One of the big challenges of van life is where to park. Check out these best tips for finding a safe place to park your campervan overnight that’s cheap or even free!
The great thing about traveling in a van is there are so many options and lots of places where you can park and stay. A smaller van is much easier to maneuver than a large RV, and people rarely suspect you are staying in them. This gives you many options when traveling to find cheap or even free campsites and places to stay.
Below is our list of the best places to park your camper van in the United States.
Van Life: Where To Park Your Campervan Overnight
Keep reading to learn about the best spots to park your van overnight, where you can park your van for free, how long you can stay, what van life parking app to use, and more! Welcome to your ultimate guide to van life parking!
1. BLM And National Forest
Camping on BLM land and National Forests is always our best option when looking for places to stay. This is because they are typically more secluded, and you are not so close to other people. Even if you are at a popular and well know boondocking area, you are still not as close to each other as you will be in most RV parks, and you should be able to find a little bit more remote area to park your van.
BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and National Forest allow you to stay at developed campgrounds or on public lands away from developed recreation facilities – this is called dispersed camping (certain rules apply). It is generally allowed on public land for a period not exceeding 14 days within 28 consecutive days.
The BLM and National Forest areas give you lots of options. If one spot looks too crowded for your taste, you can typically travel farther down the road and find a less busy option. This is because it is common for people not from around the area to go to the first and closest option.
In most cases, there will be limited to no amenities here. A hammock with a stand or a pop-up picnic table will make your outdoor living space more comfortable.
Some great resources to know if you are on BLM or National Forest land are onX Hunt. While it was created to help hunters know where they are hunting and if they were in the correct area, the same information helps those who boondock.
If you are in BLM or a National Forest and you do not see a sign telling you not to camp, you will likely be able to camp there. OnX is a paid service that takes public information and makes it easy to find.
2. Overnight Camping In Commercial Parking Lots
This is a reasonable option if you are in the city. Many large stores will allow people to camp in their parking lots.
The most well-known is Walmart. However, because this is such a well-known option, many Walmart parking lots have started not allowing you to park in their lot. It is hit-and-miss. Some Walmarts allow it, and some do not. It depends on where you are.
Feel free to call the manager and ask for the rules. If the manager says no, ask if they know of other options. Ask the local residents for as much information as you can. They are a great resource.
Some better options that are less well-known are Cabela, Sportsman’s, Bass Pro Shop, Cracker Barrel, and Camping World. These are all locations that allow for overnight camping in their parking lots. It is always best practice to call the store and ask the manager to prevent getting woken up in the middle of the night.
Some useful van life app apps, such as Allstays Camp and RV, are other resources that can help.
3. Truck Stops
Truck stops, such as Loves, Flying J, or TA, are excellent locations for overnight parking. They exist to allow truckers a location to get food, fuel, showers, and a place to rest. These locations are open for truck drivers and others who need a place to rest while on the road.
Truck stop locations can be intimidating, but once you stay for a couple of times, you will feel more confident. If you have questions, call ahead and speak with the manager. They are glad to help and ensure you get into the right location.
These can be great options if you get into a location late. The lighting is really good, so it is easy to find a spot to park in the dark. Do keep in mind the lights stay on all night, and you will hear vehicle noise most of the time you are there.
Casinos are another fantastic option. Many casinos allow free or relatively cheap camping towards the back of their parking lot. Some will have dump stations, but most will not have hookups unless you pay for them, like an RV park.
The one downside to casinos is they are not as prevalent as many other options. Many states do not allow for casinos, but they are randomly in states that do not allow them because they are allowed on many Indian reservations.
5. Urban Camping
Urban camping is when you park along a residential street that allows cars to be parked. This is a unique option that many van dwellers might not consider when parking in urban areas.
This is a great option that is almost exclusive to a camping van. Because vans can be used for many different purposes, they can be parked along city streets and other vehicles. This means you can sleep or live in your van for a time before being asked to move.
The important part of this type of street parking or camping is if you look like you are camping there, you will most likely be asked to leave. However, if you are discreet and do not stay in a location for too long, you are legal and won’t have any issues.
Some people love this option, while others do not like it as much because you are right in the middle of everything with this option. You can have people walking by and lots of light pollution, but if you are looking for a good camping option for a time period and want a free place to crash, this is a winner.
6. Rest Stops
Rest stops are an option, but they are a more limited option. They are best used if you are driving on the interstate at night. Rest areas are for people who are traveling and need to rest. Most rest areas allow you to stay for up to 12 hours as long as you are not camping.
Camping is when you pull out a tent or set up items outside your van or vehicle. If you are staying in your van and not camping but just staying in the rest stop for the night, rest areas were made to allow people who are traveling a place to use the bathroom and rest when they are tired. This makes them a good van stopping point on your way to your destination.
These are good options if you plan on using a rest stop or looking for a place to stay while you are on the interstate. A few ways to find where a rest stop is located are by using Google Maps or the USA rest stop locator.
7. Private Property Campsites
There are options for camping in your van on private property, such as Hipcamp, Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, and RV parks. This type of camping allows for a wide range of options, but in some manner or another, they typically cost some amount.
The range of costs can be anywhere between 0 dollars to 100+ dollars a night. This depends on where you are looking to stay and how many options are in your area.
