Few things in life are better than a great road trip. Whether you’ve caught the wanderlust bug from following one too many traveling shutterbugs on Instagram or you were born with a love of adventure, you’ve probably been feeling that annual warm-weather itch to hit the highway and explore someplace new. But before you slip on some shades and turn the key in the ignition, be sure to download a few handy road trip apps to make life easier out there. You’ll save money, eat well and maybe even discover some hidden roadside gems along the way. Buckle up!
1. AAA: First things first: safety, safety, safety. Even if you aren’t a member of the nation’s most well-known auto club, you can still take advantage of its mobile app, which helps with planning your route and finding fuel along the way. For members, roadside assistance is available for any unexpected surprises, like a flat tire.
2. GasBuddy: Life is expensive. A simple road trip shouldn’t be. To help out with that, GasBuddy locates the closest gas stations along your route and alerts you of their current prices so you can save a little scratch on the road. Just think of all the extra snacks you can buy out there!
3. PlugShare: Oh, you drive an electric car? First, the environment thanks you. Second, there’s no need to worry about finding a charging station, since PlugShare’s there to do it for you. Not only does it show public and supercharger stations, but it also shows residential EV charging sites being shared by fellow app users.
4. Roadside America: Here comes the fun stuff. Since it’s about the journey as much as the destination, don’t forget to stop and stretch your legs at some of the country’s coolest and most random places. Earning rave reviews from CNET and Travel + Leisure, this app offers info on more than 11,000 roadside attractions, so you’re sure to find some sort of local goings-on no matter where your trip is taking you.
DL: $2.99 for one region or $5.99 for all of US and Canada on iOS
5. Food Tripping: Getting hungry yet? A road trip isn’t a road trip without food, but for some of us, greasy spoon diners and even greasier burgers just aren’t on the table — literally or figuratively. That’s okay: Food Tripping is here to help sidestep fast food joints and find healthier (or at least more local) dining options on the road. With special categories for vegan establishments, farmers’ markets and more, even the most discerning foodie should be able to find a place to nosh along the way.
6. Glympse: It’s a wild world out there, and a feeling of security is worth its weight in gold. Whether you’re traveling solo or just trying to keep a caravan relatively close together, Glympse keeps your eyes and hands on the wheel while alerting key people to your whereabouts. It’ll even let your pre-set contacts know where you are and how long it should take you to get to your next stop.
7. Hotel Tonight: Especially great for spontaneous souls, this app makes smart use of empty hotel inventory by letting users scoop up last-minute rooms at deeply discounted rates. If you can bear to wait until the afternoon to find same-day accommodations, Hotel Tonight helps you book a place to lay your head.
8. Postagram: It’s just like its name implies: If postcards and Instagram came together in a perfect mashup, the result would be this app. Postagram takes your selected photos from Instagram, Facebook or Dropbox and lets you create a custom postcard to send with a note on a glossy card to whomever you please. Deliveries take place within five to ten days in the US for 99 cents or abroad for just a dollar more.
9. Scout: This app touts itself as a great tool for daily life, but it can be especially useful for a group of folks traveling together or meeting up in different places along a route. Offering coordination, communication and navigation, it has everything from voice-activated turn-by-turn directions to a messaging feature helping everyone stay on the same page about where to stop, what to eat, and how to get from point A to point B. Just make sure the passengers are doing the communicating so you can keep those eyes on the road!
10. Trover: Download this fun photo app and enjoy a little preview before you head off on your adventure. Thanks to an Instagram-like display of fellow travelers’ photos and chatty two-way commentary, it can help you decide what to check out both on the road and once you’ve reached your destination. Once you’re out there, you’ve got a direct line to all sorts of other people who’ve been where you are… and that’s a pretty awesome tool indeed.
11. Songza: No road trip is complete without the ultimate soundtrack. Use Songza as either a music discovery tool while you’re planning your trip and building the perfect playlist, or just let it do its thing through your speakers while you go where the day takes you. Either way, the fact that it’s searchable by mood, activity (road tripping included), genre and decade makes it an amazing tool for nailing the perfect set of tunes for your trip. So roll those windows down, turn the volume up, buckle that seatbelt and rock on down the highway.
12. Roadtrippers: Roadtrippers is a website and mobile app with over three million points of interest. Their newest addition to the family, the watch app, brings contextual location discovery to anyone looking for adventure. The “concierge” generates suggestions of relevant places based on the time of day and your interests. Select “Breakfast Spot” to find the locals’ favorite diners or “Fuel Up” and get to the nearest gas station. The best part about Roadtrippers? They guarantee you hand-curated data with photos, pricing and more about extraordinary and offbeat places you won’t find anywhere else.
DL: Free on iOS
Did we miss any essential road trip apps? Let us know in the comment section!