Perhaps the biggest change we’ve seen in our six years of very active RVing is the role apps for our smartphones and tablets have come to be essential tools of our motorhoming lifestyle.
All of us have traveling apps like All Stays (www.allstays.com) to help us find campgrounds and dump stations and RV-friendly Walmart overnight parking. And there are money-saving apps like the one from the Pilot Fying J chain of roadside service centers (www.pilotflyingj.com/mypilot) that help us manage food costs.
But there are so many others that enrich and assist us in our travels that I thought I’d share some of our favorites in hopes that you too, will benefit from them.
So in no particular order, here are the Top Ten Apps Jennifer and I use the most these days as we travel North America in our Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL 4×4 Class B motorhome.
- Hoopla (www.hoopladigital.com) – We love listening to audiobooks as we drive. With CD players now a thing of the past for most new vehicles, downloading them and playing them back through a device is the most common way to get them. But they cost a fortune from the app stores. That’s where Hoopla come in. Hoopla is a free app for Android, iOS (Apple) or Kindle that lets you download audiobooks directly to your smartphone or tablet from your home public library. For free. Naturally, you have to belong to a public library and have a valid membership. Besides audiobooks, Hoopla lets you check out movies and TV shows and, of course, ebooks. They download to your device for offline playback, meaning you’re not streaming and thus eating up your data plan, or dependent on wi-fi. There are hundreds of thousands of titles to choose from, with more being added daily and titles are automatically returned and removed from your device at the end of the lending period, typically after a month.
- Scanner for Me (www.apalon.com/scan_and_print.html) – If you’ve ever wished you could use a scanner without, well, the scanner, you’re in luck. This free app instantly scans and prints any written, printed, or graphic material – everything from business cards to receipts for tracking expenses. Scans go to a smartphone’s camera roll to be printed or shared. Scans can be edited with borders, filters, contrast adjustments, and more. The app is iOS and Android.
- Todoist (https://todoist.com) – We learned a long time ago that you really need to have a long To-Do list for RV travel. This app is what we use. I have a Packing List for pre-trip planning and a Departure Check lost for reminding me to do all the tasks involved in packing up and leaving a campsite. I also have a shopping list tat we use for our travels. This app can be shared, meaning Jennifer and I both access it and her updates show on my list, and mine on her’s. It sends out reminders, like when it’s time for an oil change.
- SmartReceipts (www.smartreceipts.co) – We track every single expense while traveling. This app makes it so easy. We use our smartphone camera to take a photo of the receipt and then enter the details, location and item on a little form that pops up. It saves everything, categorizes everything and then can be printed off or mailed to an accountant as a pdf or csv file. Looking at those reports and seeing just where my money goes has helped me know where to tighten up. Plus, once I have scanned those receipts with my smartphone, I can toss them away. No more bulging envelopes of receipt print outs! It’s free for iOS and Android.
- GoPetFriendly (www.gopetfriendly.com) – This is not an app. It’s a web site. But we access it on our tablets all the time. We always travel with Bo, our Norwegian Elkhound. And this site is the absolute best we’ve found in helping us locate everything from pet-friendly campgrounds, to off leash parks to doggie beaches where he can swim. It even lists restaurants and wineries and other places where Bo is welcome to accompany us. There is also a database of pet stores and vets that can be looked up by locale. There’s even a Road Trip Planner feature that locates pet friendly spots along the route you are traveling. Bo loves those off leash parks and we use this site to find the ones we will visit each day as were traveling. Some days, we’ve hit as many as three – much to Bo’s delight.
- Roadside America (www.roadsideamerica.com) – This app is only for iOS and it costs $2.99. But we use it a lot, especially when traveling the back roads. The app helps us find all sorts of fun, off-the-beaten path oddities across the United States and Canada, from giant twine balls to other off-the-wall attractions like the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, Texas. We search for attractions nearby, where we’re headed – or even by theme. The app delivers a short description, address, and directions.
- History Here (www.history.com) – This travel app was developed by the History Channel. You can learn about history from just about any location, whether near home or venturing to someplace new. History Here also can send notifications when users are close to historical points. Locations are displayed in zoomable, map-based views or a scrolling list. The app is free for iOS and Android.
- Garden Answers (www.gardenanswers.com)– As we travel we encounter lots of beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees. We often wonder what they are. This app gives us the answer. It helps identify more than 20,000 plants with detailed information. Take a picture of the plant, tap the ‘submit’ button and answers are instantly provided about what’s growing. Garden Answers also provides details about plant diseases and insect infestations with more than 200,000 commonly asked plant questions. The app is free and for iOS and Android.
- Family Tracker (myfamilytracker.com)– Family members always wonder where we are. We wonder where they are. This is an app that helps us keep track of each other. It allows users to set up a tracking system for multiple family members. As long as they have their phones and have agreed to set up a Family Tracker system, users can see where everyone is at any time. Users can even send messages to each other through Family Tracker. The app is $3.99 for iOS and $4.99 for Android with in-app purchases available to expand capabilities.
- GroupMe – (http://groupme.com/en-US/) This is another app for keeping in touch with family, friends, or maybe others in an RV caravan traveling the same route. It allows users to set up multiple texting groups, say, family, friends, or caravaners. In addition to text messaging, you can share photos, videos, or your location. And if you don’t want to be bothered by anyone, GroupMe has a setting to block messages from coming through. GroupMe is available for iOS, Android and Windows devices, with paid premium options also available