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The Best Travel Apps for iOS

Use these apps to make your trips a little smoother

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The iPhone has transformed driving. Cell phones always let us talk while driving, but now we can bring huge music collections, a library of audiobooks, movies, and all sorts of streaming data. And there is a whole category of travel apps designed to make your trips easier, from letting you know where to find the cheapest nearby gas to helping you find a good restaurant off an upcoming exit, from getting you to a rest stop just when you need a bathroom to keeping you awake on long drives. Here are our top picks for the travel apps you'll want to bring along on your next trip.

1. iExit

iphone travel apps
image copyright Metrocket LLC

When driving through an area you're not familiar with, it can be hard to figure out where to eat, find gas, or how to select a hotel. IExit (US$1.99) aims to solve that problem. It uses the iPhone's built-in GPS to determine your location and then shows you a list of all kinds of amenities--from food to hotels, gas stations to supermarkets, drug stores to car repair/maintenance providers--nearby. While it doesn't offer gas prices, it does have an offline mode that allows devices without GPS (the iPod touch and non-3G iPad) to work. An excellent travel companion.

2. SmartFuel

iphones gas prices apps
image copyright Iridium Development LLC

SmartFuel (Free for 30 days; $14.99 for 24 month subscription) doesn't have as many features as iExit, but it's main functionality--finding the lowest-priced gas near you--is top notch. Again using the iPhone's GPS (all but one of these apps do), it finds nearby gas stations, but adds the twist of listing their prices, allowing you to get the best deal. Its listings are comprehensive and its prices accurate. While you'll need to pay for a subscription after the first 30 days, you'll save much more than $0.62/month two-year subscription.

3. Fuel Finder

iphone travel apps
image copyright Bottle Rocket

Fuel Finder provides the same functionality as SmartFuel, but adds an On Fumes feature that not only finds the closest gas with one touch, but also provides phone numbers for an extensive list of roadside assistance and other service providers. Fuel Finder (US$2.99) doesn't have quite the number of listings that SmartFuel does, and it has occasional price errors, but it doesn't require a subscription, which will appeal to some.

4. RoadAhead

best vacation apps for iphone
image copyright RoadAhead Inc.

RoadAhead is similar to iExit in that it provides information about what's available off nearby exits, from gas stations to fast food restaurants, from hotels to rest stops. It has a few bugs--including occasional crashes and difficulty in acquiring a GPS signal--but for a free app, RoadAhead is pretty appealing.

5. Rest Area

vacation apps for iphone
image copyright CLO Software LLC

Unlike apps that help you find what's off the highway, Rest Area helps you find places to stop while on the highway. It uses GPS to determine your location and show you all the nearby rest areas, service centers, and welcome areas. Each rest area listing includes information about the amenities available there. Rest Area's functionality is pretty specific, but for a free app, it does what it sets out to do pretty well.

6. GasBuddy

gas prices apps
image copyright GasBuddy Organization Inc.

Like the other gas price apps on this list, GasBuddy plots gas stations near you on a map and provides their gas prices so you can get the best deal. It also provides information about the amenities available at each station. While it doesn't list all the stations that other apps do, and has the occasional price error, it is free.

7. Rest Stops Plus

best travel apps for iphone
image copyright AllStays.com

Rest Stops Plus ($1.99) is very similar to Rest Area, in that it locates nearby rest stops and provides information about them. It suffers under too-complex and extensive filtering options and no clear indication of what highway a given rest stop is on.

8. Alfred

Alfred
Alfred copyright Clever Sense Inc.
You don't leave your tastes for your favorite foods behind when you travel and Alfred (free) aims to help with that. By learning about what kind of restaurants and nightspots you like, Alfred can then recommend nearby locations that you may also like. It's a nice idea, and one that should help a lot when traveling to unfamiliar places. Unfortunately, the search results need more refinement before you can trust Alfred to steer you to the right places.

9. Fuel Smart Pro

gas prices apps
image copyright Stewart Malcolm

The last gas prices app on this list. This $2.99 app (you have to buy the app at that price every year in order to keep using it) sports comprehensive station listings and accurate prices, but has a raw, cluttered interface that makes it hard to use compared to its competitors.

10. Rest Area Finder

vacation apps for iphone
image copyright Clean Micro LLC

The last app on the list that helps you find nearby rest areas on highways. While its listing of rest areas and their amenities is pretty extensive, this free app suffers from an unclear interface (there's no way to tell what the color coding of each rest area indicates without deducing it yourself) and an inability filter its search results.

11. Anti Sleep Pilot

driving apps for iphone
image copyright ASP Technology

A great idea that unfortunately doesn't work well enough to merit a recommendation yet. This $19.99 app assess your fatigue level, regularly tests it, and recommends breaks based on it to keep your awake and alert while driving. If it worked completely, it would be a top pick, but because it doesn't fully work when running in the background or when the iPhone is locked, it's not quite ready to travel with you.

12. Anti Drowse

driving apps for iphone
image copyright Roberto Valloggia

Unlike Anti Sleep Pilot, Anti Drowse (free) isn't likely to be a good travel companion. Instead of assessing your fatigue level, it just blares startling noises at you on a given interval. Given that it can't run in the background and can't update the length of your trip after you start driving, it's best to skip this one.

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