Road trips are the cornerstone of van life for many digital nomads and with only your imagination holding you back, you’ll want to make sure you’re exploring all the options the open road has to offer you. That’s why we’ve put together this list of our favorite apps for planning, budgeting, and executing your next road trip. Take a look at our top picks and be sure to let us know if we’ve missed any must-have tools in the comments below.
Before you hit the road, you’re going to want to have a destination or experience in mind. These apps are the Van Lifer Blog’s top picks for getting inspiration and finding the ideal spot to plan your next trip.
When you think “road trip app”, I’m sure Instagram isn’t the first thing that pops into your head, but the social media platform is actually one of the best places to get inspiration for your trip.
See a beautiful landscape you absolutely MUST experience for yourself? Click the location tag to explore more posts from that area, plot it on a map, and discover other nearby points of interest. With a mix of posts from locals and travelers alike, Instagram can be a great way to find all those awesome hidden gems.
Much like Instagram, Pinterest can be a great way to start gathering inspiration for your travels. With the ability to sort pins into different boards, quickly collating cool locations, sights, packing lists, and routes for later reference couldn’t be easier. Pinterest is not a road trip app, so don’t expect things like integrated maps, but for helping to decide where you want to go and what you want to do there, there are few better options than pinning a few of those Top 10 travel lists for future reference.
So, you’ve decided where you want to go, but as the old adage goes,“it’s not the destination, but the journey that matters”. Here are our favorite tools for planning the route and investigating all the interesting sites you want to see along the way.
The base Roadtrippers app is free, but to really get the full use of the platform, an upgrade to their premium option for $29.99 a year. One of the most popular road trip apps out there, Roadtrippers lets you plan the stops on your journey, discover national parks, roadside attractions, great photo opps, and more; and then share it with your friends and travel mates.
Google Maps is no big secret, but being able to navigate your way to your destination is fundamental to any successful road trip and with real time traffic updates and forecasts, as well as Google’s massive directory of business listings (stores, hotels, restaurants, repair shops, etc.) and landmarks, there’s no better option out there. Be sure to use the ‘favorites’, ‘starred’, or custom ‘list’ options to save locations and businesses to your own travel maps for a more robust experience.
Download “offline maps” along your route in advance to make sure you never lose your way, even when you lose your cell service. Your GPS signal should continue to work even without a mobile signal.
Dying to experience van life, but missing that pesky van? You can think of Outdoorsy like AirBnB for RVs, camper vans, and trailers. Just enter your destination and dates andvoila!, plenty of unique rentals to help you enjoy the great outdoors without the hassle of maintaining a recreational vehicle of your own!
Like AirBnB, you can also use the site as an owner and let your unused RV make you some extra cash while you’re not using it.
No road trip is complete without a photo opp at one of the U.S.’s famed roadside oddities. Absolutely must get that selfie in front of the world’s biggest ball of yarn? This app’s got you covered - for a price. Roadside America costs $2.99 and is only available oniOS devices, which may limit its usefulness to some, but if the kitchy appeal of offbeat Americana is what really calls to you, it’s a small price to pay to find those hidden gems.
While van life might seem carefree and nomadic, a lot of effort can go into figuring out where to set up camp for the night. There are a lot of things to factor in, such as whether it's legal to camp there, what amenities are available, such as showers, charging stations, whether fires are allowed, etc. These picks will help you rest easy knowing you’ve chosen the perfect place for your needs.
Making its name as the go-to resource for campers, The Dyrt let’s you find campsites of all kinds (with reviews!), plan your trip with a road trip planner tool that’s desktop and mobile-friendly, and get feedback/suggestions from their active community forums. They also offer a Pro account with access to advance features and discounts on gear and supplies for your trip.
Originally created for truck drivers and RVers, Allstays is the perfect tool for road trippers and van lifers on a budget (who aren’t opposed to “roughing it” a little). With a database that ranges from motels rooms to free campsites in the middle of the forest, and the ability to filter by features you’re looking for (showers, electrical hook-ups, etc.) you can find the perfect place to rest for the night or enjoy a lunchtime pit-stop.
Several different iOS travel apps available via website.
Slightly more camper-centric than Allstays, this road trip tool lets you find free campsites across the country with a particular focus on popular wilderness attractions like parks and National Forests. User-submitted info from their growing community also helps you pick the perfect spot with comments, photos, GPS coordinates, amenities, and more.
Shop #VanLife Essentials >>
Need a place to shower and store your van overnight, but forgot to book that hotel room in advance? HotelTonight has got you covered with day-of deals on hotels around you. While this might not be the cheapest road trip option, you’ll have the piece of mind of being able to book a discounted hotel room almost anywhere in minutes. Definitely worth keeping in your back pocket in a pinch.
This one almost goes without saying, but for those who have been sleeping under a rock for the last decade, AirBnB is the largest network of user-supplied vacation rentals and experiences in the world. Whether you’re dreaming of a log cabin in Lake Tahoe or an off-the-grid Airstream glamping setup in the middle of the desert, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for and a ton of things you didn’t even know you needed in your life on top of it with this app. While last-minute bookings are sometimes possible, due to the nature of how AirBnB works, it’s not always suited for it (since it requires a bit of back and forth with the owner), so this app is best used to book places in advance.
While those old-timey paper maps may be the perfect accessory for your latest vintage-inspired Instagram photo, it isn’t necessarily the best way to navigate your route across the country in the 2020s. For that, we’ve chosen the best map and navigation apps for you to have on hand during your journey.
While Google Maps is the king of maps when it comes to engaging with businesses and locations and building custom maps, many prefer to use Waze as their bread-and-butter navigation app - and for good reason. Waze collects data from all its users to make sure that traffic warnings and routes can adjust dynamically to save you the time and stress of getting stuck in traffic or caught in a speed trap.
Unless you’re camping in a Tesla, you’re going to need to plan at least a few aspects of your trip around the need for fuel (even then, you’ll need to account for available charging stations), and GasBuddy is the best tool for finding cheap gas wherever you find yourself. The app even has a road trip planner and budgeting tool that can help you identify available fuel sites throughout your trip, so you never have to stress about making it to that next exit on the interstate running on fumes. As of this writing, the app does not seem to include charging stations for electric vehicles - sorry Tesla campers!
Have you ever looked up from the road just in time to see the sign detailing what the next exit has to offer zip by your windshield before you could read it? Of course you have! The bane of every road tripper’s travels - “did the sign really say there was a Denny’s at the next stop?!”Well, wonder no more! This simple app will let you search nearby exits and see what businesses and services they offer.
Any great road trip apps or websites we missed? Let us know in the comments below. Safe travels!