The Best Gym Membership for Van Life: Real-Life Top Picks

Many van lifers utilize a gym membership for showering. National gym memberships have locations all over the place, and you can use them to shower, work out and sometimes even soak in a hot tub. Here are our top picks for the best gym memberships for van life.

women on exercise session at the gym

When I hit the road full-time, the idea of a gym membership for van life never crossed my mind. I trail run mostly for exercise, and I figured I’d use my new nifty solar shower as needed for showering.

But then I met another van lifer who asked me which gym I went to… they shared that a gym membership for van life is worth its weight in gold. And I soon discovered that they were right!

So, as one does when learning about a new lifestyle, I went down a rabbit hole to research which gym memberships were the best for a nomadic lifestyle. In this guide, I outline everything to consider about gym memberships and share my findings so you don’t have to do the work yourself!

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Considerations for the Best Gym Memberships in Van Life

The Wayward Home writer Sierra Eberly with her dog Snow running along mountain ridge
Photo: @sierrastraverse – The Wayward Home writer Sierra Eberly with her dog Snow running along mountain ridge

Everything is different when living van life, including your gym membership needs.

If you plan to stay in a specific area, you can revisit the same gyms often, and you may opt for a pricier gym membership because it has classes and instructors you love. But if you plan to travel thousands of miles each year, you may be better off with a more affordable chain gym membership that gives you the basics: standard workout equipment and showers.

Here are some things to consider when determining the best gym membership for van life.

1. Budget Constraints and Cost-Effective Options

Van life is often chosen for its financial freedom, so finding a gym membership that aligns with your budget is crucial. Local gym chains and non-profit community centers often offer more affordable rates than upscale national chains.

2. Location-Based Memberships vs. National Chains

Consider the areas you plan to visit during your van life journey. A local gym membership may suffice if you stick to a specific region. On the other hand, national gym chains like Anytime Fitness or Planet Fitness can provide consistency and convenience as they have locations nationwide.

3. Access to Facilities and Amenities

Some van lifers may prioritize access to specific equipment, while others may require remote work amenities such as a quiet lounge area with Wi-Fi. Do you want access to instructor-led classes? Maybe you’re a swimmer and want pool access.

Many gyms offer tanning beds and massage chairs and even allow you to bring a guest who doesn’t have a membership. Choose a gym that suits your lifestyle.

4. Membership Contract Flexibility

Van life is all about flexibility, so opt for gym memberships that don’t lock you into long-term contracts. Month-to-month or pay-as-you-go options are ideal to accommodate your ever-changing travel plans. If you don’t plan to use many amenities at a gym, you may benefit from only paying for a day pass when needed.

Some gym memberships have hefty hidden fees if you pause your membership and restart it at a later date, so always check the fine print and ask about any reinstatement fees, if there are limits to pausing your membership, or if your membership rate is a “one time offering” the first time you sign up only.

Gym Membership Options for Van Lifers

The Wayward Home writer Sierra Eberly with her dog Snow
Photo: @sierrastraverse – The Wayward Home writer Sierra Eberly with her dog Snow

There are various options when determining the best gym memberships for van life. I had no idea there were so many types of gyms and ways to stay fit until I started researching my options!

Local Gym Chains

Local gym chains offer a unique experience in various van-life-friendly areas. You’ll find these gyms welcoming and often more budget-friendly. This can be a great option if you’re a seasonal worker and plan to be in an area for more than a few months or if you stay local full-time.

Local gym memberships can provide consistency and community through group classes or personal training sessions.

National Gym Chains

National chains like Anytime Fitness, Planet Fitness, or Gold’s Gym provide consistency and convenience as you move across the country. Some offer 24/7 access, making it easy to fit workouts into your schedule. With nationwide locations, these are the best gyms for travelers, allowing you to keep up with your workout routine nearly everywhere you go.

Some gyms even allow overnight parking (usually 24/7 gyms – always ask the manager!), so this can be very convenient if you want to get in a late workout, shower, and get a good night’s rest without driving somewhere else.

24/7 Gyms

For ultimate flexibility, look for gyms that operate 24/7. Often with unlimited access, these gyms offer the freedom to work out at any hour, fitting around your travel itinerary.

