How to Find Overnight Parking Spots

vanlife community

A huge part of the pleasure of living in a VW Bus is waking up in brand new parking spots every day. Home can be absolutely anywhere and whether the lulling sound of the surf or the outskirts of a city draws you – life on the road is never short of an adventure. However, one of the challenges Buslifers can face is the never-ending question of where to sleep.

Sometimes it’s as simple as pulling over and piling into bed. Realistically, it is often slightly more complicated. Those who don’t put any thought into where they drop anchor may find their blissful sleep interrupted. Think law enforcement knocks, barking dogs, irate neighbors, and just about everything in-between. In this article, we break down how to find the perfect overnight parking spot for getting some serious shut-eye without the struggle.

Parking spots in the wild

Those who are able to go off-grid in their VW Buses may find some of their most magical spots out in the wilds. A huge part of Buslife is getting back to Mother Nature. The world is brimming with rare and natural spots that will welcome you with open arms. Beaches, forests, and areas of outstanding beauty have the added bonus of often being off the beaten track, quiet, and stunning to wake up to. It’s also much easier to take bathroom breaks in the wild. Another bonus is you don’t have to hide out in your bus as you won’t be disrupting anyone. At first, it can feel a little isolated wild camping so our top tip is to always turn up before it’s completely dark so you have some time to settle in.

Do…know the parking law

Depending on where you are in the world, the law pertaining to overnight parking may change. Across the United States and Canada, there are national forests and parks that allow you to stay for free. However, in many urban areas sleeping in a vehicle overnight is actually illegal. In truth the legalities of parking change from country to country. If you are at all unsure, check with the local authorities before traveling.

Don’t…Leave a Mess

It goes without saying, that the wild should be left as pristine as can be. Buslifers have a duty to their community to leave no trace so that everyone can continue to enjoy mother nature as she was meant to be. How parking spots are left will also play a role in how the laws in the area are too. For example, Portugal recently banned wild camping because of the environmental degradation from trash and excrement. We’ve written a great article about reducing your waste on the road, which will be helpful to read. The less waste you have, the less you can leave at parking spots!

Parking spots in the city

Urban parking is often better for those traveling in stealth-style campers but even in a VW Bus, you can get away with it if you practice the right techniques. Parking up in Walmart’s or in supermarket car parks is often OK for an overnight stop and it’s not unusual to see other Buslifers parked up there either. These parking spots can be noisy but picking supermarkets that are open around the clock are a great option. These 24-hour stops come with the bonus of a restroom in the middle of the night.

Of course, the dream is to wake up in tranquility, but sometimes a city stop is needed. The benefit of city and urban overnighting is that you get to be close to all your morning amenities like coffee and fuel before hitting the road. You are also guaranteed to have cell service.

Do…research the city

Urban street parking is a little trickier and you should make sure that you do a little research prior to committing to a park-up. Find out which neighborhoods you should definitely avoid -either because they are too rough or too nice. The former may put you at risk and the latter has a higher likelihood of you being reported to the authorities.

If you don’t mind paying, sometimes blending into paid overnight parking spots if a safe go-to in the city. Alternatively, you can head a little bit out of the main city and into the suburbs where it’s possible to find free parking.

Unlike nature parking, where it is best to arrive early, in the city it can be a good practice to park late and leave early. Scout out your parking spots earlier in the day and then head back after dinner.

Don’t…hang out where you sleep

This is true for city and urban parking, if you wake, play, and sleep in the same parking spot your odds of being moved on are much higher. Try not to park directly in front of a house and pick downtown areas where least likely to stand out – think late-night bars, hospitals, churches, etc. The most important tip for VW Buses going urban is to make sure you have good blackout curtains for privacy, security, and simply getting a better night’s sleep.

Top tips for finding parking spots

  • Follow your instincts. If a place feels wrong, then keep moving, there will always be another spot.
  • Invest in a little extra VW Bus security. Keep doors locked but maybe avoid deadbolts and wheel-locks while sleeping should you need to move on swiftly in the middle of the night.
  • If the police do knock on your bus then speak clearly and concisely and let them know what you are doing. Most law enforcement officers won’t have a problem with Buslifers. They may just tell you to move on once they know you aren’t committing shady business.
  • Meet other people in the Buslife community to share hints, tips, and details about where to sleep.

Incredible apps for finding parking spots

The Buslife community is pretty forward about sharing knowledge and helping their fellow Buslifers to find spots, there are a ton of apps for that purpose. Here are a few of our favorites to help you find the best place to lay your head on a pillow.

Do you have any other tips for finding overnight parking spots? Share them in the comments and help you fellow Buslifers!

Jodie Oakes
Author: Jodie Oakes

1 Comment
  1. […] Are we there yet? You don’t want to listen to that all the time when you live on the road with kids. So, to manage bladders, moods, and expectations, you should schedule your stops. Ideally, you should aim to stop every two and a half hours or so. This lets everyone stretch their legs, visit the restroom, and just release some pent up energy. If you have young children, packing a potty is a wise move. They need to visit the restroom more often and rather than stopping to accommodate them, a potty can save you time. It’s inexpensive and easy to deal with. When you plan your stops, don’t always plan traditional rest stops and services. There are other stops you can choose from, such as parks. For overnight stops check out this guide to finding overnight parking. […]

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