FAQ: Showering

 | March 23, 2008 8:49 pm

I know you’re wondering about showers. I know you’re wondering because it’s usually the first question I get asked when I tell someone I live in my van. In LA, when I’m staying put it’s easy. Time consuming sometimes, but easy.

I have a gym membership at Ballys, and so if I’m not feeling too lazy I even get a work out in with the shower. I have to confess though, this last month of work I skipped the treadmill pretty much every time and went straight for the shower.

On the road it gets trickier, and I don’t shower nearly everyday like in Los Angeles. Ballys is a nation-wide club, (part of why I joined), and any time I pass a Ballys I stop and take advantage of it. Same with friends. Whenever I happen to stay with friends you can be sure I take a shower in the morning before I leave.

Relying on Ballys and friends being well spread out across the country doesn’t quite do it though. If there are no Ballys or friends in sight then sometime around the third day since the last shower I usually give in and admit I’m going to have to pay for one somewhere. That “somewhere” depends on where I am. If I’m in a city, (and especially if I’ve got a lot of things I’d like to do online), I’ll spring for a hostel. I don’t like to do this too often since it sort of defeats the purpose of traveling in the van, but hostels have some other things worth paying for everynow again as well. I’ll come back to that in a moment.

If I’m outside of big cities then I’ve got campgrounds, RV parks or truck stops. I’ll admit I haven’t yet tried out a truck stop. I haven’t found one where the shower was less than 10 bucks, and for 10 bucks I’d rather just wait another day.

Privately owned RV parks are handy because some times they’ll let you take a shower there for a small fee. I’ve done it for 5 bucks. State campgrounds will sometimes have day-use fees.

I’ve found that campgrounds are also nice just as a reminder to slow myself down. If I’m going to pay for a campground I’m usually going to stay put for the whole time. Sometimes spending as much time as I do in the van I start feeling like I have to get going all the time. As soon as one thing’s done it’s time to move on to the next. Campgrounds, (whether day use or overnight), are nice for getting me to slow down some.

I’d say that if I’m not doing anything that gets me particularly dirty, (hiking, biking, or if the weather is just really hot and humid), then I end up taking a shower two or three times a week. Not the “normal” daily shower, but plenty to keep me feeling clean enough.

Back to hostels for a moment. When I’m so happy sleeping in the van for free and spending money on a nice lunch or dinner, (or just saving it for later), I don’t really want to spend the night in a hostel. Still, once and a while it’s nice to splurge and take care of a whole bunch of things at once, showers, wireless internet, laundry, and cravings to do some cooking.

Depending on the city a hostel has other advantages. In Albuquerque I spent two nights in a hostel, and it was nice to get out of the cold for those two nights. I’m in a hostel in Sacramento right now and I’ve found another odd advantage of the hostel. From what I’ve seen parking in this city is sort of expensive, (the government seems to have a monopoly on all the parking garages), but I’ve checked with the hostel and once I’ve checked out of the room they have no problem with me leaving the van here while I go tour around the state capitol. Based on the prices I’ve seen for parking that alone is worth about half of what I paid for the hostel.

I plan on taking a number of posts to answer the most common questions I get about living in the van. Food, cold, (I feel like I’ve given this one too short a treatment earlier), bathrooms, etc. Leave a comment if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to talk about.

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16 Responses to “FAQ: Showering”

One Man Enjoying America wrote a comment on March 27, 2008

I spent a couple of months living in my SUV travelling around the country. And as I am preparing to do it again, for a year this time, I began searching for blogs of fellow travellers and was very happy to stumble upon your blog. However, my first question isn’t about showering or anything of that nature, you work at KCRW, so my question is “Have you ever met Sia Furler?”. My all time favorite artist. I first discovered her online about 5 years ago singing for Zero 7, it was a KCRW concert. She is doing another KCRW concert on April 24.

