Skip to main content

10 top road trip apps

By Jennings Brown, Special to CNN
updated 5:18 PM EDT, Tue March 13, 2012
Hit the road with an open itinerary and the help of these apps.
Hit the road with an open itinerary and the help of these apps.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Get your kitsch on Route 66 with the aid of the Roadside America app
  • Plan your fast-food fix with the iExit Interstate Exit Guide
  • Use the License Plate Travel Game for a throwback to your youth

(CNN) -- Spring breaks are starting up across the country, which means it's the beginning of road trip season.

In "Travels with Charley: In Search of America," one of literature's most famous road trips, John Steinbeck wrote, "We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us."

In the spirit of Steinbeck's philosophy on travel, we encourage you to take a road trip with no planning whatsoever, so that the journey can unfold without the interference of plans or expectation.

Here are a few apps that you can download on your phone that will allow you to go on a trip at a moment's notice, with nothing more than a bag of clothes, a full tank of gas and a healthy dose of wanderlust.

Spotify

No need to burn dozens of CDs or deliberate over the perfect iPod playlist. With Spotify, you have an infinite jukebox at your fingertips. Driving through the deserts of the Southwest, try "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" soundtrack. Cue up some Louis Armstrong on the way to Chicago. Let Sinatra pump you up for a weekend in Sin City.

You can search as you go, make playlists beforehand, or snag other Spotify members' playlists. In order to listen to Spotify on your iPhone, you have to pay a monthly fee. But remember, that means never buying or pirating an album again.

Available on Apple products and Android. The app is free but the premium service costs $9.99 per month.

Roadside America

You can get your kitsch on Route 66 with the aid of this app. After all, it's not a road trip without at least one detour to a bizarre roadside attraction. Make sure you don't miss out on a slice of Americana pie by mapping out all the offbeat tourists traps on your route. Let's face it, you'd be devastated if you discovered you had passed right by the world's largest ball of twine, the world's largest garden gnome or the world's largest shoe house.

Available on Apple products. $2.99 for permanent access to one region, $1.99 for temporary access to one region, $5.99 for all regions.

GasBuddy

Today it would probably cost you between $300 and $600 to drive from Chicago to Los Angeles on Route 66. You can shoot for the lower end of that range by using this app to seek out the cheapest gas once the fuel gauge needle starts getting cozy with the E.

Available free on Apple products and Android.

Audible

Sometimes the best way to pass the time or enhance the experience is with a good audio book. And as much fun as it can be to comb the truck stop racks for the most ridiculous science fiction book on tape you can find, you'd probably prefer to catch up on your reading list.

Or perhaps a little travel writing will get you in the mood: "Travels with Charley," Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," or Robert M. Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" are sure to hit the spot.

Available for free on Apple products and Android. Most audiobooks cost between $20 and $30 unless you purchase an AudibleListener Gold Membership.

License Plate Travel Game

A part of the exhilaration of road trips is reliving the family vacation experience, minus the family (if possible). Nothing takes you back to your childhood in the backseat quite like road games. The incessant punching of Slug Bug can lower morale, but you can't go wrong with the license plate game.

With this app, you can play continuously throughout your trip, as the app logs all your finds and keeps score -- one point for plates already found and two for new plates.

Available for $0.99 on Apple products and free on Android.

Yelp

You're in a new city you know nothing about and you don't know what to do next. Yelp can help with anything.

Restaurants -- read reviews of the highest rated. Coffee shops -- which ones have Wi-Fi. Hotels -- which ones have never housed a serial killer. Car is spewing brake fluid -- which mechanics won't rip you off.

Available free for Apple products and Android.

Navigon

Sure you're fine with the Google maps app, but if you really want to step up your navigational game (and don't mind coughing up 60 bucks) then you should download Navigon. Yes, it sounds like a "Transformer" character and yes it has a couple features you'll probably only use once, like the Reality Scanner, which uses augmented reality by superimposing points of interest over a live camera.

Just as Navigon's parent company, Garmin, produces some of the world's best GPS devices, Navigon has created the ultimate travel app. With route planning, emergency assistance, speed assistance, lane choice assistance and the choice of 2-D or 3-D map display, this app has just about everything you'll need when it comes to getting from point A to point B. Or plan B, if your free spirit kicks in to high gear and you decide to change travel plans.

Available for $59.99 on Apple products and Android. App comes with several extra in-app options for purchase.

iExit Interstate Exit Guide

It never fails. You keep holding off for a Chick-fil-A until you're so hungry you go for the next McDonald's you see. Then the next exit leads directly to sandwiched hand-breaded chicken delight.

But with iExit you can see exactly what awaits at the next exit, and the one after that, and the one after that.

Do you have enough gas to wait until the next town? Is there a bathroom coming up any time soon? Need to buy a tent at Wal-Mart? The iExit app will tell you exactly what lies ahead.

Available for $1.99 on Apple products and free on Android.

Trapster

It's not that we condone speeding, we just condone you knowing where speed traps and speed cameras are.

So far, Trapster boasts a community of nearly 15 million users who have reported a total of more than 5.2 million speed traps across the world.

Available free on Apple products and Android.

Priceline Negotiator

Gone are the days of scheduling hotel reservations weeks in advance or going from motel to motel, comparing prices and sanitary conditions. Now you can make hotel arrangements, find the best deals, negotiate, and compare and filter hotels, all on the way to that night's destination.

Thank you, William Shatner.

Available free on Apple products and Android.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT