9 Must-Have Apps For the Van in You

9 Must-Have Apps For the Van in You

I found myself introducing these to so many people, I figured it was best to simply turn the conversation into a pingable URL.

Why 9? 9 is my lucky number. Plus, listicles of 10 are SO overrated.


(for desktop + mobile)

If any of the following apply to you:

  • You’re a visual person
  • Project management is your jam
  • You have anal-retentive tendencies
  • You Google if/when “anal retentive” necessitates a hyphen, because the difference between compound versus predicate adjectives is v. important
  • …But you’re not so anal retentive that you can’t LOL ANAL 😁
  • Your life explodes in a million different directions, and your only comfort lies in knowing that you can obsessively categorize, annotate, and prioritize all of your to-dos

…then you might want to give Trello a try! Trello is an inspired project management tool that will help you organize your entire life. I use it to keep track of everything from work projects to food shopping to travel. Also, fancy things I want to buy for my dogs.

The best thing about Trello is that it’s so flexible — you can customize it to work for you and your organizational needs/habits. You can add images, post comments, upload attachments or attach links, create checklists, add labels and due dates, and more. The collaborative features allow you create teams and assign users to specific tasks. It syncs seamlessly with the mobile app, and has an easy drag-and-drop UI. In short, it’s a Type A’s wet dream.

But how exactly does it work, you ask? The best way to understand it is to just start using it. After all, we’re talking about a tool for the visually inclined.

Here are a few example screenshots I’ve stolen to give you an idea of what’s possible:

(h/t Trello blog for the incredible use of the Red Wedding)

Here are two loosely fictionalized examples of how I use Trello:

  1. I am having an insane craving for…gumbo? idk, something that requires a bunch of ingredients. But I’m too lazy and useless to get myself to the food store. Luckily Mike is stopping by Trader Joe’s, so I add this lil’ checklist to our TJOES card. Mike simply pulls up the checklist on his phone, and ticks off the items as he acquires them.
  2. I’m traveling to…Seattle, or some other atrociously hip millennial mecca. I need a quick-and-dirty way to access all of my travel details, including confirmation codes and frequent flyer numbers. It’s a pain in the ass to pull up multiple emails on my phone all the time, so all of the relevant details live on a card called SEATTLE TRIP. I know exactly where the information lives, and it’s not lost in the sea of my inbox.

(PS: for the real power users, there are a zillion different ways you can soup up your Trello usage with power-ups, shortcuts, and other such magic — all optional.)


(for mobile)

Snapseed by Google (iTunes, Android) is one of the most powerful photo editing apps I’ve ever seen. While it’s not 1001% comprehensive for all of your editing needs, it can solve a number of photo issues that other apps can’t. I love that it’s completely non-destructive — you can reverse or refine any of your individual edits without having to undo all of them, and all changes are saved into the image so that you can re-open them at any time.

Check out this example photo. In the original photo on the left, Gilly’s face was a bit too shadowed for my liking, and I also wanted to crisp things up a bit. Ideally, I’d be a better photographer and use proper lighting at all times, but the reality is that a) I’m not and b) most of my photos are used primarily for digital (e.g. small screen) purposes. Thus, Snapseed editing will do just fine.

Here’s another example. Notice how I’ve picked up the detailing and color on Mr. Vader in right versus left pic (plus straightened it out a bit).


(for mobile)

Do you ever wonder what your dog does when you’re not home? Of course you do; it’s one of the greatest mysteries of our time. I always assumed ours invited over the neighborhood pack and threw epic ragers. But now thanks to Furbo, I know that they’re actually just little nerds who sleep and play respectfully.

We backed this on Indiegogo last year, and so far zero regrets. If you’re a pet parent who occasionally needs to leave the house without your furchild, you need this smart camera in your life.

