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Planning an RV trip? Download these apps before you hit the road.

A variety of apps that do everything from rating highway exits to spotlighting destinations where your dog is welcome can make life easier for RV vacationers. (iStock)

Since the pandemic started, business has been booming for the RV industry. For many, RVs are an alternative way to travel safely in a controlled environment and avoid many shared public spaces such as hotels and rest area bathrooms.

“Memorial Day bookings are already up 50 percent over what they were last year and growing,” said Jon Gray, CEO of RVshare, a peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace. The platform’s booking volume tripled in the summer of 2020 compared to 2019, and it continued to increase this year, with spring break bookings up 114 percent from previous years. At the start of the pandemic, Gray notes, people were taking longer trips closer to home, but this year renters are getting more ambitious by covering longer distances.

“National parks are coming back up to the top of the list,” Gray said.

Jeff Cavins, co-founder and CEO of Outdoorsy, an RV rental marketplace, has also seen tremendous growth, with scheduled trip departures for second-quarter 2021 up 137 percent from pre-pandemic levels in second-quarter 2019. Cavins also points out that not only has the number of active app users increased (up by 279.6 percent from March 2020 to March 2021), but they are also seeing a 111 percent increase in traffic to their List Your RV webpage, where RV owners list their vehicles for rent, from January to March 2021.

A newbie RV renter learns from her mistakes — and so can you

Rental companies aren’t the only ones seeing higher traffic. RV manufacturer Airstream is also seeing a spike, according to Justin Humphreys, the vice president of sales. He reports a 19 percent increase in retail sales in 2021 compared to last year, with first-time buyers making up 56 percent of customers in the past 10 months. Despite six weeks of stay-at-home orders, retail sales at dealerships were up 22 percent last year, Humphreys said, and currently, 90 percent of the inventory sent to dealers already have a customer’s name on it.

“We feel like we’ve pressed fast-forward on awareness and consideration of our category [of RV travel] by about five years,” Gray said about the effect of the pandemic on the industry. “When we kind of set out to build RVshare, we wanted to build it into a mainstream category of travel. And the pandemic just kind of cast what we do in a light of [how] … this is a better way to get out and spend time in nature.”

Whether you’re a first-time renter or longtime RV owner, here is a list of nine apps available on iOS and Android to help you safely navigate the road, save money and find interesting places to visit.

●RV Life (Free for iOS and Android; in-app purchases)

One of the main perks of the RV Life app is the RV Safe GPS. Simply enter details about your vehicle and it provides turn-by-turn directions to help with low clearances and propane-restricted tunnels. After a seven-day free trial, this feature, along with a cloud-based RV maintenance log and trip planning wizard, are available for a monthly ($19.99) or annual ($49.99) subscription.

●Harvest Hosts (Free for iOS and Android; in-app purchases)

An alpaca farm run by nuns, an award-winning brewpub and a dinosaur museum are just a few of the places RVers can stay with the Harvest Hosts app. Its annual $99 membership includes free one-night stays at more than 2,100 host sites across the United States. (Golf lovers can opt for the $139 membership that includes 397 golf courses and country clubs.) Since facilities vary per location, RVs must be self-contained with bathrooms, water tanks and cooking facilities.

For a newbie driver, the RV was her classroom and her subject matter

●Coverage? (Free for iOS and Android; in-app purchases)

Since campground Wi-Fi isn’t always reliable, the Coverage? app makes it easy to find cell service to aid with travel planning and working remotely. It compiles cellular coverage maps for all major carriers in the United States and Canada with layered maps showing options for 5G, LTE and roaming. Both the free and paid ($2.99) versions of the app include the ability to search by location or Zip code. HD maps are available for a $5.99 annual subscription.

●iExit (Free for iOS and Android; in-app purchases)

The iExit app is an extremely detailed interstate exit guide helping travelers find the cheapest gas, restaurants and rates for same-day accommodation. The detailed search features include filters for fuel type, food categories, and lodging including pet or family-friendly options. Most importantly, there’s also a category for coffee!

●Maps.me (Free for iOS and Android)

Offline maps are a must for RVing. Maps.me provides offline access to an extensive worldwide network of searchable maps with turn-by-turn navigation to 60 million users. Detailed points of interest and hiking trails set this free app apart from competitors. All maps are based on OpenStreetMap data. Another bonus is the simple interface.

●Roadtrippers (Free for iOS and Android)

The highlight of this free app are the detailed trip guides, such as the RV-specific road trips to a variety of destinations including Olympic National Park and Texas Hill Country, organized by driving time and mileage. The guides are also organized by themes, such as top things to do on major interstates and where to find filming locations for popular movies and TV shows. The map feature allows users to search by category, such as sites for photo ops and food en route to the destination. To eliminate ads, opt for the Roadtrippers Plus subscription ($29.99/year), which includes offline maps, live traffic and travel discounts.

●Bring Fido (Free for iOS and Android; in-app purchases)

If you’re thinking about traveling with your dog, then Bring Fido is a helpful resource. Search by location to see what restaurants, activities and events are pet friendly. Users rate locations on a pup-centric system of dog bones instead of stars, with five bones being the highest rating. The services feature includes nearby vets and groomers.

●US Public Lands ($2.99 on iOS and Android)

According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. government owns over 640 million acres of land, and a large portion is available for public use. This app offers offline map access to shared public land boundaries along with detailed information about which government agency owns the land, and provides links to the agency’s website so users can research land-use rules. This is extremely helpful since some public land, including areas run by the Bureau of Land Management, allow free dispersed camping away from developed facilities.

●Togo RV (Free for iOS and Android; in-app purchases)

Aside from campground locaters, this app digs a bit deeper to offer repair and educational resources, including expert advice from its Togo University. These features include locator tools for mobile RV technicians and tires. The $39.99 annual premium membership includes in-app directions based on RV size. Two of the main program perks are a free annual membership to both OvernightRVParking.com, a database of free parking locations, and Roadtrippers Plus, a trip guide app mentioned above. Both memberships are $29.99 each annually.

Mazurek is a writer based in Austin. Her website is TravelLikeAnna.com. Find her on Instagram: @annamazurekphoto.

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