View Full Version : Sleeping in your car...safe? Yay or nay?

03-05-2005, 11:54 PM
Next Saturday I leave for a road trip (spring break), from Arkansas to Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Boston. I am staying with a friend in Boston and for one night in Hartford, have a motel room booked in Rhode Island, but a night or two I have nowhere to stay and honestly, no extra $$$. Soooo...

What do you think? Is it safe to sleep in your car? If so, where would you recommend parking and sleeping? It makes me a bit uneasy but I've got to sleep somehow, and in my car seems like the only way.


Mark Sedenquist
03-06-2005, 08:19 PM
Two places I would recommend for over-night sleeping would be the auto parking lot at truck stops and hospital parking lots. Both locations tends to monitored and both have tolerance for someone grabbing a few hours of sleep.


03-06-2005, 08:24 PM
Another idea...what about parking in a hotel lot and sleeping? Just trying to keep my options open.

Quebec Gen
03-07-2005, 09:26 AM

A motel parking lot is a private property, you could get in trouble if you get caught and more and more owners hire security guards (especially on the east coast). But, as long as you don't get caught, that might be a possibility. I sometimes sleep in truck stops parking lots, it's pretty noisy sometimes, but I just put my ear plugs.

You should definitely stay out of secluded areas unless you plan to sleep at a campground. Busy areas are usually the safest because there are always people around if something happens, 24/7 truck stops (FlyingJ, TA,...) are great for that. There are of course certain inconvenients, but when you get up, there is food and a hot shower right accross the parking lot, which is a great thing to my opinion. Be sure to have a cell phone with you and maybe a pepper spray, just in case.

Unfortunately, there are less and less truck stops in the east and they are very busy. So maybe you should really consider Mark's suggestion (hospital), as you go east, the cities get bigger and you're more likely to find hospital parking lots that won't do round check ups to see if someone's sleeping in a car. Plus it's easy to find an excuse (a relative is sick, you're worried and you're from out of town...).

There are other threads on this forum about cheap and free lodging just do a research. Here are some websites that might give you some ideas :






-Strange places : www.sleepinginairports.net/strange.htm

-Long term visitors areas :


Good Luck!:-)

Mark Sedenquist
03-07-2005, 10:08 AM
Like Gen says, parking in hotel lot (when you are not a paying guest) constitutes trespassing and is one of the best ways of getting arrested. I wouldn't do it.

Robert Schaller
03-07-2005, 12:27 PM
I hate to express a dissenting view, but in my opinion it is very dangerous for a traveler to sleep in a car, and I'd rarely do it, especially if I were a solo woman. But it is not always less dangerous for men, either.

I won't sleep in any public place where I am left oblivious to approaching danger, giving the potential bad guy all the advantage for a quick and successful attack. If I camp in a dispersed area, for example, I try to plan my location so that people have to make noise to get near me (like on top of a hill where an approaching vehicle has to downshift, which then wakes me up).

My recommendation is to sleep (in your car if you wish) in a CAMPGROUND, either public or private, where other people are doing the same thing. Perhaps it is just an illusion, but I usually feel safer that way. Bob

03-07-2005, 12:49 PM
Thanks for the input, guys. I don't feel utterly safe sleeping in my car either, but I kinda don't have a whole lot of options. One night of my trip I was supposed to stay w/ a friend who recently told me he'll be out of town so I've been scrambling to come up with something.

Rest stops, truck stops...guys are you sure they're safe?? It seems sketchy. The truck stops liking Flying J might be okay but rest stops, no way, they're scary.

I';ve been trying to find a campgound for free but a lot of them say their camping season is like May-Sep so what to do??

Robert Schaller
03-07-2005, 02:05 PM
If you have no choice, try to sleep light, and use the suggestions Mark and Gen have given -- but avoid sleeping in rest areas. They ARE much less safe and as has been said before on this forum, it is not usually legal to stay overnight in one. Truck stops and hospitals would be better for the reasons already stated. Have you considered hostels? Perhaps you can find a couple of those close to your route? Bob

Quebec Gen
03-07-2005, 10:40 PM
Like Bob said DON'T EVER sleep in a rest area, especially on the east coast they are NOT safe at all and it is often illegal. Some things happened to people I know there during daytime and they weren't even sleeping (thank God). Maybe you should consider borrowing some extra cash for this trip so you'll be able to sleep safely in a fairly decent motel room or campground. When it is a matter of safety, I think busting your budget a little bit is a reasonnable choice to make, I'm sure your family would agree.

Like I said, I slept in a few truck stops before, but I was prepared for it, I had blinds in the windows and everything and I only did this when I felt completely safe (the occasions were pretty rare actually). You know saving money on a trip is a great goal but sleeping is also a necessity and if you cannot sleep because you don't feel safe or worse, if you get attacked, then your trip will probably be ruined or at least definitely less interesting and tiring. I don't want to sound pessimistic and say that it'll happen but it's up to you. If you decide to go for it, I'd say trust your INSTINCTS and if I were you, I would try to borrow extra cash anyway or bring a credit card, just in case.

03-10-2005, 09:50 PM
Well, first of all, let me say that everyone has made some great points. I've done this before, and my thoughts are to go to a place that has a fair amount of activity and good lighting. If the signs say "no sleeping" or something like that, move on! The same goes for your level of comfort.

Now, my concern would be something that our friends in Southern states may not concern themselves with so much this time of year: The weather, one reason why Boston isn't tops on the list as a Spring Break destination. Our Spring usually starts in late April to mid-May in this corner of the world.

As I write this at 11:30pm EST, it is 7 degrees Fahrenheit outside, with a wind chill bringing it into negative territory. The daytime highs around Central Mass. have been around 30 degrees, though Monday it was nice...Tuesday brought a very strong snowstorm and a subsequent 20 degree drop in temperature in about an hour and a half, with 40-50mph winds. It took me a half an hour to clean my car off after work, and I STILL have ice up in the wheel wells. I watched the storm come in at a grocery store parking lot. When I got there it was fairly warm, when I left, all my windows were starting to ice up.

I would find some form of lodging that would allow one to be comfortable. Spend the extra cash and avoid pneumonia. You'll be glad you did.

03-14-2005, 06:56 AM
hey, sleeping in your car is not the worst idea. the previous post about the FREEZING conditions should be considered though. but if u have a dozen down blankets with you...then you should park along a nice looking residential street without parking restrictions such as required permits, no overnight parking, street sweeping, etc. It is usually better to park between two houses or along the side, rather than directly in front of a house. or parking curbside along a quiet street in front of some fancy apartment buildings is not a bad idea either. the idea is to tuck in between some cars and keep low.
there won't be a problem if you park at ur chosen location after sunset and leave before sunrise. you won't need more sleep than that!

11-29-2005, 03:45 PM
Next Saturday I leave for a road trip (spring break), from Arkansas to Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Boston. I am staying with a friend in Boston and for one night in Hartford, have a motel room booked in Rhode Island, but a night or two I have nowhere to stay and honestly, no extra $$$. Soooo...

What do you think? Is it safe to sleep in your car? If so, where would you recommend parking and sleeping? It makes me a bit uneasy but I've got to sleep somehow, and in my car seems like the only way.


RoadTripper Brad
11-29-2005, 04:19 PM
On the contrary, rest stops are just that, places to rest. Usually you can get away with a few hours of nap time, so you might consider that. Washington State has a great program out, and a few other states are following suit, about actually posting a highway patrol detatchment in rest areas. The Lynnwood rest area on I-5 near Seattle is one such rest area, and believe me, anyone thinking of doing anything quickly changes their mind when they pull off the highway and see in bright blue lettering "Washington State Parol, Lynnwood Station". If you can find a rest area with a manned visitor center or police station, you can consider that as an option for quick naps, and if you're running low on cash, quick naps might do the trick. But I don't know how plentiful these types of rest areas are on the east coast.

