7 iOS apps we used for our road trip

Written by Michael Lee on October 10, 2016

Last Friday, my family and I returned from an epic road trip up the northeast coast of the US. Our road trip took us through Washington, DC, New York City, Boston and Hartford Connecticut. It was a ton of fun spending quality time with the family, meeting friends along the way and making memories.

I thought I’d share 7 iOS apps that I found essential for making our trip a success.

  1. Camera

    By far the most used app during this trip was iOS’ Camera app. While a ton of memorable moments are ingrained in our memories forever, it is always fun to relive the moments through pictures and videos.

    Although we have a pretty good camera and lens, the reality is, with two kids, stroller and all the stuff we had to lug around, pulling out the camera to capture moments just wasn’t ideal.

    The iPhone is just so much easier to whip out, the camera app is easily accessible and the phone’s ability to capture is really quick. Not to mention the quality of the phone just keeps getting better and better each year.

    On our second day on the trip, I decided I’ll probably sell our camera setup and just upgrade my iPhone 5s to an iPhone 7.

  2. Facebook

    One of the great things about using the iPhone as your main camera on a trip, is that it is connected to the Internet. Which means you can share your experience with your friends and family. This is what we did through a shared album between my wife and I on the Facebook iOS app.

    With each stop on our trip, we shared the sites and eats we enjoyed in each city.

    One of the cool things about being connected to friends via a social network like Facebook is that you can ask them about what to check out in a new city.

    We also used Facebook prior to our trip to reach out to friends who lived in the cities we wanted to visit. It’s funny that nowadays, it is easier to get in contact with a friend through a social network instead of their email or phone number.

  3. Lyft

    Living in North Carolina and especially the city of Cary, I have never needed to use Uber or Lyft. The one time I did need a ride-sharing service, which was to catch a 6AM flight at the airport 10 minutes away from our house, there were no rides so I ended up paying $60 for a cab.

    In New York City, Lyft was a life saver! Our cousin told us to sign up and gave us a high-level overview of how it worked. We got some free credits using his referral and we were set up in no time. Having two kids with a stroller trying to get around on the subway was a nightmare.

    Although we ended up walking a ton, we did use Lyft on one of the days where we needed to get to our dinner reservations and didn’t want to walk or ride the subway. Our driver Monier drove up in a Jeep Grand Cherokee, was super nice and helped with packing the stroller.

    Being from the south I always like to strike up a conversation and have small talk. But Monier’s responses were short and to the point. He didn’t care to ask about our business, he was just getting us to our destination. My wife being from Germany appreciated this.

    Overall I thought the Lyft experience was a really good one. You flag a ride from where you are and where you want to go. It tells you the tag number of the car that is arriving. Since your credit card is already loaded into the app, you don’t have to worry about fumbling around for your wallet at the end of the ride.

    We simply got out of the car, Monier helped me unload the stroller and we both went our separate ways. Pretty cool.

  4. Waze

    Me and Waze go way back. When I’m in the car, Waze is the only GPS app I use to get around. Being that this trip was a multi-city trip, Waze definitely came to the rescue in helping us navigate through all the cities and get us to our destination.

    The cool thing about Waze is that it provides a lot of crowd-sourced information. Which means users on the road can tell you if there are hazards on the route you’re about to take, if there are cops along the way and whether a section of your route is congested with traffic.

    It also helped a ton in finding the closest Starbucks, which was crucial in making sure I was alert for the 5-10+ hour stretches of driving.

  5. Google Maps

    While Waze is great for navigating the streets, it isn’t so great when you’re on your feet walking. Waze actually doesn’t have options to switch to other modes of transportation. For that, we used Google Maps.

    The reason I like using Google Maps in a city like New York City or Boston, is that it not only gives you the path on foot, but if there are subways and such, it’ll tell you which lines to ride and even gives you the arrival times of the subways. This was super helpful and allowed us to navigate the big cities on foot without asking for directions.

    But even with Google Maps, I admit, the subways did get kind of confusing but luckily there were many kind strangers who pointed us in the right direction. So thankful for the many who did stop to provide their travel knowledge with a smile.

  6. Starbucks

    Just a day before our trip, was my birthday. And a friend of mine sent me a Starbucks gift card. I love gift cards and particularly this Starbucks gift card came in handy. I downloaded the Starbucks app and loaded the card on the app.

    In every city and places in between when I needed a caffeine fix, I was able to pull up to a Starbucks drive-through window, make an order and then simply have my phone scanned to pay for the purchase. So easy and convenient.

  7. Overcast

    While my family has the luxury to sleep for most of the car ride, I don’t have that luxury since my family’s safety relies on it. Listening to music can only keep me engaged and awake for so long. But a few good podcasts and I can drive a great distance without getting bored.

    Overcast has become my goto podcast app. The app is super easy to use and makes discovering podcasts easy. I listen to a handful of podcasts regularly, but once I was caught up on all the episodes for a podcast, I was scrambling to find something new.

    Thankfully Overcast has a nice discovery section of curated podcasts that are popular. They even have a way to link your Twitter account and provides you with a curated list based on podcasts the folks you follow listen to.

    This was helpful in helping discover podcasts like This American Life, which had such great storytelling that it made my driving experience a real pleasure.

While none of these apps were necessary for our trip and there are other options such as CDs/radio and maps and gift cards. Having all of these conveniences on a single device with you at all time definitely enhanced our trip experience. I’m really thankful to all the folks behind these apps. Your work is valuable and I got to experience your work’s value on this trip.

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