Road trips are easily the best American pastime; from jaunts into the Great Smoky Mountains to the classic Route 66 family adventure, to visiting America's Best National Parks. It is with great happiness that it’s picking back up as one of the country’s favorite ways to get out of town and escape into travel mode. But unlike yesteryear, there’s plenty of apps to help get rid of the blues when driving across country, whether you’re going on a solo journey or taking the whole crew. So before you head out, make sure you’re a little download happy, and check out these picks!
1. HEADS UP
Perfect for the kids rambling in the backseat, or even your grown adult friends who are doing the same thing, Heads Up! is a great game app inspired by the game of the same name from Ellen Degeneres’ talk show. Played between two people and their iPhones, or two teams and two iPhones, you get timed while trying to figure out the word on the screen with only hints from your partner. Consider it the new age charades, and consider it huge fun for long rides.
2. FIELD TRIP
Field Trip is a great little app that is more than just a list of things to do, it’s a list of things to do near you and usually they’re pretty off the grid (meaning locals are fond of this app, and you can definitely reuse it at home as well to spice up your everyday). For people who are a fan of taking the long way around, this app is for you. From attractions to restaurants to secret hideaways, it’s the perfect finder for something close, but just a little off the grid.
While there’s nothing wrong with your basic map app, I have fallen in love with DarkSky and can't get away from its awesome perks. From ultraprecise radar (as in, the app lets you know in minutes how far that thunderstorm is from your person) to great maps that show you where all that weather is coming from, I find it incredibly useful and absolutely worth $4. Plus storm alerts! And beautiful maps!
Forget the old way of buying the perfect postcard for each person, enter the digital age when you can create your own postcard with original photos and send everything straight from your phone. Postagram is one of those rare apps that I leave on my phone 24/7 because it’s so easy to send snail mail to my friends and family that I do it whether I’m on vacation or not. But specifically for road trips, you can take pictures of where you’re at and send straight from your phone, to be delivered within the week via post (if you’re in the US). What’s easier, or more thoughtful, than that?
Recho is a cool experimental app that moves beyond just helping you discover a new place, but connecting with others as well. While GPS is essential for using this app, you get the cool experience of stumbling on a site-specific piece of work, be it a song, a poem, or prose, only when you're in that exact location. If you're a creative, this experience of discovering site-specific works of art is going to blow your mind. And bonus: you can leave your own memories as well! Perfect for repeat vacation offenders, utilize Recho to make great moments that can be visited again and again.
I think it’s not a far stretch to imagine Periscope to taking over the Snapchat empire—this app is the bomb and more than perfect for road trips. Grab your camera and send live broadcast feeds to your friends and family, or record video to be saved for later—either way, you're looking at holidays, vacations, and trips in real time, and you've got more than a few seconds to make all the magic happen. Sure, Snapchat may have all your contacts already, but Periscope is going to make you feel like Bear Grylls, and who doesn't want that?
This runaway hit of an app recording short clips to well-known soundbites is perfect for long car rides. Go solo with your in-car jamming or get everyone in the vehicle involved—it's sure to get plenty of laughs! Just check out this dad and his son when they were left alone by traveling mom. Could they be having any more fun?
8. Songkick Concerts
Are you a music lover? Songkick Concerts is one-upping the average concert site by letting you surf your options (big and small) based entirely on where your GPS coordinates get picked up. Surf through options from acoustic sets in a hipster bar to almost sold out arena stadiums—and the perks are that you can purchase tickets from inside the app! No prior planning to attend a concert required.
For road trips spanning a week or more, packing and organizing all the needs, wants and essentials for yourself or a group of people can be an incredibly daunting task. With PackPoint, you've got an easy out for all of the regular stress that goes along with keeping up with travel. Not just your average list app, this bad mama jama takes into account your length of stay, the possible (and predicted) weather conditions, as well as your activity plans, to provide the perfect packing list every time.
10. Greatest Drive
Greatest Drive is for the true road tripping enthusiast, and especially perfect for people who have the extra time to do sightseeing along the way. Heads up all you quick commuters, this app is going to destroy your plans of getting there and getting back. Just type in your current and final destination and Greatest Drive will head you down a path full of landmarks, great eats, and must-see stops between you and your holiday—it's the best form of fly-by-your-seat planning ever!
A special tip: If you're hailing from outside the US for this great adventure, I do suggest that you invest in a SIM card loaded with data, so you aren't missing out on the inland reception. As always local rates should be cheaper than any international plan offers, so make sure you do a bit of research before.
And as a note to the locals and foreigners alike, don’t forget to keep the information you carry on your phone locked down and protected while you’re roaming around looking for the next public WiFi connection - grab a Virtual Private Network to keep everything secure, especially from hackers preying on traveling tourists!
By Jess Signet
About the Author: Jess Signet is a blogger who writes about technology, traveling and technology needed when traveling. Having visited places all over the globe, traveling is both her love and addiction. She does not want to be cured.
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Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment. Read more