RoadTripper Brad
11-29-2005, 04:30 PM
A peace officer might argue with you on advice number 1, number 3, and number 7... I have seen camping, but to say it's company policy I'm not to sure. Tresspassing is tresspassing, whether posted or unposted, and you will either get a quick boot or hauled off to the "iron inn". 2) if you sleep in your car in a bar parking lot, I would almost surely expect an officer to tap his maglight against your window regardless. Number 3 is a major problem as commuter parking lots are usually government property (out west anyways) and many require placards or stickers, and again, you might get visited by an officer. I would stick to hospitals, rest areas with visitor centers or police stations, truckstops, or campgrounds if you must. Its best not to do anything that could get the men and women of the red and blue strobes tapping on your window pane, as it's a pain in the rear for you and the officer.

Mark Sedenquist
11-29-2005, 04:58 PM
...7)SAM WALTON PUT IN HIS WILL THAT PEOPLE CAN CAMP IN ANY WAL MART PARKING LOT AT ANY TIME ALTHOUGH THIS APPLIES MORE TO RVS I THINK THEY LOOK THE OTHER WAY IF YOU SLEEP IN YOUR CAR! This is an urban myth -- Wal-Mart managers make their decisions about whether or not RV, cars, etc. can sleep in the lot. Generally, if folks are courteous and purchase something from the store they are welcome. The times I have done it, I always got permission before rooting for the night.

In most rest stops around the USA, sleeping is restricted to no more than four hours. Rest stops are not camping areas and should be used for those short-term breaks we all need from time to time.


Digital Vagrant
10-27-2007, 03:48 AM
If you decide to sleep in your car, NEVER EVER sleep in a hotel parking lot. I haven't ever slept in my car, but I have stayed at a lot of hotels. Pretty much every hotel I have ever stayed at has asked me for my license plate number. They keep close track of what cars are parked on their property. Hotels are the most likely to call the cops on a tresspasser - you are better off at a campground, 24-hour Walmart or grocery store, travel center, or hospital.

10-28-2007, 06:16 AM
I did it a few times alone when younger, and never felt comfortable enough to really sleep.(Ditto sleeping in airports.) Paying a few $ for a campsite and simply not bothering to set up a tent would make more sense to me. (Although I always have a tent for road trips.)

If I had another adult with me--who I could trust to stay awake-- I would be fine with trading a few hours here and there in shifts at a rest area though.

11-06-2007, 08:46 AM
So through a little lack of planning my brother and I realized upon heading into the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park that the Trail Ridge Road was closed. We have had such beautiful weather over the last couple weeks we honestly never even thought to check on it so we decided to head back down the 40 to I-70 and figured we would sleep in a rest stop only to find out Colorado is one of those states that does not allow you to sleep in rest stops. We called a Walmart in Longmont, CO and the manager said it would be no problem to sleep in the parking lot. We bought a couple things when we arrived and slept without a problem. I had actually called two Walmarts in the area and the first said they did not allow overnight parking but the second one did and the manager was very friendly.

11-13-2007, 06:57 PM
I don't have a problem with catching some Z's at a rest stop if necessary. My trip to Colorado was the first time I had a major road trip by myself, and kind of got caught out in the middle of western Nebraska without a place to stay in the middle of the night. Poor planning on my part, but live and learn. Fortunately, I met a trucker at a rest stop and he thought I would be OK there, and told me to let me know if I needed anything. Nice guy, but maybe I was lucky.

I did sleep without the car running, keys laying below me (which left a nice mark the next morning) and my valuables hidden. I guess the usual for staying anywhere when you are on an adventure.

PNW Judy
11-14-2007, 06:53 PM
I've slept in rest stops during the day for short naps. And then only in busy ones with lots of activity, clean restrooms that make me feel like vandals and other seedy characters don't hang around there, etc.

I've only slept in my car at night if I'm just taking a long nap to revive. I'm not done it with the intention of staying all night, until morning. When I've done it, I've done it at truck stops, regular 24-hour convenience stores/gas stations, 24-hour grocery stores, etc. Oh, and at casino parking lots. Maybe I'm naive, but I've never felt unsafe. Again, I try to pick places that seem busy and that are well-lit. I've never had a problem but, maybe if I did it more, the odds would start going against me?

12-26-2007, 08:43 PM
I have personally slept in my car on cross-country road trips and ski trips for years. Only twice was I awakened by a police officer. Both times were early in my car-sleeping career, in poorly chosen parking spots, and in the deep south. I have had no other unpleasant experiences sleeping in the car except for locking my keys in the car after waking up and stepping outside without my key ring.

For me sleeping in the car means an air mattress and subzero sleeping bag in the back with the rear seats folded forward in a Honda Civic. Yes, it is not as comfortable as a hotel, and I will usually find a cheap hotel/public shower to visit every now and then to freshen up, but as a means to save money when traveling, it comes second only to crashing friends' couches (also highly recommended).

My first experiment with sleeping in the car came on a 45 day round-the-US road trip, where I spent about 35 of the 45 days sleeping in the vehicle. Even at the cheapest hotels, I would have spent over $1000.00 on lodging alone for those days - money much better spent on fuel, food, and entertainment/recreation.

My next experiment was car-camping in the parking lot at a ski area (in the designated overnight area). Having found this to be surprisingly comfortable (and convenient), I have gone on to spend the last two years camping inside the car on most of my snowboarding trips, with no problems.

Keys to being safe are choosing a good parking spot, making sure you have sufficient fuel/food/facilities at hand, and being prepared for the conditions. Make sure you have a plan for where to pee in the morning, and you should be fine. Just don't park in residential zones, on dead-end roads, or anywhere that you are an obvious target for police/criminals.

I have had success with highway viewpoints, city streets, and many areas in between. It is no problem to sleep in the middle of the city if you are tired enough, and have a sun-shade to block any street lights. I would recommend an area with access to a restroom if possible, but if none is available, just make sure you have some t.p. or other appropriate wiping device at hand.

Feel free to touch base with me if you have questions about the ins and outs, or anything specific to sleeping in the car in snow zones. Remember that snow plows are big and heavy, and you are not - plan appropriately.

Happy trails!

04-27-2009, 07:11 PM
Next Saturday I leave for a road trip (spring break), from Arkansas to Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Boston. I am staying with a friend in Boston and for one night in Hartford, have a motel room booked in Rhode Island, but a night or two I have nowhere to stay and honestly, no extra $$$. Soooo...

What do you think? Is it safe to sleep in your car? If so, where would you recommend parking and sleeping? It makes me a bit uneasy but I've got to sleep somehow, and in my car seems like the only way.

PNW Judy
04-27-2009, 07:47 PM
There were several good posts within this discussion that talks about how to do it safely. I think most of us agree that you will seldom sleep as good as you would stretched out in a bed or tent, but it's safe as long as you use good common sense. If you have any questions of how to do it safely, ask again. But I think you can find the answers with a thorough read-through.

Of course, we can't guarantee that nothing will happen but it's about as safe as anything else when done with common-sense.

Hope that helps a bit.

05-07-2009, 12:36 PM
Thanks for all the helpful and thoughtful suggestions. Really great advice here.

05-07-2009, 01:45 PM
I am reading this thread having slept in my car last night. The rain was heavy, and pitching the tent just did not seem an option.

The car is a Dodge Caravan with the seats removed. There is a space of almost 7' x 4'+. Three Thermarests and a good down sleeping bag and pillow, I must have been comfortable, since it was almost 8am when I awoke.

While having a great meal at the TA truck stop (I-90 exit 35 PA) last night, I got to chatting to a truck driving couple, who convinced me that if I joined the other RVs parked out there, I would be fine. It was brightly lit, but not even the lights diisturbed me through the night. In the morning there was a shower and a hearty breakfast. A great start to the day!

Having taken all the normal precautions to safeguard my valuables meant that even as a solo senior female I had no concerns at all for my safety.

It is tempting!!

05-16-2009, 02:50 AM
Here I was thinking this was written by a young healthy, strapping male and saying to my monitor, "Yeah, that's easy for you to talk to truckers and have them suggest where you spend the night...." and then I got to the part where you're *gasp* FEMALE. Yes! My kinda gal!

I'm getting ready for my big road trip and keep wondering, "Do I really want to so spend a night so close to truckers (and whatnot)? I don't even like being close to trucks on the road." *rolleyes* Dangerous bruts, ya' know. *wink, wink*

I suppose I could give it a try one night, pretend to be resting my eyes for a few minutes, that sort of thing, and if it gets too eerie, I could be on my way, no one the wiser.

