If you’re on a long journey, it’s important to find the best places to shower on the road for free. A road trip can be the ultimate adventure, but staying clean can be a challenge if you don’t have a portable shower in your vehicle.
As well as discussing other options, we will explain exactly how to find free public showers nearby, so that you can stay clean whilst on your road trip.
Whether you are spending your life behind the wheel or simply car camping during a long drive across the country, finding a convenient place to wash daily can be frustrating. That’s why we have compiled this list of 12 places where you can shower for free. Hopefully, this will save you some time and effort.
A variety of options will be discussed including free public showers, gym showers, and other locations. One popular option is to use the Planet Fitness showers as a place to stay clean whilst on the road. Tips and advice for doing this are included in this article.
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Free Public Showers
Believe it or not, there are completely free public showers all over the country to take advantage of! They have varying degrees of privacy and amenities, but all are clean and affordable.
It is worth taking the time to see where these fall along your journey and if it is worth changing the shape of your journey to strategically hit one of these locations every few days.
- Free/Fee: Usually free, but those that do charge are affordable.
- Convenience: There are free public showers to be found in every state in the country, but they may not always be exactly on your route. So use the link below to see which ones are located along your journey.
- How to Find: Use Public Showers Directory to find free/affordable showers in every state you pass through.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Clean facilities that are usually heated and with hot water, but you do need to bring your own towel and toiletries. With so many people passing through, we do not recommend skipping out on the shower shoes.
- Top Tip: Bring along a trusty bag of quarters and some cash just in case these facilities do require a small charge.
Going to be sleeping in your car on this trip? Get inspired by our Best Cars to Sleep In article and make sure you have the right vehicle for the job.
Planet Fitness Showers
Planet Fitness is the go-to shower spot for many people living road trip life. Their Black Card Membership is only $24.99 a month with full access to all of their locations around the USA, including free wifi!
They also offer free introductory passes for 1-day access and some locations may allow you to simply come in and use the shower for a small fee. This is one of the most popular places to shower on the road due to the ability to also use the other facilities!
- Free/Fee: Membership is the cheapest you’ll find at $24.99 a month, but there is always the free day pass if you are just passing through.
- Convenience: While there are 1000’s across the country, they will be more suited to those on the main route through cities and along major roadways than a great nature adventure.
- How to Find: Check out the Planet Fitness website to search their locations.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Clean, but you will need to bring your own towel, toiletries, and of course shower sandals.
- Top Tip: Limited spending is key to life on the road, but if you are going to be traveling for a while, and these are dotted along the route, you won’t regret factoring them into your budget!
Free Gym Showers
If you know you are going to be on the road for a while, or if you are making the big decision to live out of your car, a gym membership is a great investment. Access to premium showering facilities, sometimes saunas/steam rooms, and fitness equipment (if you are into that sort of thing).
While the showers are technically free, you need to have a membership to use them. Some gyms do offer free trials or pay-for-the-day passes, so make sure you look out for what chain is most frequent on your route (or in the area) before you invest.
- Free/Fee: While the showers are free, membership is usually required. Many gyms do offer some type of free trial period (usually around 7 days) or a day pass (though these can really add up).
- Convenience: Most cities and towns will have some type of fitness facility that you can take advantage of. 24-Hour Fitness is one of the biggest chains in the USA and they offer 24/7 access. If you are on a more rural trip, this may not be the best option for you.
- How to Find: For the bigger chains, like 24 Hour Fitness or Gold’s Gym, you can head to their website and see a list of their locations. Smaller or more local gyms will have to be searched by looking up the cities you are passing through.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Gym showers are clean and the bigger chains will provide you with towels and toiletries, but not always. So make sure you do your research.
- Top Tip: While these are easy to come by and have great facilities, the cost can add up if you don’t have a membership, so use them sparingly.
Community Swimming Pools
Community swimming pools are a great spot to not only get clean but relax and have a bit of fun during the journey. After a quick swim (and maybe a go on the diving board?) grab your toiletries and hit the showers.
Fees to enter aren’t too expensive, but it isn’t something you want to do more than once a week. Think of it more as a destination shower than your go-to. This is a great example of one of the places to shower on the road for free.
- Free/Fee: Free shower, but have to pay to enter the pool for the day.
- Convenience: Community pools aren’t as common as they once were, so this will probably be limited to big cities rather than something you can depend on at every stop.