Some of my favorite highlights:

  • Real-time streaming video of your dogs — from which you can also capture pics or record footage
  • Two-way audio — so you can hear everything AND have the option to talk to them
  • Treat-tossing capabilities — press a button on the app and Furbo launches treats of your choice
  • Bark alert detection — you can opt to receive push notifications any time someone barks, so that you can check in and make sure nobody’s trying to rob you of house and/or dog
  • Smart privacy via Bluetooth — Furbo can automatically turn on and off depending on where you are, although I’m pretty paranoid about hackers so I manually plug and unplug
  • Travel-friendly — we bring it to have peace of mind when leaving them in strange and unfamiliar places

Here’s a photo I captured of Hugo waiting in front of Furbo for a treat.

NYTimes Crossword

(for desktop + mobile)

Yeah, I’m a total nerd…but good crosswords (iTunes, Android) are one of the most satisfying brain occupiers, perfect if you need downtime with just a smidgeon of (pigeon) stimulation. They’re an exercise in cleverness, and I don’t doubt there’s some kind of mental payoff that science would back.

Annual subscription is about $40, you get your first month free, and Times subscribers get half off. Plus, the archive goes all the way back to 1993, so you can crossword your heart out.

Sphero BB-8 & Force Band

(for mobile)

I don’t really have time to explain this one because I’m too busy playing with it rn, so watch this video instead.


(for desktop + mobile)

Mint is great because it makes you feel like you’re actually DOING something about your finances, even if you’re quietly bleeding away all of your money on platform shoes, fancy donuts, and Planned Parenthood donations (DON’T FORGET TO DONATE IN HONOR OF MIKE PENCE, HE’LL GET A LOVELY CERTIFICATE AND EVERYTHING).

If you’re not familiar with Mint, it basically paints a picture of your entire financial life using all of your accounts. (All screenshots stolen from Mint, obviously).

It automatically and intelligently categorizes all of your transactions (e.g. “Groceries” or “Pharmacy” or “Eyecare”), so you can filter, sort, and see where your money goes. And if it can’t identify or picks the wrong category, you can simply teach Mint to assign certain categories to specific kinds of transactions.

All of this data can be trended over time for specific breakdowns over weeks, months, or years.

The budgeting feature allows you to set monthly budgets for any transaction category. Since you can customize your categories, this means you can budget for stuff like “Harry Potter World” (true story) or “Fancy Pet Clothes” (less accurate; in reality it’s “Pupper Top Hats”).

All transactions are taggable, sortable, and exportable, so Mint definitely comes in handy for tax purposes.

Sky Guide

(for mobile)

Sky Guide is a stargazing app that uses your iPhone’s camera to help you identify and learn about celestial bodies and objects (stars, planets, satellites, the ISS, etc.) in real-time. You can even gaze “through” the Earth to see what’s visible on the other side of the world.

Is that Mars, or just a reddish star? Now you know.

Uber or Lyft? TBD

(for mobile)

I’ve historically been a hardcore Uber user. I was a relatively early adopter, and became an active user as soon as it hit the streets of LA. I was extra motivated by some rad promotions through Capital One, from 20% cash back on every ride to $15 credits every 10th ride.

But then a biological axewound called the Trump administration befell us all, and many large companies (and their leaderships) became socially obligated to make their views known. Silence = complicity in today’s world of alternative facts and cock-sucking, motherfucking, piece-of-shitting Bannon.

Travis didn’t do too well in this respect. While some people will say the backlash was a “misinterpretation” of his/the company’s public stance, many more saw it as grossly opportunistic and cowardly — particularly members of Uber’s staff. Hundreds of thousands of users joined #DeleteUber, and I was one of them. In a deftly timed PR counterplay, Lyft promptly made a statement alongside pledging $1M in donations to the ACLU.

…But then, Uber recently attempted damage control. It seems #DeleteUber and the “Letters to Travis” (signed by Uber staff members) were enough to force Kalanick to make symbolic amends. Honestly, his position on the council would have been fine if he had just made his position super clear (h/t @elonmusk). Hopefully he, and others, have learned a valuable lesson about the power of the people.

So for the time being, I am willing to give Uber another chance. My longer-term customer loyalty remains TBD (that is, until Elon completes his tunnels).


(for mobile)

Yes, sure, fine.

What are your favorite apps?

Tell me! I want to know!


Add yours

+ Leave a Comment