I’ve always loved road trips, but never more than today, when I can use my phone to find the best restaurants, hotel deals, cheapest gas and even Costco pizza along the way. Here are 10 apps that I use and recommend.
If you download Yelp to your smartphone, you can look for good restaurants wherever you are and avoid lousy tourist traps. Sometimes I’ll even look up restaurants along my driving route on Yelp, so my freeway stops are at the best places available and I can find unusual places that only the locals know. I was in Vacaville this winter and found one of the best Thai restaurants I’ve ever discovered, a tiny hole in the wall next to a Safeway. Thanks, Yelp.
Belong to Costco? If so, get their app. It will show you the location of every Costco in the known galaxy and whether or not it has a gas station. It’s a great cheap pit stop, and you can grease up on some pizza, churros and hot dogs while you’re there. Also, check for discounted attractions at your destination.
It’s a good resource for last-minute hotel booking when you’re on the fly. Only use the opaque site though. I don’t find the regular site to be a particularly good value.
4. GAS BUDDY
Find the cheapest gas stations near you, map them and also read reviews. Don’t leave home without it! On the full GasBuddy.com version, you can also calculate what the trip will cost you.
I use this app frequently to find hotel reviews, restaurants and things to do. Places are reviewed by customers and can sometimes be rigged for or against a business, so look for the preponderance of opinion. Sometimes you can find a great little joint that you’d otherwise overlook.
When you’re looking for a nicer restaurant in an unfamiliar area, this app can be a godsend. Find the types of restaurants that take reservations, read reviews and see photos, and reserve online. You even earn points for your reservations.
If you’re on an interstate highway, download this app to preview what’s coming up on your off-ramps. Look for cheap gas, food, hotels and lots of other stuff.
Heading to a national park? Check out the series of free Chimani apps that tell you most everything you want to know about our most iconic national parks. And, even better, you can download offline maps and details since you may be out of range inside the park.
9. GOOGLE MAPS
Yes, I know you have Apple maps on your phone, but it stinks. It once sent me in the middle of the night (driving alone) to an darkened oil well in the pitch-black desert instead of a Motel 6 in Buttonwillow. No, thanks. You can download Google Maps onto your iPhone, and you should. It now also has Waze to learn about traffic hazards before you get there. And, not to belabor the obvious, but please don’t drive onto a dirt road in the middle of nowhere just because GPS told you to go there. We don’t want to be looking for you a week later.
If you love road trips as much as I do, then this is your app, my friends. It gives you lots of stuff you need, like gas stations along your route, but other fun things as well. You can search a million places along the road, save itineraries, see what’s popular with other folks around you.
Got a travel tip on how to save money? Send it to me. If I use it, I’ll give you credit. Contact Marla Jo Fisher: email@example.com
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