Make the Most of Your Next RV Roadtrip

We started out on this mobile lifestyle 7.5 years ago with some very low-tech resources.  With just a flip phone, an awesome Nat Geo road atlas, a list of friends’ recommendations, a bird ID book, and a copy of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, we got around, found campsites, and had some incredible adventures.  But oh, how times have changed!  With the parallel growth of both RVing and smartphone apps, what’s available at our fingertips today is a game changer.  Categorized and described below are a whole host of apps and online resources helpful to both plan your travels as well as make the most of them.  If you are curious about something, there’s probably an app for it.  While not exhaustive, this list includes our favorites as well as some great recommendations from fellow road warriors.

Locating/Booking Campgrounds & Boondocking

AllStays: From tent and RV camping to Walmart overnight parking to places where you can dump your RV tanks, AllStays has a variety of apps for purchase.  We have mostly used the Walmart parking app and it has been very useful on many occasions when passing through and needing a quick and safe spot to stay for the night.  

Campendium: Find RV parks & campgrounds across the US.  The search functions integrate into your gps so getting to your desired campground is easy.  Allows you to search for sites via large categories such as RV parks, National Parks, Free Camping, etc., right from the home page.

The Dyrt: With the most campground listings of any app,The Dyrt will help you find tent & RV campgrounds, and RV parks across the US.  Integrating with your maps and gps, it’s easy to search via your location and get directions right to the campsite.  Read reviews and see photos from real people who camped there.  Search & share campsites to plan your next camping trip, and book reservable sites through the app.  A great addition for 2020 is offline maps that comes with the Pro version!  You can even win cool outdoor gear if you are an avid camper and reviewer.  

Free Roam: A non-profit resource to help you find great camping options and enjoy nature in a respectful, sustainable way. Perfect for boondocking as it provides highly detailed information about all types of public land. Search using powerful filters, layers, plan a trip, find a shower, dump station, or laundromat along your route with the trip planning feature. Get to know others and find support through chat groups, forums, and meetups.

HipCampThis is the AirBnB for private camping sites.  The app makes available unique camping opportunities offered by their “hosts” who range from traditional campground owners to private landowners and farmers.  Bookings are available right through the app.  

RV Membership Clubs & Discounts

If you are a full-time RVer or spend many months per year traveling in your RV, you may consider joining one of these organizations.  For an annual fee, these clubs offer a wide variety of perks and discounts to their members. The Dyrt Magazine recently published a comprehensive article outlining the distinctions between these organizations.  Here are a few:

In addition to these more well-known clubs, Tin Can Tourists offers some perks and events for owners (or dreamers) of vintage campers and travel trailers.  Whether you have an Avion, Airstream...or a Sportcraft like we do, you will have found your tribe among these knowledgeable and passionate vintage enthusiasts.

General Travel Planning

Ever heard of Google Maps? Yeah, we thought so, but here’s a few other apps offering lesser known features that might have you wandering away from your go-to gps.  

Roadtrippers:  Plan your road trip with not only roads you need to follow, but what interests you along the way.  Make side trips to nearby attractions or events, or sort through their collection of on-line guides to help you make your trip unique and memorable.  Upgrade your app to the version without ads for an easier planning experience. 

Waze: Plan your driving experience with real-time input from other drivers along your route.  With tips and route options changing based on current driving conditions, you can navigate any city like a local.  

Exploring the Natural Environment

iBird Pro: As budding bird nerds, we love this app because it offers both illustrations and photographs for every species and contains 4000+ bird song and call vocalizations, as well as a range map.  One of the most unique features is a comprehensive, offline database and search engine which comes with over 35 characteristics that can be searched (such as body color, location, bill shape, etc.), including “Birds Near Me.”  It takes a bit of practice, but once you learn the art of birding, you’ll be seeing our flying friends in a much different way. 

iNaturalist: Whether you are a self-proclaimed nature nerd or just learning, this app will complement your love of nature.  Learn about plants and animals, connect with other naturalists, track and crowdsource your findings, collect and share useful data with scientists, and more.  

Peak Finder:  If you are the type that stands on top of a summit and wonders what the names of the peaks are around you, you’ll love this app.  Take a photo of a mountain range and the app shows the names of all mountains and peaks with a 360° panorama display.  The app functions offline - and worldwide!  PeakFinder knows more than 650,000 peaks - from Mount Everest to the little hill around the corner.

PictureThis Plant Identifier: Simply take a photo of any plant, and get instantaneous plant ID options that help you quickly narrow down what you’ve found. If you do not have LTE, take a photo then upload it into the app when you return to civilization. Great for kids and adults who seek to learn more about the flora around them.  Warning from fellow nature nerds...it will easily turn a 2 hour hike into 4!

Simple Moon: Do you love to plan a full moon hike or a new moon bioluminescence paddle? With this easy to read app, you can keep track of the phases of the moon with a simple visual calendar and plan some nighttime fun!

StarTracker: Integrating with your gps, star tracker displays a visual representation of the stars, moons, constellations and satellites from your perspective -- exactly where you are.  Any would be stargazers can begin to understand what the night sky offers away from big cities and light pollution. 

