There are those who love a long drive and there are those who have a slightly more tenuous appreciation to road travel. But whether you’re taking a road trip out of the necessity of moving or temporarily relocating, or you’re taking a trip for the purpose of vacationing out on the road, you have to be prepared. You have to know where you’re headed, how you’re going to sustain yourself, stay safe and how, despite it all, you’re going to enjoy yourself. Apps don’t offer the answers to all these issues, but they certainly don’t hurt. The following is a guide on how to best use your smartphone or tablet to travel on the ultimate tech-facilitated road trip:
Google Maps is surely the most popular of map applications and considering it’s probably already installed on your device, its impressive feature set and accuracy in satellite and standard map modes will continue to serve you well… until you get really lost, can’t get a data signal at all and are left to your own devices (unless you have a dedicated Sat Nav machine, which may well be a worthwhile investment).
- The Android version of Google Maps can precache a 10km square area if you go to Settings > Labs. If you know you’re going through an area with poor reception, this can be useful (especially as GPS can work even where phone reception is poor and is entirely free to boot). However you will need significant foresight and it’s kind of useless on very long journeys;
- For iPhone, “City Maps 2 Go” is a cheap app with maps for “7,800 locations” worldwide. In the US, this includes entire coverage of cities and counties. A number of countries in Western Europe, as well as Kenya, are also completely available. Simply search for places you’re planning on visiting before you go, and they’ll be popped into your phone’s memory;
- “MapDroyd” is the closest Android alternative.
Food and Drink
For emergencies, you should always have supplies of bottled water in the car in your trip, but in the course of normal operation you’re going to need to know where to head
- Speaking of water, there are apps that specifically point you to sources of free water in the US and the UK. TapIt is an iPhone only, US-based option. “Water Water Everywhere” provides that same service in the UK;
- Urbanspoon remains a popular restaurant recommendation and randomisation app for both Android and iOS in much of the English speaking world (US, UK, Australia, Canada);
- Other options include toptable, FastFood , OpenTable and Zagat.
Breakdown and Repair
Sometimes, things don’t go smoothly. You should always carry spares and tools so you can fix most problems yourself, but you never know when you’re going to suffer a total breakdown. Tech can help you with this too:
- Several roadside assistance services provide apps that are useful for many aspects of motoring, but a great feature of some of these apps is the ability to make a GPS pin-pointed Road Service request;
- Apps from AAA (the American Automobile Association), the AA (UK), Green Flag (UK), the CAA (Canadian) and countless other providers of Nationwide Vehicle Contracts each offer an app on a variety of platforms;
- Depending on your location, manufacturers including Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Mazda operate a similar service;
- In the US, Repair Pal is a service that can put you in touch with nearby garages.
- There are several apps out there that will advise you on the nearest gas/petrol stations and on their prices. Gasbuddy is one option in the US, the UK has MyGas – prices are usually dependent on user updates, however.
- If you get really lost, there’s a Bear Grylls app that covers every aspect of survival training.
Though touched on with the maps section, the Achilles heel of any great app is whether it works offline or not. The depth of information that most of these services provide simply requires storage outside of the confines of your phone. And if you’re beyond the reach of your phone network, or simply wanting to download lots of data quickly, you need a Wi-Fi connection. How do you find one?
- Well, on iTunes, you don’t – prominent services like WifiTrack, which searches for strong, free Wi-Fi signals in your area, were removed from iTunes store;
- On Android and iTunes JiWare’s WiFi Finder is an option that provides an offline database without the privacy concerns that shut other apps down;
- A BT Fon app shows you where all of the provider’s (paid) wi-fi hotspots are in the British Isles, and other services have similar apps.