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Where to Park? Mom Shares Van Life Parking & Safety Strategies

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Van Life Is a Serious Move! 

Moving into a van seems simple but there’s a lot to learn when adjusting to the lifestyle. Today we’re going to discuss our daily parking situation and safety measures.

Stealth Camping is sleeping in your vehicle without drawing attention to yourself.

Scenario: It’s your first night of van life and you’re not sure where to park safely.

The first question you should be asking yourself is, how often do you want to be there? 90% of our camping up until the pandemic was stealth camping in van life friendly destinations. We aim for a parking spot with a scenic view first and we don’t park overnight in the same spot for more than 1-3 days. This has never been an issue for us because we’re always home in our 17ft camper van which makes things easy to pick up and go. Our van is self contained and does not require electricity to use anything inside so we stealth camp 6 days a week and stay at a campground on the 7th to refresh our van for the upcoming week.

If you’re stealth camping most of the time like us, you can use the google maps app to find an ideal spot with the satellite view feature in Google maps to avoid parking spot hunting. Look around the area and trust your gut. Ask employees at gas stations if the area is rough or not and regardless, If you don’t feel safe...Don’t park there. Ideally you want to park somewhere with minimal traffic and on the side of a fence or wall for the privacy of others as well as yours. We look for security cameras on the sides of commercial buildings and park in front of them or park where we are out of the way but still somewhat in the public’s view in case of an emergency.

If you park in neighborhoods and are concerned about break-ins, park under a street light or in front of an apartment complex where people come in and out of a main door. Park after 10PM and leave by 6:30am. Why? It’s important to be respectful of the neighborhood's homeowners. Do not inconvenience them by parking on an already busy street or by parking too early. If you allow homeowners to get home, park and make it to bed before you park in the neighborhood, you’re less likely to be noticed. Look for and read the street signs carefully to avoid hefty parking fines. I.e Street cleaning or metered parking.

Other Places We Have Stealth Camped Overnight Countless Times

In front of Neighborhood Parks



In The Mountains

24 hr Denny’s

24 hr Mc Donalds

Home Depot


Church Parking Lots


In friend‘s and family driveways

Shopping Mall Lots near restaurants that are 24/7

Walmart used to be a good alternative but their rules are changing as the rise of homes on wheels increases.

Disclaimer: We see it to be vital to support businesses that we lean on for resources. Please don’t hang out during busy hours. Buy something and try as much as possible to go unnoticed.

 If you’re traveling cross country, utilize the truck and interstate rest stops for gas and more. I choose Loves Travel to rest overnight because they have great customer service, fresh food, plenty of lighting, parking, a dog park, propane, sanitation dumps, clean showers and bathrooms. 

Our Preferred Paid Camp Site Types

Family Oriented Campground and Rv Resorts that meet our budget and preferred amenity criteria.


Scenario: Whether you’re stealth camping in a neighborhood or camping somewhere visibly allowed, privacy is required for safety.

  • Have a discrete van or rv because you’ll be less of a target to be disturbed.

  • Have Tinted Windows, Blackout Blinds or Window Covers

  • Don’t get out where people can see you getting out. Park in a way that you open the main doors and still have privacy.

  • Use a headlamp instead of accessory lights at night

  • Never post a picture of the spot you’re at on social media unless you’re no longer there or are leaving very soon. The last thing you want are unexpected guests easily tracking you down

  • I strongly suggest not to post your social media accounts on your van. People can browse your social media and see what devices you have, the layout of your van, what you look like and what you’re doing 👀 

Location Sharing

Only leave clues for the event of an Emergency.

Scenario: You find yourself saying: “Oh No! I don’t know where I (fill in the blank) ”

Keep your last receipt! You may need to recall the following:

A. Where you left your wallet. lol

B. How many gallons of gas you have left because the gauge stopped working. C. Someone finds you unconscious and they want to know where you just came from?

Scenario: Your GPS is not working and you’re afraid of getting lost.

Take a pictures of street signs, landmarks and etc so that you can trace your path if you need to go back. Posting On Social Media

If you have any social media, be sure to turn off any live public location share features. i.e Your Snapchat Ghost Mode or Facebook Friends Location Map.

Mix up your location or switch up your pin!

If you’re posting on Instagram for an extended period of time be careful of sharing too many clues in your background that can make it easy to find you. I.e Street signs

Share your actual location infinitely with 2-3 loved ones. I recommend sharing with both family and friends. How?

Have an iphone? Share your location easily with Apple Location Share. You can adjust your settings and select family members to share your location with or you can simply share your location with anyone in your contact list right away.

If Someone Knocks...

Scenario: Security or police knocks on your window.

This is annoying but actually a good sign. Even though you may wake up to knocking and bright flashlights shining in your window to wake you up, it’s fair that they showed up. Most of the time when they knock it's because someone called on you so they’re coming to investigate. Using the privacy and parking tips mentioned here can minimize unwanted attention. If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t worry. If they ask you to leave, just go. Having security or the cops called on your van comes with the territory.

Scenario: Someone else knocks. (Not the cops)

Always see them before they see you. Ask what they want without opening the door.

The odds of someone breaking into your van are very low but to prevent or be prepared we’re going to discuss the following subjects. 

Avoiding Theft

Scenario: You have expensive equipment in your van

  • Have the cabin covered up so that no one can tell the cabin is occupied or empty

  • Take your valuables with you in a backpack each time you leave or have a hidden compartment to hide them

  • Don’t leave any clues behind. Never leave anything out in the open that tells too much about you. No mail, backpacks or even change

  • Leave something playing or speaking on a small external speaker so that it sounds like someone is busy inside.

Personal Safety and Security 

Scenario: You’re concerned someone might break in? Ask yourself why you think this will happen? 

  • Don’t park in areas that look sketchy. If you are unsure if the area could have high crime, ask someone who works at a business in the area

  • Lock all the doors immediately when you get in and out of your van

Afraid of being seen alone? leave an old pair of men’s boots outside the door. LOL

  • Have an emergency escape procedure. 

Example: Place a long lanyard on the stick shift and let the keys hang to the floor where they’re not visible. Why? You don’t want to have to look for your keys if you get startled or have your keys in plain sight from the window.

Protecting and Defending Yourself

  • Make it as inconvenient as possible for someone to break in. Open up a drop down table in front of the door. Put something unexpected in the way

  • If you think you hear someone attempting to break into your van, make noise first to run them off

  • Hide a knife somewhere you can reach it quick

  • If you have a registered handgun, know the gun laws in each state

  • Other alternatives: Mase, bear spray, taser or a cast iron skillet :-)


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