8 Awesome (and Free!) Apps For Your Next Big Road Trip

Nov 1, 2014

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Intrepid traveler and TPG contributor Ryan Gargiulo of Pause The Moment recently completed an epic cross country road trip. Here, he shares the top apps that made getting from Point A to Point B not only easier, but more fun. Get ready to download a few.

Road trips are one of my favorite ways to explore the United States. Let’s face it, there’s nothing like packing up the car and hitting the open road with your friends or loved one. Fortunately, with the abundance of smartphones and the wide variety of apps available to us these days at the click of a touch screen, the planning and execution of a road trip has never been easier.

Here are 8 free apps that will assure that you make the most of your next big road trip.


Waze does so much more than get you from Point A to Point B.
Waze does so much more than get you from Point A to Point B.

GoogleMaps is an obvious first choice for most people when it comes to mapping, directions and finding points of interest, but how many of you have ever stepped outside the world of GoogleMaps and tried some of the alternative maps and navigation tools such as Waze?

Like GoogleMaps, Waze offers up your typical voice guided navigation and turn-by-turn directions. What really sets Waze apart is its active community of users who contribute to the maps by reporting accidents, road closures and even police checkpoints – all in real time. Waze has excelled in the gamification of mapping and navigation by offering its users the ability to collect points for their contributions and even increase their community rank as they continue to provide more information about the roads. Waze is hands down one of my favorite navigation apps and it’s becoming increasingly popular by the day in countries all over the world. Don’t leave home for your next road trip without installing this app.

Note: Take a look at how Costa Rica’s 300,000+ active Waze users are documenting their entire country.

Cost: Free

Hotel Tonight

Book last minute hotel rooms with Hotel Tonight
Book last minute hotel rooms with Hotel Tonight

Hotel Tonight is a free smartphone app which aggregates all of the best last minute deals on hand-picked hotels and offers deep discounts on rooms that would normally be left empty. In other words, it’s a win-win for both the hotel and the consumer. One of my favorite features about HT is the three-tap booking system which allows you to book your room in mere seconds. No more filling out long reservation forms. All your information (including your credit card) is saved inside of the app, so booking your hotel for the night is almost instantaneous. I would highly recommend you give Hotel Tonight a shot on your next road trip.

Oh, and if you sign up for a new account and use TPG’S Hotel Tonight promo code: BKelly99 – you’ll both receive $25 off our next stay.

Note: Hotel Tonight recently introduced a feature which allows you to book up to seven days in advance.

Cost: Free


Find a unique and affordable dwelling with Airbnb.
Find a unique and affordable dwelling with Airbnb.

The Airbnb app is the perfect solution for travelers who want to avoid hotels and find a place where they can feel at home. With Airbnb, finding an apartment, private room or shared space is easier than ever before. If you’re anything like me, you’ll love the convenience of being able to spend anywhere from a night to several months in a private apartment that has everything you need from a full kitchen, to a refrigerator, television, WiFi and more – all for a price that is (generally speaking) much cheaper than a hotel room. I use Airbnb often and if you’re on the road and you’re looking for some peace and quiet in a homey atmosphere at a reasonable price, you should, too.

Note: If you sign up for a new Airbnb account using TPG’s referral link, you’ll both receive $25 off your next Airbnb stay.

Cost: Free


The original sharing economy app: Couchsurfing.
The original sharing economy lifestyle: Couchsurfing.

Couchsurfing is a great way to meet fellow like-minded travelers and those who understand how quickly accommodation costs can add up when you’re on the road. Please note that while Couchsurfing isn’t meant to be used strictly as a way to find free accommodations, it is a great way to find locals who are willing to put you up for a few nights and show you the ins and outs of their city. As most experienced travelers know, there’s no better way to explore a new destination than to explore it with a local who knows all of the best things to see, do and experience in their city. Now, with the Couchsurfing app, you can find reputable hosts in all parts of the world within just a few taps of your smartphone.

