These days, it feels like life revolves around our phones. I would love to say that living a nomadic lifestyle allows us to be more disconnected than the average person, and in some ways it does; however, in certain ways we’re more dependent on technology than we’ve ever been. As people (and a dog) who live, travel, and work full time in an Airstream, there are a number of iPhone apps that we utilize regularly in order to make our lives easier and safer.
To start, we need to know where we’re going. We are very basic when it comes to navigational tools and most of the time depend solely on Google Maps. In more than 15,000 miles, Google Maps has done us wrong only once. It directed us down an 8-mile washboard gravel road with nowhere to turn around as we made our way to a one-night stop in Cranbrook, British Columbia. (There was a sign posted at the campground regarding this issue, so it seems it’s a common occurrence.) When we’ll be entering an area with little to no cell signal, we’ll often use the GPS in our truck in conjunction with Google Maps, just in case. Now that I think about it, it might be time to invest in a dependable paper road atlas as a fallback!
It’s incredibly important to keep an eye on the weather both while towing and while parked. Knowing whether rain, snow, freezing temps, or high temps are in the forecast helps us to be prepared. Do we need to get more propane to run the furnace? Do we need to start our drive a day early or delay it a day due to probable thunderstorms? Do we need to put the awnings in because it’s going to rain? These are all things we look at on a regular basis to keep us, our dog, and our Airstream safe.
The WindAlert app is very beneficial on days we plan on towing. It can get downright dangerous when you’re pulling a trailer down a highway and there are gusts of 50mph or more. This app allows us to look at what the projected hourly sustained wind speed and wind gusts will be, which helps us determine if we need to hit the road earlier or later than planned or if we need to pull off for a bit and wait out the wind.
Places to Stay
Campendium is our go-to resource for finding campgrounds and RV parks, along with reviews. Besides reviews, the amenities (no/partial/full hookups, showers, laundry, etc.) offered at each location are listed, as well as cell signal. In addition to searching for campgrounds and RV parks, you can also look for public land, free camping, overnight parking, and dump stations. This app/website is free to use and because it is essential to our travels, we make sure to financially support it when they have their annual fundraiser.
Another place we check when looking for places to stay is good old dependable Google. Sometimes we find RV parks or campgrounds on Google that we don’t find when using any of our other resources, so we check it when we aren’t finding a lot of options for a particular location. The reviews on Google are typically different than you’ll find on the other RVer preferred apps and websites; probably because long-term or full-time travelers are looking for a different experience than the occasional weekenders who seem to do most of the reviewing on Google.
The Recreation.gov app and website help us find places to stay on federal lands at more than 3,500 facilities across the country. There are over 100,000 reservable sites throughout our national parks and national forests, and Recreation.gov is where we go to not only make reservations, but to also get information about each location including maps and amenities. Most recently, limited permit lotteries have been incorporated into the app. The app also conveniently stores all of your reservations in one place for easy access.
Harvest Hosts is a membership program that offers unique overnight (dry camping) experiences at 2000+ wineries, breweries, farms, museums, golf courses, and other attractions. You can stay at an unlimited number of host locations throughout the year. We utilize this program most when we have multiple drive days in a row and just need a place to park for a night. The two main rules are to call 24 hours in advance to let them know you’re coming and to patronize the establishment in some way, like buying a bottle of wine.
UPDATE 4/20/21: Some Harvest Hosts have started to utilize a reservation feature in the app/website. This means that finding a place to stay for a night isn’t as easy to do on the fly as it once was. Apparently some hosts requested this feature as they don’t have to field phone calls from RVers nonstop. And the reservation feature suits the needs of the RVers that like to plan ahead better. We haven’t stayed at a Harvest Host since this has become an option, so I’m not sure how it’s impacted the overall experience.
Staying at a KOA is not for everybody, but we’ve had more positive experiences than negative, and they really seem to be everywhere. For example, if you want to stay near Devils Tower for a night or two and need hookups, the KOA is your only option. Also, KOA has a rewards program that is quite beneficial if you stay at a couple each year, which we usually do. We also like that KOAs have cabins, which two of our friends took advantage of this past summer when they joined us at the West Glacier KOA near Glacier National Park.
Passport America is another membership program and we find it can be real hit and miss. We went all year this year without staying at a place that offers PA discounts until late October, when we then stayed at three places in a row. Properties that participate in the program offer 50% off, with certain restrictions (of course) which can include such things as two nights discount max or discounts on weeknights only. However, when it works out, it can really work out! We ended up saving about $300 in a 2.5-week span, so the $44 annual fee was definitely worth it.