- How to Find: Google cities you’ll be passing through to see if they have community pools and what the fees are.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Usually clean, but not very luxurious. You’ll need your own towel and supplies.
- Top Tip: A community pool can be a great stop on a particularly hot day or after a long stretch of road, use it as a mini destination and take the time to relax and enjoy it.
Portable Showers For Your Vehicle
If you’re going to be living out of your car for an extended amount of time, the portable shower is one of the car camping essentials you should consider. We would say that these work best on a more rural or coastal route as people in big cities or residential neighborhoods don’t really like to see you showering in the middle of the street.
These can also be a little chilly, depending on the weather and time of year you are traveling. Solar showers, or fancy Van installments, can heat the water for you, but if you’ve just got a bag with a spray attached, be prepared for a…shall we say refreshing? experience.
- Free/Fee: A one-time cost, portable showers can range from $20 to $300 depending on your needs, space, and budget. Definitely a worthy investment for the cross-country road tripper or permanent car resident.
- Convenience: You are in control of your shower destiny! Find a semi-secluded spot and get yourself feeling fresh and ready to take on the day.
- How to Find: Amazon, or your local camping goods store, will have a selection to suit all budgets. Check out those reviews to really get a feel for the pros and cons of each option.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: This is all BYOS, Bring Your Own Stuff. Cleanliness… well this is all the great outdoors so it depends on where you stop! We would definitely recommend sandals though so you don’t cut your feet on the rugged terrain.
- Top Tip: The more secluded your spot, the more thorough shower you can have! Be mindful of where you are and who’s around, you don’t want a family of five to see you scrubbing the undercarriage in the Whole Foods parking lot.
If you’re looking for a solid investment, we recommend Dr. Prepare’s Camping Shower as it’s hands-free, easy to pack down/store, and holds plenty of water!
If you are going to be living out of your car for an extended amount of time, you’ll definitely want to read our Ultimate Guide to Sleeping in your Car post.
I feel like marinas always have a hint of luxury, and you can’t beat that ocean view. If you are on a coastal route, or ever thought about houseboat living, then Marina facilities are a great option.
Always clean and well-kept, marina showers are usually coin-operated, though sometimes they are free. They may require a code to enter so put your best foot forward and see if you can make friends with the locals.
- Free/Fee: Sometimes free, but can be coin-operated, so keep a handy stash of quarters.
- Convenience: These are only in big coastal towns, so check out your route beforehand.
- How to Find: Google can tell you where along your route you can find big marinas. Check out each marina’s website to see what kind of facilities they offer so you are prepared.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Clean, usually heated rooms and warm water, but don’t always provide towels or toiletries so make sure you have your own.
- Top Tip: Remember, marinas are home to the people who live there. Be courteous when using the facilities and always clean up after yourself.
Truck stops are super easy to come by out on the road and offer everything from fuel and food to showers and rest. Stop in and get yourself sorted out with some hot food and a hot shower, just know that they aren’t necessarily the cheapest places to shower, though the facilities are really nice and do supply some toiletries.
In addition to being a place you can shower, some offer rest stops where you can spend the night (for free) in your car. If you want more tips on places to spend the night in your car, then read our 19 Places You Can Legally Sleep in Your Car post.
- Free/Fee: Fees range from $7-$15, so these are not the cheapest option, but you do get the use of a private shower space for as long as you need.
- Convenience: These are all over the major highways and roads across the USA.
- How to Find: Look along the major highways and interstates on your route for any big truck stops. Pilot/Flying J’s Gas Station and TA-Petro are two of the big names to look out for. Go straight to their websites to get lists of locations.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Clean, private, and they usually provide toiletries. We suggest bringing your own towel and shower sandals and having a bag of toiletries handy just in case.
- Top Tip: Early in the morning is better as these places tend to get pretty busy in the evening. They are designed to serve professional Truckers so some locations may not allow you to use them.
Campgrounds are easy to come by on the rural road, but they don’t always have showering facilities so make sure you look them up ahead of time. If you are planning on staying the night, it’s the perfect place to catch a shower as well as some zzz’s. If you only want to use the facilities, have your bag of quarters handy and stroll right in; some campsites don’t mind you using the facilities but others may require you to pay for a night’s stay.
- Free/Fee: Some places may require you to pay for a night’s camping to use the facilities, but others won’t mind if you just walk in. They are often coin-operated, so keep a sack of quarters handy. You can expect to pay around 50 cents for around 3 minutes of water.
