Tis the season to set out on the open road.
And while in-car entertainment options have NEVER been better (streaming services, podcasts, and access to countless digital radio stations), the digital tools to keep you safe and sane are just as robust. From finding the oddest of oddball roadside attractions to diagnosing the sound your car just started to make, these are five of the best.
If you typically caravan to your choice weekend escape, this app will become essential. Rather than fighting traffic and red lights to stay close to other car in your crew, Follow lets you set up a leader vehicle and a follower; wherever the lead car goes, the other vehicle can map their route even if they’re separated via map and audio notification. Sure, you can always all download the same direction, but now you’ll know about the pitstops and detours as well. The free version provides you with one “follower” slot; upgrade to the paid version for $1 to have unlimited cars following the leader.
Hands down one of the best navigation apps on the market, it uses crowd-sourced data to offer real-time updates on traffic conditions to help you avoid congestion, stand-stills, and other unexpected chaos. The user interface is intuitive, almost…cartoonish in a way, that makes it fun and easy to follow, and you’re encouraged to improve the data feed by reporting roadside issues like accidents, traffic (heavy, light, moderate), obstacles in the road, and speed traps. The inclusion of speed and red light cams is also great, especially in cities. Google owns the app, and likely uses much of the same data to power its own (very good) Maps app, but go straight to the source—and maybe change the voice commands to the British accent to keep things fresh.
Tailor-made to help you find the unusual, the app lets you search for oddball distractions close to where you’re driving in one of seven U.S. or Canadian regions for $3. Upgrade for $6 to get more, or just target specific regions one-by-one for $2 per region. Giant twine ball? Bowling Ball House? A building shaped like an ice cream cone? You’re covered.
This is the app you never want to use—and will be so glad you have it when you need it. The free app taps into a network of mechanics to help you price out maintenance or repairs, with everything from standard mechanical needs like oil of filter changes to helping you diagnose a mechanical issue and find the most trust-worthy and affordable shop to fix the issue.
If Roadside America caters to your love of the weird running through your wanderlust, Roadtrippers will resonate with the vein of OCD implicit in any road trip. The robust app lets you plan out your entire road trip itinerary, with everything from the preferred routes to picking out attractions. You can save and share the itineraries you design, and discover a few new cool attractions within easy striking distance of your start and end points.