9 Must-Have Apps for Road-Trippers

September 15, 2017 | Patricia Wuest

Avoid the bumps, detours and potholes that can ruin a vacation with these free smartphone apps.

With these smartphone apps, your next road trip can be a walk in the park! Whether you’re looking for the nearest gas station or trying to avoid traffic backups, there’s an app to help.

Roadtrippers: If you find being spontaneous stressful while you’re on the road, you’ll love this handy route-planning app. It enables you to mark your beginning and end points, and then find interesting, fun places to visit during the trip, including places to eat and stay, scenic roadside stops, national parks, and cultural and entertainment attractions. Free; for iOS and Android.

GasBuddy: When you’re on a long road trip, the pennies you save by fueling up with the cheapest gas can add up. GasBuddy locates the closest gas stations — and throws in TripAdvisor-like customer reviews — and tells you the gas prices at each. With 60 million users, it has earned its title as “the world’s largest community-based fuel app.” Because many of the prices are based on user reports, GasBuddy rewards them with points for reporting and updating a station’s prices; they are then eligible for regular raffles of prizes, like free gas. Free; for iOS and Android.

Waze: We first discovered this app when we had been evacuated during a hurricane and we were looking for the least traffic-choked route back to our home. Waze aggregates real-time user-generated traffic and road-condition information to identify the fastest route, provides step-by-step guided navigation, and sends alerts about accidents or other snags down the road. Free; for iOS and Android.

Flush Toilet Finder: We wish this had restroom ratings like SitOrSquat (which has not been updated since 2014, unfortunately), but the Flush Toilet Finder app locates public restrooms in your area. The database currently has more than 200,000 restrooms — and counting — around the world. It will tell you whether the toilet requires key or has handicapped access, plus it integrates with Google Maps to provide directions. This app is useful even when you’re not driving, such as when you’re touring the sights in an unfamiliar city. Free; for iOS and Android.

RepairPal: It’s your worst nightmare — your vehicle breaks down on the road in an unfamiliar place. With RepairPal, you enter the make of your car and the problem, and the app provides you with the location of area mechanics, an estimate for repair, roadside assistance and user ratings. It covers 42,000 U.S. zip codes. Free; for iOS and Android.

Podcast Apps: If you like to listen to podcasts — about sports, politics, true crime, dramas — these apps offer literally thousands of options, as well as to your favorite radio shows. There are free ones, but you’ll get more options if you pay for one like Pocket Casts. Free or paid; for iOS and Android.

Zagat: Updated in 2016, this app allows you to search by destination and sort restaurants by cuisine, price, features and more. It also offers crowd-sourced reviews and scores. Free; for iOS and Android.

OpenTable: Use the website or the app to search for local restaurants that have available seating and then make a reservation. If you know where you want to eat, you can search for a specific restaurant — but you can also browse by location, cuisine type, price, and schedule. Free; for iOS and Android.

ParkMe: You’ll never again drive around aimlessly in a city looking for parking options. This app searches for the nearest and cheapest parking spots, provides daily and monthly rates, sets a parking timer so you remember to feed the meter, and even reserves and pays for a parking slot via your phone. Free; for iOS and Android.

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