Our 10 favorite insanely useful road trip planning apps

Who doesn’t love a good road trip? Whether it’s an extended vacation or a business trip, traveling cross-country is always an adventure. But when the adventure turns into a frustrating experience when the unexpected happens? That’s no good. Thankfully, with our smartphones in hand, route planning, road food, side trips, and overnight accommodations are all within our reach at the tap of a finger.

We’re sure you already know that apps can help with everything from navigation to entertainment throughout a trip, but there are so many apps on the market all claiming to be the best at what they do. Which ones are worth a download? We’ve put together our list of the top 10 apps we’ll never travel without.

smartphone mounted on car dashboard

Road trip planning

While the urge to hit the road is strong, a little planning goes a long way. These apps will ensure you can embrace the spontaneity of the open road while ensuring your fun and safety along the way.

Roadtrippers

When a long trip is coming up, this app offers all the planning tools you’ll need, from mapping to searchable listings of hotels and campgrounds listings, and roadside attractions with reviews. It also estimates fuel consumption to assist with budgeting, perfect for if you’re planning a trip with friends or other families. You can also use it to plan and save itineraries and collaborate with other users for group planning.

Roadside America

You have to stop somewhere, so why not make it interesting? If you are the type of person who absolutely must see Rock City or visit the World’s Only Corn Palace, this app will be indispensable. From historical landmarks to “first” and “world’s largest” sites along the way, the Roadside America app has the inside scoop on all the weird and wonderful things on both sides of the Mississippi.

Jakkapan maneetorn/Shutterstock

Navigation

While there is a certain appeal to getting lost on your way to a destination, that appeal is only fun for a little while…or until someone has to use the bathroom. These apps ensure you’ll never be without the navigation you need to be on your way.

Google Maps

Google Maps is a household name for a reason. The app is equipped with a variety of useful tools; it can help you find a place to eat, show you the street view of the restaurant, and answer almost any question you may have about anything. The app also has a robust inventory of accurately located businesses, attractions, and other destinations, so no matter what you’re looking for, you’re bound to find it.

Waze

After spending a few hours on the road, the last thing anyone wants is to get stuck in the bumper-to-bumper gridlock of an unfamiliar city. Waze uses live traffic reporting from drivers to create an alternate route that will keep you from getting stuck in traffic. Use it as a secondary navigational tool in heavy-traffic areas to keep the magic of the road trip going even in busy metropolitan areas.

Automotive services

We never like to think about it, but sometimes the worst happens, and you fear being stranded in the middle of nowhere without gas. Thankfully, there’s an app for that!

GasBuddy

The GasBuddy app allows users access a massive database of gas stations, with regular updates to reliably show the best prices in town. It also features Pay with GasBuddy and Pay with GasBuddy Premium plans to save 5 cents or more per gallon, along with services like roadside assistance. If you’re unsure of the best gas deals around you, or just really need to fill up your tank before it hits empty, this app is the perfect resource.

mother and son riding in a car
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Overnight accommodations

After a long day of driving, everyone in the car is likely in need of space to rest and recharge. Find the best spots to relax with these apps.

Expedia

Whether you need a bare-bones room for a quick layover or plush digs for an extended vacation, Expedia gets it done. They have a lock on fast, easy travel arrangements. Book hotels, flights, cars, and more instantly, and get last-minute deals and specials on hotel accommodations, including double rewards points, by booking through the app.

VRBO

Private home rentals are the perfect place to stay if you crave the luxury of your own home, but a different destination. One of the best places to look is VRBO, which lists millions of houses worldwide. The properties tend to be homes with yards, which is great for families with kids or group rentals. Easily browse properties, plan with your group, and review booking details within the app for maximum convenience.

Reserve America Camping

RVers and tent campers need an easy way to find a campground along the highway. The RA Camping app lets you search and book campsites, RV sites, yurts, and cabins at private, state, and federal campgrounds throughout the United States. We love that users can search by map, campground type, or amenities, view availability by site and date, save favorites, and book in advance or find a vacant site for that same day.

two girls sitting in the back of a car
MNStudio/Shutterstock

Food

Let’s be honest: half the fun of traveling is trying all the local cuisine along the way. If you want a classic meal or to try something new, there’s an incredibly easy ways to get recommendations right on your phone.

Yelp

The go-to app for all kinds of businesses is also great choice for finding a good restaurant wherever you go. Search for sit-down restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, and more, and use the quick categories to pull up results near your current location, or search for something more specific. A quick scan of the reviews will tell you what visitors and the locals have to say about the cuisine and service, so you can always be certain you’re tasting the best of local flavor.

Music

Who doesn’t love a good car sing-along session? If you’re in the mood for a full-out jam or need something soft to listen to to lull the kids to sleep, we’ve got you covered.

Pandora Music

Unlike other streaming services that are based on curated playlists that you select, on Pandora, you set up a personalized radio station based on a favorite artist or genre. The app uses the power of the Music Genome Project to find and play tunes of a similar type based on 450 musical attributes. You can also filter for explicit language and content, a feature we love for families with kids.

Whether you’re about to hit the road tomorrow or still in the beginning stages of planning a trip, these ten apps are must-haves for road trips of all lengths and to all destinations. Hit the open road with the confidence that your phone is your ultimate travel buddy. Have fun, and drive safe!

Editors' Recommendations