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When beginning your Vanlife journey it can be a bit overwhelming. When we first hit the road a year ago we had NO IDEA what we were doing. We weren’t sure where we would park, where we were going, or how to even live in such a tiny space. We underestimated a lot of the challenges and found ourselves feeling sad and confused. There are so many logistics to vanlife that you may not think about when you first the road. So many little things go wrong and it’s always so surprised at how busy you are. To finding free overnight parking, buying groceries almost daily, and when little things go wrong (which they do so often), you find yourself at the end of the day wondering what you accomplished. So many of these vanlife apps will help ease that tension and make your vanlife journey so much smoother. Trust me and check these vanlife apps out especially when you are first starting out on your road trip!
The Vanlife App
The Vanlife App was started BY VANLIFERS with VANLIFERS in mind. They wanted to have an inclusive app that would bring the community together. It includes free camping sites, dump stations, water refill stations, laundromats, showers and you can even filter it by vehicle type, wifi availability, handicap accessibility, cell phone service and more.
If you opt for the paid version, you have access to the community. They wanted the Vanlife App to be more than just a resources app but rather a way to connect vanlifers with each other. You are able to see when someone else is in your area (you can turn this on and off) and are even able to add them as a connection and message them! Life on the road can be super lonely, even with a partner and it is so nice to be able to connect with other like-minded people!
The only downside is that it doesn’t work when you don’t have cell service so make sure and do your planning beforehand!
Cost of The Vanlife App: Free version and community based version: $35.99/Year
When you are out on BLM land, National Forest land, or National Parks it can seem overwhelming to find all the best places to camp. Campedium like many apps relies on users to input the best places to camp. It is one of the best vanlife apps I have found for finding the best free and paid camping spots out on public lands. It includes reviews on whether a car, van, or rv can access the spot, whether there is cell service broken down by carrier, whether pets are allowed plus individual reviews on the campsite. The app also includes finding water, dump stations, propane, RV parks, and more.
Cost of Campendium: Free
IOverlander is very similar to Campedium as its best use is for finding free overnight parking. However, IOverland focuses more on the stealthing aspect of camping in your car rather than finding campsites on recreational land. When I am in a city and need a great spot to overnight park this is when I pull up Ioverlander. Users who stealth more tend to input more on this app in my opinion. However, you can still find great camping spots on BLM land and other recreational lands. It also includes amenities such as water, dump stations, propane, RV parks, and more.
You can use IOverlander when you do not have signal which is a huge benefit as a traveler.
Cost of IOVERLANDER: Free
A recommendation from Vanessa and Adam, popular Vanlife Youtubers and custom van builders recommend the app Harvest Hosts. The App helps you find Vineyards, Breweries, Distilleries, Orchards, or farms that allow free parking to self-contained Van or RVs. Most of the time the spots are free with the assumption that you will be a patron of their business.
I personally love going to a good brewery or winery and it’s a bonus that you don’t have to worry about driving afterward (Because don’t drink and drive people)!
Cost of Harvest Host: The downside is that the app does cost but for $79 a year, you will save a ton on camping fees (sometimes up to $50).
RV ALL Stays
All Stays is a popular website among RVer’s and Vanlifers that is great for finding free and paid camping spots, RV Parks, Laundry services, dump stations and so much more. My favorite feature is that you can filter the maps to show you different land types including BLM, Fish and Wildlife, US Forest, and more!
Note: RV All Stays has a phone app and website. The app is on your phone and the website is a separate purchase and has extra features and has thousands more places and added features.
Cost of RV AllStays: $9.99 for the phone app, pro-plan website only $39.99
Money to fuel your van can be a top expensive in life on the road. Shawn and I often find ourselves spending $300-$400 on months where we are traveling often. In certain parts of the country diesel and gas can be $1-2 more. It’s always so disappointing to stop for fuel and find that 2 miles down the road you could have saved 50 cents or more. That’s why we always check our apps before purchasing fuel.
A top vanlife app for saving you money is Gas Buddy. Gas Buddy helps you find the best gas or diesel in your area. I have been using this app way before vanlife and I find it insanely useful. You can filter by gas or diesel and it is user-inputted so you are able to update it yourself if the prices are not correct.
