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 in App Store 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 in App Store and Google Play) to compare gas prices. The prices are crowdsourced, 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, try WeeWeeFree (Free in App Store and Google Play). WeeWeeFree has restroom ratings and you can search by features, like baby station, family restroom, gender neutral, and special needs. Shy about using a multi-stall bathroom? WeeWeeFree Symphony are sounds to cover up any sounds you may make.
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 App Store, preloaded on Android devices). Not only does it show you the quickest route when you start out, but it will also alert you when a faster route becomes available.
If you typically use a radar detector, you'll appreciate Waze (Free on App Store and Google Play). This traffic app uses crowdsourced data to find a faster route for your commute, but the alerts provided by other users include speed traps and red light cameras as well. With a large user base, this app is as good as real-time traffic reporting gets.
If you're concerned about tolls and gas adding up, check out TollGuru (Free on App Store and Google Play). You can calculate tolls and gas together for a wide range of vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, RVs and SUVs towing a trailer, among others. Input your car make and model year and expected gas price for the best accuracy. You can plan routes in the U.S. and Canada.
Don't want to miss any sightseeing gems on your trip? Enter your starting point and your destination and the Roadtrippers app (Free in App Store 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." The free version of the app only lets you add 5 stops. Upgrading to Roadtrippers Plus ($29.99 per year), lets you store up to 150 waypoints on your route, see traffic and view maps offline. And, you won't see any ads.
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 into staying in a particular hotel or town as you travel, you can book your room while you're on the road. Trip Advisor (Free in App Store 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 in App Store 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 in App Store and Google Play). Not only does it show you local eateries, but it also lists microbreweries, organic coffee shops, and farmers markets.
If you've found the perfect place but need a reservation, OpenTable (Free in App Store 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. If outdoor seating is available, you can usually choose to book an outdoor table.
When arriving in a strange town, finding parking is going to be your first task. The Best Parking app (Free on App Store 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, and then further refine you search by features like accessible spaces, valet parking, on-site security, and electric vehicle charging, among others.
Updated on 4/23/2021
[Image credit: couple driving in convertible via BigStockPhoto, iExit, Google, Toll Guru, Roadtrippers, Trip Advisor, OpenTable, Best Parking]https://www.bigstockphoto.com/image-99311465/stock-photo-happy-young-carefree-couple-driving-along-country-road-in-convertible-at-sunset