Where do you park your van?


*After posting this I did a search and found some good information in a few posts. I still think it would be nice to have just a list of ideas for places to park for quick reference if anyone wants to contribute.*

I just wanted to see if anyone has any ideas for potential places to park for free while travel nursing if I were to live in a van? Some ideas so far that might be temporary and maybe not worth the effort:

My first choice would be asking the hospital I get contracted to if they would allow me to park overnight on campus. But if not...

Wal-Mart parking lot

Local airport parking lot

Fellow nurses' homes- maybe just for short periods of time?

State or National parks?- Not sure if this is possible

If staying for free doesn't seem possible, RV parks would be the next choice I guess.

Anyone have any other ideas?

Argo posted in another thread:

There are companies that allow free parking regularly..... I stayed in a Cabellas lot for 2 months(couple nights a week across from hospital), Bass Pro Shops, Walmart, Lowes, rest stops, camping world, BLM/Forrest Service Land is always free as long as you stay off the service road and certain distance from highway/creeks.....

Another user mentioned Vandwellers.org


1 Article; 5,766 Posts

Street parking (boondocking) is legal in most places, it would only be a city that might have a law against it. So unincorporated parts of counties are more likely to be legal than a city. That said, industrial areas could be best as residential areas may call the police and they will ask you to move just for community relations. From what I can see here in California, parking an RV or sleeping in a vehicle is legal everywhere. Sometimes there is a length or height parking restriction.

I don't have an RV myself, but have traveler friends who do and the topic is interesting to me. I recently had a discussion at a Lucky's supermarket about RV's parking in their lot and learned a couple of things. They had their own parking lot and so could kick boondockers off of property under their control. Across the street was a Safeway grocery store, but it shared the parking lot with several other stores. Thus they could not kick out the RVs (perhaps the property owner could). I've been is this one California town for 12 weeks now, and there is still a beat up RV or two sitting in the parking lot beside the Safeway.

I do boondock in my car a good bit and the biggest hassle is being awoken by police. Like most people, I like it dark and quiet for sleeping. But those areas are exactly where you stick out and either the police notice you, or a nearby neighbor will call. I've never had a problem parking in a residential area with other cars or in industrial areas (even in carefully chosen private lots). Churches are often a great place to park off street. Sometimes I will search Google maps for churches and cruise a couple looking for a dark lot without a residence on site. Very quiet and I've never been checked by the police at a church. But I'm fussy about where I park - whereas the large homeless population in our country with wheels seem to get away with it anywhere they please. But I have more to lose than they do.

Your best info will come from the two very large RV forums online. Google or look at PanTraveler's useful links page.


7,735 Posts

Specializes in retired LTC.

I'm reminded of the old TV show "Trapper John, MD" with Pernell Roberts and Gregory Harrison as DR Gonzo Gates, his sidekick.

Gonzo used to park his van in the hospital parking lot.


1 Article; 5,766 Posts

It is not that uncommon for hospitals to have a few RV hookups. They are intended for family of patients, but there is often a traveler using one of them. Sometimes for free.


50 Posts

Specializes in L&D. Has 4 years experience.

Great thread!!!! í ½í±í ¼í¿¼ I think everything is covered here. I enjoyed reading as my family and I have camped/#vanlife all over the south west and it's been wonderful. But because we live in a camper most of the year I love love love to stretch my limbs in a rental house while I'm doing a contract. Good luck! Hopefully the community where u work will respect your choice to live in your van.

Follow up questions:

Have you ever heard a manager say they would be less likely to hire someone living out of a vehicle? I'm thinking they wouldn't need to know and shouldn't care.

Have you worked in hospitals that didn't allow access to showers?

In talking to a few travelers and staff nurses at my current hospital, they said some larger hospitals only allow badge access to peri-op showers for peri-op nurses. That would put a wrinkle in van living.

Also, off topic, but NedRN you said you boondock a lot. I'm curious what the situation is when you do this if it isn't for travel assignments. I always look for somewhere to put a tent/hammock when on the road.


1,221 Posts

Specializes in Peri-Op. Has 10 years experience.

Most hospitals i have worked at is badge access for periop. I am periop so it doesn't matter much. Any place I have worked could care less about where I stayed. My next assignment has an rv lot. I have been on a few that had rv lots and allowed me to stay.


1 Article; 5,766 Posts

Where you might be staying on an assignment is never brought up in the hospital interview unless the traveler brings it up.

Hospitals that don't allow access to showers? That cannot be a hospital policy. Besides ER and OR (yes, you might have to have badge access for reliable entry), most patient rooms have showers and there are always empty ones, and closed ones, and call rooms. But you certainly cannot count on those before you arrive, and yes, if you bring that question up in an interview, you are unlikely to be hired. Frankly it is unusual for anyone to ever use ER or OR showers in my experience. Some hospitals have gyms they allow travelers to use, and those are good places to take showers. Sponge baths work as well as showers, you just need a locked bathroom anywhere (not just at work) with warm water. I do that when I'm on the road (grocery stores often work well), but I take care to leave the bathroom in good shape without wet floors (a personal thing). A shower is a huge luxury after a couple weeks of sponge baths though.


38,333 Posts

Quick sponge bath in any public restroom, looking for an establishment where there are not a lot of customers likely to walk in on you at the sink. Taught this one by a relative employed at 24 Hour Fitness. Get the all club, all access membership and maintain it. You will always have a place to shower. If you want to camouflage what you are doing, do a workout before you shower. The workout will do you some good anyway. If you make friends with the night manager, they might let you sleep on the premises at night for a change of scenery from your vehicle.

I don't mind life without showering when I'm backpacking, but a spongebath in a Safeway bathroom just doesn't sound adequate between shifts. At least for my comfort level. But a membership to a 24 hour gym isn't a bad idea, since I would be wanting a gym membership anyways. Thanks.