Remember that even if a large gym chain is typically open 24 hours, in some smaller towns, hours are limited or may only be 24 hours on certain days of the week. Always double-check operating hours before arriving at your gym.

Fitness Apps and Online Memberships

Try digital fitness options if physical gyms don’t align with your van life philosophy. Apps like ‘MyFitnessPal’ or ‘Nike Training Club,’ offer workouts and guidance, making staying fit on the road easier. I really love Apple’s Fitness+ app, which they recently opened up to anyone with an iPhone or iPad, regardless if you have an Apple Watch.

There are so many guided workouts for all levels it’s almost overwhelming. They even have guided meditation and mindfulness sessions. There are also endless options for guided workouts on YouTube.

This could be the better option if you prefer very remote areas and have other means of showering, such as utilizing a solar shower or going to a local rec center.

Best Gym Membership for Van Life: The List

So, which one is the best gym membership for you? I’ve gathered all the information right here for you to compare and decide for yourself!

Planet Fitness

Promoting a “judgment-free zone,” Planet Fitness offers all the basic training equipment needed for rewarding workouts. Their widespread availability benefits those who travel frequently or live a nomadic lifestyle in a van. Many locations are open 24/7, but operating hours can be limited in some smaller towns.

Planet Fitness’s gyms are probably the most popular for van lifers and was my top pick as a full-time nomad. It checked all the boxes on my list even though, in all honestly, I only use the showers and massage chairs. I keep telling myself that one of these days, I’ll use the ample workout equipment on a rainy day, but it just hasn’t happened yet.

  • Membership Fee: $29.99/mo for their PF Black Card gym membership.
  • Contract: 12-month commitment for some membership plans.
  • Additional Fees: $49.99 annual fee.
  • Locations: Over 2,300 locations across all 50 states.
  • Amenities: Planet Fitness gyms typically offer a range of amenities, including weight machines, cardio equipment, free weights, free fitness training sessions, locker rooms with showers, and a 30-minute circuit training area. The “Black Card” membership includes extras like unlimited guest privileges, use of massage chairs, tanning facilities, and access to any Planet Fitness location.
  • Pros: Affordable, with gyms available in almost every state.
  • Cons: Limited to 12 visits per month outside of your home gym.

I met Bunny a few years ago at a van life event. She put together this great video of her first-hand experience at Planet Fitness as a full-time van lifer. It’s a great representation of “a day in the life” so check it out if you’re curious what it’s all about!

Bunny Plays Here YouTube video:

Anytime Fitness

woman on a gym chatting with friends
Photo Credit: Anytime Fitness

Coming in at a close second it Anytime Fitness, a versatile gym chain known for its 24/7 accessibility, extensive global network, and flexible membership options. It’s an excellent choice for van lifers, travelers, and individuals seeking a gym accommodating diverse schedules. However, the overall cost and specific amenities may vary by location, so checking with the nearest facility is advisable to see if it aligns with your fitness goals and budget.

  • Membership Fee: Pricing varies depending on your home gym location, but the average cost across the US is $41/mo.
  • Contract: Contract length varies with each gym and can be anywhere from 6-18 months.
  • Additional Fees: Annual fee varies per gym location.
  • Locations: 2,300+ gyms nationwide (not including overseas).
  • Amenities: The gym facilities at Anytime Fitness should meet any fitness enthusiast’s needs. Along with private restrooms and shower facilities, they have fitness equipment for weight training, strength training equipment, and cardio machines.
  • Pros: Anytime Fitness has the most gyms nationwide, making them the perfect gym option when you start van life. 24/7 access can be a huge perk when living van life and your schedule doesn’t align with traditional business hours.
  • Cons: Although you can access an Anytime Fitness gym 24/7, the gyms aren’t always staffed. If you are a solo traveler, this could feel unsafe, knowing anyone with a membership can enter the gym if you’re the only one there. They do have security in place, but this is something that might not suffice the needs of a solo traveler.

Once you sign up for an Anytime Fitness gym membership, you have to wait 30 days before you can use any gyms beyond your “home” location. This could be rather annoying for those who want to hit he road immediately.

Anytime Fitness is extremely popular in Canada, being one of the most accessible chain gym memberships. Check out this video from Luke and Alysha, who travel full-time in their RV with their cat and love Anytime Fitness!