- Convenience: Campsites are easy to come by on a rural road trip, but not all have shower facilities so make sure you look up the campsite beforehand.
- How to Find: There are a lot of campsite locator apps, we recommend either The Dyrt or HipCamp, both are free.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Cleanliness can vary, so make sure you bring your shower shoes, and you will have to bring your own towel and toiletries.
- Top Tip: Make sure you have plenty of change handy and definitely double-check the campground has shower facilities before rolling in.
Motels & Hotels
Motels or Hotels are going to be your most expensive option, but after several weeks on the road, you will probably feel ready to shell out the $50-$100 for a hot shower and a private room for the night. Some even come with little cafes, free wifi, and a pool, call it a mini holiday on your road trip.
- Free/Fee: Prices vary, but most motels start around $50 a night.
- Convenience: Motels and Hotels are everywhere, even the smallest towns you pass through will have someplace you can pull in for the night.
- How to Find: Google can show you what motels or hotels are in your area.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Clean, private, and soap/shampoo/towels minimum are always provided and you may even get lucky and find a complimentary hairdryer in the room. So ditch the shower shoes and enjoy a little luxury.
- Top Tip: These are, hands down, the most expensive option, so reserve them for when you are absolutely desperate.
Public beaches usually have small showers so you can rinse off after a dip in the ocean, and lucky for you these are free to use! The water will be cold and the shower will be public, but I’m pretty sure I (as someone born and raised in southern California) knew several boys in high school that used the showers at the beach as their main showers.
- Free/Fee: Totally free!
- Convenience: This is really only available to those who are traveling/living along the coast, particularly the west coast and especially California.
- How to Find: Google can tell you which beaches you are close to, but you may have to do some digging to see if they have any facilities. If you happen to be traveling in California, the YourCoast App can give you all the information you need. Worse comes to worst you can always take a dip in the ocean!
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: These are not the cleanest showers, and they will definitely be one of the coldest. You’ll need your own towel and supplies.
- Top Tip: These are VERY public showers, you won’t be able to do a thorough cleaning (unless it’s super early or super late and no one is around) and you will have to keep a bathing suit on at all times. The water more than likely drains straight into the ocean, or off into the sand, so please use environmentally friendly soap. Sierra Dawn Campsuds does a great multi-purpose/eco-friendly soap that can be used on your hair, body, hands, and dishes and isn’t harmful to the environment.
Use A Friend’s Shower
What are friends for if you can’t bum a free shower every now and then? A road trip is a perfect time to check in with every far-flung friend and family member, have a catch-up, and use the facilities. No friends in the area? Reach out and see if any friends of friends wouldn’t mind helping you out.
If all else fails, you may make friends while out on the road! However, personal safety is more important than a free shower so use your best judgment. To be extra safe, make a big deal of letting your probably innocent host know how grateful you are and how you just had to tell everyone you know how grateful you are to be at their exact address.
- Free/Fee: Totally Free!
- Convenience: Only as convenient as your network of friends and family across the country.
- How to Find: Text, call, social media, look up and have a chat with the person next to you at your next cafe or attraction.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Though your friend may provide the toiletries and a towel, it’s polite to come prepared, especially if it is the case of a friend of a friend.
- Top Tip: Be courteous and leave the bathroom better than you found it so you can possibly use it again in the future. Definitely offer to return the favor if you have a friend (or friend of a friend) in the area to keep up your good travels karma.
State and National Parks
Most State Parks have showering facilities you can use for a small fee or that come included if you are using their designated camping sites. Clean, warm, and set in a scenic location, what is not to love?
Large National parks usually have a showering facility attached to their campgrounds that run on timed, quarter-operated systems. Smaller national parks are unlikely to have these facilities so do your research.
- Free/Fee: While some may allow you to sneak in for a quick shower (or at least only make you pay for quarter-operated showers), others may require you actually stay the night in their campground to use the facilities.
- Convenience: There are 6,600 State Parks and 423 National Parks across the U.S., it won’t be hard to pass through several on any given road trip.
- How to Find: Use Reserve America to locate State Parks, and Recreation.gov to locate National Parks, near you and find out what kind of facilities they offer.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Usually clean, well-lit, and warm. You will need to bring your own towel, toiletries, and shower shoes.
- Top Tip: If you are all about seeing the natural beauty of the land, these parks are worth spending a night or two in to rest and take advantage of the facilities.
