Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Our Favorite Smartphone Apps for the RVing Weekend Warrior

Apps for Your Smartphone
Smartphones have redefined the way we RV. When the RoadAbode Crew first started RVing, it was important to have our printed maps and guesstimate where to pull over for gas. Then we went to a GPS system to help with routing and let us answer more precisely that age old question "Are we there yet?" A newer GPS helped us find those gas stations along the way, but still did not tell us prices. Now, with  smartphones resting on the dash, we can find out when there are traffic jams ahead, and be re-routed before we hit the jam-up, We can not only find out gas prices, but find ratings of good places to stop and grab a bite.
Apple & Android Smartphones
Apps is short for Applications, which are really what put the "smart" into smartphones. Coupled with a data plan or good WiFi, you have the power of the internet  at your fingertips to find helpful information for your travels and your destination. For the RoadAbode Crew, we are a Android-centric family. Though Apple products are great, we've found through the years the pricing and features are more family friendly with Android devices for our needs. We have more control over the media we choose to place or play on our devices. However, most of the Apps we highlight can be found on both Apple and Android devices.
The Apps we've listed below fall into two main categories. Those that help us out - and those that we use to enhance our enjoyment of a trip. We've also created a category of "good to have, we haven't used" - you'll see why.

Helpful Apps for RVing


Since we are currently "RVing "Weekend Warriors" many times we are leaving on a Thursday or Friday after one of us is getting done from work, or school.. Sometimes we end up pulling into our campsite at dusk or after dark - especially in the spring when the sun sets early. Having my smarthphone handy when we pull in is handy. With a swipe and a click I can turn on the flashlight app. I had considered buying a headlamp for the few times I setup in the dark, but my Samsung Note II fits nicely in my shirt pocket, directs the light in front of me, and the rubberized case I keep it in prevents my smartphone from slipping as I bend and work to connect up our utilities.
There are plenty of flashlight apps out there. Our smartphones had one included, while others have added apps with special features (disco light, or emergency lights), but the simplest for me is "Torch." One touch turns it on, second touch turns it off. We have a few lanterns and handheld flashlights on board RoadAbode but having the Torch App is a great quick way to put some light on completing evening hookups.


GasBuddy simply helps find the least expensive gas, close to where you are. The most prominent way the App gets current fuel prices is Crowd-sourcing. That means it gathers and uses data information shared by the GasBuddy user online community, rather than from traditional employees or other suppliers. Using your smartphone's internal GPS, the App will locate the gas stations closest to you

Google Maps

Google Maps App has really "grown up" since we first started using it as just a rough mapping guide. Traffic view will provide traffic incident information, such as road closures, construction and accidents. If bad traffic lies ahead, dynamic rerouting will proactively suggest faster routes. Just one tap and you’re on your (new) way. When checking out a new area, you can even get reviews of attractions or great places to eat.
Since I also use Google Now with my Google Account, any of my recent searches done on a work computer, laptop or smartphone for information on our location will show as a "Card" of information in Google Now. I can select to navigate using Google Maps, or find out about local attractions. It's become pretty slick!


Glympse is a great App to use on your smartphone when travelling in your RV and plan on meeting up with friends or family. We also like to use it once we have arrived at our destination.
With the Glympse App, you send a message to anyone with an email address or mobile number. The recipient clicks on the link automatically placed in your message, and can instantly see your current location. If you also set the destination, your expected arrival time (with countdown) will display. Mobile, tablet, or desktop, anyone can receive a Glympse – no extra software or setup required to view. Recipients just use their built in browser. For us this works great when picking up friends. They can watch our progress and know when to expect us. That way RoadAbode is not blocking up their street. We can pull up, pickup, and get back on the road.
In the Glympse App, you can see if the recipients have checked your message, and the last time they checked for your location.
Another great feature is creating a group. A great example is being at an amusement park. You want to split up for shows and rides, but maybe meet up later for lunch. If everyone in your party has Glympse, Create a Glympse Group, add everyone, and then the whole party knows where others are, and can meetup that much easier.
Set the duration, pick a destination, choose the recipients and hit send! Glympse will take care of the rest
Glympse puts you in control – you set who sees you and for how long. Safe for families, friends, other RVers, and even one-time meetings. Learn more at the Glympse website.

