More tips for sleeping in your vehicle while traveling

Today is the first post in a new occasional series offering Road Trip Tips. Future installments will focus on traveling on a $7/day food budget and finding must-have gadgets for the road.

For today, I want to revisit a topic I first wrote about on Matador Abroad – how to sleep in your vehicle while traveling – and to provide an introduction to vandwelling. This post is obviously directed to road-trippers who do not own an RV. If you’ve got an RV, you’re five steps ahead.

Sleeping in your vehicle is not glamorous. But it’s a great way to stretch your budget. I won’t rehash the tips I mentioned in the Matador article. Instead, I’ll offer a few additional tips and answer some FAQs.

What is vandwelling?

Vandwelling is the basic term to describe living, traveling and/or sleeping in vehicles. There are numerous vandwelling blogs and resources out there. The documentary ‘Rubber Tramps‘ is a great profile of vandwellers who have pimped out their rides to the point that they become home.

For the average person, it’s not necessary to go to those lengths. I traveled in a simple conversion van with a couch that folded into a bed. I wasn’t a true vandweller since my experience was temporary.

How do you go to the bathroom in your vehicle?

Since you’re not in an RV, you won’t have a toilet inside your vehicle. So where to answer nature’s call?

I always try to use department stores or fast food bathrooms. At some point, though, you’ll need relief in the middle of the night, in which case, the pee bottle is your friend. Believe it or not, this works for the ladies, too. You can find portable female urinals on Amazon.

As for going #2, vandwellers sometimes fashion what could be described as “human litter boxes,” but that was a bit extreme for me. I stuck to public restrooms for that purpose.

What’s the best place to park?

I touched on this in the Matador article. You can sleep almost anywhere in your vehicle. The best place is a busy neighborhood with lots of on-street parking. You want to be in an area that is crowded enough that your new vehicle won’t stand out.

Large shopping malls usually have security vehicles that drive around the lot at night, but smaller strip malls typically do not, so they can be a good option. Walmarts sometimes work, as well.

Other vandwelling/car-sleeping links

You can find a ton of interesting resources for vandwelling and sleeping in your vehicles. I few that I followed regularly: A Year in a Car, How to Convert a Van, and Stealth Van Dweller.


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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Seattle-based journalist and blogger who puts a quirky spin on travel adventures around the world. He has been featured in Travel + Leisure, Connect Magazine, Matador Travel, and the Washington Post.

11 comments on “More tips for sleeping in your vehicle while traveling

    • Hmm, I haven’t heard of that but it would definitely save space! I’ve never slept in a hammock so I’m not sure what the comfort level would be.

    • Hello!
      I’ve been a rubber tramp of late to cut down on college expenses, and I can attest to the comfort of a hammock, although I have some stipulations. Do not get an American hammock, by which I mean something made of rope with two stabilizing bars. There is a reason they flip. Try something like the stuff you can find at Trek light, or any of the Mexican/Latin American/ Asian styled hammocks. Also, if you’re looking to hook it up inside the van, check out this video. A buddy of mind drilled bolts into his van’s roof and it’s forever leaking. This idea is much better.

  1. Recently I’ve looked into doing this as well. The hammocks would definitely save on space. Last week I read an article about sleeping in hammocks and I learned that not only is it just as comfortable, but it’s also better for your back & body.
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