Has there ever been a more valuable travel companion than your smartphone? Every time you jump in the car, you’ve got all the key information you need right at your fingertips. Anyone who has ever needed emergency assistance, wrestled with a roadmap, been frustrated by an unexpected traffic backup, or nervously wondered about the location of the nearest service station as the gas needle dipped towards ‘E’ surely appreciates the handy amenities a smartphone now provides.
The great thing is, many of the best apps you can download to help assure safe, serene travels are absolutely free! I’m sharing four free, simple-to-use apps that I can’t imagine leaving home without. At one time or another, they’ve all helped me turn a bumpy road trip into smooth sailing.
Google Maps comes loaded on every Android device, or can be downloaded for iPhone, which also includes Apple maps as well. The interface has the familiar look and feel of a traditional map, and offers turn-by-turn voice navigation. It uses real-time traffic information and lane assist so you’ll be aware of any slowdowns along the way—and know how to avoid them, if possible.
If you prefer alternate forms of transportation—or just want help getting around once you reach your destination—Google Maps also provides information on walking routes or taking public transportation. Plus, if you’re searching for a business, it lists hours and busy times, making it an invaluable resource for planning your day.
You’ll get a slightly different experience using Waze. This is also a map-based navigation tool but its primary function is to find you the fastest possible driving route to your destination. It uses live traffic data to keep your route updated, and also has social network integration, which lets users share real time traffic information. If you’re flat-out in a rush to get there, Waze can be a big help. It’s available both for Android and iPhone.
At some point along the way, you know you’ll need to make a re-fueling stop. Now, you don’t have to worry about spotting the next filling station. You can find it easily with Gas Buddy, which is also available for both Android and iPhone. This is the simplest, most efficient way to find the closest and least expensive gas in the area. It provides a full list of the stations nearest to you, along with their current pump prices. And if there’s a particular station you prefer for collecting or redeeming fuel points, you’ll be able to find one that’s located nearby.
Finally, what’s a road trip without some classic car games? My family still loves to play the “License Plate Game,” and with the Android-only ST8PL8, you’ve got an actual scorekeeper for it! Whenever you spot a license plate, keep track of it by clicking on the picture on this fun app. It includes all 50 states and the District of Columbia—see how many miles you rack up before you’ve got them all!
Now that you know you won’t get lost or run out of gas, it’s time to head out on the highway and enjoy a little adventure. Before you hit the road, just make sure that both your gas tank and your smartphone are fully loaded. Happy Trails!