Illustration by Erik Mace for Yahoo Travel
The good old days when a road trip consisted of four wheels and an atlas are long gone. But maybe they weren’t the good old days after all. We often wax nostalgic about a time without our smartphones, but the truth of the matter is that those smartphones truly can improve any road trip, if used properly.
There are hundreds of apps out there that claim to make your road trip better. We’ve road-tested them all (pun entirely intended), and we promise these are the ones that are actually worth a download.
As someone who rents cars about three times a month but doesn’t use a car in my daily commute, I first began using GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas closest to the car rental location. GasBuddy crowdsources gas prices to provide you with the most up-to-date information on gas prices based on your location. It is a must-download for any road trip.
Don’t let traffic rule your road trip. The Israeli-invented Waze provides the most up-to-date and accurate traffic reports and route advice.
Photo: Hotel Tonight/iTunes
Need a last-minute hotel room but don’t want to break the bank? Hotel Tonight is your best bet for getting discount rooms on the go. The app also launched one of our favorite hotel innovations this year with its Aces system, a chat feature that connects guests with the company’s team of insiders for access to everything from local tips to recommendations to room and hotel requests. This means that you never have to pick up the phone to ask for anything — an extra toothbrush, a wake-up call, or a midnight snack — ever again.
Forget the playlist, now everyone has a reading list for their road trip. Download Audible to get the latest new releases and classics.
OMG I Can Meditate
Photo: OMG I Can Meditate/iTunes
Looking to conquer your road rage with a little zen? Then this is the app for you.
With a simple touchscreen and easy to follow guided instructions, travelers can access meditations like “Relaxing in the Clouds,” “Blanket of Love,” and “Dealing With Anxiety.”
Think Pinterest is just for finding recipes and ways to DIY your own bird feeder? Think again. This app is one of the best road trip tools out there. Type in your destination and what you are looking for (nature hikes, restaurants, museums), and you’ll get advice, reviews, and so much more.
Photo: Dark Sky
You don’t need to be a weather junkie to appreciate the genius behind Dark Sky. This app will give you minute-by-minute weather updates so that you can accurately plan when you want to be on the road.
Plug your dietary restrictions and nutritional needs into HealthyOut, and this app will find you the perfect restaurant. With information for more than 500 cities, you can get crazy specific about any and all weird food issues. Want a paleo-friendly restaurant with appetizers under 400 calories and gluten-free options? Try asking your concierge for that one.
One of the best parts about road tripping is discovering new things in new places. Yes, that means actually getting out of the car.
But sometimes finding those new things can be difficult. Utrip makes it easy. You tell Utrip your interests, budget, and group size. By sliding the levers on the Utrip dashboard, you can adjust your intake of history, art, shopping, and noshing — and set your own pace. Utrip’s algorithm then sorts through millions of possibilities and in minutes, Utrip spits out a tailored day-by-day itinerary, complete with maps. You can even book a hotel room through one of Utrip’s hotel partners. Once you’ve selected your hotel, your daily itinerary is optimized for your hotel’s location. If you already have a hotel (or Airbnb or the like) booked, you can add it to the itinerary and Utrip will adjust the settings. You can also share your plans via Facebook and Twitter.