Thanks for the encouragement.

05-25-2009, 12:01 AM
A pro trucker who belongs to this forum took offense to my above comments about truckers. I can't edit it, so I'll remark here that I meant no offense to truckers. I was jesting, thereby, I wrote "wink, wink" thinking others would know it was in jest. Obviously, I offended someone, which I did not mean to do. I've met many truckers in my many years of life, and most of them were kind and helpful, only a very few, a true minority, were crass or obnoxious.

Truth be told, I just didn't know how comfortable I would be on "truckers' turf". I did stop at a truck stop the other night for gas, and I stayed for about a half an hour longer, just to check out the atmosphere. While I took my break from driving, people were just buying gas, driving up to the attached Sonic, and other similar activities. The place was also clean and appeared new. I was impressed to see a laudromat on the property. The truckstop in the next block had a chapel on its grounds.

While I haven't slept overnight in a truckstop yet, I've taken more notice of the ones I've passed on the highway.

Mark Sedenquist
05-25-2009, 12:06 AM
I just didn't know how comfortable I would be on "truckers' turf". Truck Stops that only cater to truckers are just about extinct in the USA -- such places just don't exist any more. Most have changed their names to some version of "Travel Plaza" as recognition that they welcome and seek the business of all parts of the traveling public -- There's always going to be a section reserved for professional drivers, but there is not place that is strictly "trucker's turf" anymore.


05-27-2009, 11:45 PM
Last night I stayed at the TA travel center in Sayre, OK. Obviously, they cater not only to truckers but car traffic, and others, as well. They had fuel pumps just for "gasoline" and some bigger ones for "diesel". Also, the attached Taco Bell's drive through wasn't tall enough for 18 wheeler trailers, so yes, I'm sure they expect lots of "civilian" traffic, not just pro truckers.

I got there about 9:15pm. I bought a few items from their store, used their restrooms three times (twice they had just cleaned it), and purchased fuel before I left in the morning.

I parked my car between the gas pumps and the Taco Bell drive-up menu speaker (they closed about 10pm). Other cars were parked where I was, mostly truckstop workers' cars. I just put my travel pillow against the window of the drivers' side where I was sleeping to block out the overhead lights from the pumps, and it was good. I must have fallen asleep after midnight and awkened by 5:30 am. I was on the road by 6:15, after I rearranged my car for travel, and purchased the gasoline. I didn't shower there because I had showered late the morning before and would arrive at my next motel early.

So, it wasn't a bad experience at all, and the people were nice. As truckstops go, it was smallish, and appeared to have been there a few years, unlike the one I stopped at on I-20 heading to Dallas which appeared almost brand new and was larger.

Incidentally, there was more noise from the trucks passing by on the interstate than there was from the ones coming and going into the truckstop during the night.

PNW Judy
05-28-2009, 09:21 AM
You're now a pro! I'm glad it was a good experience.

05-29-2009, 02:29 PM
Of the 17 nights I have spent on the road, away from family... so far... 8 have been at truckstops. An unexpected benefit is that I am eating much better, as I always have dinner there, and ocassionally breakfast as well. It is a relaxing atmosphere, and there are normally other lone travellers in the restaurant who are only too willing to share their story and experiences with you. Throw in a shower now and then, and the cost has averaged out at around $20 per night.

Now that my vehicle has (colour co-ordinated) curtains, I find I have to set the alarm, lest I sleep in.

4 nights have been at motels (total $147.49) and 5 nights with friends.

My budget is in good shape, though I do not expect the above trend to continue as I head off into Canada and on to Alaska.

Lifey who could well become addicted to truckstops

05-29-2009, 04:22 PM
Maybe Mark could change your username to TruckStopMomma.............

06-08-2009, 04:25 PM
Just to add more to the topic, I just did a 28 days trip around the USA. Off those 28 days, 24 were in truck stops (2 in hostels, 2 in campsites). The only "problem" was late in the trip at a Flying J where there were oo many people sleeping there that night for the parking space available (very little) and the employees had no spots left so at 5:40AM I got a wake up-knock-on-my-door from an employee asking me to move. I was going to get up at 7:00 anyway so I just started my day faster.

Of course, I'm a 22 y/o man, so it might sound easier than for a girl, but with my home-made curtains I had on my windows, nobody could really see who I was.

09-15-2009, 02:41 AM
Well I guess it all depends on what kind of car you got, I once slept in a chrysler voyager van, with the seats taken out, that was quite comfortable, but sleeping in the normal car seat, even leaned all the way back isn't very pleasant, you can't roll round and stuff :P
Is it safe? Well - Choose wisely where you park, and lock the door ! :P Also; if where you are going it is cold, turn the heater on, but you will have to leave the engine on, otherwise you drain the battery...that should be fairly obvious :P

Southwest Dave
09-15-2009, 04:15 AM
Is it safe? Also; if where you are going it is cold, turn the heater on, but you will have to leave the engine on, otherwise you drain the battery...that should be fairly obvious :P

Run your engine and heater before you get into your sleeping bag to warm things up but turn everything off before turning in for the night. Never go to sleep with your engine running due to the risk of Carbon monoxide build up.

04-09-2010, 12:40 PM
I've only napped in my car, in busy business lots during daylight, hoping that the probability of witnesses would head off trouble. I've thought about sleeping in my car overnight to save money, but the possibility of someone slim-jimming open my car as I sleep is a scary thought. (It takes car thieves less than a minute to get into a car.)

04-13-2010, 02:13 PM
I know this is an old thread, but I figured I would give my question a whirl on here, as it pertains a lot to what has been said already.

I am travelling along I-5 from Sacramento to the Canadian border on the 21st of April and I am curious if any truckers or travelers have advice on safe places (tried and true!) to nap and sleep along the way. I drove straight through with a friend on my way to Sacramento, but she has since gone her own way and I will be heading back alone. I plan to sleep overnight on the 21st for at least 5-7 hours in my car, which is fairly small, but it has been done before in Canada with no problems.

I will mention that I am quite independent and tend to be a tad bit fearless, which is my reason for posting here. I need a healthy dose of reality. If you have any suggestions on places to sleep safely (specific truck stops, rest stops, parking lots, etc.) or places not to sleep, do let me know. I am less familiar with traveling in the USA, and obviously there are some major differences in America and Canada for traveling.

Any info appreciated :)

04-13-2010, 04:51 PM
Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

Generally speaking, we recommend that if you are looking to sleep in your car overnight that you avoid Rest Areas (often illegal) and stick to Truck Plazas. These are set up with restaurants, showers and other amenities (often WFi and Game Rooms) and are understand the traveling public. We also recommend that you offer them some patronage in return, such as taking a meal or shower there, and let them know of your plans. There is a Pilot Travel Center at Exit 263 outside Brooks, OR that's about halfway on your journey, or a Jubitz Travel Center at Exit 307 outside Portland.


Mark Sedenquist
04-14-2010, 04:59 PM
This recommendation comes with a caveat -- hospitals are private property and anyone using a hospital lot should understand what they're doing.. But if you need a few hours of sleep and an appealing truck/travel plaza is not at hand, you can often find a good place to park and rest in the back lot of a hospital. People often snooze in their cars between visiting their friends and family in the hospital and so you'd tend to fit in. Don't leave any trash and be courteous to all security personnel.


04-22-2010, 12:25 AM
I am a young woman and I have slept in my car with the windows covered at both truck stops and rest stops (most you can stay for a up to 6 hours depending on the area, in fact I had some very good conversations with the rest stops security guards...told me all kinds of places to check out in the area and if they know you are there, they keep a good eye on you...they would rather you rest than crash because you fall asleep on the road...) I prefer the truck stops...especially Flying J...they have awesome showers and also a restaurant that often has a really good buffet with salad bar and if you are bored you can play games in the arcade or even watch tv in the driver's lounge :) This info is from driving all along I-90 and also I-94, and down I-29 and through to Florida...never been to the East Coast...

