (gas stations, lodging options, rest stops, restaurants, etc).
A few cents difference per gallon might not seem like anything to worry about, but if you’re traveling thousands of miles it can add up super fast. This well-reviewed app will make it easy to find the cheapest fuel stops along the way to wherever you’re going.
Waze is a navigation app sort of like Google Maps, but more user-based. In addition to giving you directions, it also shows real-time traffic updates provided by other Waze users. So if there’s heavy construction or an accident up ahead, you can find out before it’s too late and you’re stuck in the mess; especially helpful when you’re driving through an area you are completely unfamiliar with. There are rumors Facebook and Google are both trying to acquire it (for $1 billion!), so it must be pretty good.
Good music is at the heart of any successful road trip; there’s just nothing like jamming out to your favorite tunes, windows rolled down, feet up on the dashboard. Songza is one of my favorite music apps because you can find playlists based on your mood/the occasion. They have lots of road trip mixes to choose from (Onward and Westward: Road Trip Music for the Prairies, Family Car Trip Mix, and 80’s One-Hit Wonders Road Trip Mix all sound pretty fun).
For the intellectuals out there, this app gives you access to thousands of news shows and podcasts (NPR, CNN, BBC, TedTalks, to name a few), and lets you “stitch” them together to make custom stations. A lot like Pandora, but for talk radio.
Here’s a nice little game for keeping kids entertained on long drives. For when you just can’t bear to listen to Finding Nemo playing from the back seat anymore.
FunBlast! Trivia (Free, iOS)
Really, any trivia app will do, as long as you have a friend/spouse/partner/whatever to play with.
Food and Out-of-Car Entertainment
The nice thing about the Yelp app is that it not only tells you where the nearest restaurants/bars are located, but whether or not they’re any good. Since it’s been around so long, lots of places have hundreds (some even thousands) of reviews. Even if it is sort of mandatory to have at least one really awful dining experience to laugh about, now they don’t all have to be bad. Here are 34 more food/restaurant apps worth checking out.
One of my favorite My very favorite part of road tripping across the country is the chance the try local beers in a bunch of different cities. This app tells you the bars/brew pubs that have good craft beer on tap so you can plan your beer stops accordingly.
This app is great for when you just need a break from the car and the chance to stretch your legs. It not only shows you the closest parks, but tells you which ones are best for picnicking (or other activities), and which ones have playground for the kids to run around at.
Roadside America ($2.99, iOS)
This app tells you where all the weird/odd/hilarious roadside attractions are located along your route. Never miss another “world’s largest ball of twine” again.
If you’re not planning on driving through the night, this is a great app for finding a place to pitch a tent. It shows state and national parks as well as privately owned campsites, and includes rates, user photos, reviews, and most importantly, how to get there from wherever you are.
There’s about a million hotel booking apps out there, but here’s one that offers deals on last-minute bookings — perfect for road trips where you can’t really know for sure when/where you’ll need a place to crash for the night.
Documenting all the Fun
If you don’t have Instagram already, it’s definitely a road trip (and life) must-have. I’ve tried a lot of different photo apps and, personally, I think Instagram is simply the best. Not only can you share your adventures with friends and family back at home, you can use the mapping feature to create a (literal) picture trail of your trip, and even easily make a photo book or memory box using all the photos you take. #Awesome.
Here’s a fun app that allows you to make a complete travel log of your trip, complete with geo-tagged photos and videos.
One of the best photo collage apps out there, Diptic lets you combine lots of individual pictures into one photo (so you don’t clog up everyone’s Facebook and Instagram feeds with your road trip pics). You can also add captions and filters. I have a couple free collage apps and, while they work, this one is definitely better (and well worth the extra dollar).
A Beautiful Mess ($0.99, iOS)
This is my favorite photo editing app for adding captions, borders and other little “extras” to my cell phone pictures. It’s consistently one of the top 20 paid apps for the iPhone, and will be available for the Android later this summer.