Luke and Alysha YouTube video:

Crunch Fitness

Crunch Fitness is known for its affordability, flexible membership options, and creating a welcoming and energetic atmosphere. With numerous locations across the United States, it’s a convenient choice for van lifers, travelers, and fitness enthusiasts who stick closer to large metro areas looking for a budget-friendly and accessible gym experience. Crunch Fitness offers two membership plans, the Peak and Peak Results Membership, that offer access to multiple locations nationwide (excluding Crunch Select and Crunch Signature locations).

  • Membership Fee: Starting at $24.99 for nationwide access.
  • Contract: Varies by location.
  • Additional Fees: $2 monthly processing fee and annual fees up to $89 depending on location.
  • Locations: 398 locations nationwide.
  • Amenities: High-quality equipment and great facilities make this smaller gym chain more of a white glove service gym. In addition to workout equipment, they have saunas and red light therapy available for use.
  • Pros: Budget-friendly, high-end fitness club with nice amenities.
  • Cons: Very limited locations, so if you need gym facilities and plan to travel extensively, Crunch Fitness might not be for you.

Gold’s Gym

Another gym to consider if you plan to stay near larger metro areas is Gold’s Gym. Since 1965, it’s been one of the premier gym memberships for serious athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

  • Membership Fee: Varies by home location and membership type.
  • Contract: Varies by home location.
  • Additional Fees: varies by location.
  • Locations: 240+ locations nationwide.
  • Amenities: Gold’s Gym has high-end amenities, often including swimming pools, large locker rooms, steam rooms, a smoothie bar, and tanning facilities.
  • Pros: Near-luxury gym experience with low monthly fees for the amenities provided and nationwide gyms you can access while on the road.
  • Cons: Although nationwide, the number of gyms is limited and might not align with your travel itinerary.

LA Fitness

LA Fitness is a high-end gym facility that offers many fitness options in a pristine environment. Known as a social gym, they have plans that easily allow you to add family members at discounted rates so you can workout with the people you love.

  • Membership Fee: $39.99 per month.
  • Contract: Depends on the membership plan.
  • Additional Fees: $99 initiation fee.
  • Locations: 500+ locations nationwide.
  • Amenities: Most LA Fitness gyms have near-luxury locker rooms, a pool, spa, sauna, and basketball court, in addition to high-end cardio and strength training equipment.
  • Pros: Includes a free fitness assessment and unlimited group classes.
  • Cons: All gym locations are mostly in coastal states, so if you plan to travel through the Rockies or spend time in Utah, this probably isn’t your membership.

24 Hour Fitness

24 Hour Fitness is a good option for someone staying near one specific location for the duration of their membership. Although they are a premier gym and offer lots of bells and whistles, you have to pay a day-use fee to use other gyms in their network. This could be handy for the occasional traveler who wants to use a familiar gym but is not ideal for the typical van lifer.

  • Membership Fee: $1 to start, and monthly membership varies by home location.
  • Contract: Varies by home location.
  • Additional Fees: Averages a $49.99 annual fee.
  • Locations: 275 locations nationwide.
  • Amenities: High-end workout equipment, pools, tennis courts, yoga rooms… they have it all.
  • Pros: Premier fitness club with all the bells and whistles.
  • Cons: Have to pay an extra fee to visit gyms other than your home gym.

ClassPass: Gym and Studio Access Without a Membership

women on exercise session at the gym
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

What if you want even more flexibility than nationwide gym memberships can offer you?

ClassPass is a versatile fitness membership platform that offers users access to various fitness classes, gyms, and wellness activities in various locations. I had never heard of ClassPass until my van life friend, Christina, told me about it. She absolutely loves it and uses it for yoga, dance classes, and all sorts of other class activities.

Unlike traditional gym memberships that limit you to a single facility, ClassPass allows you to explore diverse workout options at studios, gyms, and wellness centers, offering a more flexible and dynamic fitness experience.

How does ClassPass work?

