We started our camper van rentals company in Calgary to share the van life experience with the world! Our team wants your vacation to be a memorable success (one peak at our van life tips & tricks blogs proves it). Lots of clients ask what travel apps they should use in Canada. So we made a list of the best travel apps in Canada for your travelling pleasure.
Experiencing van life is both a fascinating and exhilarating idea that will put you a little out of your comfort zone. And, you'll be all the better for it!
The travel apps for travel in Canada that we recommend are both free and earned the NATS stamp of approval. Tested and proven by yours truly, here’s a list of what apps we love to travel with:
The Weather Network
Topo Maps Canada
Below is the explanation why.
The Best Van Life Travel Apps
Two free apps for RV travel are iOverlander and FreeRoam. These are the #vanlife's best travel apps in Canada. They "do it all”. On our trips, we often open iOverlander and FreeRoam.
Both have helped us find:
Disclaimer: Please keep in mind these databases are based on user generated content. So, some submissions may no longer be--or may never have been accurate.
Avoid issues by reading visitor comments. If you read many comments about difficulty parking or highway noise, continue searching. On the flip side, if most reviews reference only a beautiful sunset, it’s probably fine.
iOverlander is typically our first point of reference.
What is iOverlander? It’s an easy to use dashboard whose icons represent everything you need on a road trip. You will find gas stations, propane refills, water hookups, dump stations, Wi-Fi and campsites, along with other less common requests.
We love iOverlander to find off-grid sleeping spots.
First, we browse the area to see what van lifers recommend. Then, we match that location with Google Maps and search for a nearby field, park, school, or public building.
We prefer parking where one side of the street is not residential–you bug fewer people that way.
Disclaimer: Off-grid camping is strictly prohibited in national and provincial parks.
FreeRoam and iOverlander are similar. Both check all the boxes for planning a successful road trip. FreeRoam gives and allows you to filter on additional details. For example, you can filter campgrounds by amenities, reviews, rig length, and crowdedness in particular.
Travellers often worry about wi-fi or cell service. FreeRoam has a feature just for this. You can overlay cell phone carriers onto the map. Another overlay feature is the firesmoke layer. As we’ve seen many fires in the past few years, this feature is becoming increasingly helpful during bad air quality conditions.
Apps For A Set Travel Purposes
Local Weather Forecasts
You may hear Albertans say “Don’t like the weather? Wait five minutes!” Funny, but the truth is Albertan climate is difficult to predict. Do yourself a favour and bring a backup jacket or sweater if you’re going into the wilderness. Extra layers are lightweight to carry and worth whatever burden in case a storm catches you.
I caution everyone when it comes to mountain weather. You can experience all 4 seasons on a summer day in the mountains.
The Weather Network
The Weather Network is a basic weather forecaster app. It gives an hourly breakdown along with a 14 day forecast. It's also a great place to get notifications for things like "Wind Warning", "Heat Warning", "Severe Thunderstorm" and so on.
A word of caution: any forecast over a few days away may change.
Windy.app is not as simple as the Weather Network but more fun for data visualization nerds like us. For example, you can study the wind speed in the area you are going to. Since vans are not aerodynamically built (big rectangular box), we avoid driving when wind gusts are quite above 75km/hour.
Get real time wind, wind gusts, precipitation and accumulated precipitation models. For surfers, check out swell data with the premium package or try the app MSM (Magicseaweed).
Cheap Fuel Near Me
You could nickname Gas Buddy the “Wallet Buddy”. After all, the most variable cost in camper van rentals is fuel. Wallet Buddy can help save precious cents on fuel. This is especially handy as fuel prices increase.
The interface is straightforward to use. Search for the cheapest fuel near you by applying a filter for location and fuel type. You can also filter on gas station amenities like ATMs, pay phone, diesel, lottery, car wash and so on.
The Shell App
Save 3 cents per litre at any Shell station. Pay for fuel or collect air miles without leaving your car with Shell EasyPay. Easy to keep track of all receipts in the apps too.
Hiking and Outdoor Activities
AllTrails is one of the best known hiking apps on the market. So widely used, it’s a reliable source for up-to-date information on local hikes. Plus, hikers post pictures and reviews of the hikes which give you additional pieces of advice about the mountain conditions.
Find hikes, rank their difficulties, read directions to the trailhead, and see weather forecasts. It’s an all-in-one package.
We’ve used this guy countless times brainstorming day hikes close to Calgary.
Topo Maps Canada
We love Topo Maps Canada–it’s basic, efficient, effective. Download specific zones while in cell service. Once you download the area, zoom further to see the trails and topographic detail.
Then, this app works with no cell reception. The software uses GPS so you can see where you are on the path. Also beneficial is the map's ruler tool. Their ruler tool measures how much hike you have left with a swipe of the finger.
Word of warning: using this interface requires a sprinkle of navigational skills.
Like AllTrails, FATMAP lists recommended routes along with their difficulty levels. The really neat component is the 3 dimensional view. You’ll get a detailed glimpse of the area in advance and truly know what to expect.
The home screen allows you to filter on your favourite van life activities–hiking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing to name a few. Other overlays show details like aspects, distance measurements and elevation profiles.
What’s the downside? It’s only available with cell service or an internet connection. So, search for your next trail in the breakfast line at Mcdonald's. The van life loves Mcdonald's for breakfast, by the way. There’s cheap breakfast, great coffee, clean bathrooms and (of course) free wifi.
Save and Sort Tourist Attractions
Google Maps Saved Lists
Google Maps is a one stop shop for creating travel itineraries! We find it helpful for those moments when your schedule is free and you’re unsure how to fill it.
Here’s an example. You’re driving Highway 93 from Banff to Jasper. That highway hosts endless viewpoints and tourist hot spots. You don’t want to forget your top picks so you save to a “Van Life 93” list outlining your requested pit stops. As you’re driving, Google will populate the map with your bookmarked locations. It can also show you the areas you have bookmarked and their relative position to your GPS location.
How to use Google Maps saved lists
Create a list: touch the bookmark looking button in the bottom nav bar in your Google Maps. This will bring you to the “Your Lists” tab. Hit the plus button to create a list.
Save to a list: there are a few ways to do this. The easiest is to click the “save” link (it looks like a bookmark) below a tourist spot’s description. That action brings up your list of lists (no pun intended). Select whichever one works with your organization method.
Review a list: when looking at the catalogue of lists, you can click right into one to view everything saved under it.
Hit The Road
If a camper van rental or road trip in the Canadian Rocky Mountains interest you, please contact New Age Travel and Services. We love the #vanlife and want to share its adVANtages with the world! For any other questions about camper van rentals, contact us directly.
Email email@example.com or rent a camper van online, today.