Thousands of smartphone apps are vying for your attention, but these are the ones you really need to have on your iPhone 5 or Android device if you’re hitting the road this summer.
In the “olden days”—aka, the 1990s or before—taking a road trip meant collecting books of maps and planning out your stops along the way in advance. Fast forward a mere decade or so and you don’t even have to know where you’re going when you turn the keys in the ignition You can simply head out on the open road with a duffle bag, using nothing by your smartphone to guide you.
Thanks to the recent introduction of iPhone 5 and Android apps, you can easily discover the nearest restaurants and hotels, locate the cheapest gas prices in the area, and avoid traffic jams. Before you head out on your next getaway, download these time- and trip-saving mobile apps (or ask your passenger to do it for you!).
AroundMe has simplicity on its side. The app determines your current location, then provides a list of all nearby businesses within the category of your choice – restaurants, banks, supermarkets, bars, gas stations, and so on. It’s a road tripper’s best friend, because no matter whether you’re looking for an ATM, a burger, or a room for the night, it only takes a couple of clicks to locate what you need.
Nothing can kill a road trip budget like spending too much to fill your tank—but technology has come to rescue with a number of apps that make finding cheap fuel simple. With GasBuddy, simply hit the “Find Gas Near Me” button for a list of the cheapest gas prices in your current area. The Map View puts the search results on a street map if you prefer to see things visually.
The Yelp app for Android and iPhone 5 is similar to AroundMe in that it provides lists of nearby businesses and attractions, but Yelp provides more detailed information, including user reviews for each listing. Yelp search results have a filter function, so instead of merely listing all nearby restaurants, you can limit your results to the ones with the best reviews or those within a particular price range.
For road trips though scenic, rural countryside, there’s little need to worry about getting caught in traffic. But in highly populated areas, Waze can save a lot of time and frustration by guiding you around traffic jams, accidents and road construction. It’s a crowd-sourced app that constantly updates based on user reports and the interface looks like a GPS. It provides street maps and a voice recognition system, which allows drivers to give voice commands while keeping their hands firmly on the steering wheel.
Document your road trip with Trip Journal, which, as its name implies, lets you create multimedia records of their journeys. Use the app to record your entire trip route, geo-tag photos, take notes or journal entries, and share them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Think of Trip Journal as a virtual notebook and scrapbook for both iPhone 5 and Twitter users.
What’s a road trip without road tripping music? Get in the spirit by streaming “On the Road Again” or “Drivin’ My Life Away” from Spotify’s library of more than 20 million songs. The app allows you to listen to unlimited amounts of music and create custom playlists. Note that Spotify requires a paid subscription after the first 48 hours.
For more travel advice, visit our Travel Tips & Packing Lists page.
Scott Shetler is a freelance journalist and frequent traveler who enjoys national parks, urban nightlife, and everything in between. He blogs about his adventures at http://quirkytravelguy.com.