Plan your great American road trip
Somewhere in the United States, there are places waiting to be discovered this summer -- jagged mountain peaks, roadside diners with heaps of eccentric flair and candy-coloured beach coves that cry out for skinny-dipping adventures.
Roadtrippers, a website and free iPhone app that launched in July 2012, promises to do the opposite – plan the most interesting road trip between any two departure and arrival points you choose. (No Android version of the app is yet available.) It susses out the most memorable stretches of US open road, based on a database of more than 20,000 points of interest. Once it has ferreted out an itinerary, you can follow the journey using turn-by-turn directions on Google Maps.
After you sign up and enter your starting and stopping points, the visually inviting website (and app) will suggest various routes, each signposted with worthwhile stops and lodging. It will also give an estimated trip length, drive time and petrol cost, depending on your vehicle’s average fuel efficiency.
If you have a particular route in mind, you can plug in its name as a starting point, searching for worthwhile stops along the way. We recently searched for Going to the Sun Road in Montana, and the site fetched details about the don’t-look-down, 50-mile gem that runs through Glacier National Park, as well as nearby park sights, such as off-the-charts picturesque 8,855ft-high Mount Grinnell.
A user can save the road trip to a “bucket list” or add it to an active itinerary, working with photos and information about recommended attractions. A team of nine editorial workers writes the copy, though the site also includes road trip ideas from content partners like online magazine Fathom.
If you’re in need of inspiration, you can choose from pre-prepared trip ideas, categorised by themes such as “parks and gardens”, “science”, “sweet tooth”, “offbeat shops” and “races and rodeos”.
Once you choose a category, all corresponding attractions will be mapped along your route. You can then expand or contract the distance you're willing to stray from your initial route from 10 miles to unlimited.
For instance, we settled on a particular itinerary between Going to the Sun Road in Montana and Yosemite National Park in California. The site labelled a 1,220-mile route that would take 22 hours of driving and cost $208 in petrol. We sought “offbeat attractions” within a 50-mile radius of our route, and Roadtrippers revealed a few intriguing stops, such as Idaho's Evel Knievel Snake River Monument – described as "a monument that looks like a grave commemorating the (failed) attempt by stuntman Evel Knievel to jump the Snake River”. According to the map, the monument is conveniently located next to the main route, so we added it as a waypoint.
After building the itinerary on the website, we were able to instantly sync it with the iPhone app. If users want a portable copy of detailed driving directions, they can print Google turn-by-turn directions from the browser version or view them in the Roadtrippers iPhone app.
Roadtrippers’ founders say that, by the end of June, the browser version will enable its users to book accommodations while creating itineraries, and a new version of the app will be released to make it nearly as comprehensive as the website. By August, the founders hope to expand the site’s and app’s coverage to Canada and Australia.
Sean O’Neill is the travel tech columnist for BBC Travel