Thinking about taking a road trip? Be sure to load up on our picks for the best road trip apps. Whether you're out of gas, looking for something to see along the way or want to steer clear of speed traps or traffic, there's an app to help.
And, of course, remember to stay safe—don't try to use your phone while you're driving, no matter how handy the app.
Where to stop for the basics
Looking for a bite to eat? A restroom? WiFi? Something to see along the way? There are apps to help with all of these situations.
If you're traveling on a major highway, iExit (Free on iTunes and Google Play) is a great resource for amenities available at upcoming exits. There's information on restaurants, gas stations grocery stores, hospitals, hotels and more. Once the app finds you on a highway, it will show you the upcoming exits along with icons to represents amenities and how away each exit is. Then for each service, you can see just how far you'll to travel off your route—much better than those icons on the highway signs. If you're planning a trip, you can select a highway to plan out your stops.
If you're looking for gas, also open up Gas Buddy (Free on iTunes and Google Play) to compare gas prices. The prices are crowd sourced, so less-frequented areas may not have up-to-date information. You'll know, though, because you'll able to see when the prices were posted.
If it's a bathroom you're after, we like Sit orSquat (Free on iTunes and Google Play). The app hasn't been updated since 2014, though, so if you're not finding a toilet in your location, try Flush Toilet Finder (Free on iTunes and Google Play). Flush doesn't have restroom ratings, but may have more up-to-date locations.
Traffic, road hazards and speed traps
No one likes getting stuck in traffic or getting a ticket, so use an app to get alerted before you get stuck. No one likes getting stuck in traffic or getting a ticket, so use an app to get alerted before you get stuck. For a free traffic option, our pick is Google Maps (Free on iTunes, preloaded on Android devices). Not only does it show you the quickest route when you start out, it will alert you when a faster route becomes available.
If you typically use a radar detector, you'll appreciate Waze (Free on iTunes, Google Play and Windows Phone Store). This traffic app uses crowdsourced data to find a faster route for your commute, but the alerts provided by other users include speed traps as well. With a large user base, this app is as good as real-time traffic reporting gets.
Don't want to miss any sightseeing gems on your trip? Enter your starting point and your destination and the Roadtrippers app (Free on iTunes and Google Play) will find you interesting places to stop in between. Pick from categories such as amusement parks, adventure sports, historical markers and hiking, and you'll see places pop up along your driving route. You can read up on each attraction and choose to add it to your trip or your "Bucket List." Adding new places to your trip can be a little buggy with the app, but the search function alone is worth it.
Atlas Obscura may not have an app, but the website will help you find fun and more obscure attractions. You can search by type of attraction or your location. For instance, there are a lot of famous attractions near my office, but Atlas Obscura picked out the Graffiti Hall of Fame.
Where to stay
If you don't like to be locked in to staying in a particular hotel or town as you travel, you can book your room while you're on the road. Trip Advisor (Free on iTunes and Google Play) lets you search for hotels by city or zip code. Or you can find hotels that are closest to your current location. The app pulls up the highest ranking hotels first, lets you check rates and tells you how many miles away they are or shows them on a map relative to your location.
If you're in or near a large city, Hotel Tonight (Free on iTunes and Google Play) provides last minute travel deals (sometimes up to 70% off) for hotel rooms, literally, tonight. It can be the perfect app for finding a hotel that evening when you're out on the road—and around one of the locations that the app supports.
Where to eat
After a long day of driving on the open road, it’s too easy to pull off the highway at the first sighting of a familiar fast food sign. But you’re missing out on all the great small places with authentic and healthy regional food. That’s where Yelp comes in (Free on iTunes and Google Play). Not only does it show you fresh local eateries, it also lists microbreweries, organic coffee shops and farmers markets.
If you’re in a major city, Zagat (Free on iTunes and Google Play) will help you find a unique and highly rated eatery. It allows you to search by destination and you can sort restaurants by cuisine, price, features and more. No matter what your taste and budget, you're sure to find some great eats.
If you've found the perfect place but need a reservation, OpenTable (Free on iTunes and Google Play) is the place to go. Using their website or the OpenTable app, you can search for local restaurants with—get it?—open tables when you're planning on stopping for a meal. If you know where you want to eat, you can search for a specific restaurant—but you can also browse by location, cuisine type, price, and schedule.
When arriving in a strange town, finding parking is going to be your first task. The ParkMe app (Free on iTunes and Google Play) will show you available garage and street parking either immediately around you or anywhere you search on their map, along with the cost for each one. You can filter your search by either garage or street parking, as well as cheapest or closest spaces. Still can't decide? Tap the ParkMe button at the bottom of the screen and the app will recommend the cheapest option in the area. In addition, the app will tell you how many spaces are left in the garage or on a particular metered street, so you can judge if you can make it there in time to take advantage of their availability.
Once you're parked, there is a handy in-app timer you can set to warn you when you have to move your car (great for metered street parking.) And in case you can never remember where you parked, you can also mark the location of your spot in the app before you walk away.
Car Repair and Roadside Assistance
It’s not a real road trip unless your vehicle breaks down and you’re left stranded by the side of the road in Nowhere, USA, without air conditioning. When this calamity strikes, RepairPal (Free on iTunes and Google Play) can come to the rescue. You input the make and model of your vehicle and what you think is wrong with it, and this app gives you a list of mechanics and estimates the cost of the repair, breaking it down into parts and labor, and even offer common misdiagnoses. (If you don’t know what's wrong, you can specify that you need a diagnosis.)
You can also use the app’s one-touch roadside assistance, which will connect you to a call center that will make sure you get a tow, gas, tire change, battery charge or lockout assistance.
If you just need a tow, a flat tire changed or you run out of gas, check out Urgent.ly (Free on iTunes and Google Play). You get an up-front flat-rate price for the service, which you pay only when the service is completed.
Updated on 5/19/2016 with new apps.
[boys in car via Shutterstock, iExit, Google, Roadtrippers, Hotel Tonight, Zagat, ParkMe, Urgent.ly]