The Road Trip Sleeping Hack You May Want To Avoid To Stay Safe

Road trips are part of living in the United States. With so much land to see, it's easy to just jump in your car and drive to any number of stunning and storied destinations. While it gives you a lot of vacation freedom, you still have to plan multiple places to sleep on your route. But what happens if you hit bad traffic or decide to take a detour? You may have heard of the hack where you pull into a parking lot and simply sleep in your car. Some people recommend a lot for a business that's closed for the night and others suggest places like casinos that are open 24 hours. No matter what lot you pull into, however, you're taking a really big safety risk. And you may even be getting yourself into legal trouble. 


While you may have an emergency situation, it's best to avoid the parking lot hack. Sure, it's free — unless you get a fine for parking in the wrong place — but no risk is worth your safety. While you may see this hack frequently on the Internet, there are great reasons not to do it and other alternatives to explore.

Why you shouldn't use the parking lot hack

The obvious reason to avoid this hack is safety. In dark parking lots, you run the risk of being the victim of a crime. This likely goes without saying, but consider this a reminder not to assume you'll be okay "just for one night." Some people recommend parking in places like Walmart (which does sometimes allow RVs and truckers to park overnight) or casinos, which are open 24 hours and sometimes have guards. However, the guards aren't next to you all the time. But if you do use this trick (against our advice), at least call ahead and make sure it's permitted first.


There are, in fact, laws in some states that say you can't sleep in a parking lot. States like Florida, for instance, have laws against sleeping in your car, though some rest stops allow you to park in the lot for a few hours. North and South Carolina, on the other hand, don't even let you do that. You might get away with it for one night, but it's not worth the risk. It's illegal in Tennessee past three hours at a rest stop, and you're not permitted to sleep in cars in some of that state's cities. Of course you're trying to enjoy your vacation, but this is one of the reckless mistakes that can ruin it all. That's why it always helps to plan head with the 3-3-3 rule for your RV or car road trip.


Where it's safe to sleep on road trips

There are safer alternatives than sleeping in parking lots. Obviously, using your phone to find an inexpensive hotel is best, and if you have the means, it's worth a bit more driving. If you're in an RV, parking at truck stops can be an option. You may have to pay a fee for things like electric or water hook ups, but many — like most Pilot Flying Js, Love's Travel Stops, and TA Travel Centers — allow you to stay for free. However, you should call ahead or ask when you get there. Even if you can't, the people who work there may have other spots to send you to. If you're in a car, you likely can stay at these places as well, but don't park in the RV/truck area. One app called AllStays Rest Stop Plus allows you to search for rest stops and amenities. It's for Apple devices, but they also have a website with rest stop maps. 


Another alternative is to camp on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands for a small fee. Many of these areas have amenities like bathrooms and potable water. Their dispersed camping areas allow you to stay for up to 14 days in a 28-day period. If you do so, respect the area and pack everything in and out. Finally, if you have no choice and you must sleep in your car, here's a seatbelt hack to do it more safely.