Labour saving apps are a part of every day life when you live in a bricks and mortar house (Deliveroo, Uber, Ebay, Ring… I could go on). It’s no different when you spend your life on the road, and we’ve found that certain apps make our lives a LOT easier.
We’ve compiled a quick list of our six favourite apps to help new vanlifers adapt to life in the slow lane! This post will focus on the software, if you’re interested in the gadgets that we carry with us, check out our Top Ten Travel Tech Tips for the inside line on our setup.
Note: We both have android phones, so the recommendations in this post link to the Google Play Store. Alternative apps are available for iOS devices, however we are only able to offer recommendations from experience. We also full time travel around Europe so you might find other apps more useful if you are based elsewhere.
Show me the money!
We use Revolut for paying for things and for making sure that we stay on budget. Every month we add the month’s budget to a vault (meaning that if the card gets stolen or duplicated, we’re only risking part of our budget, rather than all) and as the month progresses we move funds across as we buy groceries, fuel, accommodation etc.
The foreign exchange rates are typically much better than “traditional” banks and you can set up new currency accounts directly from the app. We’d been told by another traveller that they’d been spending Euros in Croatia, only to find that most places only took Croatian Kuna. Within 5 minutes, we’d set up a Kuna account, moved the Euros into the new account and were able to withdraw cash from an ATM without any fees. What service!
Callum also uses Revolut Business for work to keep track of money coming in. Again, the flexibility of being able to hold multiple currencies (GBP, EUR & USD) is particularly useful for avoiding potential losses for currency conversion.
After groceries, our biggest monthly cost is fuel. The price of can vary wildly within a very small distance. To make sure that we don’t get stung, we use Cheap Refuel to find the cheapest fuel in the area (Diesel in our case). Set it to your requirements (fuel type, vehicle make & capacity, currency etc) and it finds the cheapest fuel near you, tells you how much each place will be for a full tank + price per litre, how far away it is and even how to get there! We use the direction function through google maps- note the final destination can sometimes be slightly off, for example, on the other side of the road or a little further up.
We’ve had instances where big-name garages are charging €1.35 per litre, whilst the supermarket around the corner is €0.95. Although it’s an extreme example, on that occasion the app saved us €28 for the sake of a three minute drive. Not bad for a free app!
Although we started the trip with a dedicated motorhome satnav, we’ve actually gone back to Google maps on our phones as our primary tool for navigation. Once you start playing with it you can find lots of useful tools such as avoiding toll roads, motorways and certain routes. It tells how how far away things are, how long we’ll take to get there (approximately!), better routes for cycling etc.
Waze is also very useful, however as we don’t tend to spend much time in congested areas and we’re rarely in a rush to get to where we’re going, traffic updates aren’t as much of a priority as they would be usually.
We also use the Saved Locations function of Google Maps to scout out locations from the laptop or when we’re talking to other travellers. Creating lists of things that we want to see in each specific country really helps to build a route without worrying about missing anything. We use this combined with satellite view to make sure that the recommended route (and the place we’re planning to stop!) is actually suitable for us. Google maps works well with the park4night app to navigate you to your parking spots.
Stopping for the night
Speaking of Park4night, we often get asked how we find such cool overnight spots. This is our secret. One app that we use nearly every day. It shows places to park up & to stay overnight including camper stops, aires, campsites and wild camping spots. It takes a while to get used to, but using the filters and the reviews you can easily find exactly what you need, whether that’s parking for the day (difficult when you won’t fit into an underground carpark or you need to park across two spaces!), finding drinking water, a petrol station with LPG or somewhere to do laundry.
The app is community driven, which means most of the places have reviews and photos from other travellers. Our rule of thumb is to stay away from areas which have had reports of break-ins or hostile neighbours, other than that we look at the places with the best/most reviews and stay there. In the morning, we always make sure to leave a review and try to take a few pictures, just to make other travellers lives better.
What’s a road trip without some tunes? We love all sorts of music and have found some brilliant podcasts whilst we’ve been travelling. Our go to music app is Spotify. We can download music to play offline, make playlists, follow other people’s playlists and find all sorts of podcasts. We particularly like the radio function when we’re in the mood for a particular kind of music and want to listen to ‘something a bit like this’. We have the family premium package so we can use it across various devices and listen without ads, it’s the one thing we feel is worth paying for.
Finding a balance
Our last app recommendation is an unusual one, but it’s still useful! We both have Bubble Level installed on our phones, which gives us a 360 degree spirit level wherever we are. If we’re wild parking for just one night we just level ourselves by eye (or just lie on the bed and see if the blood rushes to our heads!) If we’re staying for a few days we’ll use the level app, placing it on the floor in the middle of the van and adjusting the level using our wheel chocks. We could use a “traditional” spirit level, but our phones are always in the cab with us and it’s easier just to grab them.
So there we have it, our five most used travel-life apps. Are there any that we missed? Any that we need to try out? Leave us your favourite app in the comments below!
For more great tips for apps and starting out long term & full time motor homing check out this page by experienced motorhomers, Wandering Bird.