7 Useful Travel Apps for a Great American Road Trip

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In this digital age that we're living in, it seems that traveling anywhere without the correct arsenal of smartphone apps is frowned upon. So, before I left on my Great American Road Trip, I did a bit of research into which travel apps might be useful as my sister and I drove cross-country.

Here are some road trip travel apps that I found worthwhile, and you may, too:

Navigation

1. MapQuest or Google Maps (FREE) — The digital age has made getting lost on the backroads of America nearly impossible. (Well, okay, it can still happen, but if it does, you aren't likely to stay lost for long.) Going on a road trip without some sort of mapping app is just silly. My sister and I mostly relied on Google Maps, simply because you can do a Google search for a specific destination, and get directions in just one click. But, the MapQuest app also offers turn-by-turn, voice-guided directions, much like a GPS does. This app would be more practical if you don't have a travel buddy to navigate for you (or if your travel buddy is prone to falling asleep whenever the tires are spinning).

Finding Amenities

1. GasBuddy (FREE) — Need to figure out how far it is to the next gas station? Need directions to that station? Want to compare prices at all nearby gas stations? GasBuddy will do all of that for you and more. My sister and I used this app multiple times on our trip, sometimes deciding to wait a few extra miles to fuel up if the prices were a lot cheaper (and sometimes they were).

2. iExit ($1.99) — We actually had the book version (yes, a real book with pages and everything!) of this app, but I'm told the app is great (and much more portable). Basically, this app (or it's softcover counterpart) lists every exit on every U.S. Interstate highway, along with all the amenities it offers (restaurants, gas stations, hotels, rest areas, shopping, etc.). True, it doesn't cover any of the secondary highways, and the app doesn't cover every single exit in the middle of nowhere, but it's still really useful.

3. Urbanspoon (FREE) — Once you're at a destination, use this fun app to discover all the dining choices around you. You can either check out a list of what's on offer (searching by location, type of cuisine, or price range), or use the fun “shake” option to have Urbanspoon choose for you. With this fun feature, the Urbanspoon “slot machine” will randomly land on a suggestion — great if you (like me) are very indecisive!

For Fun

1. Roadside America ($2.99+) — Chances are, if you're on a road trip, you're planning to stop off at at least a few quirky roadside attractions. Whether it's a town dedicated to Santa, a graveyard for cars, or some funky museum, the Roadside America app will give you plenty of suggestions. You can search based on a nearby city, your current location, or just a theme. It even has some extra features, too, such as letting you know what time the sun is due to set wherever you happen to be. The only downside to this app is that the $2.99 price only buys you access to one of 6 “regions.” To have access to the whole U.S., it's another $5.99 annually. However, if you're really into roadside attractions, 9 bucks is probably worth it.

2. Extreme Road Trip (FREE) — Sure, I know we could all probably play Angry Birds for hours on a long car ride, but why not choose a game that's roadtrip-themed instead? This app isn't necessarily “useful,” but it is definitely a fun way to pass some time. (Just maybe consider turning the sound off so the driver doesn't threaten to throw your phone out the window…)

Other

1. A weather app (various) — I won't suggest a specific weather app (we all have our preferences), but you should definitely have one. On my road trip, I plugged in each city we'd be staying in, and kept an eye on the weather forecast a few days out. True, there's nothing you can do if bad weather is heading your way, but it's always better to know and be prepared than to be caught by surprise.

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Have you used any great other apps on a road trip recently? Share them in the comments!

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