Smart phones have revolutionised how we travel for the better. Everything from maps, reservations, budgeting, and entertainment – it’s all available now on the computer in your pocket. The humble road trip has become much more connected (and fun!).

To make your next road trip really great, here are 8 essential road trip apps, all available for Android and Apple phones.

1. Waze

The first app you’ll need for your road trip is a great maps/GPS app. You could use Google Maps or Apple Maps, but Waze has a few extra features the bigger players don’t offer. While most map apps are data powered, Waze is also community powered, with other users sharing real time info about traffic, accidents, speed traps, and more. 

Waze also features celebrity voices for your directions. Opt for a peaceful drive with the dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman, or if you’re a sucker for punishment set it to the obnoxious name checking of DJ Khaled.

Download Waze on the App Store or Google Play Store.

Waze Alternatives: There are plenty of maps apps on the market, including Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Here. Any of these will serve you well.

NB: Waze is owned by Google these days, but it’s still a very different app to Google Maps. Speaking of which…

2. Google Maps

While we just mentioned map apps, Google Maps offers more than a typical GPS. Not too long ago, Google rolled into Maps its vast search engine database to make Google Maps a one-stop-shop for what’s good in town.

Really, Google Maps is like a constantly up to date Lonely Planet Guide, that’s free and includes the entire planet. Google Maps can:

  • Find the best restaurants near you, read their reviews, see how pricey they are, and when they’re open
  • Filter venues for bars or restaurants, noisy or quiet, kid friendly or 18+
  • Tell you when a spot will be busy, with live data on how busy it is now (think museums, cinemas, and parks)

If you’re looking for things to see and do near you (almost anywhere in the world) your first search shouldn’t be on Facebook or Google, but on Google Maps. Download it on the App Store or Google Play Store.

Google Maps Alternatives: For what we’re talking about, the only real competitor is Apple Maps, but even then there’s nothing like the detail that you’ll find in Google Maps. The next best thing would be to check every local review and events sites, which aren’t always up to date.

A screenshot of Google Maps, one of the best apps for a road trip

3. Roadtrippers

Roadtrippers is a unique app that could replace a few apps on this list. And it’s made just for roadtrippers! This app lets let you plot your stops and build an itinerary for each day. It has a database of cool, off the beaten track locations, as well as detailed navigational information.

The downside is Roadtrippers recently scaled back the free version, with a $30 yearly subscription needed to access its full capabilities. Considering what it can do for you, it may well be a price worth paying. Download it on the App Store or Google Play Store.

Roadtrippers Alternatives: There aren’t any apps that do everything that Roadtrippers does. A combination of the other apps on this list is the closest you’ll get.

4. GoGet

If you’re thinking about a road trip, you’re clearly a driving fan. GoGet Carshare gives you access to over 3,000+ cars by the hour or the day, and can be a great way to hit the road without owning a car at all!

If you don’t need a car for the main road trip, GoGet can still be useful. GoGet has cars in 6 Australian cities, including SUVs, hatches, and convertibles. If you feel like taking a day trip in a nicer car (a BMW 2 series perhaps?) GoGet can help. Get it on the App Store or the Google Play Store.

GoGet Alternatives: The alternative to GoGot is using your own car for the entire trip. There’s honestly no other way to get access to the number and variety of cars that GoGet gives you access to.

A screenshot of the GoGet app, one of the best apps for taking a road trip for finding a car to drive

5. Trivago

Unless you’re going on an RV vacation, you’ll need somewhere to stay. There are plenty of hotel booking sites online, but Trivago tends to have the best selection. That’s because Trivago is a hotel booking site search engine, rather than a hotel booking site. Trivago searches sites like Expedia, Wotif, Booking.com, and shows all their listings.

The Trivago app is an neat way to use the service, although it will direct you to a web link once you pick a listing. Download it on the App Store or Google Play Store.

Trivago Alternatives: The best alternative to Trivago are the other hotel booking site’s apps, including Wotif, Hotels Combined, Booking.com, and Expedia. Airbnb also has a great app, and access to places not listed on the other apps.

6. Tricount

If you have a crew of friends and plan to split the costs of the trip evenly, there’s no reason to split each and every bill. Tricount lets you enter in everyone’s contributions, and it automatically does the maths for you.

At the end of the holiday, Tricount will tell you how much each member of the party needs to pay each other in order for everyone to be square. It won’t facilitate the payments for you, so you’ll need to do that the old fashioned way. Get it on the App Store or the Google Play Store.

Tricount Alternatives: There are a few apps that do similar things to Tricount, the biggest are Splitwise and Splittr.

A screen shot of Tricount, one of the best road trip apps for budgeting

7. Fuel Map

Road tripping isn’t always cheap, especially with the rising cost of petrol. Unless you’re in a GoGet, you’ll need to pay for petrol as you go (yes, GoGet pays for petrol). Fuel Map shows you the price of petrol at every petrol station across the country. It pulls data from state databases and from its community of users.

Thanks to Fuel Map, you’ll never be kicking yourself for paying too much for petrol again! Download it on the App Store or Google Play Store.

Fuel Map Alternatives: Many state motoring agencies have a version of this app, but only Fuel Map ties all of them together into a single interface.

8. Spotify

We left the media apps until last, but they’re by no means the least important! Depending on your co-roadtrippers, a well-timed playlist could be the difference between coming back as friends!

Spotify is the most popular streaming app, although you’ll need to pay for a subscription to access the full service. It has podcasts too, so you can catch up on the latest from Roman Mars in the same app. Get it on the App Store of the Google Play Store.

Spotify Alternatives: For listening to podcasts, the best two apps are Apple Podcasts and Pocket Casts. Music streaming apps have come and gone over the years, and the market is a bit stranges. Here are the options beyond Spotify:

  • Soundcloud: Free for 3 hours (so, not really free). Great for independent music, especially EDM.
  • Apple Music: No free version, but it has a 3-month trial. Has as much music as spotify as well as the Beats 1 radio station if that’s your bag. It is available on Android, fyi.
  • Amazon Prime Music: If you’re an Amazon Prime member this is free for you, though the music selection is limited. There’s also a second tier, but it’s not worth paying for over Spotify.
  • Google Play Music/YouTube Music: Google has two apps for music right now, the old Play Music app and the new YouTube Music app. It’s a weird product, but there’s a tonne of music on both of them, and one subscription gets you access to both.

A screenshot of Spotify, one of the best road trip apps for music and podcasts

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.