Summer Road Trip Hacks and Smartphone Apps
Editor’s note: This blog has been updated in 2021 to present the most accurate information.
Are you planning a summer road trip with friends or family? Make getting to your destination easier, safer, and more enjoyable with these summertime road trip hacks and popular smartphone apps.
The apps and tricks outlined in this blog will help you:
- Avoid traffic, stay on schedule, and navigate with ease
- Map out any pitstops, detours, and points of interest
- Plan for tolls along the route
- Get the best hotel and lodging available
- Ensure your car is ready to roll
To make things easier, we’ve broken down our road trip hacks into four categories:
1. Road Trip Navigation & Traffic Apps
When you’re on a road trip, traffic is something you can count on. Even outside of regular rush hour times, things like accidents and construction can slow you down, cost you time, and make things way more frustrating than they should be. The best way to avoid this is to be as proactive as possible in planning your trip. This can help you avoid any planned construction or shut down roads.
During your trip, it’s best to toss on a navigation app. We recommend getting a phone dock for your vehicle to avoid distractions. Not only will this modern-day GPS help you get you to your destination without a headache, but it’ll also give you a head’s up if there are any hazards on your route. You’ll have the chance to reroute, saving you from accidents, speed traps, full-stop traffic, and other time-wasters.
If you’re looking for a way to beat the traffic, check out the following navigation and traffic apps:
The tried and true, Google Maps offers turn great, straightforward turn-by-turn navigation. As new features are seemingly added regularly, it continues to hold its popularity among new competitors. The new explore feature can help you find things to do along your route!
Exclusive to iOS devices, Apple Maps can be a great choice for those searching for a simplistic and attractive display while they navigate the roads. The integration with Siri makes hands-free operation a breeze.
Now powered by the minds at Google, Waze Maps brings a lot to the table. Not only are you able to customize it to meet your specific needs far more than the others on the list, but you’ll also get real-time alerts from other drivers on the road so you can plan accordingly.
If you’re in a time crunch to get to your destination, ETA may be exactly what you’re looking for. This beautifully designed app can give you your travel time with just a glance to help make sure you’re on schedule. Best of all, it provides easy speed dial buttons to pull up directions using your preferred app.
MapQuest is the oldest mapping program that you probably remember from the nineties, but now packaged in a shiny new app! This app lets you access live cameras to get a visual of current traffic conditions to help you avoid congestion.
Pro tip: It’s important to note that these apps can use significant data, so if you’re worried about hitting your data limits or are going to be traveling somewhere without reliable service, it’s best to save and pre-load your route with something like Google Maps. You’ll be able to easily follow the pre-loaded data if your connection becomes unreliable.
2. Detour, Pit Stop, & Points of Interest Planning
Since the first successful North America road trip in 1903 from San Francisco to New York over 63 days, road trips have become a cornerstone of America’s pop culture and summertime activities. We love road trips because we don’t only get to go to the final destination we’ve been planning for, we get to take in the sights and sounds of various stops along the way!
Try to figure out how to plan a road trip? Check out some of these planning recommendations:
Love a cheesy roadside attraction? Or are national parks more your thing? Either way, America is full of them and Roadtrippers has you covered with this one-of-a-kind tool. You can create a road trip map and identify your unique stops along the way. This is one of the best cross-country road trip planners currently available!
Our friends at Google have another useful road-tripping tool for your next vacation. Google Travel is a great app and online site that can help streamline your road trip planning - or any vacation at that matter. It can help you map out your route and explore possible stops along the way – as well as hotels, coffee shops, vacation rentals, and more.
Pro Tip: Most of the navigation apps we mentioned before will let you plan your detours and stops ahead of time, so you won’t have to worry about finding the location on your own or entering it while you’re on the road.
3. Tollway Tips & Tricks
Many states have toll roads or toll-controlled lanes somewhere in them. In fact, the only states that do not currently charge tools are Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Wisconsin, and Tennessee. Each state has a unique method of charging for the use of toll roads, so we always recommend doing your research beforehand.
While many states primarily use an electronic tolling system, it’s best to always have cash on hand for unexpected tolls that take cash. If you find yourself passing through an electronic tolling system without the appropriate toll tag, there’s normally a 7-day grace period to pay your toll online via the state’s website.
Some helpful toll related road trip apps include:
TollGuru is a great resource to calculate road trip expenses, including gas and tolls via their Trip Calculator. The app calculates tolls and gas costs across all toll roads, tunnels, and other tollways in The United States and beyond.
Navigation App Options
It’s common for most navigation apps nowadays to feature some sort of option to avoid tolls when possible. While this can save you a few bucks, you may still be required to pass through one or more so it’s important to research the tolls along your route beforehand.
4. Hotel and Lodge Booking
Whether you choose to book your lodging in advance or on the go, there are options available to make it easy to book directly from your phone. Hotel booking apps can help you get last-minute deals, keep track of your rewards programs, and even allow you to check into your room for a contactless experience.
The best travel booking apps we recommend include:
Hotel Tonight continues to be a fan favorite due to the last-minute deals you can find on thousands of top hotels in cities and countries worldwide. With this app, you’ll have the chance to book a 5-star hotel and pay only a fraction of the price! That's one of the great benefits of using this app as it serves up deals on rooms that may otherwise go unsold.
Airbnb has become a staple app for many travelers over the past few years with its truly unique vacation booking experience. Airbnb presents many advantages over a traditional hotel due to their extra space at a lesser price, as well as the chance to be equipped with things like kitchens, washers, dryers, private pools, and more.
The newest of the bunch, Vrbo is quickly growing in popularity. While it’s similar to Airbnb in many ways, only entire properties and homes are listed on the site. This makes booking easier without having to go through various filters and running the risk of renting a not-so-private space for around the same price.
While not a traditionally booking app, TripIt can be useful in helping you keep track of all your reservation numbers and updates all in one place. The app updates in real-time so you always know what’s next on the horizon for your trip.
5. Pre-Trip Vehicle Inspection
While we’re always up for making recommendations on places to stop, games to entertain the kids, or music to jam out to, our real specialty lies in making sure your car is ready for the trip you have planned. At Christian Brothers Automotive, we’ll make sure your summer road trip is as smooth and stress-free as possible by following a proven pre-trip vehicle inspection checklist.
We’re able to accomplish this by ensuring your car is ready to handle the many miles that lie ahead. Our maintenance services are designed to keep your car reliably running in every regard, including your engine, wheels and tires, climate control, and so much more. Before you set off on your trip, bring your car to one of our local auto repair shops for our unrivaled courtesy inspection or any of our other high-quality maintenance services.
For an auto shop experience that’s clean, courteous, and caring, be sure to choose your neighborhood Christian Brothers Automotive! To find a location near you, search our interactive map online.