Before the Internet and smart phones, road trips were a different animal entirely. 15 years ago, for instance, only the most well-heeled travelers could afford a personal concierge service to recommend activities, hotels, and restaurants in each city on a prolonged excursion.
In today’s world, all those services are available—for free or at minimal cost—on a device that fits into your pocket. We’ve compiled a list of the best apps to download when you’re ready to hit that endless ribbon of highway.
Planning Your Pit Stops
Spontaneity isn’t for everyone. If you need a structured plan to feel confident about your trip, there are a number of apps out there that’ll do the work for you. Along the Way ($2.99) is an iPhone app that seeks out food, coffee, bars, shopping, and other attractions along your route. Because it searches your entire route instead of just the places around you, it can be a useful planning tool—and prevent you from scrambling for a nearby place to stop when you’re already on the road. It works anywhere in the world, but it’s exclusively available on iOS.
Roadtrippers (free) is available on both iOS and Android, but it’s only for users in the United States. Like Along the Way, it’s designed to help you plan stops on your route after you enter your start and end points. The app provides detailed information about each business and attraction, so you can make informed decisions about where you want to stop.
Finding Good Eats on the Road
One of the most difficult aspects of traveling is finding decent places to eat, and if you don’t want to resort to eating fast food and gas station pizza for every meal, a well-made app might be able to help you out. The aforementioned Along the Way and Roadtrippers apps can pinpoint good restaurants, and there are a couple of resources designed specifically for dining while on the road.
TVFoodMaps (free, with in-app purchases) is available on iOS and Android, and it allows you to find restaurants that have appeared on television that happen to be along your route. Some of the app’s featured shows include Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, Man vs. Food, Chopped, and The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
Roadfood (free) is another tried-and-true resource for travelers who want to eat well while they’re on the road, but it’s best utilized at a computer; the mobile equivalent is a lightweight version of the website.
When you’re stopped and searching for nearby eateries, Yelp is a great standby.
Getting Roadside Assistance
We hate to toot our own horn, but let’s face it: our app is a useful tool when you’re traveling hundreds of miles away from home. We designed Urgent.ly as a sort of Uber for roadside assistance. You simply tap a few buttons on your phone to summon a tow truck—or other services, such as a dead battery jump or a flat tire fix—and pay on demand through the app. The flat-rate pricing makes it easy, so it’s a great option for road trips if you want to avoid paying costly annual membership fees.
Keeping an Eye on the Weather
Severe weather can throw your trip way off course. Weather Underground is an excellent resource, and the website’s road trip planner makes it easy to predict storms along your route. You can even enter future dates up to seven days in advance.