The 14 Best Van Life Apps for an Epic Journey

If you’ve decided to all-in on traveling the country from a camper van, you’re not alone. While life on the road isn’t for everyone, there’s…

campspot

If you’ve decided to all-in on traveling the country from a camper van, you’re not alone. While life on the road isn’t for everyone, there’s a pretty large community out there of like-minded travelers. So much so that there are tons of van life apps to help you get the most out of every mile.

With so many van life and camping apps available, it’s hard to know which ones are the most valuable. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the top van life apps that are sure to enhance your travel experience. Strap in, and let’s go!

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The 14 Best Van Life Apps

Sekr

Sekr van life app

If there was an all-in-one app that could give you almost all the information you’d need while on the road, Sekr is it. The app was formerly known as the Vanlife app, but now it has a sleek new name and better features.

The primary purpose of Sekr is to connect van life travelers with each other and amenities nearby. These amenities include free camping, free wifi, national parks, and more. What makes Sekr even more valuable is the community feature. So, you can meet up with other travelers, get advice on where to go and what to do, or just chat.

Because free wifi is usually pretty scarce, you can download maps and still use them without a wireless connection. Also, for safety reasons, Sekr never provides your exact location when sharing with other users.

The Dyrt

the dyrt app

Typically, life on the road means setting up at campsites. Ideally, these will be free campsites, but you may have to pay relatively small fees for amenities like water fill ups. The free version of The Dyrt is pretty useful, but if you’re serious about van life, you should upgrade to Pro. The Pro version comes with discounts, which are handy when you have to pay for camping spots.

Not only does this app show you where campsites are, but you can reserve spots, see reviews, and check out photos. This way, you know what to expect before pulling up and dropping anchor. The app also allows comes with trip planning ahead of time if you prefer having an itinerary instead of just winging it every night.

Finally, The Dyrt has a blog with tons of free tips and insights to help you stay safe, healthy, and comfortable during your road trip.

iOverlander

iOverlander is not technically an app but instead a map program that shows you where useful amenities are. This software is open-source and nonprofit, so it runs solely on donations by van lifers. Also, this setup means that the map isn’t fully fleshed out yet, but new spots will appear regularly.

According to the iOverlander app legend, the map shows the following stops:

  • Established Campground – An official campsite like KOA where you have access to things like water, power, and toilets.
  • Wild Camping – You’ll be sleeping under the stars, and you need to pack everything in and out.
  • Informal Campsite – AKA boondocking, these spots allow you to park long-term but are not technically designated as a campsite. Usually, these locations are Walmart parking lots.
  • Hotels and Hostels – If you don’t want to sleep in your van for the night, you can find a room for yourself or share one with other people.
  • Fuel and Maintenance – iOverlander shows gas stations, repair locations, and propane refill stations. You can also locate sanitation dump stations so you can empty your black and gray water tanks safely and legally.
  • Amenities – Examples include restaurants, tourist attractions, retail outlets, showers, laundry facilities, and even pet services.
  • Secondary Vehicle Services – You can discover insurance offices, storage locations, and even shipping services to send your van to your next destination.
  • Warnings – Warnings can include road closures, unsafe campsites, and anything else that could adversely impact your health and safety.

Upside

Who doesn’t like to save money and get cash back? Upside is one of the best vanlife apps because it allows you to get discounts and cash back from tons of local retailers and brands. The way it works is that the app partners with businesses to help them reach more people. As an app user, you save money – it’s a win-win situation!

For life on the road, Upside will mostly help with buying fuel. With gas prices so high these days, every little bit helps. Since you’ll need to pump frequently, you can get quite a bit of cash back with every purchase. Then, you can use Upside when you shop for groceries or go out to eat from a chain restaurant.

Gas Buddy

Gas Buddy app
Photo Courtesy: adage.com

While Upside helps you get money back from gas purchases, Gas Buddy helps you find the cheapest gas near you. If you download Gas Buddy, you’ll get a map of all the gas stations nearby. You can sort them by different filters, including which ones are the cheapest. It will also help you understand gas prices in your current area so you know what you should expect to spend on average.

Overall, if you like saving money on gas, Gas Buddy will become one of the best vanlife apps on your phone. Best of all, you can combine this with Upside to find the cheapest gas and then earn cash back on your purchase.

Trusted Housesitters

trusted housesitters
Photo Courtesy: adventureinyou.com

This app only works if you’re an animal lover and you don’t mind taking care of other people’s pets. If that doesn’t sound appealing, you shouldn’t download Trusted Housesitters. However, if you have pets and need someone to watch them while you’re on the road, this app can still come in handy.

The way it works is that it connects sitters and pet owners. Owners can find nearby sitters to take care of their pets and their homes while they’re away. The benefit of being a housesitter is that you get to stay at the owner’s place until they return. So, this option works well if you’re getting tired of being in the van all the time and want room to stretch out.

