Twenty years have passed since I was 17 years old. That’s when I took my first road trip with a high school pal. We had just graduated and, over the previous six months, we saved money and planned our route. We armed ourselves with a road atlas, state maps, and a handful of paperback travel guides. I even recall sitting at my parents’ kitchen table browsing state entries in an encyclopedia. Don’t laugh; it was 1994. The trip was epic.
These days, planning a road trip is much easier thanks to technology. With online maps, GPS and ratings websites for restaurants and lodging, travelers no longer have to lug around a bag full of maps and books. Whether you’re planning a trip or you’re already out on the road, the information you need is as close as the nearest computer, tablet or smartphone.
One such tool that caught our eye is a website and mobile app called Roadtrippers. It brings many of the features travelers need into one simple interface. Roadtrippers users can browse for ideas, map out routes, find ratings for lodging and attractions and even estimate fuel costs.
But for us, the best part of Roadtrippers isn’t the high-tech tools. It’s good old-fashioned advice from travelers with four wheels on the road, and it’s found in two sections called Stories and Guides. Here, staff writers and contributors reveal their own personal accounts of the best places to go, food to eat and events to attend. Subcategories like Pop Culture, Outdoors and Offbeat cater to individual tastes. Rides, for instance, is focused on car culture. Koglmeier’s favorite story from Rides reveals a photographer’s eerily beautiful images of rusting junkyard cars at night.
Of course, a road trip isn’t about any one destination but the journey itself. Roadtrippers’ Guides section provides both a route and things to see and do along the way. Like the Stories section, Guides has a section just for car nuts like us. Gearhead USA is pure travel inspiration with pre-planned trips like a tour of NHRA tracks or America’s greatest drive-in theaters. If automobiles aren’t your thing, Roadtrippers also offers guides for fans of sports, history, comics, haunted places, science, movies and more.
We spoke to Roadtrippers operations manager Chelsea Koglmeier, who mentioned a couple of recent changes to the Roadtrippers app. A new user interface is simpler to use and sports a clean look. The ratings system, based on feedback from both the Roadtrippers team and users, also got an overhaul. The new ratings use a standard 5-star scale with the best comments listed first. Koglmeier said later improvements will include a more precise gas cost tool that lets users adjust for the fuel economy of their specific vehicle.
All of these tools help you plan a perfect road trip, but many travelers still want to be spontaneous and find surprises along the way. Koglmeier says Roadtrippers allows you to balance the two.
“We really believe that information is power,” Koglmeier said. “Roadtrippers enables planners with a road trip planner and discovery engine to plan a great trip, but also supports the more spontaneous travelers by giving them a tool to find the best attractions in the moment. Our purpose is inspiration and discovery of the most amazing places, whether that’s a detailed itinerary or a spontaneous pit stop mid-trip; it’s about revolutionizing the entire travel experience.”
Check out Roadtrippers for your adventures, and follow the NAPA KNOW HOW blog for more roadtrip content coming soon. Have fun and travel safely!
Nick Palermo is a freelance automotive writer and NAPA Know How blogger. Since becoming an auto news and reviews contributor at AutoTrader.com in 2011, he has broadened his coverage of the automotive industry to include topics like new car technology, antiques and classics, DIY maintenance and repair, industry news and motorsports. A committed advocate for automotive media professionals, Nick is a member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.