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If I had to choose between planes, trains or automobiles, I'd probably opt for the car. Like many people who travel with a family in tow, I like the flexibility that comes with car travel. We pack what we need, stop when we like and enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
In addition to audio books, snacks and bottles of water, we also travel with our favorite apps. Who knew mobile technology could make road trips so much easier—or so fun?
Here are the 10 travel apps worth downloading before you hit the open highway this summer.
This well-known app gets its value from the socially curated collection of business ratings. Though it comes in handy for finding the closest restaurant or checking out a museum rating, it's also just as helpful for pinpointing the best place for an oil change or pharmacy.
Many families don't leave hotel reservations until the last minute, but if you need to find a place to crash at a moment's notice, check out this booking app for real-time availability and pricing for rooms ranging from budget to luxury.
3. Rest Area Finder
Sooner or later, everyone needs a bathroom. This app makes it easy to find the closest rest area and lets you know if there are vending machines, pet walking areas and similar facilities.
4. Sky Map (Android) and Star Chart (iOS)
If you'll be camping on your summer road trip, fire up one of these apps with the campfire and s'mores. Instead of just admiring the night sky (and wondering if you've spotted a star or satellite), both Sky Map and Star Chart provide context for what you're looking at.
This app helps you find the cheapest gas prices in your vicinity. Though it might not seem to matter too much that you can save a few cents per gallon just a mile down the road, on a long-haul trip like this, those dollars add up fast.
By far our favorite road trip app, Roadside America not only tells you where to find the famously clichéd largest ball of twine (Cawker City, Kan.) but more than 10,000 other quirky attractions, museums and landmarks you never knew you wanted to see. And, because it updates in real time, you can find the attractions closest to you as you drive.
7. Family Car Games
This app is packed with instructions for 100 different games that are easily played by the whole family. Numerous categories ranging from singing and word games to car radio and memory games means you'll never again hear those four dreaded words: "Are we there yet?"
The United States is a wealth of natural spaces, and this app helps you navigate them all. You can search a massive database of local, state and national parks, public lands and forests to find out what spaces are near you and also the available activities, operating hours and more. Perfect for pulling over for a picnic lunch or afternoon hike.
This crowd-sourced traffic app provides real-time updates so you don't end up stuck in traffic jams or caught by a speed trap on your intended route. Consider this your personal traffic reporter.
It's a win-win situation when you can stop for lunch and let the kids run off some energy. This app serves as a handy directory of more than 7,000 restaurant locations within the United States that have play structures, including McDonald's, Chuck-E-Cheese and Chick-Fil-A.