Depending on how much or little money you have to spend and how long you will be utilizing your vehicle to live or camp in, consider a few of the following basics to help you make your situation a little easier to navigate as you jump into vehicle/vandwelling. OK let’s get you started!
Your #1 priority: Does everyone have space to sleep? In most vehicles you can lay the front seats down to allow more space if needed as well as utilizing the back seat(s). For older vehicles some even choose to modify their vehicle so that the seats in back can recline to utilize the trunk area for additional sleeping space. In this way you can generally sleep two people instead of one (even in a small car). In SUVs of course the back seats lay down allowing a larger amount of space to sleep two (& possibly additionally a small child). In a van it gives you additional options. If it is one or even two people a bed can be constructed, or you can utilize the floor in addition to the reclining front seats if they are critically needed. Many vans also have a bench seat in the rear that can make an excellent bed option. Top with a comforter & few pillows and whallah!!!
Your priority #2 – Staying clean and having a place to take care of basic hygiene needs. One easy option (particularly if you stay in one area or geographical region) is to join a cheap fitness center. Planet Fitness is one fitness center with locations in many states that offer monthly fees as low as $15, and they do not require monthly contracts. There are others as well. These fitness centers and most gyms have wonderful bathrooms with large showers and electrical outlets to blow your hair dry et cetera. They are generally open from very early, typically by 5 a.m., and stay open late, most until midnight or later. Some of these fitness centers/gyms also have indoor pools, free classes & programs, and other amenities including fitness equipment parked in front of rows of flat screen TVs to view as you run on that treadmill! For a family, inquire to see if they have any type of family rates. Also, look up your local YMCA as they not only have a wide array of programs, but also family plans in most areas. Do be careful to check into all the details (read the fine print) of any option, before making your selection. If you have no other options, you can always utilize rest area bathrooms or even a fast food place to clean up until you find a better solution. Another option that I personally use is Passport America ($40 to $44 annual membership fee), an annual 50% off RV/Camping Club. They currently have right at 1800 RV Camping locations throughout the USA, Canada & Mexico. It makes a huge difference to pay $12.50 instead of $25 a night or $15 vs. $30! If you stay one night per week you are looking at an average cost of $60 per month to utilize their showers, electric and amenities. One more mention for those who travel is Travel centers. Although it is not my choice many love them for their showers (typically $7 to $10) in addition to many other options for those on the road such as wifi, coin laundry, TV lounges and though certainly not common, occasionally even a Jacuzzi!
Note: For “In-Between” showers: If you camp/overnight in more private areas (National Lands et cetera) you will want to get a sun shower bag for an easy, cheap, effective solution.
To keep hair nice and clean you may want to consider spray and/or foam hair shampoos. TREsemme’ and Suave both have products that work well and are priced $4 to $5 per can/bottle.
Other tips to get you started:
>One inexpensive way to plug in AC devices to charge (laptop, cell phone, etc.) is to get an inverter. An inverter is a small unit that plugs directly into your cigarette lighter in your vehicle. Once plugged in & turned on, it draws power directly from your car battery, so especially when you are driving somewhere, you can easily utilize that time to also be charging devices. You can find a good quality 350W to 400W inverter on amazon.com or at Walmart or many other stores for as little as $30. If you decide you will be vehicle/van-dwelling for a more extended time period and/or want to do some travel and/or camping in your vehicle/van, you will want to check into setting up a simple battery system in conjunction with your inverter. The battery can be wired to draw power to recharge itself only when the engine is running so as to keep the battery charged without drawing down your auto/truck battery. But to get you started an inverter to use in your vehicle will be a cheap easy option to utilize.
>Utilize public libraries & wifi spots to not only be able to access the internet, but also charge up laptops, cell phones & even a portable power station if you have one! If you do have a portable power unit you can power it through your vehicle or possibly at the fitness center! This option will allow you more portability when you are in or outside of your vehicle.
>Where do you park? Walmart parking lots and Travel Centers are no-brainers, but there are actually a number of other free legal places you can park, in addition to many no or low cost sites in parks & public lands. Following are three of the numerous excellent resources available, to identify some of these areas.
~FreeCampsites.net http://freecampsites.net Online directory of free and cheap (under $10) campgrounds across the USA. This site has some real finds in public forests & natural settings with some great options near water sites.
~Recreation.gov – “Explore Your America” http://www.recreation.gov/ This official site features online comprehensive listings and searches for U.S.A. recreation on public lands; includes fish hatcheries, fishing areas, historic places, campgrounds + more!
~Allstays Camp & RV is currently available for both Apple iPhone/iTouch & Android devices. I love this app and use it often! I paid $4.99 for it a couple years ago and it is hard for me to function without it! Before I go to a new area I always check it out on this app as far as Walmarts and Travel Centers there, where I can legally park overnight. Lots of info included in this app & I highly recommend it. You can also utilize Allstays free camping info on their website.
So that will get you started, and if you choose to use your vehicle for an extended camping or living option, there are many more options you have to make it a quite comfy home and enjoyable experience! ~See ya down the road!
Blessings for Your Journeys, Brenda