After years of travel, the best thing after a long day is not sleep—but a shower! So, how can you shower when you are away from home and not staying in accommodation? Here are some solutions we have found, and used many times over to shower on the road!
The Gym –
Anytime Fitness has amazing facilities. This gym is actually worldwide and has the most locations of any chain in the United States, literally thousands. Rural towns even have them occasionally!
Anytime Fitness is franchised so each location varies and you should call ahead before driving to a location to verify there is a shower at that location. We have particularly had this problem in Las Vegas, but generally we have found almost all (at least 90%) have at least one shower available.
Super low key, small, and a great place to get a workout and freshen up while on the road. We pay $60 a month for two people. Individual locations vary, but if you go in and talk to the manager they can sometimes offer you a break on price depending on the time of signup and if they have much traffic. If you get a steep price at one location, try one up the road.
A word on signup with Anytime Fitness – you have to wait 1 month after signup before your keys will open the other doors after staffed hours at any other locations besides your “home gym” – the location you signed up at.
In the past, we have used 24 Hour Fitness and Planet Fitness but were disappointed in the consistency of quality in the facilities throughout the country. Planet Fitness is by far the best deal at $19/month. If you go this route as a couple, only one of you must sign up. That person can then bring their partner as a guest at all locations. You will have to go the desk each time though. This got a little trying for us, and to get the deal the one who wasn’t signed up could never go in by themselves.
In a pinch, with just a bit of preplanning, you can also go into some gyms and see if they offer a free trial. Say you just moved to the area and want to check it out before joining. They may offer a free day or even 7-day pass.
Very few federal land campgrounds, especially National Forest campgrounds, will have showers. The main campgrounds in major National Parks such as Sequoia and Grand Tetons do have coin operated showers.
Certain states with state park campgrounds, such as those in Oklahoma, offer shower facilities. You don’t necessarily have to camp at that ground. We have used such facilities many times during the day and not been questioned. If there is an attendant present, ask how much just for the shower and they will usually say just 2 or 3 bucks or probably just say go ahead. Washington state parks are great for this and have showers that take quarters. Easy to just pop in and get 3 minute shower for 50 cents!
RV Campgrounds –
Offer showers for a small fee, especially those in resort and tourist towns. Beware of their short hours and call ahead and see if they allow showers to the public, not just for the people staying at their campground.
Join AirBnb and get $40 off your first trip for new members!
We LOVE AirBnb! On an extended trip we plan to spend one night a week at an inexpensive AirBnb. You can get a shower and better night’s rest, cook in a real kitchen and restock the cooler, reorganize your set up for the next leg of the trip, and do your laundry (thus saving laundry money). With these factors, an AirBnb can actually be seen as a better deal than driving to a campsite or rest area for those nights where you will cook and do laundry, especially if you are going to spend gas to drive back into town the next day.
We have found a night’s stay with a host as cheap as $20 in some locations with a general average being $30-50 out the door with cleaning fee and tax. Some areas will be more expensive and you can get very nice homes with amenities like pools in the $50-$100 range as well as the option of the entire home to yourself.
We have also made some really great friends and valuable contacts during our stays with AirBnb hosts!
Couch Surfing –
Another great option. Much like Airbnb only free or very cheap. Other travelers will post their home as a place to stay and you apply to stay there. They consider meeting you and hearing your stories as payment, since they are part of the travel community. Only choose this option if you plan well in advance and are in the mood to socialize. Check out the site!
Truck stops –
Most have showers for a fee. The fee has grown a lot over the past few years. Generally around $10-15 per person.
Beach showers –
Cold, public, but free. (keep your suit on!)
Cold, public, and you shouldn’t use shampoo or soap. The fish won’t like that.
Resort or adventure focused towns (like Moab) –
Often offer showers in very strange places like bicycle rental places or laundromats. You might be surprised! You just have to keep an eye out or Google it. You could also ask the local grocery store, which often compiles a list of resources; they do not want you showering in the sinks!
A friend or relative’s place –
If you know a lot of people throughout the country, let them know you will be in town and you could probably spend a night catching up and grab a shower. Never leave a situation that offers a free and convenient shower, even if you feel like you don’t need one. You don’t know when the next best opportunity will present itself.
“Camp” shower –
At an undeveloped and primitive site, it is pretty easy to just use a water bottle to get a shower on the road, especially if your hair is short. Stock several gallons with you at all times, not just for drinking water emergencies but for that much needed hair wash when you just can’t take it anymore. We can usually get it done with a gallon or so per person. Fill these when you go into town at the machines outside grocery stores (or inside if in a cold climate region).
If you need warm water, there are portable camp showers that can warm the water and even some that provide a privacy screen. For the extremely budget conscious you can get this one, at less than $10 it’s a great deal and warms the water via the sun’s heat. One of the finest available is the Sea to Summit, if you have slightly more to spend. If you have a larger rig and can spare the space, for just a bit more you can get a camp shower privacy screen and add the camp shower of your choice for an experience that will truly approximate a real shower.
Public Bathrooms –
McDonalds, Walmart, parks, laundromats, etc. – This is a last resort, and you should not take a full shower, but you can definitely wash your face and a few other things easily in a sink. Don’t try this often. The establishment will likely run you off or at least give you really dirty looks. Avoid doing this unless desperate. We had one very unfortunate run in with a Florida state park attendant, but he wasn’t sure if we had flooded the bathroom floor (there was a drain!) or the couple on the Harley parked next to us had. This was early on in our travels!
Remember, always leave no trace, even when showering!
Which shower options have you tried before? Have something else to add to the list? Leave a comment below!
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