The technology of van-life: armed with an arsenal of apps!

We travel with an arsenal of apps!  The technology of van life.

 There are several apps we use while traveling that help us plan, organize and communicate.  I hope this post will help others as they travel.  Please contact me at genevasaintamour@hotmail.com if you have any questions about this information.

I will begin with our technology resources.  We carry the following devices with us:

  • ~ IPhone 5
  • ~ MacBook Air (with signal extender)
  • ~ IPad 3
  • ~ Kindle
  • ~ iPod
  • ~ action camera

Our action camera (similar to a GoPro) is surprisingly underutilized.  It takes decent video footage, but the still shots have poor color.  It has all the attachments to hook it to the dash and film every mile of our trip. But never use it, primarily because I do not want to edit 4 to 6 hours of footage every day.  But, also because I do not know how to upload data to our blog, or Vimeo or YouTube or whatever.  It is a chapter in data management that I have not studied.  So the action camera rides around in the van waiting for some action worthy of taping, editing and uploading; and a user that knows how to do it.

 The old iPod is used only for music storage and retrieval.  The music collection is developed, organized and labeled on Geneva’s computer.  Then it is copied to the iPod, which can be linked to play our music collection through the car stereo.  When Geneva is in the mood, and the navigating is done, she loves to play DJ and spin a wide variety of songs to rock the van down the highway!

The Kindle is used for reading books and also for playing audiobooks.  We link it to the car stereo system and play it through the speakers.  We generally only do this on long stretches of road.  But some books are perfect for this use, such as Blue Highways.   Geneva is hoping for a newer Kindle for her birthday, as this one has no backlight and is not convenient to use in all situations.  But the one we have works well for these uses. (Thank you Kim!)

 The iPad 3 is what Mike uses to read books, check email, surf the Internet and also to log the trip and create the map that we have shared (INSERT MAP PHOTO).  The map is created using a program called Pocket Earth.  Mike drops a pin at our location each night and enters a paragraph of information about the events from the day.  This works well as a running diary and also helps us find info quickly to share with others. 

The MacBook Air is what Geneva uses regularly.  It is the repository of all photographs, blog posts, paperwork pdfs and tons of historical information.  It is also the device for Geneva to access email, write these posts and search the Internet.  This computer is a real workhorse that has tolerated much abuse and bounced back successfully.  We thought she died once after a coffee spill in Baja Mexico.  But some net sleuthing turned up a rescue restart that saved the system! We love the Macbook Air.

A few of the websites that we use for planning are not available as applications (or not as user friendly as we would like) on the phone.  So they are bookmarked on the MacBook.  Those are (in no particular order):

~ campinmygarden.com – for finding people who will let you camp at their house for free or low prices. Many international opportunities here.

~ workaway.info – an international resource for jobs around the world that trade work for room and board.  This contains some fantastic resources for travelers with an interest in working as a way to travel.

~ freecampsites.net – a map based listing of possible free campsites that include off grid, parking lots, rest areas and out of the way free or cheap parking places. Because this is compiled and updated by users it is often accurate and current

~ boondockerswelcome.com – similar to campinmygarden but more USA opportunities, however I have found that most folks are not very flexible with dates, dogs and rigs.  More “traditional” travelers may find it useful.

~ rvillage.com – a fairly new website that seems to offer social networking and information to fellow campers.  This is one to watch as it develops.

~ musicfestivaljunkies.com – the map feature on this website is terrific for us. Once we determine a route, we can check to see if there are any interesting music festivals along the way

~ recreation.gov – this is the booking site for many state and national park campgrounds. It also works to check availability of campsites to help with planning.

~ mindmyhouse.com – I look at this one periodically, but have not found the urge to sit still long enough to take on a job.  But for those who like to stay in one place for a while, there are some great opportunities here.

Also saved on the computer is an Excel spreadsheet, organized by state and country.  Each column lists the people who have offered us a parking space or driveway.  I log their name, address, email, phone number and where they contacted us (such as email, sticker buyer, Facebook, blog follower, friends, etc.)  We refer to this when we plan a route and reach out to people for possible stopovers.  We love the free driveways, showers and loads of laundry whenever available!  But mostly we have come to realize that the some of best stuff happens when we meet “real” people along the way and make memories with them! 

 The device that is used the most frequently is the iPhone.  It has all the apps that are used for planning routes, selecting campsites, reviewing options and researching resources.  It also does the standard phone stuff such as texting, phoning, emails, Facebook, messenger, etc.  

