Traveling with Technology
Our favorite tools for living on the road #vanlife
Tips for vanlife! Living on the road is a different kind of traveling. It’s a different kind of life. I’m no longer just worried about hitting all the best attractions in an area – but I’m also trying to figure out where I’m going to sleep, eat, adventure and do my laundry in a new place almost every day.
These tools make my life easier so I can spend more time on the trails!
Camping / Travel:
- Freecampsites.net (website only)
- We’ve used this app almost every day to find a place to sleep. This is a great resource for free camping all over the country. Note that it is not the most user-friendly site and there is not easy option for mobile but it still gets the job done.
- Outside of free BLM land look for walmarts, casinos and rest areas for a place to park your van for the night in a pinch (or when you just don’t feel like dealing with a dirt road tonight).
- Campendium Website & App
- We recently started using Campendium in addition to freecampsites.net. The app is way easier to use than the freecampsites.net web browser and has a lot of the same information.
- Gas Buddy (app)
- The best way to find the cheapest gas prices near you. We only sometimes remember to open this up when looking to refill the gas tank but we’re always happy when we do.
- It’s hard to remember what our world was like before we had the technology that we have today. I remember the first summer I interned in San Francisco – I didn’t have a smart phone and I literally carried a paper map with me everywhere. I’d sneak a peak at it while holding it conspicuously in my purse so others couldn’t see that I needed a map to find my way around. The amazing thing is that I probably wouldn’t know my way around that city half as well as I do now without that first summer finding my way with a map.
- We have a love/hate relationship with googlemaps but we still use it every day. We run into a lot of glitches when a map re-routes itself and we don’t double check the new route or when you add multiple ‘stops’ to a route and the map will send you to the wrong location. A nice feature: that if you’ve entered your route before you go out of service the maps will keep going and update your gps location (just don’t forget to do this while you still have service). Matt also likes to just fly by the seat of his pants – who needs maps?!
- PRO TIP: I like to track the GPS locations of where we’ve slept each night. So I use the ‘saved locations’ or ‘label’ functions to do that (when I remember) and it’s super easy to look back and find later.
Activities / food:
- MTB Projet & Hiking Project
- Both of these are awesome for finding trails. Seriously, I love these apps.
- You can download the maps by state to your phone so you don’t have to worry about being out of service. Includes basic information about distance, incline, and trails are ranked by difficulty.
- The Outbound
- Good resource for finding adventures nearby. Adventures could include: camping, hiking, scenic viewpoints, climbing and so much more.
- I actually hate yelp. But we still use it almost everyday if we’re in a town/city to find decent meals nearby. We’re only disappointed with those meals about 50% of the time…maybe we just need to get better at choosing.
- The other App we probably couldn’t live without. When we’re not listening to Harry Potter audio books, we’re listening to music on Spotify. As some of you know we’re making playlists inspired by each state (artists/songs from that state) and combining all of our favorites into one giant cross-country road trip playlist. Sign up for our newsletter to get updates or message us for a link to our state playlists!
- Snapseed App
- Awesome and easy photo editing tool for the photo novice. I (Megan) use this daily for quick edits to photos shot on my iPhone.
- We document everything. Matt always thinks I’m ignoring him as I sit in the passenger seat and try to jot down notes from what we’ve done in the last 24 hours. Sometimes things are remembered and documented better than others but we try (cause we know we’ll both forget later).
- Megan is an accountant – so it may not be a surprise that she’s budgeted for the trip and tracking expenses daily to see where we stand. But we also use googlesheets to track other things like where we slept, mileage and states we’ve visited. Message us for a download of our #vanlifetracker googlesheet!
Other Resources Worth Sharing:
- Fresh of the Grid
- Camping Food & Recipes – An awesome resource for food inspiration and ideas. They help remind you that just because you’re camping, that does’t mean that you need to live off of beans and rice.
- She Explores – Blog and podcast
- For all my ladies out there! This continues to be one of my favorite sources of inspiration. Gale Straub, founder of She explores, cultivates a community of incredible women and lots of good stories. She-Explores has inspired me to combine the words Outdoors + Creative in my own mind. The women featured on the blog and podcast always have interesting views on life but most of all seem so down to earth and have an amazingly eloquent way of sharing their story.
- There’s also a great spinoff podcast called Women on the Road that was born out of an blog interview series. You will not regret checking it out.
- Barefoot Theory – Travel Blog
- Kristen’s passion started in making the outdoors seem more easily accessible by everyone. What she’s created has since grown into so much more. I love her website to check out things to do by destination – she has some awesome and easy to follow travel guides by state to point you in the right direction when planning out a trip.
- The Vanlife Library
- Thinking about joining ‘vanlife’? Already doing it? Want to find some other vanlifers out there to connect with? Want to know where you can rent a van or where you can go to build out a van? This is an awesome resource that has endless amounts of information for you to browse and dive into.
What tools do you find useful?
Write us a comment below to share your favorite resources for living on the road! Or just share your favorite podcast, hiking trail, city or coffee shop because we are ALWAYS looking for more recommendations!