Useful tools for road trip planning

  • Tom Dell
  • Tagged
  • January 24, 2016
  • Planning your next road trip?  There are literally hundreds of websites and smart phone apps that are potentially useful for road trippers.  In this post, I’ve listed the ones I’ve found most helpful.  Please let me know if I’ve missed something

    This is the king of websites and easily the most used and most useful.  If you can’t find a link to something on Google, it probably doesn’t exist or isn’t something anyone would need to find.  I use it a lot in preparing posts for this blog.  Of particular interest are Google Maps and Street View.  With Street View, I can preview my route and such destinations as hotels.

    There are lots of travel booking sites on the web.  I use Expedia because it’s comprehensive and reliable.  I make all my hotel reservations on Expedia, and I now have elite status, which gives me a dedicated toll-free number that’s especially useful when I change my plans while on the road.  I also use Expedia to browse airfares, but I go directly to the airlines’ sites to book.  Note:  No travel agency lists fares for Southwest Airlines; you have to go directly to Southwest’s site ro browse fares and book flights.  (Southwest fares are included on Airfare Watchdog.)  There’s also an Expedia app.

    If you’re an AAA member, you can use the website or app to get a wide variety of services, including travel tips, destination guides, routings and reservations.

    This useful web site has up-to-date listings of gas prices in both U.S. and Canadian cities.  When I checked on the day this was written, the prices for my two closest stations had been updated only an hour earlier.  There’s also a Gas Buddy app that lets you see gas prices from any location you visit. and

    These are popular rating sites that display other people’s reviews.  I find Yelp most useful for restaurants and Trip Advisor best for hotels and attractions.  The Yelp app will search for nearby restaurants wherever you are.  Trip Advisor also has an app.

    This is a photo blog that describes its author’s many road trips.  He (it could be a she – the author isn’t identified by name) has a large volume of content, writes well, and is a good photographer.  Trips are organized by state.  I highly recommend this site.

    Even if you aren’t a motorcyclist, you might like this site.  Motorcyclists prefer roads that are fun to ride and have nice scenery.  This site shows the best routes in every state.

    This is a very useful road trip planning site containing detailed descriptions of major highways in most states and provinces.  Lots of photos let you preview the route, although the photography and writing are just so-so.  It uses Google maps, including Street View.  The site is clearly ad-supported, and the ads can sometimes by annoying.  It lacks qualitative descriptions, but the site is very thorough.  You can download maps and directions at no charge.

    Quick . . . what do the following have in common :  The birthplace of the martini, the JFK memorial toilet bowl, and the “Gilligan’s Island” TV location?  First, they’re all in California; and second, they’re examples of the several hundred offbeat attractions and monuments listed in the Roadside America site.  It’s fun to browse through the entries, which are organized by state.  It’s a good tool for road trio planning.  There are also apps for iPhone and Android.

    Road food began as a book for long-distance truckers that showed them where to find interesting regional food along major highways.  It now lists hundreds of restaurants, diners and cafes offering unique food typical of their regions.  It’s organized by state and has especially strong coverage of the east coast.  The site owners want you to pay for a membership, but you can access the state-by-state listings if you click on “restaurants at the top of the home page, then scroll down below the map to the list of states.  Click on a state to find the listings.  The listings are sometimes outdated, so check on Yelp before setting out for a particular restaurant.

    This is probably the best blog focusing on air travel, airlines and airports.  The author, former airline executive Brett Snyder, updates the site frequently and writes well.  Even if you’re not a frequent flier, this blog will give you updates on airline routes, airport changes, frequent flier programs, and airfare strategies.

    Airfare Watchdog can alert you to the lowest available fares both domestic and international.  It’s not a booking site.  You enter your preferred departure airport, then are shown a list of destinations and fares.  When you click on the fare, you’re shown the conditions – what calendar dates they cover, how hard they are to get, etc.  It shows me the fares for LAX, Long Beach and Orange County.  (Ontario’s fares are always more expensive.)  A plus is that this site includes fares on Southwest Airlines.

    This site is full of lists like “10 best places for . . . “  It isn’t road trip-related and can be frustrating to use, but I find it sucks me in and is fascinating.  The site is a bit glitchy; pages stick and won’t advance, etc.

    Before selecting seats for your next flight, visit this site and view the seating map for the aircraft you’ll be flying on.  It will alert you to seating locations with misaligned windows, obstructed underseat storage space, potential distractions, and so on. 

    Rest Areas app

     This handy app lets you locate rest areas along major highways.  Great for helping you find restrooms while road-tripping.

    Road Ahead Highway Exit Finder app

     This app shows you what services are available at upcoming interstate exits.

    FlightTrack app

     Enter your next flight date/flight number, and this app will continually update things like departure time and gate.  Last time I flew out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the app showed a gate change before the change was displayed on the airport monitor and before the nearest gate agent knew about it.

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