#Vanlife and the digital nomad movement seem to have taken the world by storm in the past couple of years. Even if full-time travel isn't an option for you, road travel is still one of the oldest and most nostalgic means of exploring our surroundings.
While the allure of packing up and going off the grid in search of the next great adventure is undeniable, especially in our current tech-reliant age, here are a few apps that you can find on Android and Apple iOS app stores to keep some of the hassles out of your summer travel plans.
20 Travel Apps to Use for a Smooth Road Trip
This one sounds self-explanatory, but it's a game-changer. Waze and other GPS programs often aren't as accurate or frequently updated, giving Google a strong lead on the competition. Real-time traffic updates and weather alerts are absolutely game-changing. The offline maps feature is crucial for any adventures that take you outside the reach of a 5G internet connection.
Google Maps' built-in ability to create lists of locations makes for relatively easy trip planning, especially for long weekends and day trips full of roadside oddities and fun. It's also handy for monitoring public transportation in new cities!
It's no secret that gas prices are on the rise currently. Gasbuddy is a great way to track and compare prices at several gas stations along your route for the best possible price.
Personally, I recommend using Gasbuddy as part of the preliminary planning stage of your next trip (aka check the app before departing) and monitoring as you travel for the best deals and seamless integration into your adventure route.
This is probably the holy grail of road travel apps, especially if you're hunting for an authentic "Vanlife" experience. iOverlander is an international database of campsites, laundry facilities, pet services, grocery stores, location-specific travel tips, and more across North and South America and Western Europe.
Finding a last-minute campsite has never been easier. iOverlander's database is exclusively updated and maintained by community members, so don't forget to check-in and leave reviews as you use it!
Roadtrippers is a fantastic app designed for start-to-finish trip planning. Roadtrippers displays campgrounds and amenities across the country. You can choose a route for you or plan your own trip step-by-step using the Roadtrippers database. If you're a frequent traveler, try downloading the pro-version, which includes unlimited trip planning capabilities, campground discounts, and estimated fuel expenses for each trip.
TripIt is hit or miss for road travel as it is mainly email-based. Unfortunately, road trips don't often come with confirmation emails the same way that air travel might. That said, TripIt doesn't exclusively work when you book flights. This app is handy as a trip planning tool. It can help you keep things like rental cars, dinner reservations, and hotel rooms organized in a neat, comprehensive itinerary. For that reason, it makes the list. Better to have it and not need it, right?
Whatsapp is one of the world's largest communication networks, and for a good reason. Whatsapp allows you to stay in contact with your friends and loved ones across any distance via text messaging and phone calls. WhatsApp is especially great for situations where you may not have cell service but do have access to wifi or other internet connection similar to iMessage and facetime on iPhones. But it doesn't require either party to use an Apple product- meaning that being out of service is no longer a reason to lose connection with those who mean the most to us.
DriveWeather is a GPS app that updates road weather and safety conditions in real-time. The pro version allows you to set your route and sign up for forecast notifications should road conditions change. Suppose you're renting a van, skoolie conversion, or RV for your next getaway. In that case, the DriveWeather mobile app is an absolute must.
Want to head out on your next incredible journey but not sure what to bring? Enter your itinerary details, including travel dates, destination(s), and planned activities, and Packpoint does the rest for you. The app checks the forecast in your destination. It scans your planned activities to curate a comprehensive packing list for your next trip. Signing up for the pro version allows you to add anything that Packpoint has forgotten to your list, making it super unlikely that you'll forget any of the essentials. Now, if only they could pack our bags for us, too...
I told myself I wasn't going to include it, but if you're hitting the road on an adventure this summer, you're going to want an Airbnb at some point. Even the most tried and true nomads book hotels and Airbnb to take a break from the road, and we all deserve a little luxury here and there.
However, to reduce Airbnb to simply accommodations would be to do it a disservice. I recommend using Airbnb to book experiences like photography sessions, nature walks, cooking classes, and more along your trip. They're often led by locals and can provide some priceless memories on your next getaway.
Planning to go international? Mexico and Canada are (from the U.S. perspective anyway) two trendy destinations and also places where language may potentially pose a barrier. Download the Google Translate mobile app and a few offline languages (I keep French, Spanish, and German on mine) for the next time you find yourself grappling with a language barrier.
