Let’s face it, in 2021 the smartphone is an essential part of managing a busy lifestyle. During my road trip across Europe, I used a number of road trip planner apps to manage the trip from my cell phone. This let me focus on enjoying the locations we visited!
A good selection of the best road trip planning apps will not only help you save money, but also help you discover the best experiences, local cuisine, and accommodation.
We’ve done the research for you. Read on to learn how to turn your smart device into the ultimate companion for your lengthy open road adventure.
In this article, I’ll show you screenshots, and clearly explain the features of each of the road trip planner apps. You can use the menu to easily navigate around the categories and use the links provided to get the road trip planning apps.
I’ll be discussing and reviewing all of the best apps to plan a road trip as well as outlining the ones which made my life easy whilst out on the road.
ROAD TRIP PLANNER APPS
We’ve split the road trip planner apps into different categories so that you can easily find which ones you need to help your preparation. You can also use the quick list provided to jump to a road trip app directly and read the review.
The Roadtrippers trip planner has fantastic functionality that considers the route you are taking and allows you to search for things to do and places to stay along your route.
I like to use Waze for the actual navigation and Roadtrippers for finding things to do on the way. I think it’s great if you are traveling between two large cities – if you want to break it up with a stopover you can find attractions along the way!
In my experience, this is the best app for finding things to do along your route.
As any road tripper will know, frequent breaks are a must on long journeys. If you have read my guide on how to stay awake while driving, you will know I suggest good length high-quality breaks.
The iExit app helps locate the best places to stop by using your location on the highway. If you are considering taking a break a passenger can look at what service stations are coming up so you can stop at the best one for you.
Detailed summaries of the location of and facilities available at the next stops on your route
Getting around the city is certainly a different challenge from long-distance highway driving. Here are a few road trip planner apps suited for inner-city navigation/driving.
Trying to navigate your way around a big city?
Citymapper is fantastic.
It has everything you need to manage your transit around those overwhelming cosmopolitan hubs. You can compare the route time for different transport options and it even estimates the calories you would burn by walking!
Real-time departures, line status, and disruption alerts
Compare all your options including trains, buses, uber, scooters, cycles and more.
When it comes to driving in the city, I have found Google Maps is a little more accurate than Waze. In terms of getting across town using public transport, Google Maps is also a viable alternative to Citymapper, albeit with mainly bus and train routes. If I am walking to my destination, I also like to use google maps to navigate, as it has such an extensive set of locations I can enter.
Getting accommodation sorted is covered in detail in my article on How to plan a road trip. Having a nice place to stay at the end of the journey is a great way to keep the stress levels down if you get stuck in traffic on a long trip.
Here are the top road trip planner apps I like to use to look for accommodation. I had great success with all of them whilst driving around Europe.
When on a road trip you have the flexibility to stay outside of the city and drive in to visit attractions. Air BnB is fantastic for finding cheaper accommodation outside of a city with free parking.
You can save a lot of money with this strategy and either drive or use public transport to get to the center of a city. You may also find yourself in some unique accommodation, I stayed on an orange farm outside of Seville recently!
View a variety of accommodation types with local hosts
Great review system and referral scheme.
Message directly with the host.
Different travel experiences through interesting accommodation types and locations.
If you are looking at staying in the center of a city but on a budget, Hostelworld is my favorite app for booking a bed in a shared dormitory. They have a great review feature and I’ve found the app to work perfectly.
From my experience hostel quality can vary significantly so my key advice is to read the reviews before booking. I also advise checking out one of the parking apps before booking to ensure there is a good priced car park nearby. This is important for finding cheap parking and one of the best ways to save money on a road trip.
I have made the mistake before of booking a great value hostel only to find that I spend a lot on parking. You can also message the hostels and potentially get a recommendation on where to park.
Great review system and a large number of options.
If you are looking for a private room instead of a budget option like a hostel, there are several apps you can use to search the market. I’ve used booking.com several times with generally positive experience. My only reservation is ensuring you check all fees before booking in case there has been a cleaning fee added.
Like booking.com you can use this app to search the hotel market. I always like to search multiple apps when I’m looking for a hotel or private room to ensure I get the best deal available at the time.
When I am looking for a place to eat my go-to app is Trip Advisor. It’s got great functionality for finding and choosing a restaurant based on the type of cuisine and your budget. From my experience, it’s got the most extensive amount of customer reviews which is very important when it comes to selecting a dining experience! It also has a built-in navigation feature to get you there.
Easy to use search and filtering system
Extensive reviews from other travelers.
Look at hotels, attractions, restaurants, holiday rentals and flights.
Parking can be a significant cost over the duration. That’s why I often recommend staying or parking outside of the city center and then traveling in via public transport or just parking for the day then returning out of the city to your accommodation.
Before I book accommodation, I always look at parking charges. Here are two apps you can use to compare prices and then navigate to the chosen spot!
This app works great, and I have always found the prices to be accurate. You can put in many filters to search for the specific type of parking you want.
If you put in the dates and times you are visiting it will calculate prices based on the duration of your stay which is very helpful. You can also then open navigation in Waze and head straight there.
Advanced filters and pricing based on the duration of your stay.
Map view layout with pricing flags.
Photos of the car park entrance so you know what it looks like
Fuel costs can really add up over a long road trip. My key tips are to avoid filling up on motorways and always fill the tank if you find cheaply priced fuel.
If you are moving over borders like in Europe, you can find big differences in fuel prices. Gas Buddy is an app allowing you to find the cheapest gas rates. For Europe, I used Waze as it has price checking functionality too.
Good rewards systems to save money on fuel
In-app payment feature.
For the USA
Venmo, owned by PayPal is a great app for quick transfers of money between road trip companions.
When I have been on a road trip with friends it’s been helpful to be able to split bills or expenses quickly. We use Monzo, which is UK based, but there are multiple different apps worldwide to choose from including Squares Cash App.
Make payments, money transfers, and purchases
Link bank accounts and debit cards
Sync with Facebook and phone contacts
Request money and share payments with friends.
XE CURRENCY CONVERTER
This is an easy-to-use currency converter app. I like to have it installed so I can quickly convert foreign currency into my own when I am checking prices for something.
It’s a great tool when traveling. It is also very useful if you are considering changing currency at a store. You can check to see what percentage fee they are charging based on how much you are changing and what amount of the local currency they are offering you in return.
View a currency conversion into multiple currencies at once, customizable list
Monitor the markets with charts and price alerts
Compare a conversion rate you received against the global mid-market rate. Great for checking the commission percentage at a currency exchange shop where you are exchanging into the local currency
Having road trip planner apps for packing can take the stress out of getting ready to hit the road. Here’s our favorite recommended app.
This app is simply fantastic for creating a road trip packing list! The relatively boring job of packing can be made simple. You input where you are going, for how long and what you plan to do. The app then generates a packing list based on those assumptions and the weather.
Input your planned activities to generate an appropriate packing list.
We’ve covered road trip entertainment extensively on this site. Feel free to explore and see the other articles we’ve written to ensure you never get bored on the road. From low-tech to mobile-based entertainment we’ve got you covered.
A music app is an absolute must for any road trip. I like Spotify as the playlists are great (Check out the road trip ones) but you can, of course, choose one of their competitors such as apple music.
I also like to download podcasts and audiobooks to give alternatives to normal music listening.