Will I have to sleep in the car???
Your road trip has been going great, but there is a small hiccup. It’s getting late, and all the hotels are flashing “No Vacancy”. Panic sets in, you can’t possibly sleep in the car! What will you do for a bathroom? Is it even safe?
Relax! Would it really be all that terrible? I don’t think so. In fact, I planned my entire road trip around sleeping in the car! Although sleeping in the car has some limitations, it also has some pretty great advantages! Read on to check out the pros and cons:
Pro: More Money for Adventures!
Gas costs a lot, especially when you are driving across the county. Why pay an extra $100-150 per night to stay in a hotel? Even camp sites can cost up to $50 per night. You can avoid this altogether if you sleep in the car. It’s technically free! So if you are low on cash and still want to experience some great things that the world has to offer, consider spending your nights in the car.
Con: Safe, Legal Parking
The biggest snag to sleeping in the car is finding a safe, legal place to park. It can be difficult at times, but it is not impossible. Most truck stops allow overnight parking, and if you are on the federal interstate system (USA), these are pretty common. Check out this handy guide for truck stops on your route!
If you are traveling on state routes and back roads, this can become a little tricky. Most Walmart stores allow overnight parking, especially in smaller rural areas. Walmart stores with overnight parking and truck stops are the safest places to sleep in your car, because there are often others doing the exact same thing. However, in a pinch, you can sleep on roads with residential parking or in other parking lots with lots of cars. On the last night of my road trip, I ended up sleeping in a Day’s Inn parking lot. I was terrified that I would be found out and towed!
Many hotels frown upon car sleepers, and some even take down license plates to prevent it. However, if it’s just for a night and you wake up early you should avoid detection. Also, the worst thing they will do is try to tow you, but if you are with the car, they will generally just ask you to move. The bottom line is that in a pinch, it’s doable. Safety is also a concern, but as long as you are parked with other cars and keep a low profile, nobody will notice you.
Sleeping in the car is a lot easier than setting up a new camp site every night or checking into a hotel. Camp sites are cheaper than hotels, but they take a lot of work. You need to set up the tent, stake it, and get everything ready for the evening. Even checking into a hotel can be a hassle. When you sleep in the car, once you find a safe legal place to park, all you have to do is crawl into your bed. There are no forms to fill out, no lines, no tents to set up, and there are no beds to check for bedbugs…it really is a lot easier.
The back seat of a car doesn’t offer the comforts of a hotel bed. I’m a fairly short person, and I still couldn’t fully stretch out in the back seat of my small SUV. I tried sleeping in the back with the seats down, but that was even more uncomfortable. It was like sleeping on a slightly uneven floor. I didn’t bring enough cushions to make it cozy. Although the car wasn’t as comfortable as a normal bed, it wasn’t so uncomfortable that I couldn’t sleep. I got between 5-6 hours of good, uninterrupted sleep each night, and was well rested enough to continue my adventure each morning.
Pro: Wake up time!
It is not easy to oversleep in the car. I was up each morning when the first rays of sunshine alighted upon my face. Rising early gave me head start on the day, which gave me time to pack in more fun. Who wants to sleep until noon when the entire world is out there waiting for you to explore it?
All hotels and campsites have easy access to bathrooms and showers so you can do your business, brush your teeth, and keep yourself clean. Most cars don’t have these thing (weird, huh?). The worst thing about sleeping in the car (for me) is that I generally have to pee really badly when I first wake up. Because of this annoying fact of my life, I had to find a place to sleep that was close to a toilet. Walmart stores and Truck stops worked the best. I also borrowed their sinks (and random gas station sinks) to brush my teeth. Many truck stops have cheap showers too, if you need it (after a few days in the car, trust me, you need it). It’s actually pretty easy to take care of your basic hygiene while sleeping in the car. One pro tip is to bring some wet wipes, so if you are off on a state route or back road, you can keep your most sensitive bits clean if you don’t have access to a shower.
The freedom of sleeping in the car is unlike any I’ve ever experienced. Imagine not being glued to an itinerary. Envision not having to get to that pre-booked room or campsite. Think about how it would feel to be able to stop wherever you want, and be able to change your plans at a moment’s notice. Imagine being free. And imagine not worrying about any no vacancy signs! Experiencing this freedom makes the small discomforts barely noticeable. This immense freedom comes with the small decision to forget about modern conventions and sleep in the car.
I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to plan a road trip around sleeping in my car. I was nervous, and on that last night I even asked about hotel vacancies (there were none, which is why I ended up in the parking lot). I’m glad there was no vacancy though. I’m glad I was forced to stick to my original plan and sleep in the car. I learned that I don’t need a comfy bed every night. I learned to make the best of what I had, and as a bonus, I saved a lot of money. Live free. Sleep in the car.