This one is another must-have for the international road traveler. Crossing borders and securing visas can require knowledge of exchange rates and conversions. XE Currency is a one-stop currency converter that takes the hassle out of money for you. XE Currency allows you to monitor up to 10 different currencies and transfer funds internationally with no fees, all from within the app. An app like XE can be a secure and more acceptable option for paying for things than using a debit or credit card to withdraw cash, which keeps you, the traveler, safer.
I know what you're thinking "If I'm road traveling, why would I need Uber" and you'd be mostly right. If your summer getaway is a weekend trip in your own car or a rental, you might be able to skip Uber. However, if you're renting an RV, Skoolie conversion, or van for your adventure, you might want to keep Uber on hand. Most recently, Uber has added the ability to secure rental cars from inside the mobile app, providing a seamless experience for the end-user. You can, of course, still use the app for rideshare purposes, but short-term, last-minute rentals are a big plus in our book.
Trip Advisor is a tried and true travel app, helpful in reading reviews on hotel rooms, activities, and restaurants and providing a plethora of travel tips via their online forums. Downloading the mobile app keeps all this information and more at your fingertips which is great as things can change last minute on road trips.
City Mapper provides real-time public transportation options between two places in supported cities. This app won't help you if your ideal getaway is in the boonies. Still, it will help you bop around without the hassle of finding parking or dealing with traffic for your next event weekend or staycation.
Where oh where would we be without Yelp? Yelp keeps restaurant, store, and business reviews in one centralized place available on your iPhone or Android device. The reviews are submitted by the community of patrons who use the app and can let you know about average wait times, quality of service, atmosphere, and more, all just by opening the mobile app.
GetUpside is a gas station app that provides cashback opportunities for doing something you were already going to do anyway: get gas. As fuel costs rise and road trips become more expensive than previously, using the GetUpside mobile app is a great way to offset some traveling costs this summer.
GetUpside shows various deals for participating gas stations in a nearby area. All you have to do is select a station and accept the deal in the mobile app before paying for your fuel. After that, the cashback is funneled into your GetUpside account, which you can pay out whenever you choose. The app is available for iPhone and Android mobile devices and is truly a game-changer.
HotelTonight is a mobile app and website owned and operated by the same folks that own Airbnb. Got a flat, or decide you like an area more than you thought? No worries! HotelTonight is explicitly designed to help you book hotels at the last minute. The mobile app also offers exclusive deals and specials, granting travelers extraordinary savings on hotel accommodations. You can book well in advance to secure the best price for your trip.
HearHere is a new travel app that combines GPS and media entertainment in one. The app is full of historical tidbits, geographically relevant stories, and roadside attractions to check out on your next long drive. The pro version unlocks access to the entire audio and media clips collection, providing an iOS/Android compatible mobile app experience unlike any other I've seen in my years on the road. The app requires an internet connection, and currently, offline loading options seem limited. HearHere is new, and this seems to be something the development team is working on already.
Who says downloaded shows are just for layovers and waiting out flight cancellations in airport lounges? No one, probably. And for a good reason. Netflix's innovative download features make it a staple travel app for road trips. Download a few episodes of your favorite shows through the mobile app and cozy up with your co-pilot as you enjoy hours of offline entertainment.
Internet connection is only required to download episodes which means you can enjoy the solitude of being off-grid with the luxury of your favorite Netflix original. Talk about the best of both worlds.
No road trip mobile app list would be complete without AllTrails. Whether you're an avid outdoors person or just looking to stretch your legs on a long drive, AllTrails has you covered. AllTrails has a global network of walking trails and hiking opportunities, all updated and maintained by its community of users, making it an incredible resource. Don't forget to check-in and leave a review for any trails you use!
Outdoorsy is an app that allows you to rent RVs, camper vans, and skoolie conversions for your next road trip. You can browse local offerings within the mobile app, determine the right vehicle for you and your trip dates, and hit the ground running. An absolute must for anyone itching to try out van life or road travel without the hassle of hotel rooms or the unglamorous reality of roadside tents.
As the world of road travel and digital nomadism continues to expand and more road trips are planned, we sincerely hope that these apps will help lighten at least part of the load of trip planning for you as you step into the adventure and possibility that is synonymous with summer. If there are any road travel apps you think we missed, let us know, they just might make the following list.
Jupiter (they/them) is a twenty-something wanderer who has traveled the United State full-time in a Class C RV since 2019. They are accompanied by their two dogs, and spend their time hiking, writing, reading, seeking out the best food on the road, and finding new Black & LGBTQ+ friendly places to explore. Instagram: @doesthiscountasvanlife
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