When I first told my family I planned on sleeping in my car on my first solo road trip, they were very concerned. After telling me every horror story they had seen on the news since 1985, they offered to pay for my hotel. As a poor college kid living off cheese, crackers, and macaroni, I did not see the point of paying to stay in a dingy cheap motel for less than twelve hours while I made my way across the country. Since then, I have slept in my car several times. Here’s my advice on sleeping in your car.
1. Unless you cannot find anywhere else with which you feel comfortable, don’t sleep in a Walmart parking lot .
I have had many successful naps in a superstore parking lot; however, I would not recommend it for overnight. There are constantly people walking by and talking about how creepy you are like you can’t hear them. Because of the constant flow of people walking near, you are also more likely to run into someone who might want to take advantage of the situation. Yes, there are a lot of people around. But then again, there are a lot of people around.
2. Think Ahead.
There were several things that I did not think through the first few times I opted to sleep in my car. The first time, I did not bring a blanket or a pillow. I ended up sleeping with my purse as a pillow and my sand covered, slightly wet towel as a blanket. Bring what you need to feel comfortable.
The second time I slept in my car, it was winter. This, my friends, is not a good time of year to sleep in your car unless you are in a part of the world that does not get below 45 degrees at night. I only slept for four hours at a time because I woke up shivering every so often.
I also didn’t have any ideas where I would stop. I thought I would just stop when I got sleepy. However, I was not in a safe place when I got tired. Then I was trying to make a solid, logical decision when I was tired which can lead to bad decision-making. I recommend picking a small to medium-sized town and stopping around 9 or 10 PM.
3. Find Somewhere You Feel Comfortable
A friend of mine once gave me the brilliant idea to sleep in a hotel (not motel) parking lot. She told me that you can go inside to ask them if it’s okay that you sleep in your car in their parking lot. You can tell them that you don’t have enough money for a room, and they might even offer you a room at a discounted price. It actually worked when I tried it! They always say yes, and they did offer me a discounted room once or twice. Find a well-lit spot and get comfy.
Pay attention to the neighborhood. This is where your intuition comes in handy. Do not sleep in a place that makes you uncomfortable in the slightest.
You can also try a camping site. I have only done this once, and I’m pretty sure I was supposed to pay to stay. Sorry, little town in Oklahoma.
Also, if your seats lay down, lay those suckers down so you can stretch out. It only took me three trips to figure this out.
Sleeping in your car is a DO if you do it safely.