Paper maps and roadside signage are so last millennium. These days, road-trippers have a dizzying array of travel apps at their fingertips to help them maximize both budgets and the experience in general. Since road trips are the most popular way to travel, a few carefully curated apps make a big difference. If anything, the toughest part is choosing which ones to use! Here are a few of our best suggestions, by category.
1. Best App for Route Planning
Ever wonder how delivery drivers manage to hit so many different places in a relatively short amount of time? It’s because they’re using an app like RoadWarrior to plan their routes to be as efficient as possible. However, while many other route planning apps only take things like traffic into account, RoadWarrior factors in lots of other time-sucking details, like toll roads, stop lights and school zones. You enter all the stops you have to make for the day and the app will create a route that maximizes your time. The basic (free) version of the app is probably enough for road-trippers, as it allows for up to eight stops along a route. The subscription options start at $10 per month and are really more geared toward delivery drivers with dozens of stops every day (Full disclosure: HowStuffWorks’ parent company System1 also owns RoadWarrior.)
2. Best App for Gas Prices
Gas prices have been something of a catastrophe recently, so travelers are naturally focused on finding the lowest rates whenever possible. GasBuddy is one of the most popular apps for locating affordable gas, especially on long road trips. Simply enter the starting point and destination, then watch as all of the cheapest gas prices along your route pop up. Like many apps, there is a free version, as well as a premium option with added features. The savings really add up, as the app claims to save users up to 25 cents per gallon each use, which it says totals $3.1 billion saved at the pump across all customers.
3. Best App for Planning Sightseeing
For people who aren’t totally focused on getting from point A to point B in the fastest time possible, the RoadTrippers app is an absolute must-have. Users can plan their trip start to finish with as many as 150 waypoints/stops when using the premium version of the app, which costs $29.99 per year. So, if you really need to see the world’s largest ball of twine, or some other oddball detour, simply plug it into the itinerary and make it happen! The app also has plenty of other perks. For example, it estimates fuel costs, allows for RV drivers to customize routes friendly to their particular vehicle and lets the user collaborate with friends who are also on the road, among other features.
4. Best App for Finding Last-Minute Lodging
Road-trippers often don’t know exactly where they’re going to be at the end of the day, so they can’t make reservations for hotels ahead of time. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of apps designed to help travelers score cheap last-minute lodging deals. One of the best is HotelTonight, which allows the user to search for — you guessed it — hotels available tonight in a given area. Available listings will populate, complete with the rate, pictures and reviews. The website does recommend doing the search within the app, though, as it includes additional discounts not applied by its website.
5. Best App for Family Games and Entertainment
Sure you could stream music or movies endlessly, but sometimes it’s fun to throw it way back with classic travel games. The Plates Family Travel app is a modern take on the classic license plate game. In the app, earn points when you check off license plates by state and car logos as they’re spotted on the road. There’s also a map feature that that shows you exactly where you saw all the license plates on your road trip. This app is available for Apple or Google devices.
6. Best App for Camping
The camping industry is booming these days. In 2022 alone, 53 percent of travelers engaged in some form of camping, be it in a tent, a camper or a luxe RV. Although there are apps out there that cater specifically to national/state parks or glamping options, probably the most all-encompassing is The Dyrt. Road trippers who prefer to camp are likely to appreciate this app, which has access to reviews, availability and booking features for more than 40,000 campgrounds. You can try the pro version for free for seven days. After that, you pay $35.99 per year.
So, hit the road, already! Just make sure to download a few apps to make it as seamless and enjoyable as possible.