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Indispensable Apps for a Successful Road Trip

By Sandeep Rao ‘15  |  january, 2014, Issue 1
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Mo Bhasin and Sandeep Rao at the border.


The best part about planning a road trip in today's technology-on-the-go environment is that you don't actually have to do any planning. Everything you need can be acquired "just-in-time", freeing you up to worry about the big picture stuff: Should I go with the basic model or the convertible? Are clubs in L.A. open on Christmas Eve? Is Tijuana really that unsafe?

Over the holiday break, Mo Bhasin and I pushed this advice to the limit. With no time to plan (thanks Professor Gramacy!) and a limited budget (thanks Booth!), we pursued the open road, looking for adventure in sunny California. Equipped with a Ford Focus and two android phones, we hit the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) going south from San Francisco to Mexico. The following is a list of apps we found indispensable in transforming our trip from a complete disaster into a fantastic time.


The Basics

Google Maps / Yelp / Pandora (or Spotify) / AirBnB (or Hotel Tonight)

If you haven't downloaded these are an idiot. Do it now. Learn how to use them inside and out. They will save you. Google Maps can handle your navigation needs. Having redundancy is key though as your trusty travel guide will sometimes try and pull a fake-out by having you turn right into the Pacific Ocean. My preference for music-on-the-go is Pandora's (I know, I know, its 2014) electronic ambiance station. I hear all the cool kids use Spotify these days. Either way, a solid streaming music service will save you from falling asleep to a NPR podcast on honeybees that your travel buddy insisted on playing (another good way to find yourself in the Pacific Ocean).

For The Social Butterfly

Facebook / Instagram / GroupMe (or WhatsApp) / Tinder

Do you want to keep your friends up-to-date on your adventures? Want to meet-up with people in a new city? Use a few of these apps to get the social juices flowing. Facebook, Instagram & GroupMe are classic tools to help your friends reach FOMO nirvana.

- Instagram Filter: Kayaking in Santa Barbara with Sea Lions!

- Facebook check-in: Bungalow, L.A. Just saw Miley Cyrus ...she so cray!

- GroupMe Message: It's so hot in San Diego right now! Hope you internationals are enjoying Chicago's temperate weather.

A hilariously underrated way to reach out to people is to swipe right as fast as you can on your Tinder app. You will be engaged for hours as you await matches from all the 9's and 10's you are convinced are checking you out right now!

Become One With Your Phone

Nike+ /  WatchESPN / GogoBot / Venmo

Maybe you want to exercise (Nike+). Maybe you want to watch other people exercise (WatchESPN). Nike+ will track your run along Venice Beach, making sure to record every step while condescendingly congratulating you for finishing a mile in 10 minutes. Gogobot will help you find fun things to do in your new city by filtering-in reviews from people who are like you (you know...adventurous, night-owl, foodie, tech-savvy...wait, who are we talking about again? Whatup EVC Trek A!) At the end of the day, use Venmo to send Bitcoins to email addresses for people who have U.S. social security numbers. I still don't understand Venmo. Someone please explain Venmo to me.


And there you are...a list of the most indispensable apps to ensure you have a great time on your next road trip. One final thought. If you lose service on the PCH, you find yourself on the silk road to Joshua Tree or you have to put your phone on airplane mode in Tijuana (god help you), it might be a good time to put the android down, turn to your travel buddy and engage in a real conversation. Find something you disagree about and go at it (congestion tax policy is a good start). You'll be amazed at what you might learn from another human. Wait! Is there an app for this?

Last Updated 1/14/14
Last Updated 1/14/14