The freedom of the open road, the ever-changing scenery, the copilot at your side, the permission to eat snack food or fast food, and that special driving playlist all make the road trip a favorite American pastime.
In recent years a slew of trip planning and navigation apps have surfaced to help prevent -- or smooth over -- any potential bumps in the road trip. So before you cruise down Route 66's Singing Road, the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway, or the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail -- or just let the road take you where it may -- make sure to pack these 13 apps, along with your clothes, snacks, and sense of adventure, just in case you get lost, run out of things to do, or really need the bathroom or roadside assistance.
For advance planning
There's no need to Google what to do nearby when the Google Trips app can just gather your travel reservations from your Gmail account and map out suggested day plans, popular attractions, and food and drink options within your vicinity for you. Google Trips also works offline, which is helpful when you're driving out of range, in the desert or mountains, for example.
Still in the Google universe, Google Maps' Explore feature is great for finding nearby restaurants, cafes, and events to explore.
Search Roadtrippers' Nearby tab to locate travel destinations around you or along a particular route, including hotels, eateries, stores, gas stations, roadside attractions, or scenic points to stop and enjoy the view. You can also browse in-app travel guides for extra inspiration.
Get your motor running with the addition of the perfect road trip playlist. Popular music streaming app Spotify Music already has its own road trip playlist for the plucking or you can easily build your own.
Who wants their road trip interrupted by traffic? Not us. Thankfully, Waze, one of the best navigation apps around, delivers real-time voice-directed navigation and hazard alerts -- and suggests alternate routes to get you out of traffic jams before you even enter them.
For bridge tolls
No one wants to be caught empty-handed when it comes time to pay for gas or the bridge toll, especially on a long road trip, far from home. So enter your starting and end points in Trip Toll Calculator Tollguru, and the app will surface the fastest and cheapest routes to take and even estimate your expenses in advance.
For making a quick exit
When you need to make a quick exit off the freeway to fuel your tank or your stomach -- or drain your bladder -- iExit will locate your current location on any major U.S. highway and show you upcoming exits with the amenities you need.
But iExit is also great for planning. If you know, for example, that in one hour you'll want coffee or a meal, iExit will show you which exits to take for Starbucks or Cracker Barrel. Or, say you know you'll want to break from driving at 10 pm, iExit will show you which exit to take for a preferred hotel at that time.
But which gas station is cheapest? The crowdsourced GasBuddy app can tell you. GasBuddy, relying on its loyal community of 70 million users, gets the intel on all the lowest-price gas stations and passes on that knowledge to you. Filter search results by price, location, company, and additional amenities, such as convenient stores and usable restrooms. You'll especially appreciate getting upcoming price hike alerts so you can refuel in advance.
Need a last-minute hotel deal in a random city that you decided to check out? Then search no further than Hotel Tonight for iPhone and Android. The Hotel Tonight mobile app offers the best deals for your upcoming bookings, whether you're looking for basic, hip, or luxurious accommodations. 24/7 customer support can handle any questions or issues.
FOLLOW Download.com on Twitter to keep up with the latest app news.
For things to do
Find things to do along your route with The Outbound app. The Outbound's community of travel enthusiasts has compiled a slew of outdoor adventures you won't want to miss out on. Sign up for an account, select your interests, such as Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Mountain Biking, and Photography, and the app will show you where to enjoy them in your vicinity and offer reviews, tips, and gear recommendations.
Roadside America (iOS)
Everyone's seen the Cabazon Dinosaurs en route to Palm Springs. If you're looking for something a little less obvious to do, then check out the Roadside America app, which takes you to the smaller, stranger, lesser-traveled attractions just off the highway. Search by attraction name, address, city, or simply what's nearby.
But why limit your exploration to earth when the GoSkyWatch app enables you to easily identify and locate stars, planets, constellations, and more by simply opening the app and pointing your phone to the sky?
For roadside assistance
If you get stuck on the side of the road, don't despair. Just pull out your phone and look to the Blink Roadside app to get you moving again. Blink boasts one of the largest, speediest, and most price-competitive networks of roadside service providers for towing, jump-starting your car, changing your tires, gas delivery, and more. Also, there's no membership necessary.
But if you happen to be a AAA member, then you'd do well to use the AAA Mobile app, which grants you access to AAA services including trip planning, AAA discounts on hotels, restaurants, rental cars, and more, as well as AAA's trusted roadside assistance.
- How to find a place to eat using the new Google Maps Explore tab (Download.com)
- Tesla's latest software update includes Atari video games as an Easter egg (Download.com)
- Ditch with Lyft: Chicago riders offered over $500 to try ridesharing for one month (Download.com)
- The 7 best transit apps for the Bay Area (Download.com)
- Road Trip 2017: The smartest stuff (CNET)
- A news app for car-bound commuters (ZDNet)
- Ditching Uber? 8 alternatives for professionals (TechRepublic)