Cost of Gas Buddy: Free
One of the best parts of Vanlife is your ability to spend so much time outdoors. Although not all vanlifers hike, it is definitely a popular hobby that most vanlifers in the community share in common. To find the best hikes in your area, I always use AllTrails. You can filter the hikes by difficulty, views, elevation, and the best part is whether the trail is dog-friendly. It can be hard to find good dog-friendly hikes when you don’t know the area and ALLTrails takes the guesswork right out of it.
Cost of Gas Buddy: Free
US Public Lands
This app is the answer to all my beginner prayers when trying to find free camping on BLM land. Honestly figuring out where to find free camping when you are on BLM land or national forest land can be super confusing. The US Public Lands App breaks down where public lands begin and private land ends. Use this app when you want to find free disperces camping.
Although the app doesn’t specify where you can camp, it is a great way to figure out where public lands are and from there you can begin to map out an area to stay! Curious how to find free overnight camping? Check out my Vanlife Overnight Parking Guide!
Cost of Gas Buddy: Free
A lot of Vanlifers working remotely on the road and have our own form of wifi to use. This means wherever you wake up really needs to have cell phone service. If not then you have to pack up and go find a spot where you can work for the day. It makes it difficult to want to find a beautiful camping spot over steal camping in a city where you know you will be able to work. Sometimes it’s just not worth the risk.
Open Signal allows you to locate where you are going to be and find out if there is cell service in that area by showing you cell phone towers and cell coverage maps. It’s a great way to plan ahead so you don’t have to worry about getting to an epic camp spot only to discover that you have zero service and cannot get any work done! It’s also beneficial for vanlifers who are alone and aren’t comfortable being in an area where they don’t have cell service. The maps aren’t perfect but it’s a great way to have an idea of what you are driving into!
Cost of Open Signal: Free
Chances are your van does not come equipped with wifi so that you can work from the road, watch Netflix, or simply surf the internet. Many use phones or have a hot spot device that we utilize to have wifi on the road. However, those devices are often limited and can run out of data. This is where finding free wifi on the road can come in handy. So many places offer free wifi to their customers. Starbucks, Grocery Stores, McDonald’s, Libraries, etc offer free wifi. The trick in an area that you are unfamiliar with is finding said free wifi. The app Wi-fi finder bridges this app.
Wifi Finder allows you to search nearby and by inputted location to see where free wifi is available. This is great whether you are in a rush or if you are planning your trip and want to know where you will be able to access wifi and work for the day.
Wifi-Finder Cost: Free
Part of any good road trip is what you do on the way. Whether it’s a great restaurant, concert, or sightseeing experience the local culture is what makes vanlife so great. This is why Roadtrippers is one of the top vanlife apps to add to your phone. Roadtrippers is similar to Trip Advisor as it breaks things down by categories; Restaurants, Hotels, Bars, Entertainment, Culture, and Fuel. The BEST thing about this app is you are able to plan out your trip by creating a route and finding places to visit along the way. You can add a restaurant and find sightseeing locations all in one app and then see your route with all your stops included!
If you are someone who enjoys seeing funky roadside attractions or unique architecture then this app is definitely for you as it has a function just so you can find these items along the way! If you are someone who love to plan and wants to soak in as much culture as you can I highly recommend using Roadtrippers!
Cost of Roadtrippers: Free
If you don’t have a portable toilet in your van then you know the feeling of rushing around trying to find a public restroom when you really have to go to the bathroom. The app Flush is pretty straight forward and allows you to find bathrooms in the area. It even has directions so you can quickly click and head straight to the bathroom. The only bummer is that on the iPhone it takes you to Apple maps and doesn’t give you the option to use Google Maps.
Tired of living without a toilet? Check out my Vanlife Toilet Options Guide!
Cost of Flush: Free
Instagram gets a lot of flack these days but it is still so popular for a reason. I have been able to connect with hundreds of vanlifers and get to know them through the app where I otherwise would never have met them. The beauty of Instagram is the connection you are able to form by sharing your story and sharing your story with others! If you are a vanlifer and want to meet other people on the road I highly recommend using it to make friends in the vanlife community!
Cost of Instagram: Free