Surviving the California Coast on a Budget

33608609526_b3a3c1d1e1_z

The title may sound dramatic for somewhere so pristine and beautiful, but you may feel you are purely surviving this section of your road trip, due to the strict limitations enforced on freedom campers. In most large cities and Southern California towns it is illegal to sleep in your car, California is a travel destination that is favourable all year while unaffordable rent leads to more homeless. The problem is exasperated by lack of budget campsites and crowded sites at weekends, some people may view $30 as inexpensive, but for most travelers with modest funds this will eat away your daily budget.

Towns by the coast along highway 101 have strict overnight parking regulations, when evening comes you will want to drive a little further inland. Use your acquired knowledge to suss out a suitable overnight parking area; perhaps you find a park with few residential homes around it -but parking regulations in the parking lot, if there are no restrictions on the road you are also unlikely to be infringing on someone’s property in this area. Consider that if it is a dead end there will likely be little traffic or people disturbing you overnight. Finding a decent night sleep in Southern California is a bit of guess work and a lot of luck; ‘Walmart’ and ‘CampingWorld’ alike will refuse you overnight parking in this part of the USA, in some cases you may be able to ask a manager permission, but check for signage and restrictions first. If you have a car rather than a huge RV it is far easier to be subtle and not be noticed by cops or annoyed locals.

In cities such as Los Angeles or San Francisco you may have to leave the area for the night, with car camping being illegal and the unsafe feeling in certain areas, it may be best to drive away for the night or pay for a campground. Weigh up the cost difference between paying for a campground or paying for gas and driving out of the city overnight. Another way to save those extra dollars is to try and share campground pitches with other travelers, most campgrounds allow for two cars in one space making it possible to share, it is also a great way to meet fellow travelers and share advice and information.

Hanging at the beach for the day gives you a perfect opportunity to use free benches and barbecues for cooking, as well as the chance to shower off the sand and sun lotion. There will always be fresh drinking water at beaches, so ensure all your water containers are filled before you head off.

Don’t be off put and avoid the California coast line on your Western USA road trip, Highway 101 and the surrounding coastline is too beautiful to miss. You can see why people love California life and never leave, you won’t want to either!

32835507513_12194a0846_z
Joshua Tree NP
Advertisements

Where Should you Sleep for the Night?

thumb_DSC_0986_1024It’s amazing how quickly you adjust to finding places to park overnight and sleep peacefully. Your creativity and ideas will improve with experience, you will learn how to blend in and keep your profile low. Here are some ideas to start your imagination running wild:

Free Campgrounds
If there are any available nearby then use them. Free Campsites and Allstays Camp and Tent can help you search nearby for free campgrounds. The facilities are basic but you will usually end up with a bench, fire pit and a pit toilet at minimum; there is also normally a river or lake for washing up. Check out my posts to find some awesome free campgrounds in British Columbia, Canada and The USA.

s1

Walmart (or other department stores)
Use the Allstays Walmart App for advice on Walmart’s that allow overnight parking, App users input comments reviewing their experience. Other stores that may allow overnight parking are Camping World and K-Mart, but be sure to check with management wherever possible.

Casinos
Often have parking that can be used overnight, discretion is key and you should try and cook away from the parking lot in a picnic area.

Rest Areas
Usually rest areas have signage for 8-10 hour parking limits, overstaying this time will depend on how regularly the area is patrolled by security. Flying J truck stops often have a separate area for overnight parking of RVs or an area where smaller cars can park for the night.

National Forests
You may find gems of free places to stay in National Forests, often campgrounds are well established with a pit toilet; they are not always easy to access; be sure to check that the area is accessible by road.

BLM
In the USA the Bureau of Land Management is in charge of an abundance of free campgrounds and areas you can stay overnight, use Allstays Camp and Tent for ideas as well as searching BLM on Maps.me.

Churches
Usually have a large and safe parking lot that is fine to stay in, so long as you leave early in the morning; ask whenever possible.

You could also try parks, residential areas without too many houses, or bars and restaurants that will be used to seeing cars left in their parking lot overnight. Keep a look out for signage forbidding overnight parking or only allowing residents to park. Do your cooking away from the area you intend to sleep, picnic areas and parks are usually best for this, to draw little attention to your stay. If you can, do a scout out of the area and decide if it is suitable returning once it is dark.