Note: If you sign up for Couchsurfing, be sure to fill out your profile completely before sending out couch requests. Understandably, many hosts want to be sure they can get an idea of who you are and what you’re about before they invite you into their home. For more tips on creating a solid CS profile, click here.

Cost: Free

Trail Wallet

Stay on budget with Trail Wallet.
Stay on budget with Trail Wallet.

Forget about the days of jotting down all your expenses with a pen and paper or typing out a long list of receipts in the notes on your smartphone. With the Trail Wallet, keeping track your daily travel expenses has never been easier.

Some of the highlights about this app include the ability to set your local currency depending on where you are in the world, the automatic syncing of the latest currency exchange rates, organization of your expenses by category (with interactive pie charts), and more importantly, the ability to export your expense report data to .CSV. Oh, and did I mention you can also choose to backup your data to the cloud using the Trail Wallet’s built-in Dropbox integration?

What I love most about this app is how simple and minimalistic it is. It simply does exactly what it’s supposed to do – it tracks your expenses and provides you with a daily breakdown of all the costs associated with your trip.

If you’re headed out on a cross country trip or you’re backpacking your way around the world one country at at time, the trail wallet is a must have app.

Cost: Free for up to 25 items. An in-app upgrade to unlock unlimited items is available for $3.99

Best Parking

Don't keep circling the block. Use Best Parking to find a spot.
Don’t keep circling the block. Use Best Parking to find a spot.

If you’ve ever tried finding reasonably priced parking in a big city, you’d know that it can be a pretty daunting task. Who wants to drive around in circles while trying to navigate your way down one-way streets in hopes to find the cheapest parking lot in town? That’s right, nobody. Fortunately, if you have the Best Parking app loaded on your phone, you’ll no longer have to worry about running into any issues finding a place to park on the cheap. With the Best Parking app, finding an inexpensive spot is as easy as plugging in your destination and choosing your desired lot or garage from the interactive map.

Best Parking partners with the largest parking operators in the country to provide up-to-the-minute, guaranteed rates, coupons and other discounts available that would otherwise be unbeknownst to you. Best of all, they’ve got you covered no matter where you are in the U.S. with a wide variety of parking options in over 105 cities and 115 airports across the country.

Cost: Free


No road trip is complete without a playlist.
No road trip is complete without a playlist.

What’s a road trip without good tunes? I’m sure many of you have heard of or already use Spotify on your computer but did you know that it’s now free to use on all devices including mobile phones, tablets and more? The only catch with Spotify Free is that it shuffles through the music playlists of your choice versus you being able to choose what you want to play on a song-by-song basis. Oh, and you also have to deal with an audio advertisement from time to time when using Spotify Free. At the end of the day, Spotify Free isn’t such a bad alternative when you consider not having to deal with listening to the same old junk on the radio.

Cost: Free for shuffle mode or $9.99/mo for Spotify Premium.

Tip: If you’re into independent music and you’re looking for an alternative to the commercial music found on Spotify, you might want to check out the Soundcloud app

Sit or Squat

Time your pit stops perfectly with Sit or Squat. Note: You must link to Facebook in order to use.
Time your pit stops perfectly with Sit or Squat. Note: You must link to Facebook in order to use.

Need to make a pit stop for a bathroom break, but don’t want to regret stopping at a disgusting dive of a restroom? Meet Sit or Squat, the first app to put public restrooms on the map. With Sit or Squat, you can now find clean restrooms no matter where you are in the world. Download this app before you hit the road if you want to avoid hitting up some of those nasty truck stop restrooms.

Cost: Free

TPG Tip: When it comes to travel, you can’t go wrong with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card earning you 2x the points on dining and travel.

Well, that just about wraps up this list of free road trip apps. Now, it’s your turn. Let me know in a comment below what your favorite road trip apps are and why you think every road tripper needs to have them.

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