There are few things in life I enjoy more than a good road trip.
Where we’re going doesn’t seem to matter near as much as how much fun we have getting there.
Over the years, my husband and I have taken quite a few epic road trips, crisscrossing the country more than once on our quest to find inspiration and serenity.
I’ve learned much about the United States of America from sampling local cuisine, chatting up RVer’s and well-placed rest stops, and adventuring into the true jewel of America – her national parks.
Some of my fondest travel memories stem from road trips; like that time I ended up in Kansas and left with the deed to an abandoned homestead, or driving across Texas with a malfunctioning car horn (it made drive thru’s quite interesting).
While more modern air travel has its advantages (TSA isn’t necessarily one of them), road trips allow travelers the time to truly “take it all in” – adventurous wanderings, local culture, roadside oddities, and endless rounds of Twenty Questions.
This year, I’ve made several round across the Midwest and Western regions of the United States, with fun excursions to: Winterset, Iowa (notable nearby: The Bridges of Madison County); Denver, Colorado (still feeling the 14K burn of Pike’s Peak); Bartlesville, Oklahoma (think: The Pioneer Woman); Branson, Missouri (it’s like the Las Vegas strip, Jesus-style); and Sioux Falls, South Dakota (lot of snow).
Depending on my work schedule and budget, these weekend road trips last anywhere from two to four days, giving me plenty of time to recharge for the next professional challenge while still offering a variety of unique things to do.
To make these not-always-planned, sometimes-super-spur-of-the-moment trips a success, I’ve come to rely on a few essential travel apps that help turn my travel dreams into reality. Here’s a few of my favorite road-trip downloads:
Fuel expense is often one of the biggest budget-busters for the modern road tripper, so having some form of gas price directory can be a great way to economically travel the roads. While there’s a few gas “gauging” apps available, Gas Buddy is an awesome app that allows comparison of gas prices. The prices are crowdsourced, so less populated areas may not have up-to-date information; however, you can view when the prices were posted so can screen out of date entries. Click here to learn more.
So, TripAdvisor was one of the very first apps I added to my phone. It’s easy to use collection of hotels, vacation rentals, area attractions, restaurants, and even flights, have made it the must-download go-to for today’s traveler. I especially like their user-generated reviews with photo collections of places to stay, as I’m always wary of those mid-range hotel chains that leave you wondering if they just need a face lift or offer the ideal ecosystem for badass bedbugs. With the large selection of detailed reviews, you can screen the sketch hotels, while locating the ones that live up to their “home away from home” advertising claim. Click here for more information.
Having a game plan for mechanical maladies while roving can be a godsend. Thanks to RepairPal, you can address your vehicle’s mechanical issues right away, by inputting your car’s information (year, make, model), current zip code, and repair needed into the apps drop down options. You’ll then be provided an instantaneous repair estimate, along with auto-repair shops near your location. It’s quite literally like having a mechanic in your pocket. Click here to learn more.
Roadtrippers offers some awesome trip guides and route recommendations, based on your interests. They’ve got a well-curated selection of outdoor adventures, national parks, and “weird offbeat guides n’stuff” (like Truckhenge and Graceland Too [not a typo, you should seriously do some googling]). If you’re one of those people that love to travel but hate to plan (Me! Me! Me!), Roadtrippers free and easy to use app is so for you. Click here to learn more.
For quick roadside assistance with basic vehicle issues, such as fixing a flat or running out of gas, Urgent.ly to the rescue! You’ll receive an up-front flat-rate price for the service, which you pay only when the service is completed. Urgent.ly offers nationwide coverage for towing, lockouts, jump starts, fuel delivery, and flat tires. While I’ve yet (knock on wood), needing Urgent.ly ‘s assistance, I keep the app on my phone, just in case. Click here to learn more.
Confession: I’m a wannabe foodie. I love trying new foods, and love, love, love sampling local fare while on road trips, but I’m not really “in the know” about where to find the best eats on all my excursions. Seems like someone said (or should’ve said), “There’s few ways to get to know a culture like eating their food.” But finding local cuisine can be like finding a needle in a haystack, if you don’t have the right apps. Yelp does a great job of spotlighting authentic and regional eateries, along with coffee shops, farmers markets, and even microbreweries. Click here to learn more.