We've all seen the glamorous pics of vans parked in epic locations overlooking an amazing beach or a serene landscape. While staying overnight in a remote location is very possible in your van, sometimes you have to force an illegal camp in unfriendly areas. We've put together five ways to help you never receive a ticket and you can sleep soundly with peace of mind.
1. Don't cook and loiter where you're going to sleep. If you're in an area where the authorities are cracking down on vanlifers, go to a nearby park where you can cook and chill out until you're ready to pack up and pass out. The authorities are always on the lookout for camper vans that look like they are posted up getting ready to sleep. We've been notified countless times that we can't camp somewhere just because all the lights are on in our van at night and we're just hanging out and relaxing. Also, grumpy neighbors that hate us vanlifers are quick to call the authorities for campervans that look like they are going to stay the night in an illegal spot. So before you shack up for the night, get all your cooking and loitering done in a public place where it's more accepted.
2. When it time for bed, have your rig 100% set up so when you pull up to pass out for the night you aren't shuffling through your shit. I also recommend a 5% tint and some black out curtains to keep those wandering eyes out of your business. What we do in places like Byron Bay, where vanlife is on serious lockdown, is we hangout in the popular spots like main beach, or Wategeos until the posted time where parking is no longer permitted. Sometimes, we even sleep until the allowed posted time and set an alarm to move to a neighborhood. Apartment complexes are good because there are always so many cars parked out front. Once you park for the night, it's lights out. That means, no latenight instagraming or any headlights on. Any suspicious behavior will likely get a call to the authorities.
3. Get acquainted with your pee bottle. One of the more glamourus parts of vanlife is pissing in a jug. If you're like me and have to pee many times in the night, you'll want a large jug. If you're in an area with no facilities, going in and out of your van to pee on the street will likely get you a complaint and a hefty fine. And no one likes their neighborhood smelling like piss...so be respectful and leave no trace. Once you wake up in the morning, just dump all your wiz in a nearby toilet.
4. Late nights and early mornings. Sometimes camping in illegal areas is the only option. We lived on the esplanade in North Burleigh for over 4 months, while working on the Gold Coast. Staying up late and waking up early is the way to go. If you're up before the neighbors who are most likely to report you to the authorities they cant prove that you actually did camp overnight. Although it can be draining, you can always catch some z's during the day when its allowed. What I recommend is hanging a towel up or a wetsuit or just have some gear out so it looks like you were up early have a swim' surf, or work out. The key here is trickery. You have to outsmart the authorities.
5. Always check signage in every parking lot. Lots of car parks will have the rules posted on a sign. Whether its a no camping sign or a no parking between certain hours, it's going to be hard for you to claim you didn't know when the sign obviously states what you can and cannot do in the car park. Also, don't incriminate yourself--make the authorities do their job and catch you red handed. Countless times we've had a knock on our window around 9am, after a camp, and we've been asked if we camped. Since we have read the signs, we usually just claim that we arrived after 5am or just a simple "no" always worked for us. It's very hard for the authorities to prove you've slept over night unless they catch you in the middle of the night.