I'm attending the big Family Motorcoach Association Reunion and Rally this week in Redmond, OR and just did a seminar called Apps for the Open Road in which I share some of my favorite apps and online resources for RVers.
Now we RVers all have our favorite technology devices, with Android and Apple smartphones and tablets accounting for the vast majority. Most apps now come in versions for different platforms. Most, but not all.
I am a pretty diehard Apple fan. Though I've used Android gizmos, I keep coming back to Apple, especially the iPhone. So, that said, let me share my list. If you are an Android or Windows or Blackberry user, these may or may not apply.
These days, with solid Internet connectivity available almost everywhere, I admit almost with no shame that probably my best most used iPhone feature is Siri, Apple's fanous voice recognition tool that tells you pretty much what you want to know.'
Here in Redmond, for example, I can say “find a laundromat” an, in maybe two seconds, Siri says “I've found seven laundromats” in my vicinity. We need to stock up on food so I say “find me a supermarket.” Siri returns to of them. It will even give me turn by turn voice directions to them via Google Maps, which shows my position and vectors me in to my destination perfectly.
But I also use apps and online sources while traveling. Here are my seven favorites:
- Aroundme.com – This app is all about providing local info. Whatever you’re looking for -grocery stores, banks, hospitals, gas stations, movie theaters. This is really handy when you travel, but surprisingly useful locally, where I always seem to find cool things nearby that I didn’t know about. It’s free for Apple, Android and Windows devices and smartphones..
- RoadNinja.com – Always on the interstate? Love road trips? This is the must-have app for you. You can discover new places, map out your trip, share your encounters, and save money along the way with special promotions. I use it to find diesel stations on the interstate.
- AllStays.com – The number one camping app for iPhone, iPods, iPads and Android. From resorts to hike-in spots. Amenities, maps, truck stops, rest areas, Wal-mart and casino parking, low clearance alerts, RV dealers, sporting goods stores and much more. Two modes: one uses GPS and maps that you can filter. One is an offline manual lookup mode for when you don't have service.
- TripIt – The TripIt trip planner keeps all of your travel plans in one spot. Create a master travel itinerary, and access your itinerary planner online or on your mobile device. Simply forward confirmation emails to TripIt and it will will automatically build an itinerary for your trip that you can access anytime, either online or from a mobile device.
- Evernote – The Evernote family of products help you remember and act upon ideas, projects and experiences across all the computers, phones and tablets you use. With Evernote, your notes, web clips, files, and images are available whenever you need them on every device and computer you use.
- Trip Journal -Trip Journal is the #1 Google Awarded Travel Application with the best trip tracking, recording, documenting and sharing features currently available for iPhone, Android, Symbian and Facebook. The app received a $100,000 prize from Google for innovative concept and design. Trip Journal allows you to document vacation experiences and share them with your friends and family. Impress everybody with real time updates from the visited destinations and let people see proof of your latest adventures, as your journey unfolds.
- Dropbox – Put your stuff in Dropbox and get to it from your computers, phones, or tablets. Edit docs, automatically add photos, and show off videos from anywhere. Share photos with friends. Work with your friends and family like you're using a single computer. Everything's automatically private, so you control who sees what.
- Field Trip – This is a guide to the cool, hidden, and unique things in the world around you is now on the iPhone. Field Trip runs in the background on your phone. When you get close to something interesting, it will notify you and if you have a headset or Bluetooth connected, it can even read the info to you.
- Where To? – Where to? makes it incredibly easy to locate the closest steakhouse, bank branch, billiard club or anything else you may be looking for, at the drop of a hat! Finally you can find local businesses without any typing, using a slick, intuitive user experience.
- Roadside America – This iPhone app was created by America's foremost experts in roadside attractions and oddities. It's packed with easy-to-use, in-depth info and maps for the nation's funniest and weirdest must-sees — over 9,500 eye-popping places when you unlock the entire USA and Canada. When you purchase the app for $2.99, the Roadside America App lets you choose one of seven US/Canada regions to unlock.
Besides those 10, there are some other apps I use a lot.
Jennifer and I really enjoy our national parks. The hands down best app for them come from a company called Chimani. They have awesome apps for all the National Parks Whether it's back country hiking in the Grand Tetons, rock climbing in Yosemite, or bicycling the carriage roads of Acadia – these apps are made from personal experience.by seasoned travelers and explorers. They are like travel guides, but you'll find a lot more than that. Information like sunrise/set data for a year, tidal data for a year, ranger-led events for the entire season, and much more. The apps also feature an audio tour and dozens of photos by professional photographers.
Then there are weather apps. Everyone has their favorite and there are a gazillion to choose from. But we all are concerned about dangerous weather and apps can really help keep you informed, especially as you are on the move.
First, you may not know it but most phones today automatically receive emergency weather alerts. Check your phone’s settings and notifications and you’ll see where to set them. It gets emergency alerts, but has to be turned on. Check with your carrier for specifics but when activated, you’ll get warnings automatically as the are issued. The system also sends out Amber alerts and, in dire emergencies, presidential warnings
If you want more weather information besides alerts, think about an app. I really like the Tornado Warning App from the American Red Cross. It’s free, works on Apple and Android devices and tracks a tornado as it approaches with step-by-step advice about what to do before the storm hits. A siren warning is built into the app and goes off when officials issue a tornado warning in your area. There’s also a customizable notification system to let friends and family know when the user is safe via social media, text, and e-mail.
My favorite weather app is My Radar. It’s a free app for all the major mobile platforms. It displays animated weather radar around your current location, allowing you to quickly see what weather is coming your way. For $3.99 you can include weather warnings and alerts, complete with push notifications, to warn you of severe weather in your area.
Finally, many of you know that Jennifer and I love to boondock, away from commercial campgrounds. We love the website Boondockers Welcome. The site lets you connect with other RVers who have a location for you to dry camp for the night; it might be in their driveway or a field on their farm. The view may be of amber waves of grain or of the McDonald's parking lot… but it will be a free place to park where you don't have to worry about idling truck engines, security, or that dreaded knock on the window at 2 am.
Through a special arrangement with the site, if you enter the special code ROADTREKINGDISC you will get 20% off the membership fee. This is a great deal and a great service that can save lots of money as you travel.
So there you go. Those are some of the apps and websites we shared with the FMCA audience in Redmond.
Feel free to add your favorite RV apps under comments.