04-05-2011, 09:18 PM
Next Saturday I leave for a road trip (spring break), from Arkansas to Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Boston. I am staying with a friend in Boston and for one night in Hartford, have a motel room booked in Rhode Island, but a night or two I have nowhere to stay and honestly, no extra $$$. Soooo...

What do you think? Is it safe to sleep in your car? If so, where would you recommend parking and sleeping? It makes me a bit uneasy but I've got to sleep somehow, and in my car seems like the only way.

Don't expect to get much sleep when you are trying to sleep in your car. Comfort is not there. But, use a truck stop (Love's, Pilot, Flyin' J, T/A, Petro, or any large one) and park in a comfortable spot that does have occasional to heavy foot-traffic nearby. You can trust the truckers. It is the other nut cases you will have to worry about. Just be courteous.

In the old days you could park at a small truck stop and leave a wake-up call at the fuel island. Try that anywhere today and they will call the Nut Farm to come and get you.

04-05-2011, 09:39 PM
Do you have, or could you borrow, a small tent and sleeping bag? If so, check out this site (http://freecampsites.net/), which I saw someone post recently. You may even be able to save yourself the motel fee.

All the reasons for not sleeping in your car, have already been mentioned, and I would concur with them.


Mike and Mandy
04-11-2011, 02:35 PM
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Road Atlas - RV & Camping Edition [Spiral-bound]

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It shows all of the campgrounds in the state. INVALUABLE!

08-29-2011, 08:48 PM
Hi, have been interested in this thread as we are planning a trip from Portland Maine to Florida. I'd like to sleep
in our SUV at some of the truck stops as its about a day trip and 5 hr naps will do us just fine. Is this safety
precaution mostly aimed at cars/SUV's? what about tag-a-long trailers or Class A motorhomes? Do they
provide enough of a barrier for safety concerns.? thanks for your observations. alehar

Midwest Michael
08-29-2011, 08:57 PM
Welcome to the RTA Forum!

I'd say the advice above would apply in pretty much any situation. Rest areas are not good spots for overnight sleeping, because of safety issues, regardless of your vehicle, and overnight stopping is often illegal there too.

Just remember in a camper, you should not be using slide outs/generators, etc when you are stopped at a truck stop or similar parking facilities that are not campgrounds.

08-29-2011, 09:25 PM
Only in Florida, where you will find armed guards at most rest areas, is it safe to stop overnight. In those exceptional cases, you are actually made welcome. But as mentioned above, just any rest area is often not legal and probably never safe. (FL has provided armed guards ever since a family of four was murdered at a rest stop... some time ago.)


09-06-2011, 10:37 PM
Next Saturday I leave for a road trip (spring break), from Arkansas to Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Boston. I am staying with a friend in Boston and for one night in Hartford, have a motel room booked in Rhode Island, but a night or two I have nowhere to stay and honestly, no extra $$$. Soooo...

What do you think? Is it safe to sleep in your car? If so, where would you recommend parking and sleeping? It makes me a bit uneasy but I've got to sleep somehow, and in my car seems like the only way.


Personally, I wouldn't recommend you sleeping in your car. Like what everyone else here said, you're not only running the risk of getting caught by the police. You're also exposing yourself to unnecessary danger. I'd recommend to try to bring some extra cash and go to a tent camping ground. It's going to be cheaper than spending a night in a motel. Not to mention it'll be so much safer.

09-06-2011, 10:59 PM
Posting a reply to the original poster probably won't help them - it looks like this trip was taken 6 years ago!

09-29-2011, 03:00 PM
Hi, I'm a newbie here. I really enjoyed reading all the input about sleeping in your vehicle. I've been wanting to travel the road for a few years now and I'm finally getting my chance, only problem is, I won't really be working except for the occasional job along the way, so I need to keep my expenses to a minimum, and sleeping in my vehicle will be necessary. I suppose there's another thread on here about what to expect in the way of budgeting when you're driving the road and sleeping in your car, but I will have to look for that later. I am encouraged by lifemagician since I'm a female in my 50's and plan to travel with my 16 yr old daughter.

09-30-2011, 09:12 AM
I have yet to buy my vehicle to travel and I'm wondering if it would be better to buy a van to sleep in, or if a small car that's good on gas would be just as safe and provide as much privacy as a van could. I don't think my current vehicle is that reliable, not that it's given me any trouble, it just has too many miles on it, and I'd feel safer with a newer vehicle. Any input would be helpful. I need to buy a vehicle in the next couple of weeks and I've been very undecided about which would be best if I plan to sleep in my vehicle while on an extended road trip.

09-30-2011, 09:24 AM
There is no way even one person can sleep comfortably in a small car, much less 2. Even a minivan with all the back seats removed is going to be very cramped for 2 people to sleep in.

09-30-2011, 05:28 PM
Hi, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

Unless you are considering purchasing a brand new vehicle, I suggest you think twice about buying another vehicle for a roadtrip. It is never a good idea to go on an extended roadtrip with an unfamiliar vehicle. You would probably be better off having your current vehicle checked out by a good mechanic with whom you can discuss your plans. A well maintained vehicle is preferable to an unfamiliar vehicle, no matter how many miles it has on the clock. I have read about roadtrip vehicles with a couple of hundred thousand miles, and still going strong.

And as for two of you sleeping, even in a conversion van.... all I can say is, I hope you get on well! It can be most comfortable for one, but with two..... Where will you put all your bits and pieces to make sufficient room? If this were me, I would go on a few weekend and / or week long trips first.

For budgeting tips, check out these threads (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?65-RoadTrip-Costs-and-Research).


Midwest Michael
10-01-2011, 09:26 AM
I'm sorry if I sound harsh here, but I really question if you have given anywhere near enough thought to the plans you are proposing.

A car does not make a great bed, but it can work for some solo travelers looking for a cheap place to get off the road. As Lifey mentioned, Sleeping in a car is a challenge for 2 people, even if you get a larger vehicle like a van.

The fact that you'd even consider getting a compact car that you'd both sleep in, to me is a big red flag. The issue isn't privacy, its comfort, the ability to get your needed rest, and to actually be able to have any fun!

On top of that, the fact that your co-traveler is your teenage daughter complicates matters even more. Personal space is always needed on a roadtrip, but when teenager children are involved, triple it! I frankly, can't imagine any trip with a teenage child where sleeping in any car is an option, at least not one where you'd finish the trip with good memories.

I'm not trying to kill your dream of getting on the road, but I'd really think long and hard about your plans, and what you will actually get out of it. I have a feeling, you would be much better off if you waited a little while longer to save up some additional funds, or until you can take this trip yourself.

10-01-2011, 11:33 AM
Thank you for your responses, I appreciate your advice. I used the fuel cost calculator on the website to figure out my cost on a 2500 mile trip with a small car getting about 40 miles a gallon and came up with a $300 result. With a car that gets less miles to a gallon, like a van, that would give us more room to sleep (with a rack on top for our stuff), it would cost about $187 more. Figuring about 7 nights, that could be a pretty penny in hotel costs, even with the cheapest rates. If we could manage to sleep in our car, at least a few nights, it would help with the cost.

My daughter and I took a road trip from CO to CA in Feb. 2010. We drove through a horrible snow storm getting out of CO through the mountains, ended up getting lost at the grand canyon after dark and driving for miles in what seemed like a circle, and finally ended up in Las Vegas where we had bid on a room on Priceline, and stayed at the Stratosphere for like $29. It was quite an adventure but we finally made it to San Diego. We bid on another room there, and paid about $27 per night. We had no deadlines to get anywhere, really, just had a lot of fun, tried to rescue a stray dog in Arizona who wouldn't cooperate, haha had a lot of fun with that, and my daughter and I got along great, throughout the whole trip. We were having too much fun on our adventure, I think, to be moody or grouchy. She slept when she was tired so I had solitude at times, which helped with my mood. I love driving a long stretch of road, it is so calming. When she wanted to be in her own little world, she put her earphones on, and since she does online schooling she occupies time with that. We made the trip in my current car, a mid-sized vehicle, and we slept in the car at truck stops a few nights as we went along. It wasn't awful uncomfortable, and the weather was mild (outside of CO), so we did fine in our bucket seats with a blanket. I had made some black curtains that gave us some privacy.

