by Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard
We just came off an extended RV trip for the winter season, and it was fun to see which apps we still love and new apps that have hit the market.
So here it is, our updated list of mobile apps we consider our essentials to complement our road tripping lifestyle (note, we are an all Apple household, but if there’s an Android version we’ve listed it too.).
Please note that we are also app developers and some of these apps we wrote to solve problems we encountered in our own travels. We have clearly disclosed which they are – and aside from those, we paid for all of the apps listed and these are unsolicited reviews. Just our honest opinions. But, if you do opt to buy any of these apps off our recommendations, some links below are iTunes affiliate links and we will get a tiny cut.
Allstays Camp & RV-$9.99. This is the ultimate RVing resource guide for finding not only campgrounds, but other RV services and overnight stops. Its campground database includes RV resorts, military FamCamps, public campgrounds, overnight parking options (including which Walmarts you can’t stay overnight at), etc. It also includes places that service RVs, dump stations, propane fills and service centers. In addition, it has low clearance bridges marked, rest areas, road grades, construction alerts and tracks some of the basic state laws. Updates are free for the life of the product, and they seem to regularly improve and add content. They have other versions as well that provide subsets of their data, for instance if you want the list of Walmarts only, and offer an online subscription option. IOS Only.
Campendium–Free! This has become our go-to website for campground reviews. We love that they cover commercial RV parks, public campgrounds and known boondocking gems. Our favorite feature is that they ask folks to rate the cellular signal for each of the four carriers – perfect for us connected nomads! In the past year, they have finally launched their own app – and we loved utilizing it in our recent travels. IOS Only
We love our Harvest Hosts membership ($49/yr) – it allows us to stay at unique places like wineries, breweries, museums and farms. Since we do most our planning on our iPhones, logging into their website to research options meant we often missed opportunities. Now with their new app, we can easily scope out our options. During this last RV trip we stayed in more Harvest Hosts locations simply because the app made it so much easier. IOS and Android
If you’re a Passport America member, this app is a no-brainer to have on your mobile device for quickly searching if there are member clubs on your route.
We recommend Passport America membership – the club gets you access to 50% discounts at RV Parks across the country, and the $44 annual membership price will pay for itself with just a couple nights stays. We mostly utilize their campgrounds when making transitions between our destinations to dump/fill tanks and recharge. IOS and Android
Ultimate US Public Campground $3.99 This app is a great resource for finding public campground options, which is our general preference. It lists state parks, national parks, municipal parks, COE, BLM lands, boondocking spots and more. You can also use the online version for free, download the Mac app or a POI database for your GPS. IOS and Android
Coverage? $2.99 Essential in planning where we’ll camp is knowing if we’ll have cellular signal or not. So we created an app for that!
The app overlays the carrier’s maps so you create your own personal coverage map for the carriers you have (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile). We use it to help plan our routes, overnight stops and extended stay. Each carrier’s maps are stored offline, so even if we have no cell signal – we can find out which direction to head. The app gets free updates throughout the year, and we now offer an in-app subscription option for quarterly higher resolution HD maps. IOS and Android
Free Trial: We now offer a free trial with Coverage? Lite on iOS (the new Android version starts in free trial mode).
For more on planing your RV Travels around connectivity (our ‘day job’):
Tips for Travel Planning Around Connectivity for RVers and Cruisers
US Public Lands $2.99 Other resources list known boondocking locations – which makes it super easy to find great locations (which means everyone else can find them too). But sometimes we like to scout out lesser known options which requires a bit more research. We created US Public Lands to overlay BLM, Forest Service, NPS and public land boundary maps.
It helps us in the search for finding options a bit more off the beaten path or just helps us confirm we are indeed on public (not private) land. IOS and Android
Navigating to Get There
We’ve tried a lot of navigation apps and devices out over the years, but we mostly just use the built in map apps on our iPads and iPhones. Since our bus is only 11.5′ tall, we don’t worry too much about low clearance spots. The default maps program by Apple is actually pretty good. It has turn by turn directions, satellite views, voice response via Siri and more. This is usually the first app we load for getting general directions.