My second question is, have you ever thought of using a flavorwave for cooking? I swear by mine. You can cook anything in them, from soup, to steak, to almost anything. I even drop in some popcorn kernels and it makes hot air popcorn. And easy clean up. The down side is they use almost as much power as a microwave. But if you got the power, I think its the way to go. You should check it out at this URL


I await your future posts,
One Man Enjoying America

Brian wrote a comment on April 3, 2008

I have never lived in a van but a buddy of mine has. I asked him the same question about showers.

He said that he would take a spray bottle with him and some soap. He would then spray down a body part and wash it and rinse it. It allowed him to go quite a few days easily without a “real” shower.

Sometimes he did this in the van, but he preferred finding a gas station bathroom where you could lock the door and get some privacy.

Jessica wrote a comment on April 5, 2008

To One Man Enjoying America:

In fact I have met Sia. I used to help with the bands when they came in to perform on Morning Becomes Eclectic, so I met her then, but it’s not like we had a heart to heart or anything. :) The performance she’d doing with KCRW on the 24th is the first in a new series they’re doing to try to recapture the feeling of being at the station when the artists come in. Can’t beat the actual experience of it though. One of my favorite memories of that job is labeling the headphone boxes in the studio while all the members of Zap Mama warmed up and ran though songs literally standing in a circle around me. I took my time with the labeling. Sort of ruins going to real concerts though.

I checked out the Flavorware website. I like the idea, but I doubt it’ll work in my van. I just don’t have enough power. I recently killed my battery running the “fridge” during the day while I wasn’t driving. I do need to find something new for cooking though. I think I’ll be happy if I could at least heat (preferably boil) water. My SmartMug is definitely broken and I’d like to replace it with something better.

To Brian:

Baby wipes are also often suggested. I don’t have a spray bottle, but do have a box of those. I think these sorts of things will be useful when I’m in hotter weather, and end up taking a shower about as often as I do these days, but will want to take one more often.

Arcie wrote a comment on April 21, 2008

Have you considered checking out local community or high school affiliated swimming pools with general swim times open to the public. You can (for the price of admission which is generally low) take a shower, wash your hair and wash a few undies in a sink too, if need be.

Jessica wrote a comment on April 22, 2008

Considered it, but haven’t used one yet. I did go to a hot springs the other night though. That was very nice.

I used to be all about trying to do laundry by hand whenever I got a chance, but now I don’t bother anymore. More trouble than it’s worth since it never seem to actually make the timespan between doing ‘real’ loads of laundry any longer. I’d rather spend my time doing something else now.

Claudia wrote a comment on April 24, 2008

Hi Jessica

Wanted to let you know that I ‘stopped’ in for a quick read of your new posts. Sounds like you’re having FUN! Enjoy the journey. That’s what it’s all about.

Your Tui friend, Claudia

Jessica wrote a comment on April 27, 2008

Hi Claudia, Thanks for the note! How goes the planning for your trip to Florida?

Jane Doe wrote a comment on August 6, 2008

I work in a truck stop a couple nights per week – yes, those trucker showers are expensive! My place charges $8.50 (Flying J). However, when a trucker buys 50 gallons of diesel, (s)he gets a free shower. 150 gallons at a time gets him/her TWO free showers. Sometimes you can find a trucker who will give you one of his/her shower credits for free. Sometimes the cashier will have extra coupons that a trucker left behind or didn’t want. Many of the truckers receiving these free showers are not over-the-road, and since they get home every night, they really don’t need them. I’ve been amazed sometimes at how willing the person standing behind the person buying a shower is to just step up and hand the cashier their card, and say, “Here, you can have one of mine!” Only once did the person receiving the free shower gift actually smell bad enough to justify it, LOL!

Jessica wrote a comment on August 7, 2008

Hi Jane,

I’ve heard that truckers often get more vouchers than they can use. Like I said, I’ve only checked at one place and when I found out it was $10 and no one offered me a voucher I just decided to wait another day.

