A huge part of the pleasure project of living in a VW camper is waking up to a brand-new sight each day. Whether the lulling sound of the surf, the shadows moving across mountains, the stillness of a lake, or the outskirts of a city – life on the road is never short of adventure. But one of the challenges the BusLife crowd can face is the never-ending question of where to sleep. Some people think its as simple as pulling over and piling into bed. While it can be that simple sometimes, the reality is often a lot 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 neighbours, and just about everything in-between. We break down how to find the perfect overnight parking spot for getting some serious BusLife shut-eye without the struggle.
In the Wild
Those who are able to go off-grid in their classic 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 van 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 its completely dark so you have some time to settle in.
Do…Know the 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. This may not be the case across the pond in Europe.
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.
In the City
Urban parking is often better for those travelling in stealth style campervans but even in a classic VW Bus you can get away with it if you practice the right techniques. Parking up in Walmart’s or on supermarket carparks is often OK for an overnight stop and it’s not unusual to see other BusLifers parked up there either. They 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. The benefits 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 neighbourhoods 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 moved on.
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.
- Follow your instincts – if a place feels wrong, then keep moving, there will always be another spot.
- Invest in a little extra VW classic camper 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 van then speak clearly and concisely and let them know what you are doing. Most law enforcement officers won’t have a problem with van dwellers. 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.
The buslife community is pretty forward about sharing knowledge and helping their fellow van dwellers 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.
Park4night (UK and Europe)
Allstays (US and Canada)