A road trip in a camper van is probably one of the best ways to explore a country: You never need to pack and unpack your luggage, you can easily reach places which are off the beaten track and you can enjoy the ultimate freedom since you never need to book or reserve a hotel.
However, there are also challenges for road trippers. Not all of them but at least some challenges can be addressed with the right apps on your mobile device.
That’s what this article is about: It’s a list with the most useful apps for road trips in Europe.
We usually take road trips to disconnect from the "modern day buzz",
but there are some apps that will make your life on the road really easy and stress-free.
Before we start here are some words about myself: I’m Oliver, a Swiss travel blogger. Over the last 5 years I’ve been on a dozen multiday road trips. Some in small cars, others in huge vans. In this guest post I would like to share with you what I have learnt from my road trips.
Oliver went on a road trip with Stork campervan in April 2019 and loved it - despite the rainy weather.
1. Find a place to sleep - park4night
Most countries in Europe don’t allow wild camping. The chance of getting caught is low but some countries impose an unpleasantly big fine. The good news is that you don’t need to take this risk. Many destinations offer a growing number of free parking spaces where campers can stay for a maximum of 24 hours. Some even provide fresh water, electricity or allow you to empty your grey water tanks.
They can be located in unpleasant industrial areas, in locations with amazing views or nearby to important attractions. The best way to find out about them is “park4night” (android / iOS), possibly the biggest and most popular camping app in Europe. The app does not only lead you to the parking spot, but also tells you what amenities they offer and provides detailed ratings from others users.
The basic version is free but it requires an internet connection. For a small fee you can download the pro version which also works offline. As mentioned before: There are many apps that do the same so look around if you don’t like this one.
Best app to find overnight spots - park4night.
Talking about camping: If you fancy proper camping grounds, I recommend you apply for an ASCI card. The camping card is not free but allows you to stay in selected places during the lower season with a discount of up to 60 percent. If you plan to stay more than three days on camping grounds, it’s worth buying it.
2. Download an offline map - maps.me
Admittedly, I found some of the most beautiful places on my road trips after I got completely lost. No doubt it’s fun to roam around without having to reach a specific destination, but there are also times when it is just troublesome to get lost. For example, if you have to return your camper on time or don’t want to miss a pre-booked tour or your flight back home.
For all these situations I recommend you install a good offline map service. Why does it need to be offline? The advantage is that you can download the map of a whole country before your departure. This means you don’t need to use potentially expensive data roaming once you hit the road. It’s also useful when you’re in remote areas with poor signals.
There are several apps on the market, so test them before your departure and see which one works the best for you. My personal favourite is “maps.me” (Android / iOS) which uses the highly reliable data from OpenStreetMaps (I like to think of it as the Wikipedia of maps). The apps navigation isvery similar to Google Maps and tells you how long it takes to you reach your destination – but without draining your data plan.
Best app for offline maps - maps.me.
3. Find a car park - ParkMe
Finding suitable parking spaces in big cities can be a nightmare. Having a proper parking app like “ParkMe” (Android / iOS) can save you a lot of hassle. This app helps you to find the nearest car park and its charges (hourly or daily), the expected occupancy and sometimes the maximum height, which is useful if you’re driving a camper vehicle with an extended roof.
If you prefer to use a street parking, the app also takes into account the likelihood of finding a parking space in the street you choose or in any street nearby. This helps you to decide which area of the city is worth trying. My favourite function, however, is a timer that reminds you when you have to refill the meter or move to the next parking place.
Best app for parking spots - ParkMe.
4. Finding public toilet - Toilet Finder
In case your camper van does not have a proper toilet (or if you simply don’t feel comfortable using it), then you should install an app that helps you to find public toilets. I use an app called “toilet finder” and it has saved me already in a couple of emergencies.
This app has a database of more than 150.000 washrooms all over the world. The listed places are divided into categories like public toilet, petrol station or restaurant. Furthermore the app informs you if there is a fee charges for its use and the level of cleanness.
Best app to find toilets - Toilet Finder.
5. Offline entertainment - Audible, Netlfix, Spotify
On a perfect road trip the scenery is amazing and you would never get bored from driving for a single second. Unfortunately the reality is that the scenery can’t be perfect all of the time. You may have to follow an unexciting highway for hours or spend the night in the middle of nowhere with nothing left to do or there's always a chance of neverending rain and bad weather.
That’s why I recommend preparing some apps to entertain you. My favourite thing during driving is to listen to audio books. I mean, what is more beautiful than listening to an interesting story while you drive through a scenic area? I use “Audible” but depending on your native language there might be other/better options.
Another entertainment app which I love on road trips is “Netflix” (obviously not while driving). The biggest streaming provider now has a function which allows you to download movies and programmes at home and watch them later offline. “Spotify” offers something similar for music.
Rain and cold outside? Snuggle in, watch a movie, listen to music or audio book.
6. Finding good internet - Wifi Map
While it might be nice to opt for a digital detox for a couple of days, for many of us the internet is simply essential to our daily lives. It doesn’t matter if you have to send out some important work emails or if you just want to share your latest travel adventures with your friends back home.
Finding good internet can be tough on a camper trip. Hotspots apps help you to find the nearest Wi-Fi access points. Make sure you have the one that fits your needs because some just list open hotspots while others have a huge collection of passwords which were collected by thousands of other users.
My personal favourite is “Wifi Map” (Android / iOS). This App does not only list a large number of useable hotspots but also points out the direction to the nearest phone tower. So if you want to improve your connection by changing your location this helps you to find the right direction.
Best app to find Wi-Fi spots - Wifi Map.
So, these were the apps which I love to use on my road trips.
Every now and then, we come to realise that we use our phones just a little too much.
Next time that happens to you, book a campervan with us, disconnect from your daily routine and explore Europe in the best and most affordable way!