Storing your van when you’re away

We’re spending a lot of time away from our trusty van Red Delicious this year. We went to Australia (where we rented a van) and we’re about to spend a couple months long-distance hiking in both the U.S. and England. This begs the question: What do you do to store your van safely when you’re away?

1. Leave your van with a friend or family member

We’re fortunate that our parents have driveways and, if needed, we can leave our van parked there when we’re away. We did that while in Australia and just made sure to book our flights at the nearby airport. Red Delicious just sat in the driveway, but we left the keys in case she needed to be moved. We plan to leave our van with a friend in Oregon while we hike the Oregon section of the PCT. You can also offer to lend your van to a friend without a car while you’re away.

Pros: It’s free and easy, and you’re leaving your van with someone you trust. They can start your van to make sure the battery doesn’t die.

Cons: You need to be comfortable having your van parked on the street or uncovered (we have no problem with it). You also need to make sure all valuables are cleared out or hidden depending on how frequent break-ins are in the area.

2. Rent public storage

Plenty of people need to store cars, boats or RVs. Why not awesome minivan campers? Given the amount of excess stuff most people have, there is no shortage of public storage options in most cities and communities. Only the smallest of rural towns won’t have some kind of storage unit business. You can rent a space for a car and don’t need to worry about being a burden to friends or family members. Rates are typically monthly.

Pros: It’s widely available and doesn’t rely on favors. Storage is also relatively secure, with access limited to other people renting from the facility. Could be a more convenient location depending on your plans.

Cons: Expensive and not very cost-effective for short periods of time.

3. Short- and long-term public parking lots

Depending on how long you’ll be out of your van, you can also consider paid parking lots. Airports have tons of them and you can get good deals at the off-airport lots. (Always check their websites for coupons!) There are also parking garages in cities that may have a weekly or monthly rate. While we leave Red Delicious with a friend for our hike, we’re leaving my dad’s car (he’s hiking with us) in the parking lot of a lodge for $10/week. It’s more secure than leaving a car parked at a remote trail head, where cars are broken into frequently when parked for long periods of time.

Pros: It’s widely available and doesn’t rely on favors. More convenient for shorter periods.

Cons: It’s less secure than a car storage unit because they’re accessible to the public, but lots are often patrolled. Make sure to remove any valuables or hide them out of sight.

4. Crowdsource it

This is like the Couchsurfing version of finding short-term car storage. It’s a little like #1, but instead of turning to close friends or family, you’re turning to casual travel acquaintances or an online following. For instance, I’ll never forget when the folks at Our Open Road put a call out to folks in southern Brazil on Instagram that they were needing to fly back to Los Angeles and looking for a place to leave their van. I like to think we’re pretty trusting folks, but I thought that was a superior showing of trust. Maybe one day we’ll ask you if we can park our van with you or someone you know!

Pros: It’s free or cheap, you’ll make a new friend, and the location might be more convenient depending on where you need to go.

Cons: You might not be able to find someone trustworthy or in a convenient location.


Any other ideas we’re not thinking of? Let us know in the comments. You might not hear from us for a few weeks since we’ll be hiking. Follow us on Instagram for photos from the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon!

  6 comments for “Storing your van when you’re away

  1. 2016-07-17 at 8:36 am

    great discussion about doing this. Really good ideas to share.

  2. Gayle
    2016-07-17 at 11:08 am

    If you ever travel to western Kentucky, you can park your van on my farm. It’s off the main road and no one ever comes back here. All my jobs are online, such as teaching business English via skype to Chinese business people, which allows me the opportunity to live close to nature here. I am planning to transition to on the road in a couple of years when I’ve saved enough money to start. Some of my jobs will transfer to on the road, so that is the plan right now. Enjoy Oregon, I’ve driven through it. It’s beautiful.

    • Tamara & Chris
      2016-07-17 at 11:46 am

      Wow, thanks, Gayle! We’ll keep that in mind for the future. Good for you for finding location independent ways to earn income and best of luck as you prepare to hit the road. If there’s anything we can do to help, let us know!

  3. 2016-07-18 at 6:08 am

    We’re lucky that we have family members who are willing to store our van while we’re away. For this 2.5-month stint in Europe, I decided to keep the van insured so that they could drive it around the block once in a while. I didn’t want it sitting there without having the engine running for so long. Hope you enjoy the PCT; it’s so beautiful there, especially this time of year!

  4. Howard and Peggy Davos
    2016-09-18 at 11:57 am

    Hi Tamara and Chris. My wife and I are retired, with kids and grandkids in CA and also in Maine. We just got our really nice old sienna van w/low mileage and plan on doing kind of what you’re doing….I just found your blog. We’ve lived all over the country throughout my career in the government and are looking to also visit many of our old friends and beautiful areas we have lived in. It’s a great encouragement to see how happy and successful you are traveling this way. Our plans are to head to California this November and head back to our home in Vermont in March. We’re planning a trial of our van on a trip to South Carolina and Georgia next month. We really liked you blog and your attitudes toward your life in the van. Thanks, Howard and Peggy

    • Tamara & Chris
      2016-09-21 at 8:31 am

      Thanks so much for reading and congrats on setting out to live the van life! It’s a great idea to do a trial run with your van — you’ll learn a lot about your setup and what you need/don’t need. Good luck to you and happy travels!

Leave a Reply