Want to get even more online savvy? Check out the special notice at the end of this article about July’s Digital Skills Ready@50+™ program.
Even with the price of gas skyrocketing, Americans are getting back on the road. According to a survey 80% of Americans are planning a road trip this summer, about 40% more than last summer. Younger people are more likely to travel internationally while older folks are traveling in the United States.
Savvy road trippers know that a smartphone is their best friend on the road – and there are more options besides Google Maps. Now that fast data coverage is available just about everywhere, you can plan your trip as you go, including where to eat, cheap places to stay, how to avoid traffic jams, and much more. The tips below provide a quick review of must-have apps. (For a more detailed review of travel apps read this article.)
Road trip? Road Maps
- Google Maps. Google Maps is the key to life on the road, but it’s damnably confusing and user-unfriendly. Getting to any particular destination is pretty easy, but programming in multiple destinations can be a headache. (I.e, changing from one mode to another, such as avoiding toll roads or finding the cheapest route.) Stumped? This site provides a helpful online guide to a lot of hard-to-find Google Maps settings. Available on iOS and Android.
- Waze. Waze is a competitor with Google Maps in the road navigation sweepstakes. Waze is community-based; users to give real time reports on traffic and accidents in your area. This feature can be a time saver when you’re on the road and need to know what’s coming up (like an obstacle on the road). It’s most effective in cities where there are the most users. Google Maps has added some traffic and speed trap alerts, but Waze is still ahead on that score. If you want to figure out which is best for you, this article will help. Available on iOS and Android.
- Roadtrippers. This has become the most popular trip planning app. A glance at their website shows why. It’s simple and user-friendly. You can put in your starting location and destination and it will show you what is along the way and help you plan how to get there. It syncs with your phone so you can plan your trip online where it’s easier to see your options and then view the route on your phone as you travel. You can add up to 150 stops with a premium account for $29.99 a year (or free with ads) well worth it even for one long trip. It allows you to discover interesting attractions along your route like national parks, museums, and more. Here is a YouTube tutorial on how to use it. Available on iOS and Android.
Apps to Save Money on the Road
- GasBuddy. This app is a money saver, especially with gas prices soaring. It will help you find the cheapest gas stations within a reasonable distance from your location, so if you’re on the highway you’ll know if it’s worth taking an exit to find less expensive gas. It depends on input from users so you can also help other drivers by entering gas prices as you travel. If your tank is running low, you can use it to find the closest gas station as well. Here is an article from GasBuddy about where gas prices are going this summer. Available on iOS and Android.
- iExit. The iExit Interstate Exit Guide is a must-have on your next road trip according to this website which covers best apps. “It figures out where you are on the Interstate, and shows you what’s ahead. Need gas? iExit knows all the gas prices in the United States, and can tell you which station is cheapest at each exit. It also makes it easy to compare prices by the exits ahead, letting you know exactly where to exit to save the most. Need food? iExit has you covered, no matter if you’re looking for the usual fast food or something local. It also integrates Yelp ratings and reviews to help you decide.” Available on iOS and Android.
- Hotel Tonight. If you enjoy being spontaneous and booking a hotel at the last minute while you’re on the road, this app has you covered. It lists same day deals on hotels nears you. The interface is user-friendly. Tip: Unlike plane tickets, prices for hotel rooms go down the later you book, so wait till after 4 to book. Available on iOS and Android.
For Old-School Road-trippers
- Rand-McNally Atlas. For those of us who grew up wrestling with huge maps in the front seat while peering at tiny print because it was the only way to find your way, you may be comfortable referring to an actual paper map as you travel in addition to using your phone. It’s very hard to get the kind of overview of your route on a tiny phone screen that a real map has to offer. There’s no need to unfold a huge map, you can buy this medium-size atlas on Amazon, about the size of piece of typing paper, which is easy to carry and read. Suggested: Before you leave flag the pages with your route, number them, highlight your route and follow along as you go.
Here’s hoping your trip is a fun one!
Are You Digital Skills Ready?
Want to get even more digitally savvy in July? Senior Planet is proud to work with AARP Foundation on the Digital Skills Ready@50+™ program, made possible through a generous grant from Google.org. The resources are focused on digital essentials to help older adults find and secure jobs, change careers, or explore entrepreneurship. Visit here to learn more and register – registration is required.
Erica Manfred’s articles and humorous essays have appeared in print and online publications including the Washington Post, Atlantic, Salon, Village Voice, and the New York Times. A self proclaimed Geezer Geek, now in her seventies, she specializes in writing about aging. She’s the author of four books, including her memoir, I’m Old So Why Aren’t I Wise; Snarky Senior in the Sunshine State. You can subscribe to her newsletter at SnarkySenior.com or visit her website at EricaManfred.com