Ten Apps to Download Before Your Next Road Trip
pack your bags (and your phone)
Your destinations are mapped, all your favorite snacks are packed, your bags are loaded into the trunk, and you even remembered to pack your toothbrush. You are seemingly ready to pull out of your driveway for your fun road trip, yet you can’t quite shake the feeling that you might be forgetting something.
Chances are, while focusing on all the traditional, tangible necessities you know you need for your travels and possibly romanticizing the idea of a ‘Great American Road Trip’, you might have forgotten to prep your phone or other electronics for the journey ahead. Aside from a charger or power bank to keep them running, you and your travel buddy should consider downloading the following apps on your devices to make your road trip the best it can be.
It goes without saying, but Google Maps should be on your phone (if it somehow isn’t already) before getting behind the wheel. It can talk you through your route whether you’re making a solo trek or traveling with buds, announce traffic updates and provide suggestions for navigating around accidents and construction, and suggest gas stations, food stops, and points of interest throughout your journey. Being a Google staple, it also gives you access to reviews, photos, and street views of the places you are visiting. You can even share your location in real time with friends and family, in case you need to meet up or just want to send them your progress.
Most importantly, you can save offline maps in case you drive into areas with spotty coverage. This awesome feature of the app allows you to download full city maps, as well as Google's navigation system, for use without internet. This way, you can travel with ease and without worries. (Pro tip: when making the finishing touches on your intended route, be sure to check your mobile carrier’s coverage and download your maps accordingly. Do so a couple days prior, since the app automatically deletes offline data after 30 days.)
While this app is much more of a must-have during the planning phase of your trip, it’s also really useful on the road. Their search function and fun, yet thorough, Trip Guides can help you map out exactly where to go, what to do, and how to get there. This includes categories for points of interest, food, indoor/outdoor accommodations, and even “weird stuff”—and it can all be saved for easy access on the app. Roadtrippers also has a lot of great resources to peruse for free, whether it’s while daydreaming about your next road trip or while taking a turn in the passenger’s seat mid-vacation.
Spotify (or your favorite music app)
No road trip is complete without the ultimate playlist, and your travels will be even better if you and your companions collaborate on it. Whether it’s themed to match your destination, filled with your go-to karaoke songs, or just a big ol’ jumble of everyone’s favorite tunes, make sure each passenger gets to have some input in your road trip playlist and you’re all set for a smooth ride. (Tried & True Advice: have whoever has the most free space on their phone download the playlist so that you can all enjoy the music without using up a ton of data!)
Weather on Wheels
The unpredictable nature of the weather poses problems for all modes of travel, but can be particularly annoying/problematic when on the road. To stay aware of what storms or other conditions you might pass through along the way to your destination, apps like Weather on Wheels can show you real time forecasts from the National Weather Service and notify you with warnings or advice on the go so that you won’t have any surprises and can prepare yourself.
Some roadtrippers plan and book their accommodations ahead of time. While there is no harm in that, it can lead to problems if plans change or if you encounter other roadblocks (figurative and literal) on longer routes. Sometimes, it can also be more expensive or make your trip longer if you have to stop before you’re tired enough for a break. If you want to be more spontaneous but don’t want to end up spending the night in a seedy motel, an alternative is to use HotelTonight the day (or evening) of your stay. With this option, you can feel prepared as well as have the added freedom and savings of stopping anywhere and at anytime. Hotels around the world share their unsold rooms with HotelTonight, they pass them along to you, and you score last minute deals without sacrificing comfort and convenience.
All these apps, in addition to all the awesome photos you’ll inevitably take on your road trip, will probably hog up your phone’s storage. Google Photos is super helpful because it lets you back up your photos automatically and then delete the copies on your device to free up space. It’s definitely a must-have for all adventures.
For obvious reasons, your car won’t last the entirety of your road trip without at least one pitstop. If you are traveling on major highways, you’ll probably have the luxury of choosing from multiple gas stations (as opposed to limited options in less populated areas); and when traveling on a budget, there’s nothing worse than filling up your tank only to drive a little further afterwards past another station to find out you paid way too much. Gas Buddy is constantly updated by users to help you find the lowest gas prices nearest to your current location.
Speaking of pit stops, you probably won’t want to do your business at the gas station. Apps like Flush seem kind of hilariously ridiculous in theory, but could be a real lifesaver when looking for a clean, free washroom—especially if you have any passengers of the child variety. This app shows you crowdsourced recommendations for where to “go” on the go. ‘Nuff said.
Audible (or podcasts/other audio)
There comes a time in every road trip when songs get overplayed, car ride games are overdone, and conversations run their course. Rather than sit in silence, why not let someone else do the talking for you? Come prepared by pre-downloading audiobooks, podcasts, or other content to pass the time and maybe even expand your minds.
To give you piece of mind, consider having an app like Blink Roadside on your phone in case of emergencies like locking yourself out of your vehicle, getting stuck on the side of the road with a flat, or running out of gas.
No matter how you equip your devices for your road trip, you’re bound to have a great time. Domestic travel is increasingly popular, especially among American millennials, with driving viewed as more convenient and cost effective than flying.