Smartphones mean that you’re never truly alone on the road these days … and thank god for that. These seven apps not only maximize the efficiency of a road trip, but they also enhance the sense of discovery and exploration — and who doesn’t love that?
Roadtrippers: Want to hit the road, but can’t decide where you want to go or what you want to see and do? You’re in luck —because Roadtrippers does all the work for you. Not only does it come up with custom itineraries (like an awesome one to channel your inner mad scientist), but it tracks the best route between two locations and makes suggestions for off-the-beaten-path things to see along the way.
Roadtrippers can plan a custom trip — and help get you there. (Roadtrippers)
GasBuddy: I’ll come right out and say it: I’m a little cheap. I’m also a little irrational. Sometimes I will circle around a town, searching out cheaper gas, burning up extra gas in the process. That’s why GasBuddy works for me. Powered by users who “report” what they just paid for gas, GasBuddy finds your location and tells you where to find the lowest prices. Because it is powered by updates, there is some room for error, but for the most part I’ve found it to be pretty spot on, helping me save at the pump.
A sample search for fuel prices on GasBuddy. (GasBuddy)
BestParking: I hate the kind of people who call themselves “parking genies,” with their brags of, “Oh, I never have trouble finding a spot/lot. Parking is so easy for me.” I call those people “jerks.” Well, for better or worse, BestParking turns you into one of those jerks. The app maps out the nearest available parking, tells you what it costs, and then finds coupons to get you the lowest available rate.
HotelTonight: I once did a 17-day road trip through Italy in a station wagon we named Maggie — popping into a different city every night around midnight and asking in my sad-sack Italian, “Avete una camera per tre persone?” Sometimes they did, and sometimes they didn’t. All of that could have been avoided if I’d had HotelTonight. See, it’s rare that hotels reach full occupancy on any given night. When they don’t, they pass off their unused rooms to HotelTonight, which then posts them at a deep discount. You can easily search by price or destination. The app doesn’t have every location just yet, but it’s expanding quickly, so it is worth checking before you exhaust yourself searching all over town for a bed.
Field Trip: This app created by Google sends you push notifications about fun things (historic sights, cool architecture, restaurants, events) to do anywhere you can get smartphone service. Added bonus: The app gets smarter the more you use it, customizing what it tells you to do based on your thumbs-up or thumbs-down ratings. One word of warning: Unless you adjust the settings, Field Trip will keep running in the back of your smartphone, seriously draining battery life. Turning it on only when you want to use it will save the battery. Then again, you could miss out on some delightful hidden gems right beneath your nose.
Skymap/Star Chart: These are for the inner Neil deGrasse Tyson in all of us. For Android, you’ll want to download Skymap and Star Chart for iOS. The farther you get out of town, the more exciting the night sky gets (especially for those of us living in high-density urban areas). It’s always fun to stare at the night sky and guess about what you’re looking at, but it’s even more fun to KNOW what you’re looking at. With these apps, you just point your screen at the night sky, and GPS data translates exactly what you’re seeing.