There are few things better than hitting the open road on a cross-country road trip. Whether you're heading out with your best buds or loading the kids into the car to visit relatives a few states over a little app prep will make sure the trip goes as smooth as is possible.
If your car doesn't have Android Auto functionality built into its stereo system, it's worth checking out Google's app for staying connected in your car. It's now available on any Android phone, so you don't need to buy a brand new car or upgrade your car stereo to take advantage of the convenience — it'll just run right on your phone and can be configured to automatically launch when connected to your car's Bluetooth or a Bluetooth FM transmitter (opens in new tab).
Android Auto is the safest way to access your phone while driving, giving you one-touch access to navigation, music controls, and recent calls. As you'd expect, there's great support built in for Google Assistant including the option to have incoming text messages read out loud (admittedly not the best option if you're in a packed car with friends or family).
Android Auto lets you navigate with Google Maps, listen to playlists or podcasts from your favorite apps, send messages via voice, and more while eliminating the other ways your phone can distract you on the road. If you're hitting the road this summer, you should absolutely have this app download on your phone.
Download: Android Auto (Free) (opens in new tab)
While Google Maps (opens in new tab) remains the most popular navigation app for Android (largely due to its inclusion as a stock app on most Android devices), Waze is a great option to consider for all your GPS navigation needs.
Waze users get the benefit of all the information gleaned from other Waze users on the road, from real-time traffic information including accident reports, police traps and other hazards seen on the road. You're also encouraged to add your own updates and contribute to your local Waze community as well. Using all that data, Waze will automatically reroute you to avoid any upcoming hazards, and also has really smart features for finding the cheapest gas stations along the way as well as ways of keeping family and friends in the loop on your ETA.
Download: Waze (Free) (opens in new tab)
Google Trips is a great travel planning app that helps with some of the mundane aspects of traveling like keeping track of your reservations, while also helping to plan out your days in a new city by suggesting cool things to do based on your interests and available time.
If you're planning to make a pitstop on your way to your final destination, plug the city into the app and see what it generates! It's also available offline, so if you planned out your pit stops ahead of time you can keep in the know even if your phone's data konks out.
Download: Google Trips (Free) (opens in new tab)
When you're exploring a new city trying to figure out what's worth checking out, you're best off checking in with the locals. Yelp is one of the most popular apps for reviewing restaurants and businesses with over 100 million reviews posted by users just like you.
When you're in a pinch for a roadside bite and need to know what's good, Yelp will help you find the perfect restaurant to fuel up and get back on the road.
Download: Yelp (Free) (opens in new tab)
Fuelling up is often one of the biggest expenses you'll incur on a road trip. GasBuddy helps you find the cheapest places to fill up along the way. Not only is this an app that you'll want to use on a road trip, but you might end up becoming an everyday user once you see the savings for yourself.
All the data is user-generated, so if you see a cheaper gas price not listed in the app, you can report the price in the app and contribute to the GasBuddy community.
Download: GasBuddy (Free) (opens in new tab)
What's a road trip without some kick-ass driving music? Or maybe a podcast is more your speed? Regardless of what you prefer to listen to on your long distance drives, Spotify is the best streaming service you should be using in 2018.
Spotify has improved its free, ad-supported mobile app with "made for you" playlists that are curated based on the songs and bands you listen to. With a premium subscription, you get full, unfiltered access to streaming access to over 40 million tracks along with a wide range of curated playlists, so the music won't ever stop, even on the longest of drives. Spotify also includes podcasts, and with Spotify Premium you can download songs and podcasts to your device for offline listening during those times on your trip where cell reception might be lacking. It also plays real nice with Android Auto allowing for hands-free control of all your music while you're on the road.
That is, unless your co-pilot has already claimed the role of in-car DJ…
Download: Spotify (Free) (opens in new tab)
With its latest update allowing for offline viewing on mobile devices, Netflix suddenly became the go-to app for parents hoping to distract the young ones in the back without having to worry about all that data.
There's a large amount of kid-friendly content available to be downloaded for offline viewing, which should help keep the shouts of "are we there yet?" to a minimum. Load up a phone or tablet with your kids' favorites and look forward to the quietest road trip you've ever enjoyed. It's also a great option for keeping adults quiet, too. A subscription is required, of course, but if you don't already have one you for sure know someone who does.
Download: Netflix (Free) (opens in new tab)
Where are you headed?
How do you plan for your road trips? Any apps that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Update June 2018: Updated some of our picks for the Summer of 2018. Drive safe out and have fun!
I wish one of the map apps had a scenic route selection option. and/or an overlay at least highlighting the scenic routes.
Automate is so much better than Android Auto. It has a ton more features and is just as easy to use.
You never mentioned Car Home Ultra which runs circles around Android Auto
Oregon just passed a law - more than one swipe or click on your phone while driving - is $1000 for the first offense... And that is including the moments that you are at a stop sign or red light...
So many better choices than Android Auto. Personally, I like Drivemode. It has a slight learning curve. But, the ability to customize and chose which apps you want to use for navigation, music, etc. can't be beat. I was looking for an app that would let me use Waze instead of Google Maps (nothing against GM, I just like Waze better).
I use NAVIGON.
I have tried others and Will Always Recommend Navigon to Anyone and Everyone.
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