Putting more fun in your travel

6 Free Apps for Your Next Road Trip

by Charlie Cohn

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Ah, the Great American Road Trip. It's your chance to break free, take life by the wheel, celebrate your independence, and see the country on your terms. Of course, with that freedom comes the responsibility of planning your adventure. Thankfully, there are tons of smartphone apps on the market to help you every step of the way. To ensure that your drive goes smoothly, here are 6 free apps available for iOS and Android phones to help you plan and execute your expedition.

1. Plan Your Trip and Find Attractions with Roadtrippers

When it comes to a road trip, the phrase, "It's not the destination, but the journey," epitomizes the magic of taking in the sights along the way. Though Roadtrippers can help you find food, entertainment and accommodations, the app is best for finding odd attractions along the way.

Whether you want to see the World's Largest Sun Dial or explore one of our many beautiful state parks, Roadtrippers will help you find it. Simply set your starting point and destination, and the app will suggest attractions along the way. Tired of looking at your phone? The app even allows you to print out your itinerary. As a bonus for the budget-minded, Roadtrippers allows you to estimate how much fuel will cost along the way.

2. Locate the Best Price on Gas with GasBuddy

Remember that episode of Seinfeld when Kramer decides to see just how far a car can go on a tank of gas? We've all done it (sometimes accidentally), and it can be terrifying. GasBuddy alleviates the fear of not being able to find the next place to fill up the tank. This essential app uses your GPS to locate the nearest gas stations to you and tells you how much gas costs at each location, so you can always find the best price.

In addition, GasBuddy allows you to filter by price, fuel grade, map view, and whether a station carries diesel fuel.

3. Book a Place to Stay with Hotels.com

I recently found myself looking for a last-minute hotel after discovering all the campgrounds were full where I planned to stay for the night. Not knowing my options, I pulled out my phone and opened Hotels.com's app to find the most economical accommodations in the area. Then, I drove directly to the hotel to make a booking, which was a big mistake.

The front desk would not match the same low-price I found online. So, I stepped out of line, opened the app back up, found a mobile-only Hotels.com discount at CouponPal, and made my reservation. Then, I got back in line and checked into the hotel at a fraction of the advertised cost.

4. Navigate Around Town via the Quickest Route with Waze

Ever since Apple replaced Google Maps with its native iPhone app, reports of errors (including users being given turn-by-turn directions across an airport runway) have surfaced. This caused many iPhone users to install Google's app, but now there's an even better alternative.

Waze is a community-based app that incorporates real traffic information from other users to provide you with the most efficient directions. That means you can drive like a local no matter what city your trip takes you to and save gas by avoiding traffic. The app works so well that Google recently shelled out a reported $1 billion for the company to incorporate its technology and data into the Google app.

Don't feel comfortable looking at your phone while you drive? No problem. The app will give you directions by "voice" while you drive.

5. Steer Clear of a Ticket with Trapster

There's nothing quite like the carefree feeling of driving on the open highway. Unfortunately, if you're like me, that freedom can pick up a lot of speed and earn you a high-price, out-of-state ticket.

Trapster compiles information from users about speed traps, red light and speed cameras, accidents, road hazards, and other dangers of the road to keep you out of trouble. Of course, we don't condone speeding (or breaking the law), but if you choose to, you'll want Trapster at your side. Though the app cannot guarantee you'll stay ticket-free (you need to obey all traffic laws for that!), it will keep you aware of the dangers lurking on the road.

6. Find Where to Eat, Shop, and Get Your Car Serviced with Yelp

There are tons of apps out there designed to help you find restaurants along the road, but Yelp is still my favorite. Users have been providing Yelp.com with peer reviews of businesses since 2004, filling the site with an incredible amount of information about restaurants, shopping, nightlife, entertainment, and services you might need along your journey.

Want a cheap meal? Yelp it. Need a new tire? Yelp it. The Yelp app gives you access to all the information you'd find on the website and puts it at the tip of your fingers. This is a must-have for any traveler.

Now you have food, entertainment, fuel, and directions. What else do you need for a great road trip? All that's left to do is download the apps and hit the highway. Adventure calls.

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