Article by Bill Clevlen
Are you old enough to remember the days when road trips across America meant using giant maps that nobody could ever re-fold? If so, you’re probably thrilled with today’s technology that lets you use GPS to enhance your travel experiences. From avoiding toll roads to finding a place to crash for the night, mobile apps have been an absolute game changer.
I spend a considerable amount of time in my car driving around the country. These are some of the apps I have on my phone that are sure to make your next trip more productive and enjoyable. All of the suggested apps are available for download on both Apple and Android mobile devices. Be mindful of your phone’s data plan and battery life when using them.
If there was ever a perfect app designed for business travel, this is it. TravelBank helps you stay organized before, during and after your trips. The app can help you plan for your trip, track mileage, or book flights. Employees can even scan and upload receipts and instantly be reimbursed for expenses. It will even sync to programs like Quickbooks. TravelBank is ranked No. 1 in Apple’s “Business Apps We Love.” TravelBank says their mission is to help redefine how employees create expense reports.
I drive all over the country and have tried nearly every GPS app on the market. I always come back to Google Maps because it tends to be the most reliable. That’s not to say it’s perfect, because it isn’t. But there’s more than enough to like about it. For example, the real-time traffic updates are pretty spot on. I’m alerted when there’s an accident up ahead and a faster route is available. And unlike some of the other traffic apps, I don’t have to worry that it’s going to direct me to drive into a lake. (Yes, that’s really happened.) The Google Maps app is also helpful when you can’t seem to find the physical address once you arrive. The Streetview feature clearly shows the building you’re looking for. I also like that you can switch the color scheme depending on whether it’s day or night.
Finding a place to park, especially in a city you’re not familiar with can be a huge hassle. Time that you spend looking for a spot can be stressful, and even cause you to be late for an important meeting. Park in the wrong spot and you could wind up with a costly ticket or worse. The Spot Hero app can tell you ahead of time where to find the most reasonable parking spot and in many cases, you can pay in advance to reserve it.
Field Trip I
f you plan on road tripping this summer, this is a definite must! The Field Trip app allows you to really get a sense of your surroundings by pointing out landmarks, important historical spots or general information that you might not be aware of. The app can run in the background while you’re driving and “cards” will pop up on your screen with details about things that fall into your selected categories. You can choose options like “Food & Drinks,” “Cool & Unique” or “Arts & Museums.” The cards can be narrated through your vehicle’s Bluetooth capability. Cost: FREE
We’ve all been driving down the highway and debating whether or not to get off the for food and fuel, not knowing if an exit up ahead might have better or fewer options. Using the I-Exit app, you can see details on restaurants, stores, attractions and gas stations, including current fuel prices. GPS detects the highway and direction you’re driving while listing the upcoming exits. Cost: FREE
Of all the travel apps I have on my phone, this is my favorite. Of course, I’m a big fan of pulling off the road and seeing things like the tallest fork in America. (Hello, Springfield, MO.) Roadside America has brilliantly archived nearly every quirky attraction in the country. When you open the app, a list of fun stops will show up based on the distance from your current location. Some are better than others, and a user review feature rates the stops to let you know if they’re worthy of a visit. There are eight versions available. You can opt to purchase the region you typically travel in or unlock all of the information at once. Cost: $2.99 for 1 region. / $5.99 for the entire U.S.
If you like the idea of having your own personal tour guide, this is the perfect app for your next trip. Just Ahead can share an interesting story about something you see on the horizon, give you the background story on a small town, or list the highlights of a big city. All of the content is produced by travel writers from National Geographic, AAA, Outside Magazine and others. All you have to do is look out the window and listen to the highlights.
Cost: Free to download. (Individual guides must be purchased)