How Do You Shower When on A Road Trip? (Van Life Tips)

How Do You Shower When on A Road Trip? (Van Life Tips)
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While I was getting my ducks in a row for my yearlong van-life experience, my shower situation didn’t feel important. Part of me didn’t believe I’d truly be without a closed-off bathroom where my soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and scrubs always were. Well, let me tell you, after a week of living in the van, I wished I had put a bit more thought into how I would go about showering. So, I had to make some changes.

Turns out finding places to shower on the road isn’t as hard as it sounds. With a little cleverness, you’ll be the shower king–or queen–and won’t have to worry about being a greasy mess (at least not all the time). So, let’s talk about where to shower when road tripping, shall we?

Use Your Gym Membership

Gym showers saved my life while I was living in a van. If that sounds dramatic, good because it’s true. Sometimes I would be desperate to wash off after hiking through mountains and deserts with no signs of showers in sight. Then, I would pull out my phone, check Google Maps, and–lo and behold–a 24 Hour Fitness would be just an hour or so away.

When it comes to choosing a gym to be your designated shower facility, you have a few options. Obviously, you want to use one that’s common in your area. However, if you’re going on a nationwide road trip, then I recommend going with Anytime Fitness, Planet Fitness, or 24-Hour Fitness.

Oh! And you might as well make use of the other amenities like the saunas, swimming pools, and steam rooms. Why not, right?

Head to a Public Swimming Pool

Swimming pools are almost guaranteed to have showers on site. It’s a great option when you’re driving through a residential area and don’t have any other options. Most public facilities will cost just a few bucks to enter, which, in the grand scheme of things, could be cheaper than committing to a multi-month gym membership. But you won’t have as many facilities to choose from.

Not to mention, breaking up your road trip with a stop at a pool where you can lay out, swim, and recharge is a great way to keep your spirits up and your body feeling good!

Make Use of Truck Stop Showers (Gas Stations)

Long road trips mean you’ll find yourself in desolate places. I can’t tell you how many I’ve been driving through never-ending deserts and envisioned a shower off the side of the road. Well, my imaginary shower never came, but what I did discover is that truck stops are the next best things. Gas stations like Loves and Pilot are where most truckers stop to bathe. I always say while traveling, do as the locals do. Okay, I know truck drivers aren’t locals, but you know what I mean.

Don’t let the idea of showering at a gas station gross you out. They get cleaned after each use, and once that hot water hits your body, all your worries will go down the drain.

Buy a Gravity Shower

If you’re looking for cheap places to shower, then don’t bother relying on gyms, truck stops, or anywhere else that costs money. Your best bet will be to buy a gravity shower. What’s a gravity shower, Ryan? I’m so glad you asked! Imagine a big sack made of durable plastic that has a small hose coming from it. Fill it up with water, throw it on top of your car or hang it in a tree, and you’re ready to go. It’s a simple design, and, sure, it might not be the best shower of your life, but it’s better than nothing!

They’re also referred to as solar showers because to get hot water, you need to leave them out in the sun for a couple hours. A life hack I found on the road was heating up water on my camp stove and filling up the shower bag–I don’t recommend adding boiling water to a plastic sack.

Wash off at a Beach Shower

The easiest area to find places to shower on the road is the coast, by far. Beaches are riddled with outdoor showers for people to wash off the sand from their bodies. Well, whether you are sandy or not, they also work as a great shower option. Don’t expect hot water, but after a week of not showering, you won’t be complaining!

Unless you have to pay for parking, there shouldn’t be any costs involved. So, let’s put it under the cheap places to shower category–booyah!

Stop at a Cheap Motel or Hotel

Hmm, where can I pay to take a shower? In absolute desperate situations, cheap motels or hotels were my last resort. Sometimes you can find rooms for around $30 a night, which isn’t ideal, but–golly–I was willing to pay an arm and a leg to use a proper shower at times. And it’s a great way to stretch out on a bed after sleeping in a car, van, or tent for days and days.

Use the Showers at a Campground

I love staying at campgrounds for a number of reasons, but having access to showers is at the top of the list. Not every location will have washrooms, so check online before booking a site. Also, you don’t necessarily have to stay at a campground to use their showers. Some properties will charge you a few bucks to use their facilities. If the site is connected to a state park, you may need to buy a day pass.

Body Wipes

I have to be honest: while figuring out my shower situation, I asked myself, how can I take a shower without a shower? I’m not proud that I asked this question, but I’m just trying to tell you the truth. The answer I came up with was to use body wipes. These things are a lifesaver, and you can find them at almost any grocery or convenience store. When you know it might be a few days until you’ll have a chance to shower, those wipes will be a godsend. So, stock up before heading out on the road!

Final Thoughts

Don’t let not having a shower prevent you from going on an extended road trip or living out of your vehicle for a while. There are plenty of options to keep you clean and fresh! Using public facilities will take some time to get used to, but by the end of your journey, you’ll be the master of knowing where to shower on the road!

Road Trips > Beginner Guide > Showering on a Road Trip

About the Author

Ryan Hichens
Ryan Hichens

Ryan Hichens is a freelance writer, digital nomad, and sucker for a good time. He’s a native Californian but has spent the last five years backpacking and road-tripping throughout North and South America. Check out his Instagram to follow along with his travels and writing.