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best road trip planning tools
Road Trip Planning Tools – A bison crosses the road in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Let’s Talk About Road Trip Planning Tools

As someone who spends about 100 days of the year on the beautiful open road for my “work”, I’ve used all sorts of road trip planning tools to try and perfect this wonderful art. It’s been a bit of a process to say the least.

I, along with my brother, am lucky enough to call shooting films on our beloved national parks, forests, and beyond my work. As part of this “job” I get to spend countless days on the road.

Along the way I’ve tried all sorts of different road trip planning tools & apps to try to make our trips more enjoyable (and efficient!).

In this article I’ll rank my favorite tools to plan a road trip including apps, sites, & other resources to make your next road trip the best yet. And what’s great is the best road trip planning tools in this guide are free!

Why Trust Us When It Comes Road Trip Planning Tools?

I appear frequently on The Weather Channel as a “National Parks expert”

I (along with my brother, Jim) have spent practically my entire adult life out in the national parks and on public lands. That includes an incredible amount of time on the road trying to plan the best routes.

I’ve traveled on nearly every interstate in the country and have been to 47 states and counting. Over the years I’ve become expert on road trip planning and efficiency.

The Best Road Trip Planning Tools

best road trip planning tools google maps
The Best Road Trip Planner – Google Maps

1. Google Maps + My Maps

  • Price: Free
  • Link: Google Maps
  • Best For: Map Creator, Navigation

The best road trip planning tool and map creator out there is Google Maps with an incredible suite of features – many of them you probably don’t even know about. This is typically the first tool I start with when planning a road trip.

Google Maps gives you the ability to plot out directions between 10 different points with a variety of map options and live traffic updates. You can also choose alternative routes and when using on the road, Google Maps will update you if there’s a faster route due to traffic or other reasons.

What’s more is Google Maps has a separate feature to create, save, and share your own custom maps called My Maps.

In My Maps, you can customize map points and create custom layers as seen in the example below from our 10+ EPIC National Park Road Trips (+ Stops You’ll Love) article.

You can add relevant information, edit headings, add photos, and more to each individual map point and/or get directions between them. The possibilities are endless.

road trip planning apps - roadtrippers
Roadtrippers App for Planning a Road Trip

2. Roadtrippers App

  • Price: Free
  • Link: Roadtrippers
  • Best For: Planner, Maps, Navigation

An increasingly popular app (and website) for mapping and planning a road trip is the aptly named Roadtrippers. Utilizing this tool, users can create road trip maps similar to those found in google maps.

My favorite feature is the ability to sort popular destinations along the route by category such as camping, entertainment, landmarks, and more.

There is also a handy RV mode for those of us driving Recreational Vehicles which highlights spots specifically of interest to RV adventurers.

We plotted our EXPERT GUIDE: Utah National Parks Road Trip article with help from this app.

road trip planner travel blog
Travel blogs like Embrace Someplace are one of the best road trip planning resources out there.

3. Travel Blogs

The web is full of incredible travel blogs and bloggers alike that have a wealth of road trip experience. We (may be biased) love tapping into this great online planning resource.

These sites offer helpful resources like specific trip itineraries, road trip routes, inspirational road trip photos, and lots of other tips from first-hand experience that you might not have even thought of.

Often we’ll google something like “best things to do in redwood national park” and the best results are typically from travel blogs.

We like to give credit where it’s due – one of our favorite go-to travel blogs is Embrace Someplace which has some great tips and amazing imagery.

best road trip planner free
Google Images is a great free road trip planner

4. Google Images

One of the first tools I use when planning a road trip is, in order to get an idea of what a place might look like and what I might expect to see there, Google Images.

As a very easy to use and basic tool, google images is great for everyone and nearly everything.

For example, I visited Death Valley National Park earlier this year and wanted to know what Artists Palette might look like. The first thing I did was search “Artists Palette Death Valley” on google, then click “images” at the top of the page.

Here you’ll see a plethora of images of most destinations you’re looking for.

As a photographer, if I find a particular vantage of a destination that I like I’ll click on the image and go to the originating website to find out more.

best road trip apps waze
Waze is the best road trip app for navigation (courtesy Waze)

5. Waze

  • Price: Free
  • Link: iOS | Android
  • Best For: Navigation

If you’re one of those rare folks out there that sometimes finds themselves accidentally exceeding the posted speed limit then Waze is a must-have road trip app for you.

The reason that Waze is such a beloved and excellent road trip app is because users are encouraged to post updates on road conditions around them (passengers, not drivers).

Using the Waze app you can notify and be notified when there are such things as “obstacle in the road on the right shoulder”, “traffic slowdown ahead”, and my personal favorite which is speed trap notifications.

best road trip planning tools
Pinterest is one of the best road trip planning tools for inspiration

6. Pinterest

If you love endless road trip inspiration rabbit holes then Pinterest is the place for you.

Specially designed to keep feeding your wanderlust, Pinterest is a great app to see what places look like and explore potential trip itineraries.

Simply type in a point of interest or trip idea into the search bar and they’ll handle the rest. You can save your favorites as “pins” on different travel “boards”.

Beware, endless hours of wanderlust will most assuredly ensue your clicking the link above.

tripadvisor road trip planning tools
Tripadvisor is a great tool for checking reviews on places your interested in visiting

7. Tripadvisor

My go-to site for road trip hotels (don’t worry, I’m not on the payroll) as well as reviews of miscellaneous, non-food related places is Tripadvisor. As of the writing of this piece Tripadvisor boasts nearly a billion reviews and opinions – that’s a lot of feedback.

Many folks use the site/app for road trip inspiration as well but I mostly use it to double check a place is well-reviewed once found.

