Vanlife has become far more accessible over the last few years and with the mass adoption of smartphones and good internet signal there has been a boom in apps that can make your vanlife experiences easier. Below you'll find some of the apps that we use whilst living on the road full time and some information about how we use them to find park ups, scout locations and look for nearby things to do. We're both using iOS (Apple) but most if not all of the apps in this post should be available on Android. It's worth mentioning that a lot of these apps are available both for free and as paid versions or premium subscriptions. One of the main advantages of the paid versions is often the ability to download maps and POIs to store offline.
We'll start off with our top 3 most used apps for vanlife.
Park4night is a great app for finding free locations to stay for the day and also for the night. Park4night also has additional information such water taps, laundry, motorhome service points etc. It is easy to add favourites, read recent reviews and scan POI within a specific area. We've used Park4night across the UK, Europe and Türkiye relatively successfully over the last few years.
Despite having some 'interesting' navigational experiences (turn left and drive up a staircase, drive up a one way street, turn right at this footpath) we tend to use Google Maps for navigating to locations. We also pin things we'd like to do or see in an area and have also documented everywhere we have slept in the van since we left the UK in October 2022. Most of the other apps we use support external navigation so once you select a pin or location it fires up in your preferred choice of maps installed on your device. Google maps is also great for scouting locations on satellite view. We do this a lot with Park4night locations to check entry/exit points. In more developed areas you can also use Streetview to check on locations in even more detail.
Because we enjoy walking and also travel with 2 dogs we often look up locations we are heading to on AllTrails. When in the UK we were using OS Maps but now we are abroad AllTrails is a more inclusive option. AllTrails allows you to see footpath routes, elevation, walks and hikes that other people have done along with additional information on the area. It's a good way to work out how accessible an area is before you travel to it and also handy to have in your back pocket when you ramble away from your van and need to find a safe route back.
Quite self-explanatory from the name. This app shows you garages and other businesses that are offering LPG. In the UK this is especially useful with the demise of LPG availability. It's still a useful app for touring Europe however LPG is so easily available that it's unlikely you'd need to look at a specific location. As well as showing the nearest places for refilling your LPG, users can leave updates on the current pricing which is useful to understand if the pump is currently in service.
If you're looking for more paid sites this app can be useful as it aggregates data from multiple clubs, especially in the UK. For example, you can filter results based on Camping and Caravanning Club, Caravan and Motorhome Club and approved overnight parking with and without services. Searchforsites is one of the options which allows offline mode on their paid model. We've only used this one a handful of times but it's worth having multiple options when finding park ups and looking for services.
This is a superb app for sharing very specific locations with other people. The world is mapped into a tiny grid (3m x 3m) so you can share links, or three specific words for a location. We like to use this app on satellite/photo mode so we can document the exact spot we are, or have parked at.
Camping-Car Park is specific to France. It's got one of the niceest UIs from any of the booking apps we've seen. You can very easily search by your location or in general on a map for campsites and aires/service points. You can top up payment and make bookings via the app. A nice element to these is that you can book 5 hour 'service' times to use water/grey/black waste at a reduced rate. The prices, even in season on here are preferable over a lot of other sites. A good one if you need access to services or don't feel secure wildcamping.
We're sure you'll have heard of this one. You've just parked up on the edge of a town or village, it's getting late and you don't fancy cooking tonight. We use TripAdvisor (probably to often) to find the best location restaurants and takeaways whilst we travel. We love how easy it is to filter by dietary requirements and view places by distance or rating. You can also use this to discover experiences and things to do in the areas you plan to visit.
This app has a gamification element built in around protecting the environment and cleaning up. You can find places to stay, see reviews and images. The differential on this app is that you can also check in to a location and register a clean up. We really like the ethos behind this one and hopefully by allowing people to 'show off' their cleans, including photos of what you've discarded responsibly from the area it will encourage this behaviour in general.
The built in iOS Weather app allows you to see accurate forecasts for your current location, and also additional favourited locations. If we have a rough destination or route planned we normally pick a couple of those locations and add them into the weather app so we can easily see a holistic view of weather trends. It is particularly handy for wind forecasts as these tend to dictate on the type of outdoor activity we'll be doing in a location.
This is the app which is connected to our vans electrical system. We connect to it via Bluetooth from within the van and can monitor our battery's charge %, current draws and incoming solar. Within the MPPT you can see your solar yields over the last 30 days which can be quite interesting if you're into looking at data.
This app works away from the van, or within. We have temperature sensors from SensorPush inside and outside of the van. This is superb for general trends but also for keeping an eye on internal temperatures when the dogs are inside the van and we're away from it. We also used this app a lot in winter to check on the outside temperatures before opening up the van and letting all the heat out.
There are so many great apps on the market for travelling, documenting and researching your trip. If you've got any other app recommendations, we'd love to hear them. Drop us a message on Instagram.