Driving cross-country: Apps for the road

With our cross-country trip just days away (and the swelling from my wisdom teeth extraction FINALLY going down), John and I are kicking into high gear finishing up last-minute packing and tying up loose ends. I wasn’t of much use this week, though, and I am SO ready to put food in my mouth with reckless abandon. Besides sleeping, I spent much of this week’s opiate haze staring at my phone and looking up apps that would make our road trip to L.A. more fun and informed, so I thought I’d share a roundup of some of the apps I found that would be great for any road trip.

travel apps

Roadtrippers is an app best used by planning it out first on your computer, then taking it on the road with you using your phone. Once you map out your route and select each stop along the way, you can choose what you’d like information about in each city or town, including accommodations, food, museums, parks, and more. What’s great about it is that it’s curated by local experts and travel writers, and it doesn’t just include the standard tourist traps, but it points you to more obscure locations, too. Your filter can include anything from amusement parks and scenic attractions to folk art and abandoned buildings. You know, the spots where you can take the best new Facebook profile picture.

roadtrippers app

Food is going to be a pretty important part of our trip, and while I plan on saving money (and my health) by stopping at more grocery stores than fast food places, we’re going to want some good local fare when we stop every night. The TVFoodMaps app lets you search by city and find all the local pubs and restaurants featured on channels like the Food Network. Below, just a few places to check out in Nashville. (I personally am inclined to visit any place featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives or Man v. Food.)

TVFoodMaps app

A few other travel apps we’ll probably be using a fair amount are iExit, GasBuddy, and Trapster. iExit lets you know in realtime what amenities are at upcoming exits (gas, food, lodging, etc.) and how to get there from the off-ramp. There have been plenty of times during road trips past when I’ve gotten off the main highway thinking the next place with a bathroom would be in plain site only to get lost four miles from the exit and eventually ended up peeing in a questionable unisex gas station bathroom with no lock.

iExit can find you the gas stations, but GasBuddy can do that and tell you where it’s cheapest. Users help keep the listed prices up-to-date, and the app gives you incentive to do so by giving you points toward prizes. Money saved on the road in the form of gas costs is a huge part of enjoying your road trip, especially when your fuel economy is compromised by the weight of your load (heh).

Though my mama scolds me for it, I sometimes have a bit of a lead foot when I drive. Trapster alerts you to speed traps and parked cops looking to give you a ticket. It depends on app users’ updates and obviously won’t be 100 percent accurate, but it’s nice to have extra pairs of eyes on the road, especially when those cops are super-undercover. Still, mom, I promise I won’t speed too much.

vscocam app

Of course, my very favorite part of a good road trip is the number of photo opps that come with it. You can bet I’ll be taking tons of pictures—both my film and digital SLRs are coming with me, along with my tripod and old filters. I’ll also be very active on Instagram, which means I’ll want decent photo editing apps for my phone. After reading great reviews and seeing other Instagram users with it, I downloaded the VSCO CAM app and am already in love. If you’re on Instagram and feel as though you’ve overdosed on the Kelvin filter (kidding—no self-respecting photographer uses Kelvin), VSCO CAM not only lets you choose from several gorgeous filters, but it also lets you adjust their intensity. I love the subtle and elegant touch of each filter, each of which shows off the subject of your photo more than it shows off the filter itself.

tinyplanet app

TinyPlanet is another recent favorite photo app of mine that creates the above otherworldly look for your photos. Just choose from your phone’s photo album which picture you’d like to morph, and it turns it into a strange, tiny planet in seconds. Best used with panoramic, patterned, or scenic shots (rather than selfies).

Best of all, with the exception of TinyPlanet and iExit, these are all free. (The other two are just 99 cents.) What else should I check out? What are your favorite apps for travel, food, and photography? Witty Title Here goes West in just four days!