It’s official. I’m not a big tech guy, and I didn’t need my recent fifteen-minute struggle with the hotel TV HDMI cord last night to prove it. However, like the rest of the gear in my now overflowing road trip gear bag, I gravitate toward the latest high-quality products that provide the proper fit for my now unique needs.
This includes travel apps.
On the road, my cell phone has only two modes: 1) packed away for days at a time on an adventure or 2) constantly in use navigating unfamiliar highways, communicating perpetually variable travel plans, and getting content sent to different companies and posted online all while sucking battery from any outlet I can shamelessly and temporarily plug into.
Photo: Mark Vlaskamp and Cammi The Canoe Cat head out for their morning walk.
While I recommend getting finances, organization, web-development, and a general plan all worked out well before you retrofit your smartphone for #VanLife, a quick retrofit session may be the kick in the butt that you need to get out of your 9-5 rut and start embracing everyday adventures.
Gas Buddy is simple. It shows you where both the closest and the cheapest gas stations are around your current location. With live updates from active users, prices are hardly ever off. Plus, each time you confirm an accurate price, report an unreported price, or correct an old price, you get points to enter into drawings to win gas station gift cards. Note – It sounds hokey and unlikely – I thought so too – but my mind was quickly changed after a $25 regional drawing win in Georgia and a $100 local drawing win in Texas.
The Launch Sites app was developed for paddlers in search of new launch locations. On the road, all launch locations are new to me. When the app is in use, it uses your current location to bring up both a map and a list of the paddling put-ins within a reasonable distance, also noting park hours, facility info, and paddler reviews.
I use this for one reason and one reason only: crash sites. After multiple days covering serious stretches of pavement, sleeping comfortably doesn’t take much and paying for hotels just means less money to do other cool stuff during the day. On the late nights in unfamiliar cities, I use the Park Finder app to locate the nearest national or state park that offers basic camping amenities: electrical plugs, drinking water, bathrooms, etc. Sometimes I pitch a tent and other times I crash in the back of the car, opening the sunroof to create an awe-inspiring observatory for Cammi the road trip cat
Photo: With the right travel apps you can relax on the road and focus on fishing…or beer.
No matter where you go, basic AM and FM radio plays the same thing over and over again. While I do spend a considerable amount of road hours clocked into my diverse Spotify playlists, Audible allows me to listen to audiobooks through my Amazon account. My recommendation: Something edgy that makes you think, not a fictional happy ending. Try Chuck Klosterman.
What started as a blog turned into a road trip assistance database and now proudly touts it’s claim as ‘the ultimate road trip planning app’ by helping you uncover what I can only describe as the ‘local places’ that most tourists passing through would never notice. By selecting ‘things to do around me’ at trip stopping points, I have no problem finding local culture, good food, and interesting historical sites.
If your road trip is generating any income, you may be able to write off mileage on your next tax return. Through my work with different paddlesports brands and media outlets, I track my mileage with the Mile IQ app and send business reports to my email for filing on future tax returns. The app senses when, where, and how long I am driving. At the end of every day, I classify the day’s drives as either personal or business. Business travel is then automatically calculated into reports with mileage and dollar value reimbursement. My CPA and my bank account can thank me later.
Photo: Without the right apps Mark Vlaskamp might have missed this put in completely.
Solo road trips are hard to document. From behind the camera, I get great photos of everything except myself. The automatic camera timer on most DSLR cameras works great but then you’re stuck posing like a cheeseball for twenty seconds until the shutter snaps, only to find you accidently looked away. The Smart Trigger app pairs with a $40 Bluetooth camera accessory that allows you to control your DSRL camera’s shutter and basic manual setting from your phone, from inside the frame of the photo, and from up to two-hundred yards away, like a boss.
Dorothy was right, there is no place like home. Even if I can’t replicate the family, friends, and food while on the road, I can listen to my favorite songs at random bars and restaurants along the way. It’s simple, even for me. Load $5 worth of credits onto your account, find a compatible jukebox in the area using the handy locator in the app, have a seat, and impress the locals with your weird out-of-towner music style.
Mark Vlaskamp now partners with creative outdoor brands and pursues the gray area between freelancing and (f)unemployment. Currently, he is somewhere wandering the northeast United States on an indefinite road trip in search of new water, cool people, and cheap beer. Follow allong with his adventures at CanoeVibes.com.