We do have a Garmin RV 660LMT GPS unit that we keep running for a quick visual reference (it also doubles as the screen for our rear view camera) – which does a decent job of alerting us to non-RV friendly routes. But quite honestly, all RV-specific navigation options we’ve tried have their share of routing us down bad routes – so we prefer to do our own research in advance.
Here are the apps we use while enroute:
Apple’s Maps Free The default maps program by Apple is actually pretty good. It has turn by turn directions, satellite views, voice response via Siri and more. This is usually the first app we load for getting general directions. IOS Only
Google Maps -Free We also love the Google Maps and generally are running this along side Apple Maps. Android
InRoute Free with In-App purchases. This app helps us optimize our driving day, by scouting out ahead for elevation changes, curviness, weather conditions and things along our route. We plug in our destination for the day ahead, and know before we head out which routes to take to avoid adverse conditions. We love the elevation profiles it gives us, so we can avoid routes we don’t feel like crossing with our vintage naturally aspirated 2-stroke diesel engine. IOS Only
Gas Buddy Free! Want to find the cheapest fuel prices? GasBuddy is your app. You can view user submitted fuel prices to help locate the cheapest places to fill up. But, as it’s user submitted information – do use caution. Some listings even include photos so that you can determine if the station is RV-friendly. IOS and Android
State Lines $4.99 We developed State Lines to fulfill our own desire for a single resource for over 50 laws and regulations that change as you cross state lines. We use it frequently as we cross state lines to find out if gas taxes will be cheaper in the next state, if we can overnight at rest areas, if we can buy beer in grocery stores on a Sunday and other such information. We update the app generally once a year with a refresh of the data. IOS and Android
RoadTrip $6.99 We use this app to track our fuel fill-subs, fuel economy and maintenance logs and costs for both our RV and our toad. It even gives a break out of what our costs are on a daily and per mile basis.
Stuff Once You’re ‘There’
Once you pull into your destination, here are some of our favorites apps for getting settled into camp and discovering what is around us to explore.
Why? Because the built in bubble level inside the Apple installed Compass utility app is just so darn easy to use (swipe the compass to the right – viola – there’s the level!) It’s been good enough for us. Our airbags on our bus tend to settle to fairly level on their own after a day or so, otherwise we use blocks. If we’re off level a bit, well, maybe living part of the year on a boat just makes us not so sensitive to it? IOS Only
Speedtest by Ookla Free Perhaps even more important than being level, or any other amenity is – how reliable is the internet?!?
So before we get too settled in we run some speed tests on all of our options. Afterall, bars/dots really don’t tell you how fast your connection might be. We like the Speedtest app by Ookla. We connect to each option we have on board (with and without boosters/antennas) to help find tune the minimum speeds we need
to stream some Netflix get our work done. IOS and Android
For more on understanding your cellular data performance (part of our ‘day job’):
Understanding & Optimizing Your Cellular Data Performance
Yelp (Free) This one is probably obvious, but just in case you haven’t found it yet, we’ll mention it again. Yelp is a giant database of restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, hair stylists and more – all with extensive user reviews. We use this app (and the website) often for tracking down the local favorites. IOS and Android
Weather Radio $4.99 RVers are constantly changing locations, which can make it difficult to keep on top of the local weather. We love this app, as it uses our smartphones to auto change our current location and gives us critical alerts when severe weather is approaching. It also has built in radar maps, weather forecasts and more. Of course we still keep a real weather radio on board for those time might not have internet access too.
Alternative: The RedCross has a free Tornado App that is worthwhile having downloaded. In case of inclement weather, more information is always better. We have been in situations where one app was reporting faster than the other.
We’re Cherie and Chris–two gen-X geeks who are utilizing technology to engage in a full-time hyper mobile life. We are our owned by our cat, Kiki (she told us it was critical we included that part).We were bloggers since before we met, and just continued sharing when our lives merged and started a little joint blog we randomly called ‘Technomadia’.
Technomad: Technology enabled nomad.
(term coined by our friend and original technomad, Steven Roberts / www.microship.com)