Finding overnight parking anywhere

Vehicles parked for the day

Finding a good place to park is always an ongoing concern. Rather than finding one perfect place to park every night (until the day comes that you can’t park there anymore), it’s best to scope out several options and rotate between them.

If you don’t need access to city amenities, there are many campgrounds and national forests where you can park for a few days for free or a small permit fee. If you need to stay closer to civilization, things will get a bit more complicated. Most large cities have a dearth of free street parking. Even as you move out to the more spacious suburbs and smaller towns, local ordinances may prohibit overnight parking. (And this is rarely posted!)

Street parking

Take care when parking in residential neighborhoods without the permission or knowledge of homeowners. In an urban neighborhood with dense housing/apartments and a lot of random vehicles, it’s fairly easy to blend in. One drawback, unfortunately, is that there tend to be a lot of vehicle break-ins in urban residential zones. Out in the suburbs or small towns where there are only a few (or no) other vehicles on the street, it’s essential to avoid letting anyone realize you’re sleeping in there. Let them assume you’re just someone’s family member spending the night.

Take note whenever you see other vans parking somewhere. Two or three work vans on the side of the road are actually less conspicuous than one. (Unless that one other van is sitting in front of the owner’s home; then they will wonder what you are up to.)

Parking lots and ramps

Private off-street parking lots or parking ramps can be a good choice if you don’t have to use them every night. Overnight parking usually costs a few dollars per night, however, which quickly adds up. Poorly supervised parking lots may be cheaper but also attract vehicle break-ins, which can be a terrifying (or worse!) experience when you are alone inside your van as someone tries to break in.

Chain stores

Large chain stores, especially those that are open 24 hours, sometimes look the other way when a customer/traveler naps in the back of the parking lot, but they definitely will not allow someone to literally homestead in their parking lots over a period of time. If overnight campers have been a problem at a store in the past, the management may proactively kick sleepers out. Unfortunately, there is no way to know what will be the case for a given store without personal experience or learning by word of mouth.

Long-term parking

If you plan to stay in one locale for a month or more and have some money to spend on parking, look on sites like Craigslist for people offering a room for rent. You may find someone with a large yard or driveway who would be willing to rent a spot for $100 a month or so. This can be a hard sell, as it’s rather creepy to know that some stranger is sleeping in a van out in the yard. However, you won’t be sleeping in their house, which is a plus. You would also be adding a layer of security to the home because you’re more likely to hear any mischief in the night.