Rec Centers, like the YMCA, can be a great place to stop and freshen up as well as do some activities. You will have to pay a small fee to access the facility for the day but you will usually have access to a pool, showering facilities, and all kinds of other recreational activities.
- Free/Fee: Every center is different and will have its own facilities and fees, so you’ll have to look up what’s on your route and their website.
- Convenience: Most large cities will have some kind of Recreation Center, but these aren’t as easy to come by as gyms.
- How to Find: Good old Google can show you what’s in your area, but you will need to research your route ahead of time to prevent disappointment.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Clean, but you will need to bring your own toiletries, towel, and shower shoes.
- Top Tip: Recreation Centers sometimes have special events or activities on their calendar, plan ahead and maybe you can time your shower stop with an interesting event.
Hot Springs must be a part of an extended road trip, there’s nothing better than climbing into a natural, warm bath surrounded by nature. Some are free to access and come with free facilities to clean up afterward, others charge a reasonable fee to get cleaned up after your dip in the springs.
- Free/Fee: Some are free and some have a small fee, so planning is key here.
- Convenience: There aren’t too many around the USA, but you can bet if you are traveling through Colorado there will be a couple on your way.
- How to Find: In the planning stages of your trip, see if any fall on your route (or are worth going out of your way for).
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: These are usually simple but clean. You will need to bring your own supplies.
- Top Tip: Hot Springs are such a unique experience and are totally worth the effort it might take to incorporate them into your trip.
Rivers & Lakes
Lakes and rivers, aka the original baths, are all over the USA and an important cornerstone to any road trip. We can’t lie to you, this is going to be one cold bath, so brace yourself. You might prefer to remove buckets of it and have a little rinse as you go rather than dive straight in, but that’s up to you. Rivers, especially on a summer’s day, can be a little warmer, especially in the shallow rock pools along the edge.
- Free/Fee: Free and Refreshing!
- Convenience: There are about 1,681 lakes and over 250,000 rivers in the USA, present in every state in the country. You’re definitely going to come across a few on your journey.
- How to Find: U.S. Lakes Information is an excellent website to help you locate lakes around the USA. It also gives great information about the lake and what activities and facilities are in the area.
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: Clean enough for the fish, and clean enough for the humans. Bring your own towel and bio-soap.
- Top Tip: This is a natural environment with its own ecosystem, limit your impact by being gentle, cleaning up after yourself, and using environmentally friendly toiletries (like the Sierra Dawn Campsuds we mentioned earlier in this article).
Malls, and really any public toilet, can serve in a pinch for a quick wipe down, especially if you can score a toilet with a private sink. Keep these quick and to the point, you don’t want a long line forming outside causing irritated customers or suspicious store security. It’s not exactly illegal, but a courteous attitude goes a long way to getting you what you want.
- Free/Fee: Free, but make it quick.
- Convenience: Very convenient, most cities have several malls or large retail complexes to choose from.
- How to Find: Google away!
- Toiletries/Cleanliness: You’ll need to bring your own discreet toiletries. Make sure to bring two small washcloths, one to get wet and use for cleaning, the other to dry off with, or a pack of wet wipes (desperate times). It is also a good idea to have a little plastic bag to put these damp/dirty clothes in when you are finished.
- Top Tip: The key here is speed. Hit the essentials (like your teeth and all the hot spots), and let go of things like your hair. Make sure you tidy up after yourself because again, a courteous attitude is hard to argue with.
A few final tips for showering on the road
- Always have some cash and quarters handy. Most coin-operated showers only take quarters and some of the smaller showering facilities may require cash or struggle with their card readers.
- Have a handy and portable toiletries bag with the bare essentials. Eco-friendly supplies are best for leaving as little impact as possible no matter the environment (think biodegradable wipes, toothpaste, and soap).
- Plan ahead as much as possible to avoid disappointment.
- Learn to love cold showers.
- Life is an adventure, you don’t need to shower every day, just enjoy the ride!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you make a qualifying purchase, but this is at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Road Trip Expert.
Monday 13th of February 2023
Love your attitude and take on life, Lisa. Great List btw. I've done most of them (including the dreaded Wal-Mart restroom sink) but I never would have thought of hot springs. I'm on a road trip, as we speak, that started in Charleston, SC and ends in Las Vegas, NV. But I have a pit stop to make a long the way... In Denver and now, Colorado SPRINGS 🥵😎🧖🛀🗻🚰😂😂🤣😭
Thanks for the knowledge drop. -Ethan C.