10 Best iPhone Apps for Road Trips this Vacation

On July 11, 2013


If your idea of a vacation this summer is to hit the road, your timing couldn’t be better. There are hundreds of iPhone apps for road trips hitting the App Store every day and many of these are just ingenious. The travel category of iPhone apps has actually remained one of the most popular among app developers, which has resulted in a continually expanding range of choices for vacationers across the world. Tools like cameras, weather updates, and GPS maps have always been essential, and now all sorts of travel apps have joined this league from nostalgia-inspiring time-killing fun road games like spotting license plates to money savers like GasBuddy and law-benders like Trapstar.

The best road trip experience comes when you just drive with absolutely no plans, anticipating surprises. However, there are still essentials you shouldn’t ignore like gas, food, sleeping arrangements, and the like. Download the 10 best apps for your iPhone this road trip and then indulge in the full dose of wanderlust. Two things you can be sure of- every spontaneous thing you do on your travels will be a cinch and the tales you’ll tell will be legendary!

1. GasBuddy (free)


If you need a cheap gas finder, your trusted buddy is GasBuddy. This free app is the iPhone version of the Gasbuddy.com website which indicates the nearest gas stations and their most up-to-date prices as reported by users. While it would cost you between $300 and $600 in gas money to drive from Los Angeles to Chicago on Route 66, GasBuddy will sort the gas stations along the route and nail the station charging in the lower range when the fuel gauge needle starts dancing around E. The app’s fan base is large and this helps in getting accurate prices especially in places with dense population. So, when it shows town B ahead has a cheaper station than Town A, where you currently are, you are certain you will indeed save money.


2. Waze (Social GPS, Maps & Traffic) (free)


Fancy having with you an app that perfectly combines social networking and the best of a GPS? Waze is this app, and version 2.3 comes absolutely free. Waze is a community based mapping, navigation, and traffic app brimming with fun. You no longer have to worry about how to avoid the time-consuming traffic in the city in order to run wild and free on the highways. Drive with Waze open and you’ll be able to join forces with the drivers around you and figure out ways of outsmarting traffic. This is the ideal time and gas money saver. You get road alerts concerning hazards, accidents, and police on your route too, as well as the cheapest gas stations as updated by other drivers. In addition to all this, you have a simple and fun way of hooking up and coordinating with other friends hitting the road.


3. Yelp


When you are in a new city and know neither anyone nor any place, Yelp is the free app that helps you find stuff. With Yelp you’ll know the coffee shops with Wi-Fi, the highest rated restaurants, the hotels that have no history of murder or housing serial killers, and the mechanics who would never rip off an ignorant tourist like you when your car starts spewing brake fluid. This is the companion who knows what you want and bridges cultural and language barriers so you can get it.


4. Roadside America ($2.99)


Unexpected discoveries are what make a road trip most memorable and this app is the sure way of getting all the offbeat tourist traps along your route, even if it’s the world’s largest shoe house or ball of twine. Roadside America allows you to confidently indulge in detours along the route when there are bizarre roadside attractions that no guidebook shows. There are 7,800 such odd and unique attractions and at a cost of $2.99, you get permanent access to one of the six regions of the U.S. For temporary access to a region you pay $1.99 and for the entire country $5.99.


5. Hotel Tonight (free)


Whether you are extending a trip or planning a last minute one, unplanned stopovers at weird roadside motels or blowing the budget in one night at a hotel will not be an issue with Hotel Tonight. This free app with a superb interface and incredible graphics does exactly as its name implies. With over 80 destinations listed in 12 different countries, it provides you with great last-minute hotel deals that you may find nowhere else. You will even get up to70% of on same-day room reservations.


6. License Plate Game ($0.99)


You are cruising along the highway, the windows are rolled down, and your friends on the back seat have drifted off to sleep, so now you’re beginning to question this road trip idea. Nothing can revive everyone and take you back to fond child memories in the back seat quite like the Licence Plate Game. Other road games like Slug Bug may become a drag with their incessant punching but Licence Plate Game is the game that never gets old. You log the license plates you find and it keeps score, tallying the results as the trip nears its end to see who gets the most points. The app awards one point for plates already in the log and two for the new ones. You’ll have an exhilarating road trip experience with this app at a cheap cost of $0.99.


7. Trapster (Speed Traps & Road Hazards, Real Time Traffic) (free)


It’s not that the Trapster community loves breaking traffic laws or condones over speeding, but sometimes a little speed is the missing ingredient in a perfect recipe for road trips and the speed cameras and speed traps are the dragons than need slaying to get this. Trapster has over 5.2 million speed straps reported all over the world by the enormous community of almost 19 million users.  Download the free app and watch your driving experience undergo a transformation as your iPhone starts alerting you to even red lights, accidents and any other roadway hazards.


8. iExit ($0.99 for a limited time)


iExit is the ultimate Interstate exit guide. Other guides like Yelp will spot the shops and restaurants near you, but iExit will communicate with the exits along the highway and shortlist all points of interest so you know which exit leads to a rest stop and which one leads to sandwiched hand-breaded chicken delights. This is a $1.99 feature that will come in handy when you need to know if your gas will last to the next town or if you are the paranoid type that only feels safe when they know exactly what lies at the next exit, and the next, and the next… You’ll know anything up ahead that is part of large national chains with iExit so keep Yelp nearby for popular local joints.


9. Navigon ($44.99)


Google Maps is great but for the best navigational app the world has ever seen, cough up 50 bucks and download Navigon. The name sounds like a character from Krypton and it does have features that you may never use or just use once, as you have obviously suspected all along, but Navigon is the ultimate travel app in very many ways. Forget the Reality Scanner that will take your fancy for a moment as you watch it superimposing points of interest along your designated route over a camera using augmented reality and look at more practical features like route planning, lane choice assistance, speed assistance, emergency assistance, and even the option for 2D or 3D map display. Even when you let your free spirit kick into high gear and dictate the course of the trip, Navigon’s got your back.


10. Spotify (free app; requires subscription; free trial available)


If you are an ardent music lover and not even the most exciting road trip can tear the headphones away from your ears, Spotify is the friend you need to meet. Spotify is an offline and online music streaming app that allows you to enjoy the ultimate road trip playlist without being bothered by the need for a mobile connection. This means you can just grab a bag of clothes and hit the highway without dilly-dallying about trying to burn a dozen CDs or download music on your iPod.

Spotify delivers your very own personal and infinite jukebox right at your fingertips. Cruise Sin City with Frank Sinatra pumping you up and cue up some soul music as you drive across the deserts of the SouthWest. With this app you can search music on the go, snag friends’ playlists, sync your own, or swap songs with other Spotify members. The app is free but only for the first 48 hours, after which you have to pay a monthly mobile subscription of $9.99. This is bye bye to buying or pirating albums.