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Top 5 Phone Apps Every Vanlifer & RV’er Should Have

Jake using a phone app that is helping him with vanlife

Life on the road comes with many challenges.  Full-time vanlifers and RV’ers know about the constant planning required to find resources and get from point A to point B. But modern vanlifers can use an arsenal of apps to help set us up for success. Whether we’re finding free campsites, saving money on gas & food, finding free parking and areas with strong internet, we use these 5 phone apps nearly everyday. Here are top 5 phone apps every vanlifer and RV’er should have. 


iOverlander is the best app for finding campsites to stay at. But, it’s not only great for finding campsites, you can filter your search for: 

  • established campgrounds
  • informal campsites
  • wild camping
  • hotels
  • hostels
  • fuel stations
  • propane fill-ups
  • mechanics
  • water stations
  • sanitation dump stations
  • restaurants
  • tourist attractions
  • shopping
  • medical
  • pet services
  • laundromats
  • customs and immigration
  • checkpoints
  • consulate/Embassy
  • vehicle insurance
  • vehicle shipping
  • vehicle storage
  • warnings
  • ect. 

I think this is one of the most useful apps for vanlifers and RV’ers because of the abundance of resources. And there’s even regular updates from users that give you up-to-date information about current conditions, closings, or other changes.

You can get directions right to the exact spot or follow the coordinates listed. Plus many people attach photos so you can get an idea of the place you might be staying. Many of the campsites also state amenities such as:

  • electricity
  • internet
  • kitchen
  • restaurants
  • showers
  • water
  • toilets
  • big rig friendly
  • tent friendly
  • pet friendly
map of campsites on iOverlander app
Map View Of Resources
The information you see when you click on a campsite through the iOverlander App
View Of The Details Of A Specific Resource

iOverlander is crowd-sourced, so you will get information from fellow van-dwellers, campers, and overlanders. And don’t forget to submit some of your favorite places if it isn’t already on the map! We also find it is super helpful to read people’s reviews and see if the place on the map is somewhere we feel safe camping. 

But, we find ourselves using this map almost daily when traveling full-time vanlife. It’s definitely one of the phone apps every vanlifer and RV’er should have readily available on their phone’s home screen! 

Gas Buddy:

We love the gas buddy app because it helps us save a decent chunk of change while traveling on the road. Gas buddy allows you to compare gas prices all around North America. If you are traveling to new places, then you probably won’t know regionally how gas prices differ. So gas buddy is great for helping to plan your fill-ups strategically. Gas Buddy has saved us hundreds of dollars on gas fill-ups over time.

Lot’s of newer vehicles keep track of how many “miles until empty” your gas tank is. Or if you have an older vehicle, you can use the trip odometer or gas gauge to estimate your “range” before running out. Keep track of how many miles you have left on your current tank, then search for the cheapest gas within that range.

We use this method religiously to make sure that we never pay more for gas than we need to. When we were traveling in California, we would sometimes save up to $15 per fill up, because we found gas for $1+ cheaper per gallon!

List of gas stations on the Gas Buddy App
List View of Gas Stations
Map View Of Gas Stations

Our favorite way to search is the “Map View”. Click “Find Gas” and then press the “Map” button in the top right corner.

You can use Gas Buddy for FREE without signing up.  But they do have additional incentives if you sign up and pay with Gas Buddy.

When you’re traveling in a gas-guzzler, Gas Buddy can save you hundreds! It’s unquestionably one of the top 5 phone apps every vanlifer and RV’er should have.

Open Signal:

Open Signal is a super helpful app to find good cell signal around the area you are traveling in. You can run speed tests to see the upload speed, download speed, and latency (responsiveness of internet) in the area you are in. 

Map view of cell-signal in area on open signal app
Map View On Open Signal
Speed Test on Open Signal
Open Signal Speed Test
Results From Speed Test On Open Signal
Results From Open Signal Speed Test

Or you can search the map with your cell-phone provider to see the areas that have strong internet signals. They collect their data from people who are using their phones in the area.

For example, on the map (picture far right), you can see the blue dot is where we are located. We have little too no service. If we wanted to get decent service to work on our laptops or call someone, then we should head north-east toward Los Gatos or San Jose. 

But our other secret weapon for getting stronger cell service is our WeBoost Cell Signal Booster.

Open Signal is a phone app every vanlifer and RV’er should have downloaded because you are often traveling to unknown places. It can be useful to know where a good internet connection is whether you need it for working remotely or just for pleasure.

Spot Angel:

Spot Angel is a must have app if you are ever traveling near major cities. Driving and parking a big vehicle in a city can be challenging, or downright stressful. Spot Angel to the rescue! This app was designed to help people find parking and prevent people from getting accidental parking tickets. Spot Angel shows you where to find free parking, metered parking, and parking garages within the area. 

Map View On Spot Angel
A page showing the filters on the Spot Angel App
How To Choose Filters On Spot Angel

You can either do an aerial view of the area and search down every street, or you can filter your search for what you are specifically looking for. The filters entail, when you will be looking for a spot (usually now), duration you plan to park for, price point, and the type of parking (free, metered, parking garage/lots). 

Free of charge message on Spot Angel App
Free Parking
Metered parking message on spot angel app
Metered Parking
Garage parking message on Spot Angel App
Parking Garage/lot

Another cool feature for this app, is you can drop a pin on the map where you park your car. It will let you know how much time you have left in the spot. And when you are ready to go back to your car you can click on your parking spot to quickly get directions back to your car. 

This app has been super helpful when traveling in our van or RV in major cities. It can be frustrating driving down each street having to stop and read every sign on the street to see if we can park there, for how long and where to pay for parking. Meanwhile some fast-paced city folks start honking at you because you’re taking too long. It can be a really stressful situation. Driving a big vehicle in a city is already hard enough, so do yourself a favor and simplify your parking woes.

Google Maps:

We not only love google maps to help us get from point A to point B, but we also love using satellite mode. Jake often uses satellite mode to find our campsites, additional parking in certain areas, or just a general idea of cool things to do in the area. Seeing the topography helps him stay oriented when we are in a new place. 

Because we travel in a large van it’s nice to get an idea of what we are getting ourselves into. Using satellite mode, we can strategize our route, and know of a backup plan if find ourselves getting stuck out somewhere. And you can also see if a road is paved or dirt.

Not to mention the filter features which can help you find the best-rated places on Google or save you money on where to eat.

satellite view on the google maps app
Satellite View On Google Maps
Filters On Google Maps

For example, when we want to splurge and go out to eat, we usually put “restaurants near me” into the search bar and then click the filters. You then have the option of putting one dollar sign ($) into the filter and search for a cheaper food option. Then, obviously look for restaurants with good star (*) ratings! This helps us find the hidden gems that are affordable but still fan favorites. We often stumble into the local go-to spots using this method. 

You can also filter for the type of food you are searching for. But, be sure to check out people’s reviews, because they will let you know if a place is good or not!

That is just one example, google map filters can be good to find almost anything! Google maps has so many great features that can help you travel around the world. It’s one of the most common phone apps every vanlifer and RV’er should have!

Jake and Emily leaning on their van, while looking out over the mountains

Takeaway | Top 5 Phone Apps For Vanlife

Technology has helped vanlifers and RV’ers in so many ways. The sharing of information has helped bring all the resources right to our fingertips. We don’t need to struggle to find a place to sleep every night, we can park somewhere in a city without the worry of getting a ticket and can find where the good internet is flowing. When the rubber meets the road, these are our top 5 phone apps every vanlifer and RV’er should have. 

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