When you’re first starting as a sitter, you need to provide as many details as possible until you get verified reviews. Once you do a couple of successful sits, it’ll get easier to get jobs since new owners will know what to expect.

Free Roam

free roam app

Free Roam is like the better version of iOverlander. It’s also a nonprofit service, but it has a much better user interface and many more spots uploaded. You can also filter your searches to only show free camping, specific amenities, and more.

Free Roam works well for trip planning because you can find campsites, RV parks, and boondocking locations. The map can also show things like fire hazards, cell signal strength, elevation, and nearby amenities (i.e., dump stations).

Overall, Free Roam will likely become one of your go to apps because it offers so much valuable information. Whether you’re traveling for the weekend or are a full-timer, this software is hugely valuable.

Allstays

As the name implies, this vanlife app focuses on all kinds of overnight stays. While you’re exploring the app, you can find campsites, hotels, motels, and truck stops. Technically, this app is for truck drivers, but it works well for van lifers too.

What we like most about Allstays is the amount of information you get for each location. Because it’s focused on truckers, it tells you whether you can spend the night, whether there are amenities on-site (i.e., showers), and other details that can come in handy.

The app will also show rest areas, including whether they’re hard to reach or won’t allow you to turn around if necessary. Overall, when you’re on a road trip, you can’t get much more info than what’s in Allstays.

Vanly

vanly app

One of the great things about modern apps is that they’re designed to bring people of all walks of life together. Vanly works similarly to Trusted Housesitters, but instead of offering one’s home, hosts are offering their driveways.

Living the van life means you might not be able to find a trusted spot to spend the night. By using Vanly, you can park overnight in a safe area and likely have access to things like showers, bathrooms, and power. However, each host is unique, so be sure to ask them what they provide before reserving a spot.

Right now, Vanly is still relatively new, but you should be able to find a parking spot nearby in most states. Also, as with other apps, hosts and guests are verified and reviewed so you know what to expect before parking for the night.

Campspot

Campspot app

Here we have another camping app that allows you to discover campsites, RV parks, and tent camping. Campspot works with established locations so you can book directly with the site instead of having to call and put in a reservation. Better yet, you don’t have to set up an account or pay for a membership for this kind of access. Basically, just open the app, find a campsite in your desired location for your desired dates, and you’re ready to go.

AllTrails

AllTrails app

Living the van life doesn’t mean you need to just spend your time driving, parking, and staying inside your van. If you’re outdoorsy at all and want to explore the natural side of your current location, you need to download AllTrails.

This app isn’t just for van lifers, so when you’re not traveling, you can find trails and hiking locations near your home too. You can filter results based on your preferences, such as running trails, walking, biking, and even dog-friendly options.

AllTrails also has a community feature where you can share your experiences and your maps. However, this feature isn’t as developed as it is on other apps, so don’t expect to meet new people or set up times to go hiking with your friends.

Harvest Hosts

A big part of the appeal of van life is the ability to see the world and explore new places. However, if you’re just going from one RV park or campsite to the next, everything can start to blur into each other.

Harvest Hosts is a unique app that allows you to stay at wineries, distilleries, farms, and other outdoor attractions. Imagine parking next to a winery and getting to sample some locally-grown wines during your visit? Currently, Harvest Hosts has over 3300 sites across the United States, so you should be able to find a spot nearby no matter where you are at the moment.

The only downside to Harvest Hosts is that you must have a self-contained RV van. Hosts don’t necessarily provide bathrooms, showers, or other amenities. The purpose is to have a unique spot to bed for the night, not to get necessities for your overnight stay.

Roadtrippers

Roadtrippers

As the name suggests, Roadtrippers is all about planning the perfect road trip. So, it will show attractions, hotels, national parks, scenic vistas, and more. Since you’ll be traveling in a camper van, you don’t need to worry about hotel accommodations unless you’re trying to sleep in an actual bed for the night.

Basically, Roadtrippers is a trip planning app that allows you to share your plans with friends who might want to come along. Since it’s not designed for van lifers, most of the spots listed on the maps will be for fun and adventure, not necessarily practical. For example, you won’t see dump stations or overnight parking lots for boondocking. For those kinds of amenities, you’ll have to use an app like Roam Free or iOverlander.

Netflix

netflix

Last but certainly not least is everyone’s favorite streaming service, Netflix! Or, if you have another streaming service you prefer (i.e., Disney+, Hulu, Peacock, etc.), you can download that instead.

One of the main benefits of Netflix is that you can download movies and shows to watch later if you can’t find free wifi. So, you’re not stuck doing analog activities like crossword puzzles or reading when you’re bunked for the night.

Another advantage of Netflix is that you can share your watch history with friends so they can get a glimpse of your viewing habits. However, as we all know, it’s best to share this information with someone you trust who won’t judge you if you watched an entire season in a single night.

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