Let’s be honest. You know what most people are really thankful for around this time of year? Getting from point A (home) to point B (whoever’s hosting Thanksgiving) with their sanity relatively intact. We want you to dig into that turkey (or tofurkey — hey, options) and pumpkin pie with a happy grin, not a grimace. So, here are some helpful holiday road trip apps of all kinds that you can use to get you to the Thanksgiving table on time and in one piece.
The best driving apps for road trips
Google Maps app
Let’s start with the app you already have on your phone: Google Maps. First off, it was just redesigned so be sure to update to version 9.1 for Android before you head out. One of the nicest changes–weather info. Especially helpful when traffic is already going to be nasty. You can also now use voice commands to show or hide traffic, and you can tap a pin to get quick facts about the surrounding area. The new version 4.0 for iOS (updated a few weeks back) has the redesign, and is optimized for iOS8, but is a little slower to get the nifty features, not surprisingly.
Beyond the app itself, the folks at Google are also trying to help you smooth out your long holiday drive so they analyzed the Thanksgiving traffic conditions over the last two years in 21 cities across the US, and pulled together useful insights with 7 traffic tips to get you to the Thanksgiving table. Including the three cities with the worst traffic during the holiday week. (Available for free download on Google Play and iTunes)
Our number one smart move is to have a real-time traffic watch going. Check out the community-based mapping app Waze, which is known for its super helpful crowdsourced traffic data that pops up along your route. We’ve got tons more about this free download in our navigation app smackdown, which pits Waze against Google Maps — and shows why you probably want both. (Available for free on iTunes and Google Play)
If you want the realest of real-time traffic info, download the Sigalert app for iOS or Android. The info on this app is like getting a simulcast from state highway patrols’ traffic data. We’re talking very accurate updates here. Sigalert has an easy interface and offers up current accident and construction reports in most metro areas. You can also get an estimated travel time for your journey based on traffic and speed. It’s kind of like having one of those “traffic on the 1’s” AM radio programs right there on your phone to use whenever. (Available for free on iTunes and Google Play)
Should you be fortunate enough to have public transportation to help get you exactly where you’re going this weekend — or shuttle you around once you’re there — HopStop is your new travel best friend. The free iOS app even keeps you in the loop on holiday schedules and which train or bus isn’t running on Saturday. Which would explain why you’re standing on the Brooklyn A train platform for 20 minutes — at least provided you get a WiFi signal down in the station.
The best pit stop apps for road trips
Even though you’re planning to gobble up all the good there is to gobble when you get to your destination, you’re probably going to need to make a few stops along the route, especially when rolling with young travelers. Sure, you can definitely plan ahead with smart on-the-go snacks. But, being real, you’ll likely still end up making a pit stop for food. TripStop app is still one of the best ways to figure out — in advance! — where to eat along the way. Good news is, it’s not limited to fast food listings only. (Available for free on iTunes)
Food Tripping app
If you’re truly determined to skip french fries and the like, try Food Tripping to help source out healthier, sustainable food options like the closest famers’ markets, juice bars, and even organic coffee spots. (Available for free on iTunes and Google Play)
Just the idea of grimy, severely neglected restrooms sends an instant shudder down my back. That’s why SitOrSquat feels as benevolent as a spared square. The Charmin-created app helps you locate clean public restrooms with crowd-sourced reviews. It also comes in handy for new moms looking for clean bathrooms to change the little one’s diaper, or for a potty break for a desperate toddler after two hours on the road with several servings of milk, water and that ever-present apple juice. (Available for free on iTunes and Google Play)
Especially these days, we love this app which lets you track down the least expensive gas station en route. You can even plot out where and when you’ll stop to gas up. (Available for free on iTunes and Goggle Play)
Of course, you can tackle two birds with one stone, or one app like iExit. It’s a quick solution to plenty of out-of-nowhere urgent requests from the back seat (bathroom! hungry! going to be sick!) The iExit app is a real-time, go-to list of the nearest restaurants, rest stops, hotels and more on every upcoming exit on your route. (Available for free on iTunes and Goggle Play)
The best entertainment apps for road trips
I’m bored. Those little words can sometimes sound like nails on a chalkboard when you’re in the middle of a long (or short — keep it real) road trip with the kids. Best advice? Bells and whistles. Not literal — unless you have some special bell-and-whistle circus talent. No, we’re talking about keeping the youngsters entertained and occupied with music, books, games, and fun. Boredom doesn’t do well against those things.
Download some free music for kids for Thanksgiving for them to listen to on kid-safe, volume limiting headphones or out loud in the car for the whole family to get their jam on. We’ve also got recommendations for free streaming music services to find some family-friendly tunes for the ride.
Apps for kids
We rounded up our favorite road trip apps for kids last year, and we still love all of them. And if you’ve got a family iPad or tablet that keeps you connected via WiFi and Cellular, there are these 14 fun YouTube videos for kids to have them laughing and singing along for at least a couple of hours.
Also be sure to check out our recent series on the best educational apps for kids, which all happen to be great fun too. Just as long as your kid doesn’t get carsick looking at a screen.
Finally, turn to a Cool Mom Tech staff fave: The 52 Fun Things to Do in the Car app. If they’re still bored after all of these great options, maybe try the classic Who Can Stay Silent the Longest? game. Heh.
Check out more road trip planning tips and apps in the Cool Mom Tech archives. Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels!