The Apps I found to be Most Helpful for Cross-Country Driving

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 5.15.22 PMLast July we took a month-long road trip. I live on the east coast and we drove all the way to the west coast, passing through 15 states. Being an east-coast person, where facilities exist at every highway exit, and internet access is everywhere, I anticipated fretted (just a bit) that there would be times on this drive where I would find myself in pockets of “no service.” Like many of you I have come to rely on my iPhone for directions, recommendations, reservations, information and reviews and so I did what I could to prepare for “life without” my smartphone. 😯

To my surprise, I never found cell service to be a problem. I got the dreaded “no service” occasionally, but not nearly as often as I had expected. Even on remote route 2 in northernmost Montana, cell service was surprisingly available.

Before leaving, I loaded my iPhone with apps that I thought might be useful. I didn’t dig too deep, so most of the apps I used were pretty mainstream, and their usefulness varied according to where-in-the-world I was.

It goes without saying that the Camera and Photos were both used a LOT.

And Weather. I have several weather apps on my phone, although three of them are local. So I turned to the standby Weather Channel app to check forecasts for the places we were going.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 6.52.15 PMAnother weather app that I found to be most helpful was Radar US.

By keeping an eye on the radar, we were able to time some outdoor events in between approaching storms.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 6.40.15 PMI used Google Maps constantly. I used it for navigation and I used it to look ahead for traffic.
However, I soon learned that “traffic” was really not a problem in most of the areas we explored. (True story: The very WORST traffic of our entire adventure happened as we arrived back in our own area, about 20 minutes from home. 30 days of driving, and we got stuck during the last half hour.)

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.03.30 PM When you’re a stranger in a strange land, Yelp is a treasure. There was a time that Yelp was most helpful only in cities, but I am here to report that even in the smallest of towns I found that folks had reviewed the (very) few eating establishments thoroughly. We had several delicious meals in places that we would have missed without turning to Yelp for advice.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.29.18 PMiExit was wonderfully helpful. There is nothing better when riding down a highway than being able to look ahead to determine when and where you might stop for gas or food.

I found that this app was even useful in the sparsely populated areas, because I was able to see at a glance how many exits ahead had nothing …. making a stop “now” even more imperative. As someone who lives on the busy East Coast, I live in a world where EVERY exit of EVERY highway is populated with numerous motels, gas stations and eateries. It rapidly became clear that this is not the norm for most of the country, and while looking ahead down a highway on this app I was delighted when I was finally able to report an exit with facilities.

Entertainment: I had anticipated that there would be some long and rather dull stretches of road, so I loaded up some entertainment on my phone to keep us awake occupied as we drove.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.51.07 PMOf course I loaded my iPhone with many favorite Podcasts for listening as we drove. To my surprise, we didn’t listen nearly as much as I thought that we would. But they were available to fill some time if we needed them, and that was good.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.48.55 PMMy husband is a great fan of trivia, and so I selected a new trivia app for the drive, ExQuizit. We used it often, and found it delightful. There are many options available within the app. You can choose a single category, or two or several, and you can choose the number of questions you want, as well. You also have the opportunity to select from Normal, Hard, or Expert questions. The game has an option to play with friends, but we never used that. We played “solo” and just tried to conquer the questions together. I am not a trivia fan, but I actually found this an enjoyable way to pass some time.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.59.33 PMNo drive across country can be accomplished without looking for a license plate from each state. And of course… there’s an app for that. Although pen and paper would do just fine, this was actually kind of fun and convenient. State Plate Hunt includes not only the 50 states of the USA, but also the states, provinces and territories of the USA, Canada and Mexico. When you see a plate, just tap the state and the app will mark it as “found.” (How did we do? 47 states. 47! grrrrr. We missed Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont. I understand Hawaii, but wasn’t anyone from Rhode Island or Vermont riding around this summer?)

Before leaving home, I would have guessed that Waze, AroundMe, and GasBuddy would all have been favorites, but I used those apps rarely. I’m sure there are some great road-trip apps that I missed, so if you have some you enjoy, please share!

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 10.17.31 AM


11 thoughts on “The Apps I found to be Most Helpful for Cross-Country Driving

  1. I’m definitely trying out iExit. It could really help us out when we have several of us in the car with different ideas about which exit will bring the CLEAN bathroom, the Starbucks, and the right gas station. Thanks!

    • I hope you find it as helpful as I did. You have to be ON the highway to look at the future exits, (so you can’t “peek” in advance) …… but it was, to my surprise, amazingly accurate. 🙂

      • I’m at home, not on the highway (but near one). It was able to tell me all restaurants, gas stations, Starbucks, and other goodies within 3 miles of me. Hmmm. I can see a lot of use for this in a major city like where I live as well as on the road. Thanks for the tip! (Glad to have you back).

        On an unrelated note: My daughter is traveling and her iPhone has gone into continuous re-boot mode. She had upgraded to the newest IOS last week. The Apple folks told her to restore from backup in iTunes (pretty hard when that’s several states away). Any idea what caused the crash? New IOS or something else?

        • Oh dear. So sorry to hear about your daughter’s re-boot mess….. especially while traveling! I can’t imagine why the phone is doing that. I don’t know for sure if she can blame it on the new iOS, BUT a quick google search tells me that LOTS of phones are crashing with the new update. So……

  2. Some good ideas here. I still like using a hard copy of Next Exit to see what lies ahead but downloading that app might offer the latest info. I’m still not using my new iPhone as much as I should but I’m getting better.

    • I think you’ll find that your use of your iPhone will increase with time. You’ll try something (like looking ahead for traffic) and suddenly find that you can’t live without it! 🙂

  3. I wish I would have read your post today before, just now, finally doing the update for ios9!!!! I had problems with an install a couple of updates ago and have held off on any installs til now! I even had to call an Apple tech to help me figure out my problems and diagnose the situation (he was awesome and talked me through the process perfectly…….totally eliminating all the weird stuff that was going on!!!!).
    I, also, just installed iExit………..looks interesting!!!! You have been missed!!!!! Hugs……….

      • I think it was more ignorance than bravery!!!! I’m just hoping I don’t have to go through another uninstall… was a nuisance! So far it hasn’t goofed up anything major (that I know of, that is……..sigh).

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