I've contemplated buying a brand new car, and looked at a used 2011 with only 14,000 miles on it and they both have full warranties with roadside assistance, but boy, are new cars expensive these days. I know roadside assistance could be a pain, especially if my cell phone won't work, etc. I will find it necessary to keep my costs down, have to budget well, because we prefer to spend more on recreation and amusement parks than on food and lodging.

Determined Duck

10-01-2011, 05:40 PM
Thank you for your responses, I appreciate your advice. I used the fuel cost calculator on the website to figure out my cost on a 2500 mile trip with a small car getting about 40 miles a gallon and came up with a $300 result. With a car that gets less miles to a gallon, like a van, that would give us more room to sleep (with a rack on top for our stuff), it would cost about $187 more. Figuring about 7 nights, that could be a pretty penny in hotel costs, even with the cheapest rates. If we could manage to sleep in our car, at least a few nights, it would help with the cost.

You might find that your estimate is a little optimistic. I doubt you would get 20 mpg out of a conversion van. I have been advised by many, during my search for a vehicle, to think more like 12 - 15 mpg. And if you then plan to put luggage on top - altering the aerodynamics of the vehicle - you would need to drop that even further.

The only other question I have is, if you do not have the necessary funds to pay for even a cheap motel for the two of you, how are you going to fund an unexpected breakdown? No matter how well the vehicle has been maintained and checked over, it can happen. It happened to me, in Alaska. Three days and $800 for the repairs, before I was on the road again. Meanwhile I had to pay for taxis, accommodation, etc. That was in a well maintained vehicle, completely checked over before departure and only 55000 on the clock.

From your first post....

I've been wanting to travel the road for a few years now and I'm finally getting my chance, only problem is, I won't really be working except for the occasional job along the way ...What sort of work, and where? From what we are hearing down here, work is not exactly plentiful at the moment, in your country. It may not be something on which you want to rely.

As for finally getting the chance.... you might like to note that I was a senior citizen before I ever hit the road in the US. Now, a decade and almost 100000 miles later, I am planning my fifth trip. Why not work and save till you can do it without financial concerns. You may still choose to sleep in your vehicle - as do I - but it will at least be worry free, knowing there is a fund to cover any and all emergencies.


Mark Sedenquist
10-01-2011, 07:16 PM
If we have waited until we had sufficient money to create a business, RoadTrip America would never have been created. The original co-founder and I decided to launch RTA and all that comes from it with no discernible financial support. The same is true with a number of road trips I've personally embarked upon. For me, the risk of running completely out of money, was part of the appeal... I'm less comfortable with the concept these days, but my basic approach to business decisions hasn't changed all that much. Now, here's a book review about by Jeff Blumenfeld's book "You Want To Go Where?: How to Get Someone to Pay for the Trip of Your Dreams," (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/read/You-Want-To-Go-Where.htm) that you might find interesting. It's not entirely a perfect match for your plans, -- but if you read it -- I think you'll know why I recommended it to you.

The RoadTrip Advisors and Enthusiasts who have responded to your questions have all raised valid and important issues -- and I hope you're able to use their hard-earned advice and expertise -- But there is also something to say for just doing it anyway and see what happens....


10-02-2011, 12:32 AM
BTW, thanks for welcoming me to RTA.

I was thinking more of a minivan than a conversion van, and the ones I've looked at were listed as 28 mpg highway, and the middle and back seats fold down below the floor,providing an area comparable to a full-sized bed, fine for two people to sleep comfortably. My daughter and I are fairly petite, so we would fit just fine. We certainly aren't strangers to sleeping in a car, and have had our share of fairly comfortable beauty sleep in reclining seats. I just have to decide what I should do, buy a used minivan that won't do as well on gas but will offer a more comfortable place to sleep (and more private, too), or buy a new or nearly new car that does much better on gas, giving us maybe a few more dollars to spend on hotel rooms along the way. It's hard to figure out which would be better. We looked at a car yesterday that does up to 50 mpg on the highway, and boy was that tempting.

I am in the very beginning stages of planning this trip, and I don't even know which way to head first, east or west, but I know I have to do the northern states pretty soon before the snow comes. We can leave Alaska to next summer. I would like to get on the road by the end of October.

Over the years, since I was in my 20's to the present, I've driven to Cali probably 6 times and Florida 3 times, and if I add in my weekly trips somewhere for two or three days just because I love to go, I guess I have a bit more miles experience under my belt than I put on my profile. I remember one trip my daughter and I took to Dallas one time, when she was about 5. I was driving an old 1982 Chevy pickup that swallowed gas and wasn't very reliable. Haha, what a risk I took, but we did fine, and being totally short of funds, we slept in the truck with makeshift curtains to give us privacy. We didn't have the luxury of reclining seats, and I woke up with swollen ankles one morning, but other than that, we did fine. I always chose well-lit truck stops and 24 hour gas stations to park at. No one ever came pounding on the window to ask us to leave. I still had the same truck in 2008, and used it on a trip to Albuquerque, and hit a horrible snow storm on the way back, where I could only drive about 30 mph. Haha, at least it saved on gas! I remember times when we were sleeping in the car that I turned on the motor because it was freezing cold in the middle of the night, falling back asleep and waking later roasting because the heater was on high. Luckily, carbon monoxide didn't do us a job. Oh, does anyone have any advice about safe heating while sleeping in a car? And, how to do this without killing the car battery and being stranded in the morning?

We live in CO, but want to move somewhere warmer, want the ocean an hour or two away. We've thought about moving to CA, FL, or GA, but so many other places could fit the bill, too, we just don't want to settle in and find we live where the humidity is totally unbearable like some places tend to have. Our adventure is to visit the parts of the US that my daughter hasn't seen, and many that neither of us have seen, and we're always in search of the fastest roller coaster ride. We also want to visit the areas we "think" we'd like to live in, spend some time there to see how we truly like it.

I've been a professional for 30 years, and can stop and work along the path, if I absolutely need to. And, now that I really think about it, I guess we have a little something in monthly income to depend on, but not a whole lot. My house will also be up for sale, which means we may have to fly back if I get a buyer, and I'm clear across the country.

Now, about my budget, I have the funds to buy a new or decent small car or a used minivan, and the rest, about $10,000, is for my trip and to also get settled somewhere else. I do want to travel for awhile, plan to be touring the deep South during the winter months, but we want to see the Redwoods in northern Cali and Niagara Falls, the Dakotas, Minnesota and DC and Virginia, and sometime during our adventure see the caverns in NM and the Grand Canyon. I'd like to check ship records to find some ancestors, too. We aren't on a time frame, we're just going to wander, but I need to watch my budget because I won't have a job right away when we settle down. We've slept in our car at Walmart or at truck stops, and have done it a couple nights in a row, just reclining our front seats. It helps to have a small bench that is padded with a folded blanket to put on the floor so our feet don't hang down while we sleep, and push the steering wheel all the way up. I'm thinking if we can spend every other night in the car and spend one night in a hotel room that we bid on, like on Priceline or another like Expedia (we've gotten some really good deals that way, like $29 per night at some nice 3-4 star hotels) or two nights sleeping in the car to every one night in a hotel, we could keep our expenses down. The only thing about some of these nicer hotels is they charge a fortune to park and we had to find a parking spot on the street a block away and walk in the dark, kinda scary, but... We've never stayed at a campsite, and I'm not real keen to outdoor cooking on the road, seems too messy and I don't like cooking anymore, anyway. We can carry those microwavable heat in a bottle soups, and some hotels have kitchens if we need that one hot meal to keep us from going crazy for a decent meal. I'm more of a coffee only for breakfast person, and my daughter isn't big on breakfast, either. We want to spend more on things to do, than on food and lodging.

What kinds of things can a person do to be safe when sleeping in a car besides making sure the doors are locked, valuables are hidden, and putting up curtains for privacy? I'd hate to have a steel bat or something for personal safety, but have it turned against me if someone decided to break in! I guess car alarms might help?

Determined Duck

10-02-2011, 02:37 AM
I was thinking more of a minivan than a conversion van, and the ones I've looked at were listed as 28 mpg highway

You will never see 28 mpg in a minivan in the real world.