Your typical RV park will be your most expensive but easiest option when it comes to private campgrounds. Some other great options include Hipcamp, Harvest Hosts, or Boondockers Welcome. Each of these options works differently, and you should get to know them if you are a person who is going to be traveling around in their van.
RV parks will also have more amenities like laundry facilities, hookups like water, sewer, and power, along with bathrooms and showers. Some RV parks also have swimming pools, game rooms, picnic areas, and playgrounds. RV parks make a perfect setting for roasting smores on your propane fire pit and enjoying your destination.
Each option is a great way to find a viable location to camp in your van, and you can stay for a varying number of nights. Unlike a rest stop where you can only stay for 12 hours, these options allow for much longer stays, but they will typically cost some money.
8. Campgrounds At State And National Parks
National and State Park campgrounds are some of the best camping options in some of the most beautiful places at the lowest costs.
Many State parks cost anywhere from 15 dollars a night to around 80 dollars a night depending on location, but you will typically see the cost being less than 50 dollars a night.
There are so many beautiful campsites on the Oregon Coast that are part of state parks.
Yosemite National Park has ten campgrounds that can accommodate RVs.
If you are looking to stay at a State or National Park, it is typically best to plan ahead. Many locations are very popular and can be booked up for months or years in advance.
This means many times, they do not make good last-minute options but don’t always count them out if it is last minute because some of them do not allow reservations and function on a first come, first served basis or if they do have reservations at times, they keep certain parts of the park open for FCFS camping.
If you are considering staying at a State or National Park, check out the Recreation website. You will quickly get to know this website if you do much traveling because the government has many options for places to camp, and they are often very economical.
What About Parking Your Van At The Hotel Parking Lots?
When it comes to sleeping in hotel parking lots, it’s not a great idea as it’s private property meant for hotel guests.
You will hear or read about van dwellers who get away with free overnight stealth camping in hotel parking lots. They usually choose two or three-star chain hotels, show up after dark, and leave early in the morning.
However, it’s illegal and not advisable unless you have permission from the hotel’s staff.
FAQ: Finding The Best Places To Park Your Van Overnight
Can I park my camper van anywhere?
No, you cannot park a van anywhere. You must be considerate of others and know where you are parking. If you follow our above camping options, you will have plenty of places to stay for any trip.
Where can I find van life parking?
Overnight RV parking is easier than you might think. This does not mean you can park in one location for months or even multiple weeks at a time, but there are many options.
We have created a comprehensive list of the best options for van life camping for both full-time experienced van lifers and those of you who are new to the van lifestyle and are about to set off on a road trip in your first van.
How can I save money on where I stay in my van?
You can save money on staying in your van by educating yourself on your options for free camping. There are numerous free camp spot options, but remember that many only allow for 14 days before you have to leave. Many options are much less than 14 days. If you are camping on BLM, they sometimes allow boondocking for more than 14 days.
Van Life: Where To Park Your Campervan Overnight – Conclusion
The best way to make van life a fun and exciting adventure is to eliminate the biggest concerns, such as not finding a good place to park overnight. The better educated you are on the different options for camping, the more money you will save.
These options will help you save a lot of money. When you can find cheap or free places to stay, you can spend this extra money on things you love instead.
If you are new to van life, try out options close to you. Get a feel for what it will be like and do some planning, and you will have a great time making your full-time van life dreams come true!
If you are looking for an app that will make your van life easier, a good option is iOverlander. It’s an outdoor travel app with a global directory of campsites, RV parks, filling stations, dump stations, and other useful facilities for van dwellers.
About The Author Of “Van Life: Where To Park Your Campervan Overnight”
Candice is the main contributor to the CS Ginger Travel Blog. She travels the United States with her husband and three kids in their motorhome. They love visiting national parks and coasts.
I hope you have enjoyed this article from Candice, and it will make it easier to find the best spots to park your van.
In recent years, the van life movement has taken off, with more and more people hitting the open road in search of freedom, flexibility, and adventure. And while van life certainly isn’t for everyone, there are plenty of reasons why it’s an attractive lifestyle choice.
One of the biggest advantages of van life is that it can help you save money on housing costs. If you own your own van, you can live rent-free by parking in free camping spots or boondocking on federal land. Even if you occasionally have to pay for campsites or RV parks, it’s still cheaper than renting or owning a traditional home.
With a traditional home, you’re pretty much stuck in one place. But when you live in a van, you can travel wherever your heart desires. If you get tired of one location, pack up and head to another. Van life allows you to come and go as you please without worrying about subletting or breaking a lease.
When living in a van, you must be very intentional about what items you bring because space is limited. This forces you to declutter your life and only keep absolutely essential things. As a result, van lifers often report feeling lighter, freer, and less burdened by material possessions. And let’s be honest – who doesn’t want that?
One of the best things about van life is that it allows you to connect with nature in a way impossible when living in a traditional home. Living surrounded by nature makes it easy to disconnect from technology and slow the pace of life. For many people, this is a huge selling point of the van life lifestyle. If you’re looking to reset and recharge, van life could be perfect.
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Before you go, you may also want to check out the article: 7 THINGS I WISH I’D KNOWN BEFORE LIVING IN AN RV.
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