by Lori Straus
Long gone are the days when you needed to use a telephone, the Yellow Pages, a map the size of your windshield, and a travel agent to plan a road trip. The following road-trip apps will help you plan your trip and save money just by using your smartphone.
Apps for Directions
Map apps have perhaps one major downfall: You can’t see your full route unfolded in front of you like you can with a paper map. But past that, they’re amazing. Roadtrippers, Maze, and Google Trips help you plan your entire trip, but each app has a focus.
Roadtrippers covers only Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand, but their website is chock full of destination recommendations, often little-known ones. Their website says, “It can feel like you need a local guide to get an authentic experience on your trip, but Roadtrippers helps you escape the tourist bubble and find the coolest stops.”
Waze focuses more on community-shared info: Users enter accidents, traffic jams, favourite routes, and gas prices in the app. Part money saver (a few more of those in a moment) and efficiency expert, Waze helps you get where you need to go with as few roadblocks as possible.
Google Trips has the power of Google behind it, but one review said that Roadtrippers carries more info on those lesser-known destinations travelers often seek out. Google Trips includes hundreds of day plans for the world’s most popular destinations and allows some customization. Moreover, you can save all your bookings in one spot.
Road-Trip Apps to Help You Save Money
Travelling can get expensive, so anything that can help you save money but not add days to your trip planning is helpful. These apps fit the bill and can work on location, i.e., you don’t have to plan ahead to save money.
GasBuddy is another community-based platform that helps you find gas stations with the cheapest gas. Moreover, you locate gas stations with washrooms, car washes, and restaurants. I just looked up gas prices in Kitchener and Waterloo and learned that prices appear to be lower in Kitchener by about one cent. Costco in Waterloo is the outlier: a user reported that the price about 40 minutes ago was 95.9¢.
Hotel Tonight, as the name suggests, lets you find a cheap place to stay that night. So, if you thought you could drive 24 hours straight through and realized it was a silly dream, you can stop in a city and find a place to have sweet dreams for the night before driving on.
Miscellaneous Apps to Fill in the Gaps
These apps don’t fit neatly into either category above, so we’re including them here.
You enter your destination and the duration of your trip into PackPoint, and it will return a suggested packing list to you, complete with suggestions based on the expected weather. As a kid, I used to type up packing lists with my sister on my typewriter and almost always forgot to add “PJ.” This app beats that by a long shot.
ParkMe Parking’s website claims to have parking information for over 240,000 locations in 16,000 cities on all seven continents. I typed in Kitchener, and Lot E at 83 Queen St. N. is apparently 54% full and costs $2.20 to park. However, when I entered New Hamburg or Heidelberg (Ontario, of course, not Germany), nothing comes up. So, you may not find parking in smaller locales, but that shouldn’t stop you from using the app for larger ones.
OpenTable is likely already familiar to you: You can reserve a table at a restaurant ahead of time. Nothing’s worse than being hangry and driving around an unfamiliar city or town to find a place to eat. Arrive at your destination already knowing where you’re going to eat.
Download, Plan, and Go!
When my husband and I went on our honeymoon over 10 years ago, the GPS sent us somewhere and then the map just stopped. The power didn’t cut out; the road ended on the device but not before our eyes. We switched over to a paper map to finish the trip. I’d be surprised if that would happen to us today with the apps now available. So download the apps you need, plan your trip, and have a great time!