These apps will help make sure you are going in the right direction during your next road trip – Toronto Star
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About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of daytrips and longer drives highlight great experiences you can have in the province, and shows you why Ontario is “Ours to Discover.”
Hit the road, Jack — and Jill. And while you are at it, don’t forget to pack some handy travel apps along with your sunglasses, snacks and favourite travel mug.
Your smartphone or tablet can help you remain organized, connected and entertained during your road trip through Ontario this summer — and even save you time and money. From smart navigation maps and deal-sniffing gas guides to booking hotels on the cheap, here are some app suggestions that will get you going in the right direction.
Perhaps you use Apple Maps or Google Maps for directions since it’s already included with your iPhone or Android, but be sure to also download Waze before you head out, as it’s the world’s largest community-based navigation app.
By crowdsourcing traffic and road information from millions of users (known as “wazers”) you get real-time data about the roads around you — including accidents, construction zones and speed traps — to help you get to your destination faster.
Along with different navigation voices to choose from, Waze also lets you stream music and podcasts right from within the app. For video and music services such as Netflix, Apple Music and Spotify, be sure to download your media while still at home and connected to your Wi-Fi so it doesn’t use up your data while you are driving.
Waze also includes a Share your Drive feature that lets you communicate your route with friends and family before you leave, so they will get an accurate arrival time instead of calling for updates. Another handy feature? If you have a 407 ETR pass, you can see the estimated toll cost you would need to pay if you take that route.
Another smart pick, GM Maps Plus is supported by GM’s technical centre in Oshawa and features GPS location and map data, as well as connectivity features (cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth). It is available in select vehicles for the 2018 model year and newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac cars with Connected Vehicle and Premium subscription plans. Maps Plus is integrated into the dashboard display — identifying points of interest, traffic conditions and parking lots — and is supported by hands-free Alexa controls.
Fill ’er up
Given the high cost of gas these days, be sure to download GasBuddy before you head out on your road trip. The company estimates it helps to save the average user about $340 per year by identifying nearby stations with the lowest price — and mapping their locations so they are easy to find. You can search gas stations by distance or cost, plus you can see prices for regular, midgrade, premium and diesel fuel.
Other GasBuddy features include a trip cost calculator, tips and tricks to use less gas, car recall information and optional in-app challenges you can accept to win free fuel.
If you drive an electric vehicle, PlugShare is one of the most popular and free solutions to find public charging stations compatible with your car. It also works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which means you can see and access the information on your vehicle’s dashboard screen.
PlugShare lets you browse nearby or bookmarked charging locations and find stations along your route using the app’s built-in road trip planner. You can also search by amenities or charging network and see station ratings and their real-time availability. At some locations, you can also pay for charging using the app.
At more than 25 years old, Hotels.com is a long-standing booking service and website that is now also a popular app. It features an intuitive interface, maps and ride-share integration, support for smartwatches, a “secret price” feature, and arguably the best loyalty and rewards program around (including a deal to stay ten nights and get the next one free). To reduce the likelihood of fake reviews, all customers who rate a hotel must have stayed there.
If you drive an electric vehicle, you will also want to consider downloading EVHotels, which highlights accommodations that also offer charging stations.
And then there’s Pruvo, which helps you get a better price on your hotel — after you’ve booked it. Once you have your reservation, you can forward your confirmation to a special Pruvo email address that will monitor your room rate.
If the rate drops — a common occurrence, according to the company — you’ll be notified on your phone about how much money you could save, and you’ll get instructions on how to cancel your original reservation. You can then rebook at the lower rate. The only catch is, you need to have the ability to cancel your room to begin with.
Where to go
An ideal tool for Ontario-based explorers, Roadtrippers — Trip Planner helps you discover places to stop along your route this summer, from great restaurants and hotels to scenic sites and quirky roadside attractions like Sudbury’s Big Nickel or Echo Bay’s “Giant Loonie.” You can use the app to plan your trip and also share your itinerary with family and friends.
Looking for a good vegan restaurant or need to find a gift for that finicky relative you are about to visit? The Yelp app helps you find businesses near you by using your smartphone’s GPS location.
You can also narrow your searches by neighbourhood, distance, rating and price, make restaurant reservations using its OpenTable platform, and use the app’s augmented-reality feature, where you hold up your phone to see information superimposed on top of the real world around you.
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