Quick – check your pockets. Chances are, there is a smartphone in one of them. If not, we’re willing to bet there is a portable internet-tethered device of some sort nearby. Why is this good news for gearheads like us? Apps (either of the Android or Apple variety – we’re not here to start a flame war) which help give drivers and passengers a better road trip experience are proliferating like so much kudzu.
Sure, a certain amount of spontaneity on a road trip is part of the fun but having even just the slightest hint of a plan is essential. Make sure to keep your eyes on the road, we’re about to burn rubber through five apps that’ll make your next road trip a breeze.
There are several cubic kilometres of apps out there designed to help drivers find gas stations. One of the most popular is the pleasantly named GasBuddy, which incorporates a crowd-sourcing database providing up-to-the-minute reports on the price of gas in any given area. The app counts over 70 million users across North America, meaning the chances are good that the listed price for a litre of fuel at any given station will be correct.
Given the tendency in some markets for gas prices to fluctuate wildly from town to town and even street to street, this app can be quite the money saver. Even in places where the fuel prices are regulated, the app is handy if you need something specific like diesel fuel, as users can apply filters to their search results.
The cornerstone of every good road trip? Music. And lots of it. Gone are the days when driver and passenger were at the mercy of a moronic deejay spinning his favourite platters to the detriment of every pair of ears within station broadcasting range. Now, we have the option of commercial-free satellite radio and a boatload of music-based apps.
One of the most well-known? Spotify. Users can curate and share their playlists, creating an atmosphere that’s just right for jaunts with the family or fun weekends with friends. Over time, Spotify learns your musical tastes and assembles playlists on your behalf; feel free to play or ignore them at your leisure. Of course, this means the app will nark on you if you’ve been listening to Duran Duran on repeat for the last weeks’ worth of commutes.
Cooking for yourself and your mates during a road trip is often fun at first but can wear a bit thin after the third consecutive roadside bbq and one too many complaints about burned hot dogs. Apps like OpenTable allow users to search up and find restaurants on demand, many of which offer reservation service right through the app.
According to the developers, OpenTable can help you find restaurants by location or cuisine, offering the ability to view user-supplied photos and reviews. Most places have their menus on the app, too. Creating an account will track your activity and bank rewards that may be used at participating eateries. Keep in mind that individual restaurants, especially large chains, often have their own apps but be mindful of inputting any payment details. It’s generally better to use certain apps to find the place, then pay for your meal when you get there.
A great many travellers, your author included, fire up Google or Apple Maps when sketching out a road trip from Point A to Point B. For simple tasks, that’s okay. When it’s time for serious travel, Roadtrippers deserves a place on your smartphone. Billing itself as the “only map built for travellers”, this app will help you discover millions of places like local diners, quirky roadside attractions, and even the stereotypically charming tourist traps.
Go ahead and get some inspiration from one of their trip guides to turn your big ideas into the perfect road trip. Advanced route-planning tools are on-board to let you string all of your crazy finds together to create an epic roadtrip. Users can plot up to 7 waypoints on the free app, while a $30 annual subscription (or $6.99/mo) allows for 150 waypoints. That exceeds even the number of times your toddler will need to stop for a bathroom break.
Waze is one of those apps that most gearheads wish existed in their formative years. Designed as a community-driven traffic and navigation app, it boasts a large base of active users, allowing drivers to learn real-time traffic & road information. Knowing about, and thereby avoiding, a detour or large swath of road work will save time and fuel. This is great on a road trip and the daily commute, in fact.
Technically, the app could be used for the sussing out and reporting of speed traps, though this is not officially condoned by the app creators. Users can also actively report accidents, roadblocks, and other hazards they see on the road. Waze seems to hoover battery life, perhaps thanks to its real-time nature, so make sure your phone is plugged in and charging while using this app.