We looked at a car yesterday that does up to 50 mpg on the highway, and boy was that tempting.

You will never see that in the real world either.

10-02-2011, 03:10 PM
My daughter and I have slept in both a small car and a minivan, and being petite, we fit comfortably.

The mpg of a vehicle also depends on what you are carrying in the the vehicle. If we travel light, this will help. We won't have to carry tent equipment, and the heaviest item would be a small cooler for cold drinks, etc. We will just have to watch that we don't carry too many heavy cans, etc, so we don't hurt our gas mileage.

Determined Duck

10-04-2011, 09:25 AM

It sounds like you have plenty of on the road experience.

One thing you did not mention is the quantity of stuff you plan to bring along. I have used minivans (Some of my best memories are from a 1980 road trip in a 1968 volkswagon van) and they are great but I currently use a hatchback and would recommend a small station wagon if you are not taking a lot of stuff.

I have been taking on and off road trips for over thirty years and the majority of the time I sleep in Interstate Rest Areas. This practice is not recommended on this forum for a number of good reasons. Although I can now afford to stay in motels/hotels, I still use rest areas because it is convenient and it is a tradition I don’t want to give up. I try to stay at campgrounds when it is practical. If car camping, you don't have to erect a tent of cook by campfire; just treat the campground space as a parking space. One of the benefits about campgrounds is the number of great people you will meet. I am not totally anti social but I will not generally start a conversation. Plenty of times the people in the nearby campground will notice that I am not setting up a tent or cooking (I am usually reading one of the travel guides I picked up, writing in a journal or filling out postcards) and come over to talk to me and offer to feed me.

You mentioned a few good ideas about privacy and security at rest areas. I use pieces of cardboard, painted black and cut out to fit the inside of the window as screens. Just like a tent, vehicles are very poor insulators against heat and cold. Research the equipment used by backpackers and look at closed-cell foam mattresses and sleeping bags rated for low temperature. Backpacking equipment is actually great for car camping as they are designed for light weight and space spacing.

I try not to stay at rest areas that are near cities, which is easy since most rest areas are not located near cities. I have only felt uncomfortable about three times and it was just a sixth sense feeling about another car/person in the rest area parking lot. In those cases, I recommend that you listen to your intuition and look for another place to stay. Most rest areas are paired with another stop across the Interstate for traffic going the opposite way. I would rather take the time to drive to the other rest stop then to tempt fate. You will encounter undeveloped rest areas along the highway. They might be as simple as a dirt pull out with a metal trash can or a paved area that is also a posted as scenic viewing area. I strongly recommend that you do not sleep at those types of rest areas.

Another option that is gaining popularity is couch surfing. There are internet sites where you can find people that will let you sleep on their couch and generally all they want is to hear tales of your adventure. I also suggest that you research internet and blog sites of bicyclists traveling cross country. They have lots interesting solutions to finding places to stay the night. One group was generally successful in small towns by asking around and getting permission to camp in churchyards and public parks.

Midwest Michael
10-04-2011, 10:17 AM
Just to be clear, the reason is that we recommend strongly that people do not sleep in rest areas because there have been many cases of serious and violent crime against travelers.

Rest areas by their nature tend to be a long distance from populated areas and see relatively little patrol. On top of that, their locations right along the a freeway are an ideal target for criminals because it provides the perfect opportunity for a quick getaway. A sleeping traveler is just about a perfect target for a criminal, and putting up shades is practically an invitation that a defenseless victim is inside.

Florida now has armed guards patroling their rest area, because of the murder of several travelers a number of years ago, but almost nowhere else offers such security. There have been several other cases of robbery, rape, and arson throughout the country, and most of those cases are never solved.

I would never tempt fate just for tradition sake, especially since there are so many other options - like truck stops - where you can pull over to sleep, in a much safer environment.

10-08-2011, 08:34 PM
Interesting. I would have thought that putting up shades would not only give you some privacy, but would also make a criminal think twice because they can't see inside to see if they will be dealing with the terminator or minnie mouse, and they might pass up the opportunity.

Do campgrounds have security? I would feel less safe in a tent than sleeping in my car.

Determined Duck

10-08-2011, 09:31 PM
... dealing with the terminator or minnie mouse ...

A criminal would know the value of surprise and a half asleep occupant of a vehicle. This will always give them the upperhand.

Many campgrounds have security, especially the commercial ones. They often have gates with swipe cards or such.

But even when they don't have lockable gates, the very fact that they have the plate number of every vehicle on their register, and they ask for ID when you book in, is a measure of safety. And of course, you will rarely find a campground which does not have a manager onsite. That in it self gives me a feeling of security.

Besides, you get to know the people around you, when setting up a tent, cooking a meal, etc. The better you know the person(s) camped near you, chances are the safer you will feel. In the very remote chance that something could happen, you know they will hear and come to your assistance.

Funny part is, when I stay in a motel or hotel, I always make sure there is a safety chain on the door. Only then do I feel safe.


Mark Sedenquist
10-11-2011, 06:31 AM
In many states there are signs....prohibiting sleeping in State rest stops. New York is one state where you can almost be guaranteed that a state trooper will rap on your window and remind you that the rest stop is for resting only --Sleeping is not allowed.


Midwest Michael
10-11-2011, 10:58 AM
I completely agree with Lifey, the very nature of a campground makes them much more safe.

First, many of them do have gates or 24 hour security, and nearly every developed campground will have a campground host that actually lives in the campground.

On top of that, a campground by its very nature means neighbors, many of whom are also sleeping outside and/or in a tent. A criminal looking for an easy opportunity, isn't going to target someone when a simple scream will likely be heard by a couple dozen other people.

And one other big difference between campgrounds and rest areas is location. While they both are typically far removed from cities, Rest areas offer the perfect opportunity to get back on a freeway and be miles away within minutes. Campgrounds on the other hand are typically located at least a bit of a drive away from the highway, meaning that it requires a rather significant effort to both get there and get away.

Its not to say that crime can't happen or never happens at a campground, but its much more rare, and requires much more effort by a would be criminals - and even dumb criminals usually know to look for the easiest possible victims, which won't be in a campground.

Bob Don
12-03-2011, 12:54 PM
Much is said for the location choices of sleeping in the car, but not on how to sleep comfortably in the car. What if you want go to toilet in the middle of a freezing night? Or where to take shower? I am in CA and the rent is simply too high so I plan to buy a big SUV and just sleep in the car. Is this feasible? I have parking sticker in the university where safety is not a big issue.

Midwest Michael
12-03-2011, 01:14 PM
Welcome to the forum, Bob!

I'm not sure I am completely following your plan, but if you are thinking of this as a long term living situation (aka choosing to be homeless), I'd very much consider it a last resort.

On the road, Truck Stops are a great place because you have restrooms, showers, etc available. I'm going to doubt that you'd have that available at a university unless you are living in a dorm. Additionally, while you may have a parking permit, I'd be a bit surprised if you didn't end up with a security guard waking you up in the middle of the night if they notice you sleeping there.

Finally, what will you do when you are not sleeping? Again, this is a case where if you are looking just to get off the road and sleep for a night, its not much of an issue, but it is something to think about if you're going to chose to make homelessness your lifestyle.

Bob Don
12-03-2011, 07:51 PM
Thanks Midwest Michael, for your thoughts and information.
This is some sort of mid-term plan, I'd like to try it out for a couple of months. I can hold pee during the nights, and do it morning in the building, but shower would be a problem. I know some water-free hand washing stuff but not sure for body. In winter it'd be fine if not exercise much, but can't avoid in summer.
For security guard, I can put some nice curtains on all side and rear windows and sun-shade on windshield, or alternatively go to highway rest areas every night (which would be legal for 4 hours according to the lengthy discussion here?).
Regarding the rest of the time in a day, I simply stay in office.

You're right, this is more a matter of lifestyle choice, i.e., I find this idea appealing since I was college kid but never had a chance to practice. Now this forum gives a practical guide.

Midwest Michael
12-03-2011, 10:07 PM
As has been said many times in this thread, a highway rest area is not a safe place to sleep in your car, even in areas where it is legal.

