Written on July 8, 2014 at 10:15 am , by Christina Tynan-Wood
When our kids were little, my husband Dan and I planned road trips with an attention to detail that likely rivaled General Eisenhower’s strategy to invade Normandy. Not anymore—these days, we hit the highway at the drop of a hat like a pair of carefree teenagers, with our own teens (17 and 15) in tow.
A smartphone and the right apps at our fingertips means there’s very little we can’t tackle as we go. Case in point, our annual climb to the top of the Great Smoky Mountains. A few years ago, we would have started booking rooms weeks in advance. This summer we mapped and reserved almost nothing ahead of time—yet spent less money than ever.
A few days before we left, I bid on a rental car at Priceline.com. (For this getaway, we rent a vehicle substantially bigger than our family car to gain more legroom and space for gear.) Bidding is fast, easy and nets the best price, provided you bid low. That same night, I plotted our driving route using Google Maps and shared the result with my family, so everyone had the info on their phones. Then, on D-day, we just loaded up our bags and got going. Apps bridged the gaps when we needed food, gas or the closest clean bathroom. And when it was time to settle in for the night, booking a room at the last minute was simple and inexpensive— meaning we could rest easy.
What to Download
Create a page on your smartphone and group these mostly free apps together for easy access.
Last Minute Travel Deals (iOS, Android) : Provides access to broker’s prices and last- minute bargains for flights and hotel rooms.
HotelTonight (iOS, Android, Windows Phone): Incredible prices on hotels near where you are or will be. Here’s the catch—although you can scout options beforehand, booking is same-day-only for up to five nights. Embrace the spontaneity to snag awesome deals.
Waze (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) : When traffic suddenly comes to a halt, Waze can provide insight as to why—it tracks the speed of all nearby smartphone- toting drivers so you can see real-time driving patterns. Often a user posts the reason for the delay, as in, Three-car accident just before Exit Such-and-Such.
Yelp (iOS, Android, Windows Phone): Hungry? This app finds nearby food options and shares other diners’ feedback. Just tap the screen for precise directions to your chosen pit stop.
Eventseeker (iOS, Android, Windows Phone): A source for concerts, museums and other attractions near your location.
Priceline (iOS, Android, Windows Phone): Instead of going to the trouble of shopping around, just bid what you can afford on hotels, flights and rental cars.
Google Maps (iOS, Android): A comprehensive navigational tool, including turn-by-turn directions, that incorporates rerouting when needed based on up-to-the-minute traffic info.
ChargePoint (iOS, Android): If you drive an electric vehicle, you’ll want to reserve at a free charging station along your route. (For obvious reasons, it’s best not to leave this to chance!)
SpotHero (iOS, Android): Skip the circling and reserve parking at discounts of up to 50% in New York, Boston, Chicago and other select cities.
Parkopedia Parking (iOS, Android, Windows Phone): Once you’ve arrived, park like a local by accessing this app’s crowdsourced database on available nearby options.
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