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NEW YORK (
TheStreet) -- Smartphones are wonderful -- until you go on a road trip and discover 3G/4G mobile service is spotty, if you can even get service at all.
Traveling abroad can also render a smartphone useless or else have you constantly searching for wireless hotspots.
Thankfully, a handful of app developers have become wise to the dilemma and have released mobile apps that work even without mobile service. Of course, pre-trip preparation is necessary. You've got to install the app, for one thing, and, for the most part, you also need to download data before heading out the door.
I tested several on a recent road trip in rural America. Some didn't work so well (if you want to know more about those, leave a comment). Here are ones that worked without service and were definitely useful:
Big Truck Stops: Truckers know best about where and when to stop on the road. So this app, which is popular among truckers, is one of the better ones for finding out where the nearest truck stop is even if you're offline. Offline, the app lets you look up major truck stops (like Flying J and Love's) in select cities and states. It will tell you what exit to take, types of food available and whether there's Internet.
Opt for AllStay's premium version for $9.99 to get loads of rest-stop information that truckers need to know (low clearance, scales, motels with truck parking) but also some for the ordinary road-tripper (ATMs, UPS, game rooms).
AllStays.com/apps, Android & iOS
Local library apps: Listening to audio books helped our 14-hours trip pass a little quicker for the whole family. Apps like Overdrive and OneClickDigital (both offer iOS and Android apps) are connected to various libraries and allow library card holders to check out ebooks and audiobooks for free. While there is limited audio-book selection, I used Overdrive and discovered "The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories" by Dr. Seuss. My 5-year-old loved it.
OneClickDigitalAudible: If you are searching for a specific audio book,
Amazon.com's(AMZN) Audible is happy to sell it to you. We chose the unabridged version of "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was 11 hours long and my kid listened the whole time -- no iPad intervention necessary.
audible.com, Android & iOS & Windows