File Under: Booking and Performing Live

In the last couple weeks, we shared how to save money on touring by avoiding hotels and by playing house concerts (and staying there for free). For both of these techniques we made clear you don't need to sleep in your car save money and get free accommodation. But, sometimes, your car, or van, is the only choice you've got. Fortunately, there are tips you can use to make it sleeping in your car the best experience possible.

It turns out there are entire communities dedicated to telling you how to sleep in your car, including the Vandwellers subreddit, which has an FAQ on the topic. Some of these communities and concepts are about long-term living, but there are other strategies that are perfectly useful for a touring musician that just needs to sleep in their vehicle for a night or two.

If you need to crash for the night in your car (if we can put those two words together in a single sentence), consider these concepts:

1. Try stealth camping.

For those nights where you find yourself in the city, you'll want to do some stealth camping. Stealth camping is when you park and stay in your vehicle on the street or somewhere that's not an approved campground. The biggest challenge for staying the night in your car in the city is to find a place to park where no one will bother you for the night. For this, the vandwelling community advises to look for parking lots of 24 hour stores, mall lots, and other places like hotel parking lots where cars are expected to be parked all night. Parking the night at a 24 hour store has the added advantage of having a bathroom nearby as well.

2. Find free campsites.

There are places that allow you to camp for free. Use websites like Free Campsites or plan your tour around places where you can camp for free. A further advantage is that if you have a small tent and the weather is agreeable, you can sleep outside and enjoy the outdoors rather than being cooped up in the back seat of your car or the floor of your van.

3. Join a national fitness club chain for showers and facilities.

The vandwelling community suggests chains like 24hr Fitness or Planet Fitness as inexpensive options. They have parking lots, showers, and other amenities. And, of course, you can also use them to get in a workout along your tour.

4. Outfit your vehicle for comfort.

Packing things like reflective sun shields become an important part of the planning if you're going to be sleeping in your car since the sun will wake you early. For a van, long-term options include outfitting the back with insulation like Reflectix which can make it much more comfortable for sleeping.

5. Carry creature comforts.

If you plan on sleeping in your car while touring, it's a good idea to stop at the camping or convenience store to load up on items that will make vehicle-living easier. This includes things like sleeping bags, ear plugs, hand-wipes, bottled water, pillows, an empty two-liter bottle, etc.

While some of the vandwelling communities make it sound like an idyllic life, sleeping in your car or van isn't necessarily the best sleeping option out there -- especially for your posture, back and general health. Then again, sometimes it's your best option. Plus, it's easy on your pocketbook and will help you keep more of the money you make on a tour.


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Photo credit: zenjazzygeek