Best Apps for Road Trips
Today paper road maps and Tomtom navigation seems like a very distant past. Technology has certainly made things easier for us, and road trips are no exception. Here is the list of my must-have apps for road trips. Download these suggested apps, and your favorite music, movies, books, and podcasts before hitting the road. Keep batteries of your devices charged and enjoy your road trips.
Road Trip Planning
RoadTrippers is a great and quick resource for inspiration and planning. It helps find local diners, hotels, roadside attractions, and other scenic points of interest along the route. The free version allows to plot a route with up to 7 waypoints and the paid version gives up to 150 waypoints per trip as well as offline maps. All saved trips sync automatically across devices. RoadTrippers currently includes road trips in the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Google Maps (free)
Besides its obvious use, while driving, it is an indispensable app for my road trip planning. I use it to plan my route, calculate driving distances, and search nearby hotels and attractions.
I take screenshots of the driving steps, rather than downloading several maps for trips that involve state-hopping to save space on my phone.
Road Trip – Bookings
While making bookings for accommodations, you will most likely use the website, it is a good idea to download apps for quick access and to make any changes to your bookings. I always use the following three websites to make advance bookings in the USA.
Booking.com and Airbnb
Depending on the location and preference I use these two interchangeably.
This is the app to book campsites, cabins within national forests, and national parks. Though you can apply for special use permits e.g. climbing Mt. Saint Helens.
On the Road – Navigation and Search
Waze is a crowd-sourced traffic map and navigation app. I use it to check real-time traffic conditions, accidents, speed traps, etc, especially when driving through big cities to avoid traffic jams and cranky passengers.
GasBuddy helps find the cheapest nearby gas station from their present location in the USA and Canada. Report and update a station’s prices and get points to win the prize of free gas. Plugshare app is to find nearby charging stations for your electric car.
iExit is another useful app while driving on interstate highways. It displays pictographs of amenities at upcoming interstate exits. It also allows you to search for specific businesses, check gas prices, and find amenities such as Wi-Fi, campgrounds, rest stops, etc at the next 100 exits.
HotelTonight offers a deeply discounted rate for the same night hotel bookings in North America, Europe, and Australia. A handy app to search for nearby hotels, read reviews, and make bookings when your plan needs a tweak – on a whim or unexpected. I always call the hotel to compare the direct rates, sometimes direct rates are better than the app.
On the Road – for peace and happiness
Spotify (free, and paid)
Music is one of the exciting parts of the road trip experience. Everyone in my family has a unique taste in music. We take turns playing our favorite music from the millions of songs available on Spotify. I will highly suggest getting a premium monthly subscription for an ad-free listening experience. It is $9.99 for one person, $12.99 for two people, and $14.99 for a family of six. Most importantly you will be able to download music for uninterpreted tunes. Spotify has curated playlists, playlists of your friends and celebrities, besides your personal lists.
Making playlists for the road trip is such a fun activity before the trip. My Road Trip Playlist on Spotify keeps growing with every trip, follow it for a diverse music listening experience.
Podcast (iOS, free) and PocketCast (Android, free)
After music, podcasts keep the drive interesting, especially long stretches of nothingness. Podcasts ignite great conversations and discussions. I download several episodes of my favorite podcasts. Here is my all-time top-10 podcasts list, try them if you have not yet.
RadioLab: top favorite! A true listening joy, investigative stories told through innovative sounds.
This American Life: Offbeat true stories with a new perspective on the extraordinary side of everyday life.
Snap Judgement: Dramatic radio of storytelling with killer beats.
Invisibilia: invisible forces that shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions.
How I Built This: interviews of innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists.
The Dirtbag Diaries: Adventure and outdoor stories told by the dirtbags themselves
Stuff You Should Know: deep-dive into diverse topics and subjects.
Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me: weekly current events quiz with plenty of laughs and fun.
Hidden Brain: reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior.
99% Invisible: an exploration of the process and power of design and architecture.
Audible (30 days trial, $14.95 a month)
If you like to listen to a book, Audible has a great collection of books to choose from. Personally, listening to a book while on the road, or airplane puts me to sleep. I use Audible while driving around the town or at home for listening to books, and on a trip, I use it to fall asleep especially on an airplane.
Games suggestions (free/paid)
For all the board-game lovers – if your kids are above eight years, and like us you also enjoy playing games together with family, here are some of our all-time favorites – Polytopia, 7 Wonders, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Catan, and Jaipur. Though most of them are paid, they are worth buying.
Road Trip – Sharing
Here is my favorite app to quickly share our road trips with friends and family.
1 Second Everyday (free, and paid)
It is an excellent app to make a visual diary of your road trip, a month, or a whole year. Just capture a second of video snippets everyday and create a movie for the specified dates. During the road trips, everyone in my family takes a second of video and creates a movie of the trip. It is fun to watch the uniqueness of perspectives on a trip taken together.
Technology has its many advantages and these apps have certainly made road trip planning, navigation, and entertainment way more efficient and easier. These apps enhance the reasons we take a road trip. It is time to plan for a road trip, come along for our 2-week New Mexico road trip to get inspiration.
Happy and safe travels!