Heading out on a road trip this summer? Whether your plans are to cruise up the California coastline with the top down or to put the pedal to the metal on Germany’s Autobahn, you’re in for the adventure of a lifetime. But before you hit the road, you’ll need to do a fair amount of planning and research.
As exciting as trip planning is, this step can easily become overwhelming if you’re unfamiliar with drive times or aren’t sure how to plan your time. Luckily, the internet offers a number of tools and sites that can help guide you through the process.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite apps and tools that can help you plan your trip. We’ve included some mapping sites to help you plan your route and keep an eye on fuel consumption, and we've also listed some fun apps that will guide you toward fun detours and find you the best food along your route.
Budgeting Your Road Trip
If you’re worried about budget, Travel Math is a great website to start with when planning your trip. Once you’ve input your trip data, the website will generate a side-by-side comparison of your options, allowing you to assess the best means of transportation and lodging for your trip. (For example, you may be surprised to discover that, in some cases, flying may be a more economical option than driving.) Other tools offered by Travel Math include currency converters, hotel searches, and rental car searches:
Plan Your Route
Now comes the fun part. Once you’ve selected your destination, the first step in planning your road trip is to map your route.
If you’re looking to combine “must see” stops with some quirky adventures, Road Trippers is a fantastic site that offers you the ability to explore pre-planned routes or make up your own itinerary. Simply input your starting point, your destination, and your travel dates, and the system will plot a suggested route based on your criteria. Once your itinerary is created, use site filters to find attractions, natural wonders, recreational activities, suggested restaurants, and hotels along your route.
The mobile application is available on the Apple App Store as well as on the Google Play Store:
TripCreator is another great online tool that helps you to create your perfect trip in just minutes without having to go to multiple sites. Simply input your travel dates, travel style (i.e. romantic, adventure, wine and dine, etc.), budget (i.e. low, average, or high), and pace, and TripCreator will create a suggested plan that can then be customized to individual preferences. The site even checks hotel and rental car availability, keeping all logistics on one central site. An interactive day-by-day timeline gives an overview of your trip and all stops along the way:
Setting out to explore the USA? If so, Visit the USA is a great tool that can help you plot your journey by car or by rail. In addition to a simple interface that can help you plan your trip with any number of stops between your destinations, the site also offers a slew of themed itineraries, such as a Texas Barbeque Trail, the Pacific Coast Highway, or American favorites such as the Oregon Trail and the famous Route 66:
If Europe is more your taste, Route Perfect is a site that makes planning your road trip easy and fun. Start by inputting your starting and ending points. Additional filters for vacation type (i.e. romantic, friends, family, or solo), trip duration, and trip budget (i.e. economy, moderate, or luxury) will provide a baseline for your vacation that you can customize later on. Once you’ve finished with your preferences, the site will automatically generate an itinerary for you that includes “must see” cities and sites. From there, you can customize your preferences based on small towns, culture, food, nature, beaches, activity levels offered, and even nightlife. The site even provides introductory summaries to the cities and towns along your route, so you know what to look out for:
Keep an Eye on Gas
Fuel Economy is an online site headed by the U.S. Department of Energy, though its information is not limited to routes in the United States. In addition to using basic information concerning the make and model of your car, your itinerary, and your fuel type, the site also takes your desired level of city driving when calculating your trip information. The site also offers helpful information if you need help finding a car or if you’re interested in learning more about cost and fuel efficiency.
Gas Buddy is another great online tool that can help you calculate your fuel costs and even find ways to maximize your gas mileage. The tool takes several factors into its cost estimate, including route and vehicle information, starting tank fuel levels, and gas prices along the way. The site even has a built-in search capability that can narrow down the cheapest gas stations along your route to help you maximize your cost savings.
Waze is a smartphone application that calculates ideal travel routes based on real-time traffic patterns, road blocks, speed traps, and other environmental factors. This community-based application is updated by other drivers in your area, so you can be completely up-to-date about what’s down the road. Bonus: the application also indicates known speed traps.
No road trip would be complete without a few fun detours, and whether you’re looking for the best burger that America has to offer, or the best gelato in Italy, the internet has got you covered.
Findery is a mobile application that allows users to share their experiences by leaving “notes” tagged to a specific location for other users to find. Whether it's a tip on a local hotspot, directions to hidden gems in the area, or a user anecdote, Findery is a wonderful way to discover and share in the wonders of the world.
Along the Way is another great application that can help you find food, shopping, activities, and other local hotspots along your route. The mobile app is available for download in the Apple App Store and on the Google Play Store.
Out of your network area? No need to panic. WiFi Finder from Avast will help you quickly locate any WiFi hotspots in your area, so you don't have to be disconnected for too long. The application is compatible with Android and iOS.