Michael Keenan wrote a comment on August 10, 2008

re showers: another place I have used that is usually inexpensive, is the Y (women or men) and again you may get to use their gym as part of the bargain. Good for you if you are in a smaller town w/ no Bally’s.

Great blog. Enjoy the writing and the detailed explanations.

My wife and I have traveled a lot in a van, only for a few weeks at a time, tho, and sort of mastered the art of bathrooms, showers, and sleeping in places where we don’t bother others and aren’t likely to be bothered or “moved along”. My parents think we’re nuts and in danger. Not so. Been at it for over 20 yrs.

Jessica wrote a comment on August 12, 2008

Hi Michael,

Yeah, if I didn’t get an awesome deal with Ballys ($11 a month if I paid for 3 years upfront) then I probably would look into a Y membership since there’s so many of them.

I always love hearing about people who travel short term in a van. You guys are the ambassadors to the rest of the world. If you only do it occasionally then you can’t be TOO crazy and maybe then they’ll actually listen to you when you explain the advantages.

Lori wrote a comment on September 21, 2009

you can take a really good replacement shower with baby wipes — covers everything but washing your hair, and you really do feel a lot cleaner after.

we camp in a van and i’ve become a pro at washing my hair in under three minutes with two cups of water and a palmful of baby shampoo. i feel like i could pretty easily sneak a shampoo in in any out-of-the-way corner as long as the weather was decent. ;)

John wrote a comment on July 14, 2011

If you haven’t already, look into the deep-cycle battery idea — these charge off the engine when running (or a campground hookup), and with an inverter can power most appliances while the car’s not running. Not that expensive, and very good for long-term car-campers.

Regarding showers, I’ve found you can often sneak into state/national forests long enough to take a shower, and then leave before anyone checks for your fee. (Normally, they only collect fees in the mornings.) As long as you’re not showering in the morning or evening, you’re not interfering with anyone else’s use, and no one is likely to care.

National health club chains are a great idea. Trucker showers once a week isn’t that costly, even if you have to pay.

Finally, if you’re travelling in a beach area (California, Florida, etc.), there are often outdoor and/or indoor showers you can rinse off sand with. There’s usually no rules against using soap in such showers, even outdoors. You can use biodegradable soap/shampoo if you’re worried about that. That, along with the swimming itself, can get you pretty clean. (You can also use biodegradable soap in lakes, etc.)

HoboJoe wrote a comment on October 7, 2013

Hi Jessica, Really like the blog. Have you considered using a Roadpro oven? Looks like a lunchbox but does a lot of cooking? Warms water real well and plugs into your 12V outlet. Truckers use them. Anyway,I hope this helps….HoboJoe

LoveToBeClean wrote a comment on December 22, 2016

I have to pop in here because I found a wonderful product for keeping myself clean without using a lot of water or when I can’t shower soon enough for my liking, etc. Years ago, I was in a full leg cast from toes to hip and going nuts with the onset of menopause hot flashes and night sweats. Oh, Joy! *sarcasm* Anyway, I was searching online for anything that would help me feel clean and I thought: camping, hospital bed baths, etc. and found Soothe & Cool Shampoo & Body Wash. I have no stake in the company, no relations or affiliations. I just was so impressed with how I felt using this, I still use this on occasion when I can’t get to a shower when I want or need. I bought a box of 12 spray bottles and keep a supply, but have gifted bottles to family members because it’s just so useful. It’s been 11 years since my broken leg and I still love and recommend this stuff.

I use it in different ways: spritzed onto a wet wash cloth, or two sprays into a bowl of warm water and yippee! I’ve also used it in a real shower as shampoo/body wash because I like the feeling and scent. Squeaky clean, without being dried out at all, pretty amazing. The scent is a pleasant very light scent – a clean smell, nothing froufrou or sickly sweet. A fine unisex scent.

I’m still working through the box I bought three years ago, so I hoped the product hasn’t changed since then, I’d hate to recommend something other than what I have. :D

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