I supposed I could ask, if you can spend 16 hours of your day in your office (the time you are not sleeping) when why not just sleep there too? That however, is more of a rhetorical question as your plans are really extending beyond the scope of this forum.

Best Wishes.

Bob Don
12-04-2011, 11:39 AM
The point is that it's a shared office. Alternatively, rent someone's driveway for the nights and park the car there. If I were the owner of the house, it would make no sense if I turn down such an offer for making extra bucks. Of course this is beyond the scope of this forum, as you said.

Now for those on the trips, parking at legal rest areas doesn't sound that bad, to get away from the criminals, why not put some funky tattoos (washable) and get a couple of inflatable guys from adult shops and place them in your front seats with proper dressing, and hats? This is no kidding. Criminal are rational, they wouldn't jeopardize themselves for (possible) small amount of money from a tough victim. I suppose placing some toys in the car isn't against the law.

Mark Sedenquist
12-04-2011, 12:56 PM
Now for those on the trips, parking at legal rest areas doesn't sound that bad, to get away from the criminals, why not put some funky tattoos (washable) and get a couple of inflatable guys from adult shops and place them in your front seats with proper dressing, and hats? Not likely to help and much more likely to attract attention from peace officers. There are very few legal rest areas that allow sleeping and since there are so many safe alternatives, it just seems unnecessary to tempt fate.


12-04-2011, 01:42 PM
There is a HUGE difference between sleeping in a SUV and sleeping in a conversion van or small Class B motorhome. If you are looking to experience the mobile lifestyle, get the right vehicle.

Bob Don
12-05-2011, 04:22 AM
Certainly sleeping in a conversion van or RV is much better. But it would look awkward and suspicious for a single man to bring a big RV everyday to work.

12-05-2011, 09:17 AM
I didn't say a "BIG" RV.......

Southwest Dave
12-05-2011, 09:34 AM
But it would look awkward and suspicious for a single man to bring a big RV everyday to work.

I would also think that turning up to work day after day, after a period of time sleeping in a car would be a hard fact to hide. How are you going to keep clothes fresh and hung when living out of suitcases in the back of a car ? You maybe able to hide it for a short while, but I would imagine you will eventually start to look like you are 'homeless' no matter how hard you try.

Alternatively, rent someone's driveway for the nights and park the car there. If I were the owner of the house, it would make no sense if I turn down such an offer for making extra bucks.

I can honestly say that I do not know of anyone who would be willing to let someone live in a car on their driveway for "a few bucks" over an extended period of time. Anyone willing to do that would probably rent you a room of the house on the cheap

In my opinion and if you are planning on doing it long term, it's going to be a lot tougher than you could imagine. At least in a small van as suggested by glc you can have a small stove, heat water, wash and hang clothes, but even that could get old real quick.

12-05-2011, 05:17 PM
... but even that could get old real quick.

I'll vouch for that!!

As one who uses a conversion van for extended roadtrips (several months), there is no way I can sleep in it every single night. My nights are interspersed with nights in motels, hostels and campground cabins, as well as family and friends.

By all means, go ahead with your experiment. Maybe someone will start taking bets as to how long it will last.


03-15-2012, 07:10 PM
Just a FYI

All Arizona rest areas allow overnight parking. They are well lit and kept clean. I slept well in my Subaru Forester and I made my coffee on a Colman propane burner. Worked great! :)

03-16-2012, 08:32 AM
Only one problem with that - there are very few rest areas still open in AZ!

03-16-2012, 04:21 PM
I'm glad you slept well and had a good trip. However, just because AZ allow overnight parking does not make it safe. I have found a couple of other States which 'allow' it, but only FL has armed guards for your safety. The memory of having a family of four murdered at a rest area is something they don't ever want to see again. I'd rather err on the side of caution.


03-16-2012, 06:51 PM
Only one problem with that - there are very few rest areas still open in AZ!
Is that anything to do with border issues?


Midwest Michael
03-16-2012, 10:02 PM
I don't know the specifics in AZ, but I suspect it would much more likely be an issue related to budget cuts. A lot of states have closed, or at least considered closing, rest areas to help deal with major deficits.

03-17-2012, 09:43 AM
It's a funding issue in AZ.

03-18-2012, 08:12 PM
I just returned from a road trip to/from Arizona. It's definitely a state-budget issue. Along I-8 between Yuma and Stanfield, there is ONE open rest area. That's the one that is around MM 86, west of Gila Bend and Sentinel. There's one on the maps at MM57 that has been closed for years.

On the California side on I-8, there are three open rest areas: one at the sand dunes, one at Seeley west of El Centro, and one in the mountains. The latter 2 have been recently remodeled. The one at Seeley has a sign that says that you can only stay for 8 hours.


04-15-2012, 12:55 PM
I never had a problem finding nice rest areas in AZ, CO or NE. I felt very safe and was treated well. Some were very scenic and had lots of places to have your morning cup o joe, with a fantastic view. Believe me, I'm going back again.
Course, your experiances may be different. Mine were good. B)

04-15-2012, 01:54 PM
We just went on a 5-week Roadtrip (San Francisco to San Diego to the Grand Canyon to Arches NP, Vegas and back to San Francisco) in a Campervan. (http://www.escapecampervans.com/) We managed to only have to pay for 3 nights. Two of the nights we spend in a hotel in Vegas. One on a camp ground right before Bryce Canyon, because that was the only area where free camping didn't really work. ;)

We were two girls travelling, and we were perfectly fine looking for free sleeping-spots. We tried to find Diners, restaurants, grocery stores, fitness studios (...) that were open 24h and asked if we could stay on their parking lots and if we could use their restrooms. ;) And it worked every single time!

Truck stops can be creepy, especially if you're just girls travelling!
In Vegas you could also sleep in one of the many parking garages. I'm not sure if it's allowed, but nobody will notice.

As far as showering is concerned: Truck stops are great (especially if the truckers pay your showers every time;) that saved us 10-12$ per shower) and the ones we saw were also really clean. On the coast you can shower on the beach (beach showers, water gallons, solar showers) and you can look for hostels - some offer cheap showers for non-guests!

So if you're planning a roadtrip on the westcoast: free camping works out great and we felt perfectly safe - and my friend really isn't an adventurous person. ;)
Enjoy & have fun!

Mark Sedenquist
04-15-2012, 02:11 PM
Thanks for the field report.

Glad you had a great time.


04-15-2012, 02:50 PM
As far as showering is concerned: Truck stops are great (especially if the truckers pay your showers every time;) that saved us 10-12$ per shower) and the ones we saw were also really clean.

Hmmm..... Truckers paying for your showers? Why didn't I think of that? ;)

04-25-2012, 04:02 AM
I've slept in the back of my car loads, admittedly only in the Welsh mountains, UK, and not in the US. I'd only do it if I was comfortable with the area.

It's warmer and more comfortable than a tent though! :)

http://i244.photobucket.com/albums/gg16/double-six/37499_10150207726695076_638490075_13521035_7864729 _n.jpg

Mark Sedenquist
04-25-2012, 06:01 AM
Nice illustration, but where is the rest of your road trip gear and supplies when you're sleeping that way? Insects and wild critters would be happy to join you if you kept all of the doors open!

Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum and thanks for the photo!


04-25-2012, 03:49 PM
Hi Mark,

Thanks for the welcome!

I stumbled across this forum whilst planning for my 2-3 week road trip next year around CA / NV / AZ. Absolutely can't wait - so much to see and not enough time from what I've read on here.

PS The road trip in my pic was only 2 days so we had enough supplies in the car. The UK isn't quite as big as the US it seems! :)

04-25-2012, 06:37 PM
Truck stops can be creepy, especially if you're just girls travelling!

As far as showering is concerned: Truck stops are great (especially if the truckers pay your showers every time;)

Somehow I am having difficulty reconciling these two statements. Would you care to share why truckies, who paid for your showers, make truck stops creepy?