The Dyrt and Allstays are similar to Campendium. I personally find the Campendium app to be easier to use, but some people prefer one of these two as their primary site locator — it all comes down to personal taste. With that being said, The Dyrt only has site listings available within the United States. Also, I’ve found sites on Campendium that aren’t listed on The Dyrt. However, when a I find a site on Campendium without reviews, I’ll check both The Dyrt and Allstays to see if it’s been reviewed there.
In the Airstream
The VictronConnect app is what we use to monitor our battery levels and the amount of power our solar panels are generating. It’s a good idea to check in with your batteries from time to time to make sure they are staying charged properly, but the app is most useful when we don’t have an electric hookup and need to monitor our power usage. The app is a tool to teach us how to use the furnace, water heater, TVs, etc. in such a manner to live within our energy means. To find out more about our solar panel and lithium battery setup, check out this post.
The Mopeka TankCheck app allows us to monitor the amount of propane that is in each of our two 30lb propane tanks. A standard Mopeka sensor is attached to the bottom of each of the propane tanks. Using the app, we can see how much propane is left in each tank, as well as the battery level and signal strength of each sensor. An LED display does come with the standard Mopeka sensors, but using the app gives us a much more accurate reading of how much propane is left in each tank.
We use a Blink Home Monitor camera to keep an eye on Max when we are out of the Airstream. The app and camera give us peace of mind when away from home as we’re able to look at Max, hear what’s going on in the Airstream, and make sure the temperature is comfortable. The accompanying app is pretty customizable, allowing us to choose if we want alerts sent to our phones with certain levels of movement. It also alerts us when the temperature inside the Airstream has gone outside of the range that we’ve predetermined.
We installed a Ring doorbell on the Airstream more so for security than to have a functioning doorbell, because really, you don’t need a doorbell on an Airstream. As the doorbell has a wide-angle camera that records whenever it senses motion, it’s one additional layer of security that gives us peace of mind when we’re away from the Airstream. As with the Blink app, the Ring app is customizable to have alerts sent to your phone when various activities take place.
As residents of South Dakota who use Americas Mailbox as our mail forwarding service, the iRVMail app might be a bit specific. I’m sure other mail forwarding services use this app, but I couldn’t tell you which ones. Anyways, this app allows us to see what mail has arrived at our mailbox in Box Elder, South Dakota. Each piece of mail is scanned, assigned a reference number, and uploaded. To read more about how we receive mail on the road, visit this post.
The Arrive app is perfect for anyone that receives a lot of packages in the mail. Instead of having to go to each carrier’s website to track where your package is, this app keeps all of the tracking info on one screen. Regardless of carrier, enter the tracking number for your package and the app will track your package’s journey with a live map. Give each package a name (e.g. Sewer Hose) to make things easier and set up notifications to let you know the status of the package.
UPDATE 4/20/21: This app has been rebranded under a new name called Shop. Not only does in track packages, a number of online retailers utilize it to provide a quicker checkout. And most recently, you’re able to connect your Amazon account to track anything you’ve ordered easily alongside any other packages you may have coming.
The AllTrails app helps you discover the best hiking, running, and biking trails around the world. It uses your location to provide a list of trails in the area, including such information as length and elevation change. A map of the trail, directions to the trail, photos, descriptions, and current weather are also some of the features. Available filters include dog friendly, wheelchair friendly, level of difficulty, and attractions along the trail including waterfalls and hot springs. We use this app whenever we’re in a new place where we want to get outside and explore nature.
I admit that we don’t use this app nearly as much as we should. The REI Co-op National Parks Guide app has all the info you could need about any national park in one place: Visitor center hours, hiking trails, family friendly activities, camping & lodging info, shuttle & tour info, restaurants, maps — you name it! Sometimes stopping into a visitor center as soon as you enter a park isn’t possible, so this is a good resource to have.
UPDATE 4/20/21: The National Park Service recently launched its own official app that is pretty impressive. If you are looking for any NPS-related info, be sure to download it!
So there you have it — all the apps we find to be essential in our full-time Airstream travels!
Of note, we are in no way associated with these companies and therefore are only promoting these apps because they work well for us. All app icon images were screenshot from the Apple App Store.