This post is supposed to be about the apps we use.  But I will digress a moment to mention that we have found the phone to work effectively in both Canada and Mexico.  For our Canada travel, we added the international data plan to our existing phone plan with Verizon.  However, this was expensive and we will probably go the “Sim card route” when we enter Canada again as we head towards Alaska.  The Sim card can be removed from the phone and a new card inserted that is applicable for the country we are in.  These cost about $10 in Mexico.  That provides a Mexico phone number.  Then data is purchased on a “pay-as-you-go” type plan.   This allows us to make calls, send texts and use the phone as a Wi-Fi device.  It is not cheap to use data, so we seek free Wi-Fi when we travel.  But in much of Mexico, that was not readily available or functioning properly.  Our own data plan gave us the ability to communicate frequently.  For you the reader, that means more frequent blog posts and updates from us!

The apps that we use for travel planning, navigation and management of road life are listed below.  I will provide a brief description of each one as it pertains to our travel and usage.  I marked my favorites with ** because I use them most frequently or find them to be the most helpful.  If you want to only use a couple of apps, start with ** these.

FINDING A PLACE TO PARK FOR THE NIGHT-

**iOverlander- fantastic app listing campsite suggestions as reported by other overlanding travelers.  Also shows some propane, water and restaurants.

Public Lands- shows designation of all lands across the USA.  More useful in Western US for finding places to boondock camp such as BLM, etc.

**Allstays Camp & RV- drops pins on a map to show campgrounds, RV repair,  truck stops, overnight parking, low clearance, propane, state parks and more.

Passport- drops pins on a map to show established campgrounds

RVovernight-  drops pins on a map to show places to park for a night, usually free

Truckstop Finder-drops pins on a map showing free overnight parking spots

RVparking – drops pins on a map to show campgrounds and state parks

**Oh Ranger!- can search a destination or area to find camping in National Parks, State Parks, Regional Parks and more.  Very complete listing.

GoodSam Camping-  search by location, lists parks that have been reviewed by GS and also unreviewed parks.  Leans towards the more upscale travelers.

AirBnB- can find housing and occasionally parking spaces available here. I always use this if we decide to stay around for a week instead of a hotel.

FINDING GAS STATION AND COMPARING GAS PRICES-

myPilot-  our GS membership gives us 3cents off per gallon at Pilot stations

**GasBuddy- search for the best gas prices in a region to save a few pennies

THINGS TO DO ALONG THE WAY-

Geocaching-  we love this as a stretch break or to walk the dogs. It has taken us to some crazy, fun places!

BringFido- search for dog parks when the hounds need a break to run and socialize

**Roadside America- oddball, fun, quirky and interesting stuff with descriptions and links to websites.  Can do a regional search with list or map to determine what is worth stopping for.

Happy Cow– offers a search for vegetarian, vegan, organic restaurants and stores

**Yelp- it is great to search for locations ahead on the highway and read the true reviews from others who have tried the place.  I try to put in a few reviews also.

Tickemaster– with this app I can search events that we may want to plan for as we layout our travel framework.  Mostly concerts and athletic events..

MAPS-

**Pocket Earth-  used to track our route on the ipad.  Has a tracker, notes, record keeping feature which allow us to develop an overview map and also go back and recall events and places.

**Maps.me –this map program has a GPS version and does not require internet or data to access (yes, you can see it even when you are off the grid)

Mapquest- useful for general information and finding the basic places we need

PDF Maps– can download free maps of national parks and similar

GoogleMaps- because google is the master of the universe

GENERAL SUPPORT-

ATM Hunter– locate money spewing machines

Google translate- how do I say what I need to say

Compass- because sometimes you need to know where the sun will rise and set

Kayak– comparing flights (but usually cheaper to book direct with airline)

XE Currency– up to the minute international money exchange rates

iWindsurf- a tool for checking weather and especially wind conditions

MoneyLover- tracking our expenses and income to help our budgeting awareness

Trail Tracker– record time, distance, frequency but uses a lot of battery power

Goodreads-  logging books we have read and want to read

Whats App- free texting when out of the USA

MagicJack- free phone calling when out of the USA

Facebook-  if you don’t know, why are you reading this listing?

WordPress- the website which we use to create this blog

 ** most frequently used or great for beginners

If you have questions about any specific app here, please let me know.

If this has been helpful to you, please let me know.

If you have other suggestions that I should add to my arsenal of apps, please let me know here or email me at genevasaintamour@hotmail.com

In basic terms- I love hearing from you!  And if you have not yet done so, please go to the top of this home page and click “FOLLOW” so you can hear from us more often!

3 responses to “The technology of van-life: armed with an arsenal of apps!

  1. Thanks for this amazing resource! I am starting to get our apps in line for the trip and appreciate your advice on the ones that have been most useful to you. Cheers!

    Like

  2. Wow! That was amazing, and getting starred for future reference. A lot of work and experience there.

    Like

  3. Really am enjoying your blog and trip. Your really good people for what you did for Amber and Seth. We are in little Jeanie’s home town and Joy was Jeanie’s good friend and we both were here classmates.
    Be careful and best of luck on your adventures

    Like

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