I don’t think we started out as geeks. But it happened. In our family we have owned a Kindle Fire, 3 MacBook Pro laptops, Treo smart phones, a Kindle Fire, and the list goes on. Today finds us wielding 2 iPads, an iPhone, a MacBook Pro, a LeapPad, an iTouch, and a few supplemental devices, dongles, and attachments. I never thought I would admit it but I enjoy being just a button push away from the largest source of information ever developed. I like having the Internet at the tip of my nubs. Generations before us could never have imagined the encyclopedia, an atlas, a map system of the Interstate highway, correspondence letters, and ongoing games of chess and Scrabble, as well as videos and music, on demand! And this isn’t even talking about the Apps we use everyday to enhance our onboard cameras, guide us to the closest Whole Foods, reserve movies for us, keep track of our blood pressure and heart rate, etc. And get this. This pocket size device makes actual phone calls too!
While doing a recent backup I realized that I personally call on the actions of 49 Apps ranging from productivity tools like Evernote and Dropbox to communication systems like GoToMeeting, Lync, and Skype. When out and about I call upon my onboard camera as well as Snapseed, Pic Stitch, and Instagram. And because I am “that guy” I like to keep in touch with social networking Apps like Google+ and Facebook. So it seems only normal for us to be ramping up our systems to prepare for our RV lifestyle. That’s where you come in. I want to share with you the Apps we are starting out with for our travels.
DISCLOSURE: None of the Apps mentioned are products of my own or are they solicited reviews. These are just my thoughts on Apps I think are useful or will become useful to us. I am also writing from an iOS point-of-view but many of the Apps are available for Android.
Finding RV Parks and Campgrounds
An App Store search for campgrounds or RV find will yield about 5 results. None of them looked all that great so a more thorough search had to be done. Seems there is no “go to” App for finding RV parks and campgrounds. If you are going to be on the road a lot you will more than likely have to use a small arsenal of Apps. The following should cut muster though.
Allstays Camp and RV – Now in its third year this one-time Starbucks featured App is a comprehensive RV resource that lets you find Campgrounds, RV Parks and related services with or without internet. Extensive map filters let you view only what you want to see. And at just $9.99 Allstays Camp and RV is a bargain if you want to tap into 13 years of camper-generated content. The campground database represents over 24,500 spots and includes RV resorts, military FamCamps, public campgrounds, overnight parking options (Walmart, Home Depot, Chik-Fil-A, CostCo), as well as RV dealers, service centers, and RV Rental locations (Cruise America, Road Bear, El Monte). Lastly, the App allows you to check weather based on the GPS of the location (and not a nearby city airport) as well as offering resources for road conditions, emergencies and various state laws. NOTE: Allstays also offers a number of other helpful Apps including Allstays Hotels and Finding CostCo.
We Camp Here Campground Search – More than just a campground directory, We Camp Here is also a personal campground organizer. We have come to realize that there are literally thousands of campgrounds in the US and Canada. Finding the perfect place to camp can be a daunting task and even more so as your rig gets larger. But for $3.99 this Allstays competitor helps personalize and organize your search. With ‘My Campgrounds’ (in the App settings), that job just got a whole lot easier. Browse through the campgrounds. When you find one you like, click the ‘Add to My Campgrounds’ button, add your personal notes and even create custom groups to organize your campgrounds. As you add campgrounds to your ‘My Campgrounds’ list, they are automatically saved to the cloud, making them available on WeCampHere.com or on any device with a We Camp Here App. Just log in to your We Camp Here account and you can filter the map to view all of your campgrounds at once or even a single custom group at a time. What I appreciated was the user reviews for campgrounds as well as the Apps ability to let us know if there was Satellite available, Cable available, WiFi resources, hiking trails on site, and more.
RV Parks – Created by RVparking.com, RV Parks helps you find RV Parks across the U.S. with detailed information on more than 20,000 parks. Not seeming nearly as robust as the previous two options for a FREE app it isn’t all that bad. The interface is intuitive and the user reviews are current. There are some obviously missing parks though and I would only use it as a general overview App.
Maps – If memory serves me correctly there was much debate over the troubled Maps App that came out in June 2012 after being powered by Google for a number of years. Thankfully the App has been greatly improved upon and as the default map program for Apple devices is actually quite good. You can view navigation in turn-by-turn response, satellite view, voice response via Siri, and even Flyover.
Google Maps – Powered by Google and being perhaps the premiere and most used FREE App available, Google Maps for iOS7 is significantly better than the original Google Maps that used to be the default on iPhones. Featuring turn-by-turn navigation and spoken directions it is a robust App with accurate maps and constant updates.
1. I haven’t yet purchased the App
2. It is available only on iPad
3. It is quite pricey at a bloated $99.99
According to the description on iTunes it is quite the application. Like other navigation apps, active turn-by-turn navigation is enabled for iPad cellular models, but requires a GPS accessory for Wi-Fi only models. Trip planning and all other functions use built-in location services and run on both cellular and Wi-Fi only models.
The App features RV-specific routing based on Rand McNally’s navigation, plus thousands of RV parks and campgrounds, RV-friendly locations, RVer tools and trips. And if that weren’t enough the App also includes dynamic weather – such as wind conditions – to help route around severe situations.
Perhaps the reason for the price though is that unlike off-board navigation, the maps load on your iPad providing access everywhere—even in remote areas where you may not have a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Includes full mapping for the U.S. and Canada.
Gas, Food, and …..
GasBuddy – There is no masking it. Fuel purchase, fuel efficiency, and the price variations state-to-state are a huge topic in the RV world. Do you want to find the best fuel for the lowest price when on the road? Then hands down GasBuddy is the App for you. To begin with it is FREE but more importantly allows you to see user-generated fuel prices across the United States. CAUTION: Because it is user-generated data there is a possibility of error such as outdates prices, closed service stations, and inaccurate information all around. The largest perk is however that you can – more often than not – find the cheapest gas by city/zip/postal code with just a tap of the finger.
AroundMe – Quite simply, AroundMe allows you to quickly find out information about your surroundings. Have a medical emergency but are clueless as to the closest “doc-in-a-box?” Rainy day got you stuck inside but you’d rather see a movie than drive? Maybe you need a sushi fix that can only be satiated by the sushi bar in Whole Foods Market. This FREE App will help you find all of those things by giving you a complete list of all the businesses in the category you have tapped on along with the distance from where you are with a very intuitive GUI powered by Google Maps.
RoadNinja – I can’t say too much about it as this App only appears in moments of grave danger. I jest. I jest! RoadNinja is a handle little App available for FREE on iTunes. And like a ninja it comes loaded with tools that can easily defeat your exit enemies. With the tap of a button you can compare gas prices at upcoming exits, scroll through exits just to see what is coming up, get business information as well as browse photos and read reviews, and designate your favorite spots by tapping the heart icon. It is a very hand App for when you are cruising along interstates like I-95 that seem to have no shortage of McDonalds but absolutely no Taco Bell’s!
Roadside America – Developed by the folks at Roadside America: your online guide to offbeat tourist attractions, the RA App is an affordable $2.99 App that affords you the opportunity to never miss another giant twine ball, crazy museum or hilarious statue. The initial App purchase unlocks ONE of 7 oddity-rich US or Canada regions. An Optional in-app purchases unlock all 9,500+ attractions, or individual regions. This App is great for folks like me who get bored after two or so hours of traveling or for families on the road looking for a unique adventure!