Let’s face it—even with the best of buddies or brethren in tow, the greatest road trip is often made all the greater when you’ve got the implements of modern technology at your fingertips. For better or worse, gone are the days of navigating around cities and tollways with merely your trusty road atlas and the same handful of cassette tapes to stave off the boredom. This month, we take a look at some of the best little apps for your Android or iOS device to make getting from point A to point B less about the destination and more about everything in between. Jump on Google Play or the App Store and check them out!
Navigate — The road trip really starts before the rubber ever meets the road.
A great road trip often starts with a great plan (even if it gets messed with along the way). Enter Roadtrippers, which allows you to take a good look ahead of time and mark out a route that includes all the stuff you want to see. Enter your starting and ending points, then check off attractions you’re interested in. The app will even estimate your fuel costs. You can also edit your route on the web—your work stays synced between the website and app. (Free)
While apps like Google and Apple’s standard mapping tools are probably more than sufficient for your daily commute, consider upgrading to a powerful application like OSMAnd+ for meandering road trips. The app allows you to download full maps of entire regions for those instances where you might lose cell signal off the beaten path, ensuring you won’t be suddenly without navigation if you hit some patchy areas. (Free/$6.99)
Meet Me in the Middle
If your road trip will end in meeting another person, perhaps… halfway, consider the realistically named Meet Me in the Middle, which will intelligently spit out the most logical midpoint between two entered destinations. You can even click the little icon to receive a recommendation for a coffee shop or restaurant at which to meet. (Free)
Divert — What’s a quality road trip without a few calculated distractions?
As it turns out, the folks at The History Channel took a short break from cranking out shows about aliens and pawn shops to put together a genuinely interesting little application called History Here, which points out historical places near wherever you are, complete with a little background and (usually) a photo. If you find yourself in some bigger cities, you can even do some of the app’s curated “history tours” that take you on routes past various notable landmarks, like places frequented by Marilyn Monroe in Hollywood or Capone-era locales in Chicago. (Free)
Another television-related app, TVFoodMaps is definitely your jam if you’ve ever caught an episode of something on Food Network where they go to a restaurant and been like “hey I gotta try that place!” It’ll show you any restaurants nearby that have been featured on one of dozens of shows, tell you what show featured it, show you the menus and hours when available, and even give you the episode name and air date if you wanna track it down. (Free)
If you’ve ever found yourself flying down the Interstate wishing you had a little more information on where to fill the car’s tank (or your own) outside of those handy blue signs, iExit is the app for you. This’ll locate you on the highway, show you your upcoming exits, and provide a helpful list with details about all the good stuff there is behind each one, from food to fuel to hotels. (Free/$2.99)
Amuse — For when I Spy and reading every piece of literature in the glove box just isn’t enough.
If you’re an Amazon user you’re probably at least a little familiar with Audible already. Essentially the iTunes of audiobooks, Audible is the modern alternative to carrying around a giant folder full of CDs containing the unabridged Lord of the Rings novels. If you’re a new user, you can sign up for a free trial and get yourself a book or two, gratis—enough to get you through a pretty long trip, depending on what you pick. You can also download the books to your phone to avoid losing the plot in case of a signal dropout. ($14.99/month)
Popularized by Ellen DeGeneres on her daytime talk show, Heads Up boils down to a glorified version of that party game Catch Phrase. One player holds the phone facing the other players, who try to give clues to the phone holder so they can guess the person, movie, phrase, or whatever else appears on the screen. This can be easily modified so one person sees the screen and gives clues for the others in the car to guess—even the driver can get in on the action. Add-on packs covering tons of specialties are available for purchase within the app. ($0.99)
The wonderful world of podcasts—essentially fully contained talk radio shows on a wide range of topics—has brought an almost impossible variety of programming to your usual car rides. There are plenty of options for listening to podcasts, but we like an app called Pocket Casts, which lets you browse, subscribe to, and download hundreds of free shows like This American Life, Channel 33, Serial, and lots more in a jiffy. You’ll have to shell out a couple bucks for the app, but the quality compared to non-paid alternatives makes it worth the buy. ($3.99)
If you’re embarking on a road trip of any distance, you owe it to yourself to be a AAA member (if you’re not already). Their mobile app lets you view your membership card and access roadside assistance, as well as a variety of member-only discounts on hotels, shopping, and dining. (Free/$72 per year for new AAA membership)
By Brandon Daiker