Planning for a road trip, and being prepared while you’re on one, is different from planning and preparing for other kinds of travel. Your car could break down, or bad weather might prevent you from reaching destinations on time. You might have to take unexpected detours. On road trips, you have to be ready to roll with the punches.
Using the right combination of apps, planning and pulling off a driving vacation should be completely effortless.
Here are the 10 must-have apps before planning your next road trip,
1. PackPoint travel packing list
Before you go anywhere, you’ve got to make sure you’re packed up properly, right? The PackPoint travel packing list helps you put together a checklist of the items you’ll need to enjoy your time off. This is more than a simple Notes list, though.
Once logged in, you select your destination, dates, and define whether or not this is business or for fun. The app can help build your list based on a variety of activities that you might enjoy, like swimming or going on a bike ride.
2. Google Trips – Travel Planner
The Google Trips looks for sites of interest around you, based on categories you select and your location, and it pops up cards on your phone when you’re near something interesting. If you’re driving and have a connected Bluetooth audio device, you’ll hear the alerts instead. Field Trip taps into recommendations from travel and lifestyle publications, such as Thrillist, Zagat, and Sunset, as well as Songkick and Flavorpill for finding local music.
All right, so now you’re on the road and headed toward the beach (that’s where I’d go, anyway). Chances are you will want to grab a bite or need to pull over and sleep. This is where iExit comes in handy for answering the question: do we get off here or wait an exit?
Designed with highway exits in mind, the free app lists the hotels, gas stations, and restaurants awaiting you at every off-ramp.
4. Hotel Tonight
Are you the type of person who likes a serendipitous road trip, preferring to not plan too far in advance? Hotel Tonight is the kind of app to help you find a place to crash the same-day.
Upon opening the app, you’ll be given a handful of options by which to sort or search. Have a specific destination in mind? Use the app to look ahead and see which hotels have vacancy and how much you might expect to spend. Hotel Tonight prides itself on providing last-minute mobile deals on hotels, but users can also look ahead a few days and plan a bit.
When it’s time to refuel, you’ll be happy to have GasBuddy on your phone. This app and website helps you find gas by location and price. If you can save a couple of bucks by cruising a little farther down the road, GasBuddy will let you know. While many of the travel apps listed in this article are for iOS and Android only, GasBuddy is also available for BlackBerry and Windows Phone.
6. Google Maps
Google Maps is a navigation triple threat: It’s totally free, easy to use, and it offers turn-by-turn navigation for those panicked “WHICH LANE SHOULD I BE IN?!” moments. It also works for bike routes and public transportation when you feel like saving gas money and exploring unfamiliar cities and towns.
The real time-saver is that Google Maps detects upcoming traffic, accidents, or construction and automatically offers you a quicker route. It’s a great in-car GPS navigation system, right from your phone.
Tell Roadtrippers your starting location and destination, dates of travel, and what kinds of things you’re interested in finding along the way, and this app will plot your journey for you. Roadtrippers can find offbeat attractions, restaurants, museums, amusement parks, camp sites, and more. When you find a site you like, just add it to your trip, and Roadtrippers will redraw your travel map accordingly.
Driving through the desert or deep into mountains, you can’t be sure you’ll have Internet access. Triposo puts offline maps and travel guides onto your phone so you can use them even in dead zones. Before you download maps and guides for any destination, Triposo tells you how much space they will take up on your phone, too. When you pull up a destination on Triposo, it offers top sightseeing suggestions, a weather forecast, and more ways to explore the destination.
The beauty of Yelp, an app that offers user-generated recommendations for businesses, is that it’s used widely by a lot of people. If you show up at a destination and want to find the closest cup of decent coffee, Yelp will probably do the best job. While some other travel apps have plenty of recommendations from other travelers, Yelp is more likely to be used by locals. It’s especially good with restaurants, but Yelp can also help you find auto repair shops, health clinics, and other places you might need to visit unexpectedly while on a road trip.
The Maps.Me mobile app lets you browse around the globe, zoom in on any region or city, and download a detailed map of that area to use offline. You’ll see an option to download just the map or the map with directions enabled to get you from point A to B without an Internet connection. What I like about Maps.Me is the great level of detail on maps for even very remote places.