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…

  1. Sign-Up: To get started, you’ll need to create a ClassPass account and choose a basic membership plan. ClassPass typically offers different subscription tiers with varying numbers of credits (used to book classes) and price points. Pricing varies with the area you sign up with, but you can access participating facilities anywhere in the US.
  2. Browse and Book: Once your account is set up, you can browse through ClassPass’s extensive directory of fitness classes, studios, gyms, and wellness activities in your area. The platform provides detailed information about each class, including location, time, instructor, and available time slots.
  3. Book Classes: You can book classes that interest you using your allocated credits. The number of credits required for each class depends on location and time. After booking, you’ll receive a confirmation, and the class will be added to your schedule.
  4. Attend Classes: Show up at the chosen studio or gym at the scheduled time. Your ClassPass app or account serves as a digital pass you can present for check-in. Enjoy the class or activity just like any other participant.
  5. Explore Variety: ClassPass allows you to diversify your fitness routine by trying different classes, from yoga and cycling to high-intensity interval training and dance. You can explore new studios and workout styles without committing to a single gym.

6 Benefits of ClassPass:

  1. Variety: ClassPass offers access to a wide range of fitness classes, allowing you to explore different workout styles and discover what suits you best.
  2. Flexibility: With ClassPass, you’re not tied to a single gym or location. You can book classes at various studios and gyms, making it ideal for those with unpredictable schedules, travelers, or van lifers.
  3. Cost-Efficiency: ClassPass can be a cost-effective option, especially if you want to attend multiple studios or classes that would be more expensive if purchased separately.
  4. No Long-Term Commitment: ClassPass typically doesn’t require a long-term commitment unlike many gym contracts. You can adjust or cancel your subscription according to your needs.
  5. Convenience: The ClassPass app makes finding, booking, and managing your fitness classes and activities easy. You can also sync your schedule with your calendar for added convenience.
  6. Community: Many ClassPass users enjoy community and camaraderie from attending classes at various studios. It’s an excellent way to meet new people who share your fitness interests.

Tips for Maximizing Your Gym Membership in Van Life

You might be surprised how challenging it can be to maximize your gym membership while living in a van. Gyms might not be in the part of town you have to run the rest of your errands in, or maybe the time of day you have available will be too warm and you can’t leave Fido in your van alone.

Here are a few tips on maximizing your gym membership investment.

Schedule Workouts

This might sound obvious, but sometimes it’s harder than you think, and this is where I fail often. Plan your workouts in advance, including how long your workout will be. Ensure you’re not rushing to your next meeting, cutting your workout short. “Chore day” in town can be overwhelming, and if you’re adding fitness in as one of your chores, make time for it!

Utilizing Public Facilities and Outdoor Workouts

Even with a gym membership, you don’t always have to use it for your workouts. Maybe you only have time for a shower, and that’s ok. Explore public facilities like parks, beaches, or hiking trails for outdoor workouts as an alternative to a gym workout.

Many van lifers swear by bodyweight exercises, yoga, hiking, and running to stay active and enjoy nature simultaneously. See that long staircase? Go up and down it a few times! You get the idea…

Creating a Fitness Routine Tailored to Van Life

Design a fitness routine that aligns with your van life lifestyle. This is going to feel very different than a traditional fitness routine! This might not include group fitness classes anymore, and throwing around a ball on basketball courts might be harder to come by, but you can still find a workout routine that works with this new lifestyle.

Incorporate workouts that require minimal equipment and adaptability, ensuring you can stay consistent even in remote locations. Maybe your gym workout is only once a week and spices up your overall routine with cardio equipment and weight machines. But the rest of the week, you can utilize accessible items like resistance bands (great for workouts and take almost no space!), a small dumbbell set, or even simply bodyweight training.

I personally have a short strength training routine I can do right inside my van if needed that includes using basic bodyweight and some resistance bands. I trail run when weather permits and use the the gym for showers, massages, and basic recovery. One of these days, I’ll use that row machine!

Which Gym Membership for Van Life Will You Choose?

people watching the beautiful Lake Union in Seattle, Washington at night
Photo: @sierrastraverse – Beautiful Lake Union in Seattle, Washington at night

Staying fit while living the van life is entirely achievable with the right approach. By considering your budget, location, and fitness needs, you can find the perfect gym membership or fitness routine to keep you in shape while enjoying the freedom of van life.

Remember, the key is adaptability and consistency – stay active, stay healthy, and enjoy every moment of your van life adventure to the fullest. Happy travels!

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