Where to sleep while bike touring

One of the first questions people ask us is, “Where do you sleep at night?” It’s an uncomforting thought to think of being stranded on the side of the road with your children. What would we do if we couldn’t find a safe place to sleep?

The good news is that we’ve always found a safe place for the night. Always. In four years of full-time travel on our bikes, we’ve always managed to find a safe place to lay our heads. It might not be ideal, but we’ve never ended up stranded.

People throughout the world have three basic needs – food, water, and a place to sleep. If you find yourselves without a place for the night, don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help – they’ll most likely be more than happy to help.

Cheap hostel in Nicaragua

Depending on your budget, you may stay in cheap hostels or fancy hotels

Hotels: Depending on your budget, you may end up staying in hotels on a fairly regular basis. There are times, however, when the next hotel is too far to reach in a day. You will need some backup in case you can’t find a hotel.

Campgrounds: Campgrounds are great if you can find them. In some areas – like the Pacific Coast – you’ll find nice campgrounds every night. In other areas, they simply don’t exist. Some RV parks allow tents; others do not. Campgrounds are nice, safe places and generally have showers and picnic tables available, but don’t rely on finding them every night. If you are traveling in high season, it would be a good idea to make reservations as they tend to fill up. Some state parks will always find space for a bike tourist, but be sure to check in advance before relying on that.

Warmshowers: Warmshowers.org is a great resource for bicycle tourists of all ages. It is a hospitality site designed specifically for bike tourists. This is a great resource for places to stay in cities, but not so great for small towns as most of the hosts tend to live in cities. Be sure to write in advance and communicate well with your host so they know when you’ll be arriving.

Wild Camping: This is where you get creative. The idea here is to pull off the road and find a spot in the woods where nobody even knows you are there. Never pull in to an area marked “No Trespassing”, do not have a fire, and leave no trace. When it is nearly dark, wait until no cars are coming before quickly heading into the woods. It takes some practice to find good wild camping spots, but after a while you will be able to find a spot nearly anywhere you look.

Ask permission: Another tactic is to ask permission to camp in people’s yards or behind a restaurant or in a church yard. We’ve met some wonderful people this way! People are nearly always willing to help you out and will sometimes even invite you into their homes.

Check out our extensive resource section! We’ve got tips and advice on a wide range of topics from bicycling with children to finances for long term travel to roadschooling and more.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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6 Responses to Where to sleep while bike touring

  1. Justin August 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    I love the idea of wild camping. What were your experiences doing this? Did you have many run ins with people, wildlife? To me this is the ultimate. We were walking in the woods a few days ago and I said, “Let’s start our trip right here. What a perfect spot for the tent.” Looking forward to the wild the most. Followed up by the shower and pool at the Holiday Inn!

    • Nancy August 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

      We never had any problem wild camping at all – just look for a place where nobody will see you and set up camp! The trick is to find a good spot where you’re sheltered from the road yet is a nice, flat spot. After a while of touring on bikes, you get to the point where you naturally start looking for places to camp.

      I’m not sure how well it would work if you had a car – would be harder to get off the road with a car. And on buses and such you’re stuck in cities so it’s very difficult. It’s perfect on bikes though!

  2. damon September 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    how,when and why did you get started

  3. JaminiDevi August 8, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

    hi, First off I love your blog its very inspiring. We too were a bike family, but we weren’t smart about where to sleep and had a handfull of late night police encounters. I was wondering, did you guys ever experience being woken up by police saying you can’t be there? We were loaded with gear on our bikes and everyone could obviously tell we were traveling/ living outdoors. Many people.scowled at us because they knew were not participating members of society, and viewed us as dirty and homeless and irresponsible. People called the cops on us almist anywhere we went. We weren’t filthy, looked somewhat normal and were never breaking the law, people just didn’t like the sight of a traveling family “puttinhg children at risk” of being taken by CPS for being homeless. We were just touring as you guys did. Have u gone through anything like this? Its bc of my experience with cops that got me afraid of my kids being taken and we went back to live indoors (hiding out in a way) until we saved for an RV or something more Socially acceptable For children. Pls share anything u can, love you guys,.your blog is saving my mind right now, thank you.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel August 13, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

      Wow! No – we never experienced that. We are always very careful to hide at night, so nobody even knows we are there. We’ve hidden behind lots of things – trees, mounds of dirt, big rocks… One time, we actually camped right in the open in a vacant lot in the middle of a town, but set up camp after dark and didn’t use any flashlights so nobody even knew we were there.

      The only time we had the cops called was once in California. We had a blow-out on one bike, and didn’t have a spare tire. John and the kids stayed with the bikes, while I hitched a ride 75 miles into town to buy a new tire. Our bikes were on the side of the road, in front of a house, but there was no shade there. The boys left the bikes and went off to some trees where they could still see the bikes, but it looked like the bikes were abandoned. Some local people called the cops because they were afraid we were there to rob the house. Really? We’ve got two bikes and all the touring gear laying there on the ground for hours, and you think we’re going to go rob that house? And exactly how did they think we were going to carry away the piano??? The cop told us that people in the area viewed bikes as transport only for those poor enough to not be able to buy a car, so they were suspicious of us.

      Otherwise, we had no problem at all.


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