Road trips are a staple of American culture—we sing songs about them, watch movies about them, and take them ourselves. And in today’s mobile world, information that can improve our road trips is, quite literally, at our fingertips, in a variety of travel apps and services.
But, with so many trip planning apps on the market, how do you know which one will help you avoid traffic, find good eats, and snag an affordable hotel room?
We’ve put together a two-part series on the best road trip apps available in the App Store and Google Play, to get you from Point A to Point B, with lots of fun on the way. Part one of our road trip apps series covers the best apps for gas, maps, and music, without any of which no road trip would be complete.
To Fill-Up with the Cheapest Gas:
- Gas Buddy: With 4 stars in the App Store and 4.5 stars on Google Play, this popular free travel app does exactly what you’d expect it to: it uses crowd-sourced data and your phone’s GPS to find the cheapest gas nearby. Plus, you can earn points and rewards for reporting prices near you, including a daily $100 prize.
- Gas Guru: Owned and run by Yellow Pages, Gas Guru uses gas prices that other app users report to show you the most affordable options based on your location. While the app defaults to regular fuel prices, you can also modify settings to report prices for midgrade or premium gas. With this road trip app, your car and your road trip budget will thank you.
To Find the Best Route:
- Waze: One of the most popular free travel apps on the market, the Google-owned app uses community-based data to provide a plethora of helpful on-the-road information, including turn-by-turn directions, traffic updates (such as estimated time in traffic and traveling speed of cars in traffic), road hazards, and police presence alerts. Besides being a handy traveling app to get you there and back, Waze also includes a gaming element: you can change and dress up your “Wazer” avatar, collect virtual road goodies for miles travelled, and get voice alerts from an eclectic cast of characters (Elvis, boy band, celebrities, Santa, and more.)
- Google Maps: A tried and true favorite, Google Maps is a fairly standard GPS-based travel app available on virtually all smartphones. What sets this travel map app apart from others is the variety of transportation mode options it offers. Users have the option of selecting step-by-step directions for driving, walking, biking, and (in applicable locations) public transportation. Plus, since Google owns both Google Maps and its sibling road trip app, Waze, some of the data regarding traffic incidents and other data is cross-posted to both platforms.
To Hear the Perfect Playlist:
- Pandora: This app is essentially a radio station that only plays the music that you like. Choose your favorite genre, song, or artist, and Pandora’s advanced algorithm will create a custom station based on your choices, playing similar tracks and bands. With the option to “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” songs, you can customize stations to your exact musical taste. The music app has a “free” option with ads and a limited number of song skips, and an ad-free, “paid” option (known as Pandora One).
- Spotify: Another music streaming app, Spotify has more functionality as far as song and artist selection goes. With the free, ad-supported version, desktop users can play any track in the platform, with artist and album “shuffle” available on mobile. The ad-free, paid option allows unlimited listening of any songs, with the option to also download albums and playlists for offline listening. Spotify also offers a variety of playlists and stations, as well as non-musical options such as news, podcasts, and talk shows.
- Audible: Not really a music person? Audible is an audiobook lover’s paradise, with over 180,000 titles available, including bestsellers and new releases. For a monthly membership fee, the Amazon-backed company gives you access to an audiobook of your choice, and a discount on additional books. It’s the perfect travel app to keep up with your TBR (To Be Read) list while you’re on the road.
Check back next week for the second part of our best road trip apps series, for recommendations on which travel apps to choose when you need to find food at the next exit, clean bathrooms close by, last-minute hotel deals, local sights, or even a flat-tire fix. Don’t forget, we are here for all of your consumer roadside assistance needs.