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App Smart

Apps to plan summer road trips, down to the pit stops

The Roadtrippers app is free on iOS and Android.

The Roadtrippers app is free on iOS and Android.

A smartphone screen might seem a terrible distraction on a road trip. With the right apps, though, your phone can make any road trip smoother and more memorable.

Along the Way

$4 on iOS

Great road trips involve seeing places you’ve never seen, but how do you know where to go? The app Along the Way, $4 on iOS, answers this question. Simply tap in your start and end points, and it will calculate a sensible route. You can select attractions for stops along the route, from a long list that includes night life, food, coffee, recreation, and so on.

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You can even seek popular venues or those trending on the check-in service Foursquare. The app also offers reviews, location data, and other information.

Along the Way is simple, and its interface unfussy. It could be helpful before you set off, as a kind of advanced planning tool, or you can let it advise you on the way.

I wish it would let you adjust the route it chooses, but this is a quibble.

There is an Android app with a similar name, but it does not come from the same company and it is much more basic in design, although still potentially useful.

Roadtrippers

Free on iOS and Android

Roadtrippers, free on iOS and Android, is a fabulous alternative and particularly handy if you like planning your trips in detail beforehand.

To begin with, this app works a bit like Along the Way: You enter your start and end points, then the app calculates a route for you and shows you interesting or useful places and attractions along the way, sorted by category.

But Roadtrippers seems to have more detailed information, such as contact data, website addresses, reviews, and photos.

Best of all, you can tap the “Add to trip” button to insert a favorite spot into your itinerary, so you can easily look it up later when you are traveling.

The app is slick and easy to use, and its interface is map-based, so it is great for navigating in real time.

A passenger can browse and help with directions while you are concentrating on the road.

It covers just the United States and Israel.

Hotel Tonight

Free on iOS and Android

Finally, if you like to freewheel your road trips without much planning and need to find a place to stay for the night at the last minute, my favorite option is Hotel Tonight, free on iOS and Android. It can help find some surprisingly good hotels with decent last-minute prices.

Although these apps may prove helpful on your journey, remember to turn off your phone sometimes and try a little self-discovery as the miles roll by.

Kit Eaton writes on technology for The New York Times.
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