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Live in your Car to Save Travel Funds

Sleep in Car to Save Money to Travel — This entry is a part of a series about how to make and save money to travel. How to make money for traveling When saving for travel, I know that I need to cut down on all expenses; I know that I need to live as [...]

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Sleep in Car to Save Money to Travel —

This entry is a part of a series about how to make and save money to travel.

How to make money for traveling

When saving for travel, I know that I need to cut down on all expenses; I know that I need to live as rough as I plan on living on the road. Traveling is not an act that begins at the entry way of the airport, but rather at the moment you decide that you are going to work hard, sacrifice a lot of comfort, and save up enough money to travel the world.

When saving up travel funds, if I had to choose between having an apartment or a car, I would choose the car.

Why? Because I can transport myself AND shelter myself in an automobile, whereas an apartment is only a stationary roof over my head. When traveling, you have no such notion of a permanent abode, why should you have one when preparing for travel?

Live in your car to save travel funds

Live in your car to save travel funds

How to save enough money to travel?

Give up your apartment and live in your car.

Editor’s note: this travel tip is geared towards people who need a car to get to work and are currently paying rent. If you are living rent free, and are able to commute to work successfully on foot or with a bicycle, then having a car is a great impertinence. These tips are also mere suggestions based on my experience, I do know that different situations spark different living strategies. Evaluate your circumstances, and if you can use these tips, then I say that is wonderful, if not, then move on to the next entry.

Retaining an apartment and a car and trying to save up travel funds puts you up against a thick brick wall. Unless you make a lot of money, or are able to cut major expense corners somewhere else, it is my impression that it may be a difficult trial to save up your travel funds while paying out the routine expense of the sedentary life.

Live in your car

Having a car is a constant expense, but having a car also means that you can travel to find better paying employment options that you may not otherwise be able to access.

Advantages of having a motor vehicle

If you don’t need a car, then don’t get one; if you already have a car, then live in it.

Moving into a car is not too difficult. Just pack up anything that you would otherwise bring with you for traveling into a backpack, throw it into the backseat with a sleeping bag or blanket, get a tent for occasional nights of camping on the sly, and you are all set.

I have lived out of cars and trucks for more work seasons than I care to mention. It is a good strategy for saving travel funds.

The biggest question that I have come upon when living in a car is where to park at night. The following lists are of potential good places to park, as well as not so good places.

Good places to park your car at night

  1. Family or friend’s driveway, garage, backyard, or on the street nearby – This is probably your best option. Tell all your friends and family members what your intentions are. Tell them that you really want to save up money to go traveling, and that you need their help to make your dreams a reality. Ask if you can park for the night in their driveway, garage, backyard, or on the street nearby. Ask also if you could occasionally use their facilities, such as shower and bathroom.
  2. Highway Rest Stops – If you are working near a major highway, you can always just park your car at a nearby rest stop. They are open all the time, and have public facilities like bathrooms. Unless you keep going to the same one every single night for a long period of time, nobody should bother you.
  3. Park and Rides – It is common for people to leave their vehicles in park and ride parking lots for days at a time. I have done this too . . . only with me sleeping inside. The security of these places varies, but if you are outside of a city and do not draw attention to yourself  — meaning that you are sort of hiding in your vehicle — you should be alright. I have never had any problems.
  4. Residential streets – Very often when living in my car, I have just driven down a residential street in a city or village, parked, crawled into the back seat, and slept out the night. You need to be very clandestine when doing this, or else the police may get called on you. For men with wangs, having a designated pee bottle with you is a good idea. For women without wangs, pee before parking.
  5. Walmart parking lots – Most Walmarts offer free overnight parking for travelers to sleep in the parking lots. This is a page out of the RVers handbook. I have only done this on a few occasions, as I have always felt a little overly exposed parked in the middle of an otherwise empty parking lot.
  6. Hotel parking lots – I have probably spent a hundred nights sleeping overnight in cars in random hotel parking lots. I have never been bothered, though I am also very good at being discreet when I need to be. Choose large chain hotels as oppose to small local ones.
  7. Parking area of company you are working for – If you are working for a place with a parking area, ask if you could park there over night.

Bad places to park overnight and sleep in your car

  1. Parks – Many urban, and even suburban or rural, parks are patrolled by the police at night. A dark, nighttime park is often though to be a place where people can be alone to take part in illegal or otherwise adulterous activities, but the police are on to this, and they tend to patrol these parking lots very thoroughly. I have been woken in the middle of the night by bright police car lights while trying to snooze in the parking area of public parks. Not a very good option.
  2. Parking lots of businesses – It is not good to try to camp on the sly in the parking lot of a business. They are often in places that are too public, and your exposure, as being the only car in a parking lot after hours, may draw attention to you.
  3. Side of a country road – If a stranger’s car is parked on the side of the road in a rural area, it has the possibility of drawing suspicion from the locals. The last thing I want is a gang of good ol’ boys waking me up in the middle of the night.

Like so, a car can become a movable, personal dorm bed. Having shelter means having a roof over your head, but this roof does not have to be connected to a house or an apartment. You can live in your car to cut out a major unnecessary expense on your way towards saving enough money to travel the world.

If you are comfortable living in your car as you work up your travel funds, then you will probably also be comfortable while traveling. Part of the joy that I take from traveling is being put into situations that constantly refine my wits and sharpen my survival skills. This process often happens just as much when I am saving money for travel in my home country as when traveling internationally.

Saving money to travel the world projet

  • Need a Car to Work in USA
  • How to save money to travel
  • How to make Money to Travel

Camping on the sly – A tutorial

Filed under: Economics, Make Money for Travel, Start Traveling, Travel Economics, Travel Strategy

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3704 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

6 comments… add one

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  • Bob L July 20, 2009, 3:06 pm


    Et cetera, Et cetera

    Most of these are geared towards modifying Vans and trucks, but lots of advice on stealth camping, although you covered all the most important points, except one. Sleeping in your car will make you a potential target for the police. DO NOT do anything illegal ie. have illegal substances in the car, have alcohol on your breath at any point when parked in public places etc. I slept in a small car for a few weeks during a summer semester in college, until I found a 3 walled shack in a friends back yard that I could use. Damn I hate mosquitoes.

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    • admin July 20, 2009, 3:16 pm


      Good suggestions for websites about living in a vehicle. Man, a van is all you need to have a temporary or even a permanent moving home. Why every pay rent? haha


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  • Brian W July 20, 2009, 6:52 pm

    A friend of mine traveled across the country from Pittsburgh to Portland while sleeping in his car. One of the cool things he did was get a converter to plug into the cigarette lighter to plug his laptop into, and would drive around until he got a wifi signal. If you do live in your car i would suggest one of those converters. He could go a few hours without his engine running, so it wasn’t a huge waste of gas either. But if you go too long you will need a jump so be careful!

    Also he was bothered by the police a little. Most of them just told him to move along though, and he would drive to the next town.

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  • arcu July 21, 2009, 4:21 am

    I prefer the option make a lot of money 😉

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    • admin July 21, 2009, 8:34 pm

      Haha, Yeah, I can’t say I blame you.


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  • Romana S January 5, 2010, 3:59 am

    This site will help you living in your car or van: http://carliving.info

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