As travel is slowly being opened up again after the nationwide lockdown, we’re now planning our 2020 RV travels. We thought we’d share the tools and resources we use to plan our trips, along with 12 apps and web services we use to make our travel more fun and efficient.
Physical Books and Maps That We Use
We love technology and apps, but first we hit the books. Yes – we still use old-fashioned books and we always carry paper maps to go with our digital directional tools.
Before we head out, we like to check out these paper products for ideas on what to expect along our route and what to see:
- National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways: The 275 Best Drives in the US
- National Geographic Guide to State Parks of the United States and Canadian Provincial Parks
- Fodor’s The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West
- Amazing Festivals (Hundreds of Hometown Celebrations)
- Rand McNally 2020 Large Scale Road Atlas
- Rand McNally Folded Map: United States
We love these books and guides and usually carry them along with us in the RV. But, this is a high-tech world and we must admit that we rely heavily on apps to help us get from place to place, to find the right spots to camp, and to find things to do out there on the road.
Our Favorite 12 Apps and Websites for Trip Planning and Travel
We use the iPhone and iPad and our laptops, but most of our favorite apps also have an Android version. Most of these apps are free but a couple are subscription services; check the links because we can get you discounts on the membership fee for some of them!
This is a fast-growing campground directory app that boasts over 500,000 listings, with honest, crowd-sourced reviews, tips, and contact information that makes it very easy to book a campsite. They also publish a great camping magazine and run frequent contests. The basic site is free, but the $29-a-year pro version has even more info. We use this on our tablets and smartphones; both iOS and Android apps are available.
Campendium has state-by-state listings and directories of commercial campgrounds, national forest camping areas, state parks, national parks, and free campsites. The app is very fast and helpful, and they have done the best job of any app we’ve found on reporting what is open and what is closed during the COVID-19 shutdown. See that updated list here.
This has been our main go-to app for years. It lists campgrounds, boondocking spots, BLM land, parks, attractions, and more, and shows them all on a map. You can search near you, along a route, or by state to have the map show you everything from campgrounds to interstate rest areas to Walmarts to RV dump sites – pretty much anything an RVer needs to find. This app is only available for iOS devices.
We’re members of Harvest Hosts and we love it. More than 1,400 farms, wineries, museums, attractions, and golf courses across North America are listed in this subscription service as places where RVers can stay overnight free of charge. The website provides directions and contact numbers, and shows details, photos, and reviews from other RVers. Many Harvest Hosts offer overnight camping in absolutely beautiful spots. We’ve never been disappointed! Get a 15% discount on a Harvest Host membership here!
The Cracker Barrel app shows Cracker Barrel locations near you or on your route, many of which allow free overnight stays in the parking lot for RVers. You can also order take-out meals from restaurants along your route, so that your food is ready by the time you arrive. Cracker Barrel is very friendly to RVers, usually offering plenty of parking room even for big rigs.
The KOA Camping App
KOA is our campground of choice for overnights on the road when we need a commercial campground to get some laundry done and empty the tanks. The app lets you see photos of the campground, get an idea of what amenities are available, and read reviews from other RVers who have stayed there. You can also use the app to reserve a spot.
This app is great for finding out what services are available at the next interstate exit, or an exit miles away. It locates fuel stops and tells you the average cost per gallon, and also notes restaurants and businesses at the exit. The app makers call it “your roadtrip pit stop finder” – it helps you save time when figuring out where to pull off and find the services you need.
We love Yelp and use it all the time to find great restaurants. Pick a location and see what’s near you. Here’s a hint: We always look for places with the best reviews – four or five stars – and we’ve never been disappointed. In fact, we have found some awesome local restaurants that we would have passed right by otherwise.
This app helps you find fun and interesting things to see along your travel route. You can filter it however you want but the app covers just about every region in the country and makes some great suggestions for off-the-beaten-path exploration. Read reviews from others who have been there, and we guarantee you’ll find some fun places to stop.
Yes, we have GPS built into our RV. But Waze is hands down the best app we have found to not only navigate us to where we need to be but to show us things like traffic backups, speed traps, road construction, debris on the road, and other important information about what’s ahead, all in almost real time. It’s updated by users like you who are up ahead, and you’re encouraged to report issues you encounter for those behind you. We use it with Auto Play right through the entertainment console on our 2019 Leisure Travel Vans Unity FX. It also works with Android Auto.
Overnight RV Parking
This is another subscription service and it is awesome, listing something like 14,000 places where you can camp overnight for free or at a very low cost. From inexpensive county and local parks, to boondocking locations, to the parking lot of welcoming businesses, to national and state forest campgrounds, this app will find you a place to stay anytime. Note: If you use our referral link above you can get 15 months for the price of 12!
Go Pet Friendly
We travel in our LTV with Bo, a 65-pound Norwegian Elkhound, and this app makes sure we give him a good time, too. It helps us find pet-friendly hotels, campgrounds, and beaches, off-leash parks where Bo can run, veterinarians, pet supply stores, and even restaurants and wineries where pets are welcome to join you.
Follow the 330 Rule
Don’t forget to follow our 330 Rule to enjoy your travel! That means don’t drive more than 330 miles a day, and stop by 3:30 pm local time to keep from being exhausted and still have time to explore.
Happy trails, and have a great summer!
Find more great apps recommended by RVers in our Leisure List here.