It’s also a very reliable organization to book hotels through in my experience offering pretty generous cancellation windows & competitive prices.

yelp road trip planner
Yelp is the best restaurant app for road trip planning (courtesy Yelp)

8. Yelp

  • Price: Free
  • Link: Yelp
  • Best for: Food, Reviews

We’ve all heard of Yelp by this point but *the* time to use this app is when looking for food on a road trip.

Ever see that cute sidewalk restaurant that you’d really love to give a try but just aren’t sure about the food? Or arrive at the only game in town late enough to forgo searching reviews and just wing it?

The latter I tried last year and my brother can attest to the faults there withstanding (let’s leave that one at a rough go that night).

Yelp is what we should’ve used then and have used ever since to find well-reviewed restaurants in a new town and more importantly avoid the ones that flirt too closely with the health code.

road trip planning apps
One of the best road trip apps and my most-used next to google maps – Notes

9. Notes App (by Apple)

  • Price: Free
  • Link: Notes
  • Best for: Planning, Sharing

I must confess I’m an avid Notes user for everything from grocery lists to planning a national parks road trip. If you’re an android user, skip down to the next item.

My favorite parts of the Notes app for planning a Road Trip is the ability to share it with friends/family and for them to be able to add to / edit the note. It’s a living document this way for everyone in the road trip group.

You can add photos of places & things, create lists, call out specific people, and more.

road trip planner
Sample Road Trip Itinerary using Google Sheets

10. Google Docs & Sheets

Google Docs & Sheets is great for road trip planning because, similar to Notes by Apple, it is a living document that can be shared and edited by everyone in the group.

You can add photos, links, details, and more about different points of interest for the road trip.

I particularly love the sheets application (similar to Excel) for organizing road trip planning by day.

all trails best hiking app
All Trails is a great road trip hiking planner

11. AllTrails

  • Price: Free
  • Link: All Trails
  • Best for: Planning, Hiking

We rated AllTrails as the best hiking app earlier this year and for this same reason it is a great road trip planning tool. Through AllTrails users can easily find and save hikes all over the US.

Complete with trail guides, trail photos, trail reviews, and more, if your road trip includes hiking then AllTrails is a great companion.


road trip planner apps
Best Road Trip Planning Apps – Google Photos

12. Photos App (Apple or Google)

  • Price: Free
  • Link: (search in phone)
  • Best for: Memories, Shared Photo Albums

Every single time I go on a road trip I create a shared album and invite everyone in the group to join so that we can all have access to the photos. The good news is that you can do this with both apple & android via Apple Photos or Google Photos.

Simply go into your respective Photos app and create a new shared album, then invite whoever you want. It’s also great for folks unable to make the trip but who are still interested in seeing photos from it.

I like to share the albums from our national park trips with my parents so they can follow along!

Another perk is being able to search through the photos by location, person, or activity.

airbnb road trip creator
Airbnb is a great road trip planning tool for booking accommodations

13. Airbnb

  • Price: Free
  • Link: Airbnb
  • Best for: Hotels, Planning

Airbnb has come in handy all over the world for us booking accommodations while planning road trips in both places on and off the proverbial “beaten path.”

User reviews guide the way telling you what sort of quality to expect with your accommodations with helpful photos, amenities listings, and a speedy booking process.

You can also book all sorts of interesting places from luxurious homes to tree houses, camper vans to beach side condos, and more.

road trip planning fuel gasbuddy
Gasbuddy is a great road trip tool for planning fuel costs

14. Gasbuddy

  • Price: Free
  • Link: Gasbuddy
  • Best for: Planning, Route Planner

The premise of gasbuddy is very simple – estimate how much fuel will cost when planning your road trip.

The interface of this website is just as simple – plug in your way points, choose your fuel type, and voila! Gasbuddy may be a somewhat old school road trip planner but it’s still as effective as ever.

recreation gov app
Road Trip Camping and Reservations Apps

15. RecGovCamp App

  • Price: Free
  • Link: iOS | Android
  • Best for: Camping, Reservations

As a national park & public lands nut, Recreation.gov has been on my radar for a long time. Their app is relatively new to the block though and brings added convenience to booking pretty much anything that needs booking on federal lands making them essential for road trip planning.

This can be camp sites, road permits, timed-entry reservations, the Denali road lottery tickets, and more.

road trip weather planning app
The Weather Channel app is my go-to road trip planning weather app

16. The Weather Channel App

  • Price: Free (also paid version)
  • Link: iOS | Android
  • Best for: Planning, Weather

Nobody tops The Weather Channel when it comes to road trip planning for weather in my book. I use this app religiously on road trips (and at home).

It’s loaded with a weather radar, forecasts, and more – everything you need when planning a road trip.

List of Best Road Trip Planning Tools & Apps

  1. Google Maps + My Maps
  2. Roadtrippers App
  3. Travel Blogs
  4. Google Images
  5. Waze App
  6. Pinterest
  7. TripAdvisor (hotels)
  8. Yelp (food)
  9. Apple Notes
  10. Google Docs (Creating a Visual List)
  11. All Trails
  12. Photos App (Shared Albums)
  13. Airbnb App
  14. GasBuddy
  15. The Weather Channel App
  16. RecGovCamp

Road Trip Planning Tools Summary

pattiz brothers theodore roosevelt national park north dakota
The Pattiz Brothers – Will (me) and Jim (right)

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found at least one of these road trip planning tools helpful for your next adventure. If there’s any great tools or resources I’ve left out please leave a comment below so I can improve the list!

If You Like Road Trip Planning Tools

Then you’ll love these articles!

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Will Pattiz

Co-founder of More Than Just Parks. Husband. Conservationist. Currently living in NYC.

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