8 Ways to Improve Your Roadtrips with iPhone and Apps

Make your car trips, especially with kids, more fun and less stressful

Summer is the season of road trips. Road trips can be a lot of fun but, especially for families with younger kids, they can also be stressful. While there's probably no technology that can credibly claim to completely remove the conflicts, end the complaining, and remove the stress related to car trips with kids, the iPhone and apps do offer some ways to make the trip more enjoyable.​

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Music & Games

NPR Music app
NPR Music app.

Keeping kids occupied and entertained is a great way keep trips enjoyable (this goes for adults, too!). One surefire way to do this is to provide music they like and games they enjoy. You can get music via apps, iTunes, or the CDs you already own. Games are available through the App Store. These articles will help you snag a few pleasing distractions.

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family using devices
image copyright Hero Images/Getty Images

Bringing along favorite movies and TV shows is another smart way to keep passengers entertained on long drives. The gorgeous Retina Display screen on the iPhone—and the big 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus—make great portable video devices. The question, of course, is where to get them?

  • 47 Great Apps For Watching TV on the iPhone - these all require an Internet connection, so you'll need a hefty data plan
  • iTunes TV/Movie Rentals - rent movies or buy TV shows from the iTunes Store for the trip. Movies last for 24 hours once you start watching or 30 days, whichever comes first. TV shows can be watched as often as you want
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Books: E, Audio, and Comic

The iPhone offers a wealth of reading options for beginning readers or more mature bookworms—and there's no doubt that a good, engrossing book is a terrific way to pass the time on a trip. Whether you and your fellow travelers enjoy eBooks, comics, or audiobooks, you've got options.

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Share the Music: Car Stereo Adapters

iphone fm car adapters
New Potato TuneLink Auto. image copyright New Potato

The iPod solved arguments about whose music everyone would listen to since it allowed each person to enjoy their favorites on their own. But what do you do if want you to listen to music but don't want every member of the family plugged into their own world? Car stereo adapters are the solution. Some work through a tape deck and cable, others over FM, but all allow you to alternate whose music is played in the car.

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Save on Gas with Apps

Gas Guru app
Gas Guru gas station finder app.

Between gas, food, tolls, and hotels, road trips can be expensive. But you can save a little more if you use one of these gas station finder apps. They use the iPhone's built-in GPS (and since the iPhone is the only iOS device with true GPS, you'll need one to make the ​best use of the apps) to locate nearby gas stations and compare their prices. Take advantage of this information and the savings can add up quickly.

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Find a Bathroom (or Restaurant) When You Need One

Road Ahead app
Road Ahead travel app.

Besides needing gas, the other common car trip emergency is desperately needing to find a bathroom. Apps can help you with that, too. Travel apps not only point you to upcoming rest areas, they also tell you what's available off upcoming exists—like restaurants, hotels, and car repair shops—and help you determine which best meet your needs. And having a quick plan of action when any passenger is hungry or needs a bathroom surely makes the trip smoother.

  • 12 Great Travel Apps - find nearby rest stops, food, and points of interest to keep everyone happy
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Stay on Course with GPS

apple maps app
Apple Maps.

No one likes getting lost. It's especially bad if you're traveling with impatient kids (or adults!). Avoid taking wrong turns if you get turn-by-turn directions from the map apps that run on the iPhone (you'll need a cellular data connection to use them, of course). Whether you use the built-in Maps app or any of the third-party GPS tools, if you're traveling somewhere you haven't been before, take a GPS app along with you.

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Share Your Internet with Personal Hotspot

iphone tethering
The iPhone's Personal Hotspot, with the feature turned on.

Since not everyone along for the ride will have an iPhone, they won't be able to get online when they want, which may lead to some crankiness. But as long as one person has an iPhone, and Personal Hotspot configured, crankiness need not rear its ugly head. Personal Hotspot allows the iPhone user to share their wireless Internet connection with any nearby device via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Just make sure it's part of your data plan and everyone in the car will be able to get online whenever they want.


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