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Six Road Trips Apps for Your Summer Vacation

This week: Smartphone apps to help you find the cheapest gas, book discounted hotel rooms, find out what’s at the next exit, and more.

The drive to Yellowstone takes 20-plus hours. Take roadside assistance with you—on your smartphone.   Photo: Bob Stefko

School’s out—and the road is calling. Chicago’s summer travel feature (also in the June issue) offers updated itineraries for three ultralong driving adventures—to Yellowstone, Quebec City, and Sea Island, Georgia—plus pointers for what’s new in 10 classic towns along Lake Michigan. But before you hit the road, download these useful travel apps:

1. Gas Buddy

iOS, Android, and Blackberry; free
This app isn’t necessarily designed to meet the needs of long-distance drivers—users of the app report what they paid for gas at specific stations across the country. But Gas Buddy can be helpful for anyone trying to better strategize this big part of road-trip budgeting.

HotelTonight

2. HotelTonight

iOS, Android, and Windows; free
Sometimes bleary eyes can foil the best-laid plans to drive all night. When it happens, HotelTonight ends the scramble for a vacancy with great last-minute hotel deals. Here’s how it works: Hotels list unused rooms with HotelTonight, which makes them available daily—and at a major bargain—from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in 300 destinations worldwide.

iExit

3. iExit

iOS and Android; free
Road trip purists may argue in favor of the surprises at the end of an exit ramp. But knowing which exit has a Starbucks verses a Dunkin’ Donuts, well, that’s a beautiful thing, too. The comprehensive iExit tells users what they’ll find at upcoming exits, including gas stations, restaurants, lodging—and even Redbox locations.

4. Independent We Stand

iOS and Android; free
Find indie businesses—from coffee shops to boutiques to mechanics—with the free Independent We Stand app. Enter your location and the buy-local app pulls up photos, websites, and Yelp reviews for locally-owned retailers.

5. Rand McNally Digital Maps

iOS; $9.99
Can’t imagine a road trip without an atlas? Swap out the giant paper book for Rand McNally’s latest option: the 2015 digital atlas app for iOS tablets and other devices. The atlas covers all 50 states, Canadian provinces, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. You can easily zoom in for added detail, and the maps require no Internet connection after the initial download.

RoadTrippers

6. RoadTrippers

iOS and Android; free
Find inspiration, full-blown itineraries, and not-to-miss stops along any route with RoadTrippers. The trip-planning app lets you create and edit custom trips, complete with turn-by-turn directions, all on your phone. The coolest feature may be the Guides, which are themed categories to help you stitch together your own trip.

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