Here at Modarri toy car headquarters, we generally recommend that drivers unplug-and-play. “Feel the road!” Even so, apps are handy when you’re cooped up on road trips. For entertainment and getting useful info, here are some favorite free apps for the road! Each app mentioned here has earned four or five stars in overall user ratings. Plus, we tested them all for user friendliness.
GasBuddy by GasBuddy Organization
It’s crowdsourcing for cheap gas! GasBuddy is a free community app dedicated to finding the cheapest gas possible.
How it works: Users update gas prices in real time. Using this info and your GPS data, the app will suggest where to fill your tank.
Win fuel: For each gas price that you report, you’ll earn points toward prize giveaways. A $100 gas card is given away every day.
Google Maps by Google
An obvious choice for most lists of road apps, the free Google Maps app rarely lets us down. Google Maps offers turn-by-turn navigation plus route previews and maps showing traffic congestion.
Google Maps will also make local restaurant suggestions — now tailored by cuisine — and can display the weather forecast for any destination.
The License Plate Game by Joseph Levine
Family fun! Keep track of which US license plates you’ve seen. Sure, you could do that with paper and pencil – but license plate apps offer lots more. Of the free options, The License Plate Game by Joseph Levine is our favorite for iOS.
The License Plate Game app lists the fifty US states and shows a sample license plate from each. Tap a plate to check it off. Besides that you can:
- Add photos of “special plates” that you spot, such as those from outside the US or from Native American tribes
- See how common each plate is. Each state gets a difficulty rating based on how many plates are on the road. For example, California license plates have a difficulty rating of “Easy.” There are supposedly 32 million CA plates. Hawaiian plates, on the other hand, are rated “Very Hard” to find. There are only 959,000 of them on the road, according to the app developer.
- Get statistics about the percentage of US plates you’ve seen.
- Pin the location of each sighting. This option can be turned off if you’re not a fan of geo-tracking.
The screen is cluttered when you first open the app, but after you clear the simple instructions it looks great. Unlike other license plate game apps we tried, it’s easy to use and not full of distractions.
HotelTonight by Hotel Tonight Inc.
Didn’t plan ahead? Find hotel discounts anyway! Hotel Tonight is a free app that lists last-minute discounts. Also, now the service lets you book up to seven days in advance too. It’s useful whether you’re booking a fancy vacation or just need to pull over already…
The tag line for HotelTonight is “We are HotelTonight. And we want you to plan a little less. And live a little more.”
HotelTonight is free for Android and iOS.
Audible by Amazon
Love books? Audible is an audio book app for people with Amazon accounts. You’re prompted to log in with your Amazon info, but wait! In the upper corner there’s a “Try It” button. Click and you’ll see a selection of free samples to download, each about 30 minutes to 45 minutes long.
When we checked it out, some free downloads from Audible included excerpts from the bestsellers The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Kite Runner, and Stephen King’s 11-22-63: A Novel.
This app is free but designers hope you’ll pay down the line. A free trial gives you access to freebies like the aforementioned, plus two full audio books from a list of more than 150,000. After that, a $14.95/month membership gives you an additional audio book per month.
Your Favorite Road Apps
What are your favorite apps for the road? Drop us a line and maybe contribute to the next installment, “Best Free Apps for Road Trips (Part Two).”
Feel the Road! – Modarri