 

Sunrise Sunset: If you are an avid nature photographer or simply love watching the beginning and end of each day, you will find this app incredibly helpful as it breaks down sunrise and sunset into four types -- astronomical, nautical, civil, and official.  You can look ahead for these times to plan outings, photo sessions, starwatching, etc.  If you are an avid astronomer, this app tracks the rise and set of all the planets, as well as provides their approximate location in relation to the moon.

Tides Near Me: If you spend a good deal of time near or on the ocean, this is one of the best and easiest to use resources for tide prediction.  Using nearby tide stations and current tidal conditions, learn the time of the last and next tide and current, as well as when the sun and moon will rise or set.  Fully automated tide tables, charts, and predictions are both easy to read and fascinating to study.

Points of Interest: From Kitsch to History

History Here and Clio: These interactive apps gives you the historical context of what’s around you.  Find the well-known or hidden historical places along your vacation route or along your walk to work.  We are always amazed by what we could have missed without a second thought!

National Park Guide & MapsThe REI Co-op guide is a comprehensive companion to visiting popular national parks.  This app packs in current trail information, including descriptions, individual park’s “best of” hikes, and offline location tracking -- you may never get lost again.  

Outbound CollectiveUsing compelling stories that highlight adventurous locations, personal challenges and stunning natural features, this app interweaves personal inspiration and informational resources.  Use the integrated map to discover adventures in your backyard or across the globe.  

Trip Bucket: Ever feel like you need a little inspiration?  This app has lists, categories and one of the more comprehensive databases of “bucket list” activities and locations.  Accompanied with stunning photographs and helpful tips and lists from staff and users alike, these dreams will have you making your own in no time.

Trails & River Information

AllTrailsWe’ve used this app in the backcountry, as well as traveling through suburban areas and have found some great hikes that we would have otherwise driven right by.  The app immediately brings up nearby trails for hiking, cycling, cross country skiing, trail running, and more -- or you can plan ahead with the database search function.  You can filter by length, rating, and difficulty level, as well as easily find dog or kid-friendly trails. The directions function will take you right to the parking lot at the trailhead and the interactive trail map tells you where you are on the trail and how much elevation gain/loss is ahead of you.

American Whitewater:  If you bring along your canoe or kayak while camping, and want to see which rivers are flowing, as well as which are flooding, this is a great app for paddlers of all kinds from Class “Fun” to Class V.   At a glance, the color key shows you which rivers are too low, optimal, or too high.  It also provides river feature descriptions including pictures of the major rapids, a USGS map to find put-in and take-out areas, and any recent incident reports for the river.  

Rails to TrailsSponsored by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, this app will allow you to find nearby trails of all types, or search by city, type of activity, and more.  It provides information about the surface type (gravel, asphalt, etc.) and the length of each trail.  You can read and write reviews of trails, track the trails you’ve done, get suggested itineraries for multi-day trails, as well as download offline maps and more with the Unlimited Version.  We use this app to find cycling trails more than anything else.

Trail Run Project: Another app brought to you by the folks at REI Co-op, this outstanding resource is for the trail runner in all of us, also for the hiker or walker.  The integrated map uses a color-coded scheme to indicate the level of difficulty.  One click and trail details pop-up with distance, elevation, grade, as well as another map to get you to the trailhead.  With thousands of US and international trails available, this resource inspires visions of long solitary runs.    

Weather

My Radar You can quickly get an overall at-a-glance of potential weather headed your way.  Provides HD radar, as well as NOAA weather alerts, temperatures, forecasts, and a detailed hurricane tracker.  This is our go-to app for “big picture weather” on the road, trail, or water.  

Windy:  When you are traveling through an area, having access to the bigger weather picture along your route is crucial to making smart decisions.  This real time website/app has a variety of layers which show you which way the wind is blowing, temperatures, rain, thunder, snow depth, ocean swells, and even air quality and sea temperature.  The number of layers seem endless.  Specific, highly graphic information will be at your fingertips whether you are traveling, backpacking, boating, or any other activity where weather could impact your daily plans.

WundergroundEasy to read, simple graphics, detailed weather forecasts, daily sun/moon rise-set information, and more is available on this app.  This is our go-to app for weather when we are staying put in one area.



We hope these resources will enrich your travels as much as they have ours. If you want more inspiration for your next roadtrip, join us in living large by living small!  Learn more about our solar-powered adventures on our website and follow us on the road via social media at Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!

Editor's Note: For additional resources, please see our previous article, RV Adventures - 14 Resources to Get Your Started.

Shari and Hutch
Author: Shari and HutchEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
In 2012, David Hutchison “Hutch” and Shari Galiardi left behind careers and a comfortable home in North Carolina to travel with the vintage camper trailer they lovingly restored, outfitted with solar, and named “Hamlet.” What they thought would be a year or two adventure around the continent transformed into a new lifestyle. 7.5 years later, with no end in sight, they share stories and insights from their mid-life adventure to large industry travel shows, intimate college campuses, open tiny houses in REI parking lots and a growing online audience. Traveling over 100,000 miles to 49 states, countless National Parks and other public lands, the couple pursues what it means to live the good life on their own terms and sustain it. The writing and photography duo currently pen the popular “Full-Time Campers” column in The Dyrt’s online magazine and contribute to Renogy’s solar blog as well as other publications.

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