Apps For RVing Fun

Google Sky Map

This one is Android Only - sorry iUsers. The first time you pull this out to show your kids or camping friends, they will be amazed. After that, they will be wanting to know what stars are shinning bright or where planets are located each evening. Hold your device up to the evening sky and Google Sky Map  Android-powered devices' built-in compass, GPS, and clock to display an annotated the Sky Map of the area it is facing. The map will adjust as you move the device to triangulate the locations of stars, constellations, planets, even satellites and other space objects. Search is available if you want to know where a planet or star are located. Just type in the name in the search bar, and a red "halo" will point you in the direction of the item until it is in the center of the halo. Want to compare the sky to when you were born? You can change the setting to any date in the past. Not just fun, Google Sky Map is a great learning tool. Though not as in-depth as Google Sky (or free), star gazing iPhone users can check out Star Walk.


Pandora Radio has replaced the mix tapes and CDs we use to make when we were younger. Select a predefined station and  the App will play a specific genre of music. you can vote "up" those you like and vote down those you do not and Pandora will learn the style you enjoy listening to.  Create your own channel by artist or genre if one of the predefined channels does not fit your musical style. There is a paid version without ads, but it is a monthly subscription, and usually when we listen we only get two short ads per five to ten songs.

Play Store - Movies and Music

If Pandora fails to give us a good mix of tunes, we'll switch over to our personal playlists on Google Play Music. Any music we have purchased is available to listen. This ends up using data unless previously downloaded over WiFi to the smartphone.
For movie or TV entertainment, we usually watch what's on a cable channel, over the air antenna, or bring a DVD or two. An alternative I've used once on a guys roadtrip was to connect my smartphone to RoadAbode's TV (I have a special HDMI adapter) and watch a movie we were discussing. The cost? $2.99 - cheaper than the movies we use to rent at Blockbuster! It ran fine over my data plan. Not something I would do all the time, but was pretty cool that I could share the original 1969 Italian Job with  my buddies that had never experienced it.

Moon+ Reader

We are a family of readers. But why buy another device just to read books? Using our smartphones to hold our individual libraries is perfect for our summer reading collections. Moon+ Reader is the best reader I've found. It allows us to import existing epub book files we already own. Settings in the app can change font, page scaling and color, and many other nuances of your reading material so it can fit your style. It even has a built in timer to remind you to rest your eyes so you don't suffer from eye strain.  I like the reader so much I actually paid the few dollars for the "Pro" version, which can access free online Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS) Catalogs of books. I've tried a few readers, Moon+ reader is the one that you should check out if you are an avid reader.There are plenty of ebook readers out there. We feel Moon+ Reader is the best choice. Alas, I've found out it is not available on iDevices, but there are other choices Apple has available for it's customers.

Apps we have - but haven't needed - thankfully

First Aid - Red Cross

First Aid App logoA great app that we hopefully don't need to use, but has great information in case of emergency. From the Red Cross Site - "The official American Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the official American Red Cross First Aid app gives you instant access to the information you need to know to handle the most common first aid emergencies. With videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice it’s never been easier to know first aid."

Smart Compass

Smart Compass operates as a real compass - a tool to search bearings (direction, azimuth) using a magnetic sensor that is combined in your device. You can select both magnetic north and true north.
We have not been so far off a trail, or deep in the woods to have to use the compass in a real-life situation. So far it is fun to see direction with and test our bearings.The compass app depends on the performance of your device exactly. If the compass works perfectly, it means that your sensors are perfect, too. If it is inaccurate, check that you aren't being affected by a magnetic field. If still an issue, there are several options to calibrate for your device.

Those are our favorite Apps. We understand that for us, in the campgrounds we visit, most times connectivity is no issue. Other RVers may camp more remotely or have limited connectivity where they camp. If you have suggestions or favorites you think we need to add as essentials, let us know - we love to learn more! Leave a note in the comments below! Happy RVing!


Maj said...

Thanks guys! Sher and I now have "smartphones" and are leanring (yet again) another technology. Can't wait to try the google sky app. I'm already using the gas buddy & google maps.

Maj said...

Thanks guys! Sher and I now have "smartphones" and are leanring (yet again) another technology. Can't wait to try the google sky app. I'm already using the gas buddy & google maps.