Life on the road is amazing but that doesn't mean it's always easy. Ask any van dweller or road tripper and they will tell you everyday is a never ending search for a safe place to park and spend the night or a question of where your next shower will come from.
In order to gain great things you have to make a few sacrifices and daily showering is one of them. Unless you plan to spend every night in a hotel you are going to have to go days, maybe weeks without showering. I won't lie, this is probably one of the worst parts about road tripping. Sometimes it is completely out of your hands because there are no showering facilities nearby (especially if you are like us and enjoy spending days out in national parks and forests), it might be because you are on a tight budget, and other times you might just be too tired after a long day adventuring to go on the never ending search for a shower.
But there will come a time when you will crack. When you can no longer handle being a dirt bag. After a few months on the road you learn a few tricks and I want to share those with you. Below I have compiled a short list of places you can shower when you are on your next road trip.
If you are driving across country, visiting national parks, state parks or you are just in the middle of nowhere, campgrounds are going to be your best bet for finding shower facilities. No matter where you are (so long as it's not the city) you are likely to pass a couple whether they are private or state owned. The privately owned campgrounds always have shower facilities and some can be quite luxurious with heating inside the bathrooms. State campgrounds won't always have showers so you might have to check a few out before finding what you're looking for. You can usually pick up a state map from a visitor or welcome center with a list of campgrounds and the facilities they offer. You will either have to pay for a night of camping to gain access (especially if it's privately owned) or you may be able to park outside the grounds and just walk in to use the facilities. If its' a private campground you won't need to pay for shower usage. However, if you're at a state campground make sure you always keep quarters in the car. Showers are coin operated and will usually cost a few dollars depending on the length of time you take, for example a dollar a minute.
This amazing tip was given to us by a lovely friend and fellow van dweller/road tripper. If you are about to embark on a long road trip or plan to take a few months to travel cross country you should invest in a gym membership. All gyms have shower facilities. Some even have spa's and sauna's. Imagine having that to look forward to after a long day driving or after a few miles of hiking. There are many gyms that have locations throughout the country that your membership will be good for. Some gyms like 24 Hour Fitness are open 24 hours! And some even offer free 7 day trials. Gyms are a great idea especially if you are urban camping. And just maybe it might give you a little bit of motivation to get fit?
public swimming pools
We came up with this idea after we were tossing around the idea of joining a gym and decided that we didn't want to pay the expensive fees involved with gym memberships at the time (because we didn't know how long we would be hanging around cities/suburbs for and because we could handle going a few days at a time without showering). Public swimming pools always have showering facilities and are a great idea if you're in the city or suburbs. They are fairly inexpensive if you're only looking to shower once or twice a week. We have even found a few public swimming pools with water slides so they can be fun too!
If you happen to be travelling along the coast, boat marina's are definitely somewhere you are likely to find shower facilities. The awesome thing about shower facilities at boat marina's is that they are super clean most of the time and some even have heaters inside the bathrooms. You might even come across some with laundry facilities. Marina's are a nice place to base yourself for a few days if you happen to be exploring the area because they have shower's, parking and most of the time set in pretty locations. Most of the shower facilities we have come across are open to the public but remember they are coin operated so keep some quarters in the car. Sometimes a code is needed to get in so if you're really desperate for a shower make friends with some of the residents on the dock and they might just share the code with you. It's important to remember to be respectful because these shower facilities are the personal bathrooms of locals living on their boats.
pilot gas stations
These are a welcome sight if you have been on the road for an extended period and have still not showered. Pilot gas stations (which have been designed to cater for truckers) have shower facilities and can be found all over the country on highways and interstate's. Their shower facilities are not cheap but if you don't plan to shower every day they are well worth it. For around $7 you will get your own bathroom for however long you want. These bathrooms are the equivalent of a five star hotel and even come with soap and shampoo. Pilot gas stations have coffee, snacks and offer hot food all for super cheap. Click on thislink to check out Pilot's website if you want more information on their locations.
If all else fails you can always stay the night at a motel. This is usually a last resort for us as we like to try to save as much money as we can, but if you can afford it why not?! Sometimes you are just desperate for a shower.... a shower where you can take as long as you want and don't have to worry about wearing flip flops or carrying a bag with all your toiletries. Roadside motels can be fairly inexpensive ranging between $40 to $60. Sleeping in a real bed and watching the tube can be a nice change too.
If you have experience with life on the road and would like to share your tips and secrets, feel free to leave us a comment below.
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Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment. Read more