Can You Sleep in Your Car at a Rest Stop?

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Are you a world traveler or just finding yourself becoming tired on the road?

Planning a trip in your car is fun, rewarding, and adventurous when you are free to roam wherever you want without being tied down by airplane restrictions. 

The only downside to the traveling car lifestyle is that staying in a hotel is not always within the budget. What do you do then?

Can You Sleep in Your Car at a Rest Stop?

Most of the time, you can safely sleep in a rest stop free of charge overnight without any hassles. Make sure you’re aware of any local laws in that area that prevent sleeping overnight in your vehicle and secure yourself and your valuables, even if there is a guard on duty.

If you have the right equipment, the right vehicle, and the right mindset, there is no reason why you cannot sleep in your car at a rest stop along your journey.

I’ve done it, and I have friends and family who have done it as well. 

There are many ways to sleep safely and comfortably at a rest stop. Keep in mind there may be state limits on how long you can rest.

In this article, I’d like to tell you about a few other things that you should be aware of during your slumber at a rest stop.

Secure Yourself

The most important thing to consider when sleeping at the rest stop is your safety. 

While most rest stops have security, you need to take on the responsibility of protecting your own vehicle and belongings.

Hide Belongings Out of Plain Sight

Don’t leave valuables in plain sight, including any expensive cameras or luggage inside the car, because even though it’s illegal, people may break into it anyway.

Remove the Temptation

Place purses, suitcases, and any other merchandise in the trunk or under the seat.  

Removing the temptation from outside thieves is essential to staying safe. 

If you drive a hatchback with trunk windows, invest in window shades, or have multiple blankets to stack on top.

Bring Your Phone Charger

Can You Sleep in Your Car at a Rest Stop 1 Can You Sleep in Your Car at a Rest Stop?

Make sure to bring your car charger with you so that if your car does get smacked by nighttime thieves, at least you will still have a phone on you and can call for emergency assistance if needed.

Lock Your Doors

Also, make sure to lock all doors! Locking your doors keeps you safe. 

It puts a barrier between thieves and you and gives you a chance to get away in the case that a thief pulls on your door handle. 

Perks of Sleeping at a Rest Stop

Now that we have covered ways to keep yourself safe, here are some of the perks of sleeping at a rest stop.

24/7 Bathroom Access

Rest stops usually have bathrooms open 24/7, which is very convenient when the need to pee arises in the middle of the night. 

Just make sure that when outside your vehicle using those facilities, be quiet so as not to disturb other sleepers! 

Snack Machines

There are multiple snack machines at rest stops available 24/7! So, don’t worry if you get hungry in the middle of the night. 

You can get food without worrying about if there are any stores open nearby.

Safety Measures in Place

Many rest stops have security guards or law enforcement officers on duty. 

This made me feel safe, knowing that if I ever had a problem, help was immediately available.

All activity at the rest stop is recorded as they are all under 24/7 surveillance.

Plenty of Parking Spots

Many rest stops have many parking lots, so the chances of your car being robbed or vandalized are minimal. 

I usually park near where people walk to the snack machines and the bathrooms.

Resist the Urge

I know it may be tempting to park in the corner where less foot traffic is. 

However, it’s much after to park in plain sight, especially if you are by yourself. 

While there is no way to ensure you are entirely safe, you can play a major role in doing your part to remain visible.

Money-Saving Benefits

Sleeping at rest stops can save you money, ensuring that you don’t have to spend money on hotel stays, including room and board and incidentals. 

When I first started traveling, I would suck it up and just go into hotels, but after time my budget could only afford cheap motels. 

Sleeping at rest stops helped me save more money for things like food, gas, activities, etc. The more I traveled, the more I wanted to invest in great experiences. 

Hotels are sometimes a part of that, but they just waste money in most cases. 

Cons of Sleeping at a Rest Stop

Sleeping at a rest stop makes life easier and saves you money.

But it is something to get used to. Initially, I was very uncomfortable sleeping at rest stops. 

But with time, it became a better option that gave me more money in my pocket than I would usually spend on a hotel.


I mentioned earlier that it’s safer to park in plain sight.

That means you won’t have much privacy. People will be walking past your car. 

You will hear talking and vehicles passing by as well. 

You may even be parked in between two other people.

Shading Your Windows

Shading your windows may be an option to optimize your privacy. 

You can purchase velcro shades to not only feel more secure but to prevent others from being able to see in your car. 

Certain window tints do the same thing but make sure you adhere to legal limits in your state.


If you are a light sleeper, sleeping at a rest stop may not be for you. 

I’ve experienced road noise and loud talking from truckers late into the night.

It’s something to get used to, especially if traveling alone.


Big tractor-trailers pulling in and leaving may be a distraction. 

Understand that truckers have been driving for hours and need to rest to reach their destination safely. 

Give them their space to do so.

State Limits

Many states have limits on how long you can stay at a rest stop. 

For example, if you stay overnight in California, you will have to leave by 6 am, or you may have your car towed away.

Nevada, Texas, and New Mexico are the only states with no restriction on how long you can sleep at a rest stop. 

Twenty-five states ban it, and the other 22 states have limits.

Breaking the Rules

If you are caught violating rules set in place by the state, you can be charged with trespassing and be forced to pay a fine. 

I would highly recommend looking up your state’s rules before sleeping at rest stops to avoid breaking any rules and getting yourself in trouble with the law.

Safety for Women

Rest stops can feel uncomfortable and even scary for solo women travelers. 

If you are a woman traveling alone, make sure not to park near any semi-trucks or big rigs. 

Not only is this dangerous because your car may get hit, but it’s also unsafe because if someone tried to break into your car, they might try to attack you as well. 

It can also decrease your visibility which presents another risk.

Know Where Your Weapons Are

No matter how safe you believe you are, it is vital to protect yourself if the moment should arise. 

Before going to bed at night, make sure that your weapons are easily accessible if needed. 

Make sure that you can quickly put your hands on your pepper spray, stun gun, knife, or air horn if you are suddenly awakened out of your sleep.