With an estimated 37 million Americans hitting the road on the Memorial Day holiday alone, it’s going to be the biggest travel weekend in a decade. Clearly, after enduring a long, miserable winter, folks are super hyped for the (unofficial) start summer. Instagram, get ready! And then, there’s the whole rest of the summer, during which we hope you’re taking at least a little time off to get away with your family.
Of course we want you to reach your beach, BBQ or buddy’s backyard in one piece, so I’ve put together 4 useful apps for safer road trips this weekend and beyond that you might not have considered using.
They all happen to be free downloads, too (though some of the services they offer will cost you money. Between that and the low price of gas right now, seems like we’re off to a great summer.
1. Urgent.ly app
Roadside assistance is one of those things you hope you never need, but if you do, you want it to be simple, seamless and speedy. If you don’t have a service like OnStar, this new app offers quick and easy access to 24/7 nationwide help on the road when you need it. And what’s cooler, it does it without membership fees or annual dues to pay. Instead, you pay a flat-rate, per-use fee with a credit card or Apple Play once the service is complete.
If you get locked out of your car or need a tow, a simple tap on the app and your precise location is detected and a service provider is dispatched to you. Plus, you can track the help on its way to you in real time on your smartphone while listening to your own tunes instead of annoying hold music. Sometimes those small details when you’re super stressed can make a big difference. May we recommend some soothing classical, perhaps? (Free download on iTunes and Google Play.)
2. Weather Underground app
Wunderground is our new favorite weather website, and their own handy app lets you map out — with solid probability — what the weather conditions will be along your route. Choose a start and end date of your trip and Wunderground will search its historical database for weather on those dates in the past years and give you local and long range forecasts for your trip. So you’ll know before you go how wet, windy or sweltering it will be. Well, that takes care of the what to pack dilemma. Now, if only the app actually came over and packed the clothes for you, right? (Free download on iTunes and Google Play; ad-free version available for $1.99)
3. Glympse app
This is an easy way to share your current GPS location in real time with specific friends and family, letting them know that you’re on the way, or maybe even running a little late if you’re like those of us with kids (and their many toys) to wrangle before heading out. This way Grandma, or another constant worrier of your family, can rest assured after getting a glympse of where your car is and track your expected time of arrival. No texting or calls to distract your driving focus.
What’s particularly cool about the tracking feature is, you can set its duration and specify who can access it. So you won’t feel like you’re every stop and turn is being clocked by eyes in the sky. Because lest you need reminding, you are not Jason Bourne and your life is not a spy movie. (Free download on iTunes and Google Play.)
4. HotelTonight app
Whether it’s a unforgiving thunderstorm or just plain sleepiness after a long day that’s making driving a challenge, sometimes the safest thing to do for yourself and your family on a road trip is pull over and call it a night. This is when the HotelTonight app, which we previously featured in our roundup of 6 travel apps that can save you money, can be a total lifesaver. As you might guess from the name, use it get a nice hotel, tonight.
The hotels are hand-picked and range from basic to luxe. Plus, the app makes it super easy: 3 taps and a swipe and you’ve got a room booked. Then you can rest up, wait out the storm or the heavy eyes, and get ready to pick it up fresh in the morning. Tomorrow is a new day, and maybe a better one to get on the road again safely. (Free download on iTunes and Google Play.)