When I started out two years ago looking for information on campgrounds and weather and all the other stuff I didn’t know about RVing, I bookmarked a ton of sites. After a couple of years of full-time vagabonding, I’ve pretty much settled on what I use as far as websites and mobile apps. Here’s my personal list of winners, with notes on when and why I chose them.
Allstays.com – I like this one so much I pay for Pro access every year. It shows everything I need to know about a place or a route. Gas stations, propane suppliers, dump stations, Walmarts. You can filter on almost anything (type of campsite, Walmarts with no overnight parking, and so on), which makes it really easy to figure out gas stops on a long drive and what camping spots are available. Here’s what Omaha, Nebraska looks like, and (on their website but not here) you can click on each icon for more information.
Google Maps – As a route planner, it’s pretty good and I generally use it to rough out a route and see mileage between stops so I don’t overcommit to my daily driving goals (which are 150 miles best case max and 300 miles as absolute maximum). Here’s an example of how I use it to see distances between points.
As a campground birds-eye view provider, it’s often not as good, especially when the campsite is wooded and the trees are leafed out. As a bonus, the reviews on Google Maps of specific places are often useful – if more than a few people think the place isn’t great, I usually skip it, figuring they can’t all be wrong!
FlattestRoute.com – This is the place to check how steep a route is, especially if you’re going to be traversing mountain ranges. I know what my Subaru towing can handle, in part thanks to the information this site has for places; I can compare what I’ve done for grades (up and down) with a new route and then figure out a different way to go if I need to.
ReserveAmerica – Most states use this as their reservation system. Since I’m a big fan of state parks, it makes it easy to see my upcoming (and past) reservations on one page. I’m generally going between this one and…
Recreation.gov – The home for most federal parks, including Corps of Engineers (COE) and national parks sites, this isn’t as easy to use as it could be but it gets the job done.
Campendium.com – A crowd-sourced site for reviews of campsites, this can be good information if they have the site you’re looking for. About 80% of the state and national parks I’ve looked up are listed, and many of the reviews also contain information on cell phone connectivity, as well as photos and sometimes even what site is recommended.
Campsitephotos.com – This place can show you campground photos by site for many national and state parks. I probably average 70% on hits for sites I’ve searched here. Some of the photos are just scraped from the original park website, but others are quite good and help me decide which spot to pick. The one beef I have is that they don’t show how close sites can be to each other, which would be great sometimes; nothing like showing up to your site only to find you’re about 6 feet away from the next site with only a sad little plant or two between you.
Weather – the standard iPhone app does a pretty good job of showing me weather for where I am and the 3-4 stops ahead. You can line up any number of locations and see 10 days ahead, which definitely helps when planning what day to make that 300-mile drive.
Dark Sky – only shows 7 days ahead, but also has more detailed precipitation and humidity forecasts, hour by hour for those 7 days. As with all weather forecasts, it tends to be less accurate the farther ahead it predicts, but still useful.
Gas Buddy – find the cheapest gas. I use this mostly when I am driving just the car, as I can’t check it on the fly when towing (no driving and app using, people!). When I am towing, I use AllStays to find truck stops on interstates, and gas stations along the way. And if the gas is more expensive by a nickel but the station has way more room to maneuver, I’m all over that bigger station. Saving a buck on gas isn’t worth waiting in a long line or stressing out trying to get my trailer around a pump in a crowded gas station.
NOAA Radar – I might be slightly addicted to this in stormy weather. It shows a loop of weather prediction for the next 48 hours and it’s really good at showing me what I might be driving into or trapped in. For example, Saturday morning it showed a big storm moving across the area on Monday, the exact day I was going to head out and drive 300 miles. I left on Sunday, ahead of the storm, and had an enjoyable drive. Today, that storm is here and it’s been raining all day. And I am not driving in it 😀
Just For Fun…
Visited States Map – If you want to create a graphic of the US states and Canadian provincese you’ve visited, go here! Here’s mine, as of March 2018, using color coding (red is never been, orange is 1-2 nights and I want more time, and green shows places I’ve seen a lot of).
ISS Finder – This app tells you when the International Space Station (ISS) is going to be flying over your head. Really! There are anywhere from 3-7 people living aboard a satellite about 400 miles up in the sky, and orbiting us at about 17,500 miles per hour. The ISS appears in the night sky as a bright white light, steadily moving, and once you’ve seen it, you’ll know it. Want to learn more about the ISS? Check out their website!
Planets – This is an app I have on my iPhone that is handy for answering the “what the heck is that” question when looking up at the night sky. It not only shows planets, it has stars and constellations, too. You just aim the screen right at what you want to learn about and then the screen shows what’s up there. Quite handy. Quite cool.