05-02-2012, 09:43 PM
Ok there's couch surfing and dinner surfing so surely the younger generation has figured out driveway surfing for rural and urban areas :)

10-17-2012, 04:22 AM
Next Saturday I leave for a road trip (spring break), from Arkansas to Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Boston. I am staying with a friend in Boston and for one night in Hartford, have a motel room booked in Rhode Island, but a night or two I have nowhere to stay and honestly, no extra $$$. Soooo...

What do you think? Is it safe to sleep in your car? If so, where would you recommend parking and sleeping? It makes me a bit uneasy but I've got to sleep somehow, and in my car seems like the only way.

What I prefer to do is to stop into the hotel lobby and ASK if you can park and wait inside your car because your having car trouble and it wont start, your waiting for a tow in the morning when the shop opens. Then make sure you get their name and card and they have your licence plate. This won't quite work as well if your kind of scrubby or have a junky car dont pull up in front of them, if you have a nice car too. Always works for me and they have security keep an eye on you. Get out and shake the hand of the security guy and introduce yourself. Usually they let me use the pool too, and bathrooms. The same can be applied to 24 hr restaurants, always pick a place with a 24hr bathroom handy. If your going to drink get out and lock your car and take a walk or you'll get a DUI. If you see cops stay away from your car. This is very effective for ladies, kids. Hotel security has always made me feel very safe and Ive had some really great conversations with these security guys. Mind the cameras if your going to be doing anything private or illegal, like smoking pot or drinking. Public intoxication is way way cheaper than a DUI. Never ever leave the keys in the ignition, but be able to get them fast and flee, always lock your door. Set your alarm. If your drunk hide the keys well and say you lost them, so your stuck, waiting for your friend to bring spare keys tommorrow. Always carry a flashlight and pepper spray in your pocket not the car Espesially if you are rural, or dicey place, Dial 911 on your phone so all you have to do is hit send. Know where you are. If someone approaches you get out of there, if they stand in front of you slowly proceed anyway or reveres. If you cant call 911 before they get too close tell them where you are and your conserned and put it on speaker, never get out of your car, crack the window to talk. If nothing happens, move to a new spot ASAP. If you have to call 911 on speaker don't let them see the phone then stall like your life depends on it. Never park where it's easy for one car to block you in. I've followed these rules and had 1000s of good experiences, not one bad. If you get a bad feeling don't hesitate to move to a new spot. Stay away from sleeping at truck stops, truckers are dangerous. Always better to have a car where they can,t see you in it. Never leave phone, laptop or anything valuable in sight.

Midwest Michael
10-17-2012, 04:47 AM
Welcome to the RTA Forum, Avirdee, but I'm sorry we can't recommend much of your advise.

First, Trucks Stops are not a place that should be avoided - in fact they are among the safest places you can stop for the night. They are well lit, patrolled by security, and are typically welcoming to people who spend the night.

Hotel parking lots, on the other hand, are among the last place I'd look. While it doesn't hurt to ask, the reality is they are in business to be paid for people to spend the night, and most quality places - where you'd actually be able to be safe as you sleep, are not going to allow it. Sleeping in a hotel parking lot without asking is very likely going to result in a trespassing ticket.

If you are going to sleep in your car in a parking lot, then drinking (or any drug use or illegal activity) has to be off the table. It is certainly correct that you can be arrested for drunk driving even if your car is in park, but that's almost the least of the concerns. Put real simply, if you are sleeping in your car and are doing something where you have to try to get away from a police officer, then you've already put yourself in an extremely dangerous situation.

10-17-2012, 04:48 AM
Hi, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

Stay away from sleeping at truck stops, truckers are dangerous.

Would you care to share what experience has caused you to form that opinion?

As a senior female and solo traveller, I have just completed six months on the road, covering almost 26000 miles through much of the US (including AK) and Canada. A large percentage of my nights were spent at truck stops, where I always felt comfortable, welcome and safe.

Choose a truckstop which welcomes RVs (this publication lists them all (http://www.truckstops.com/)), and ask at reception where the best spot is to park. Truck stops are 24 hour operations, well lit, have folk coming and going all night and have excellent security. Almost without exception, their facilities are clean; you can have a shower for a modest fee; do your washing in their laundry and watch TV in the truckers lounge. There are normally plenty of power outlets to let you recharge your electronics. Most have wifi available and have an extensive shop - though for food you are probably cheaper of buying food at the local supermarket. There is usually a microwave available for use, where you can heat a microwave meal or anything else you may have with you.

I have always found the truckers to be courteous, considerate and friendly. But then, you have to be a friend to make one.

Never have I carried pepper spray, or for that matter any other weapon.


02-22-2017, 02:44 PM
I like rest areas for this. Sadly, most are on the (bummer) Interstate system. They're a good source for free maps and information about area events. If it's cold, use a sleeping bag, which isn't a bad thing to pack for trips when you expect cold weather. My bag may well have saved my life when I skidded off the road and huddled in it until help came. After a few days, you'll smell so bad that even you can't stand it. Then I use a truck stop parking lot or campground, either a public park or private ground, so I can shower even though I have to pay for that privilege.

02-22-2017, 03:49 PM
I like rest areas for this.

That is not safe, and illegal in almost all states.

08-02-2017, 09:19 PM
Great thread!!!

I can't believe I just spent an hour reading all these 10 pages. I'm more motivated now more than ever! I've been in the transportation industry specifically Trucking, for the last 20 years. I can't believe how many people are afraid of truckers! Haha. I am a cute blonde pushing 40. Let me tell you most of these truckers are harmless. Just all talk.

Personally I'm more afraid of just people in general breaking into my car when I'm sleeping ! I see a lot of people put things up in their windows in the comments, I would think that would be an invitation to check things out. I don't think I would ever sleep in the front seat of my car. For one I can't fall sleep on the airplane so there's no way I can fall sleep in the driver seat!! I would have to sleep in the backseat. Like others here I am curious to know what would be best for a road trip. My Toyota RAV4 has 80,000 miles I don't trust it to be on the road for the long-haul! Yes I can probably purchase AAA and get roadside assistance if needed, but I don't want to waste my trip I'm sitting and waiting for them. I'm really intrigued about those camper vans! Want to say I think that would be very cool to travel in! Nonetheless I'm sure a minivan would do the job for a more economical price!

Anyways I'm very happy to hear that there are other females out there that are interested in this. I've had a lot of things going on in my life and I was planning on doing a two week trip in Europe, however after just coming back from Colorado Springs for a week vacation I feel I need to be more in touch with nature and I would love to drive out west!!

My larger concern other than sleeping in a car or similar overnight would be how tiring is it to be sitting in the car for so long in a short period of time?? I know a lot of people suggest mapping things out before I leave, but I would really like to just go at it without any plans. Personally I have never driven longer than four or five hours and that was from Chicago to Wisconsin up north. I'm curious to know are there a lot of truck stops in the middle of these fantastic states going from Colorado to wherever out west I go?? Have any of you found a really good site to give you a good itineraries where to go and where to visit ?

08-03-2017, 12:13 AM
Wekcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

Thanks for your contribution sharing your experiences.

In 2009 I did a five month trip in a Dodge Caravan (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/forum/showthread.php?20603-Lifemagician-s-2009-Summer-Road-Trip), with the rear seats removed and a camping mattress in the back, along with sleeping bag and pillow. Many nights were spent at truck stops, but there are areas where truck stops are not readily available. The publication to which I referred (above) lists those which make RVs welcome. State Parks and BLM campgrounds are good alternatives, interspersed with the ocasional motel. Any well maintained vehicle with 80K on the clock would be eminently suited for a road trip. Mine is going on twice that much.

I have seen many other vehicles on the road converted to allow sleeping. Mostly mini vans, but even sedans with the rear seat removed. If you can't sleep lying down comfortably, sleeping in a vehicle is not recommended. My travels these days are in a conversion van with a bed and fridge as well as some storage. It is a comfortable way to travel, and as you would well know, showers and laundry facilities are available at truck stops, and lots of other places.

Like you, I like to travel without necessarily setting a destination for the day, stopping as the mood takes me. With good maps in hand I then decide where my next day will take me. So just head for the horizon (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/forum/showthread.php?30053-Heading-for-the-Horizon-2012) and go see what is on the other side. Suprises await!