Top Tips When Sleeping in the Car: Road Trip DOs and DON’Ts
Planning on Sleeping in the Car on Your Next Road Trip?
Some of us like to sleep in the car when we’re on our travels. Not only is it relatively easy (no check-in or check out times) but it’s completely free! This is perfect for people trying to save a bit on money while travelling and road tripping. If you’re new to sleeping in the car, or you’re after some tips, then you’ve come to the right place.
I’ve had some terrible experiences of sleeping in the car and also other times where I’ve slept really well. If you’ve got a van, then you’re sorted. Throw a mattress or something in the back and you’re away. If you’re in the car, it takes a little more planning and a little more understanding that you probably won’t get a great nights sleep. However, if you are living van life, then this article can still apply to you!
Here’s what I learnt from my extensive experience of sleeping in the car when travelling. If I can manage to sleep in a Ford KA, anyone else can sleep in a car. 😉
Your car becomes your life
- DO buy windshield covers – it provides you with privacy and helps dim any lights outside and headlights from other cars
- DO try and park up and sleep at designated sleeping stops. These do exist (if you happen to be doing it in Germany, they have a tonne of these off the autobahn with free toilets)
- DO try and sleep near a toilet – it’s not compulsory, but if you need to do something a little more than a wee, it won’t be too pleasant (again, like in Germany you kill two birds with one stone here)
- DO plan in advance where you think you are going to sleep. I’ve left sleeping in the car to chance a few times and spent hours driving around finding somewhere to sleep
- DO pack an eye mask, your eyes will thank you once the sunrise shines through your car window 😉
- DO crack your window ever so slightly, or the car will become a wet mess from condensation and it will bring fresh air into your car
- DO pack for extreme temperatures. If it’s cold outside, you’ll feel it 10 times more in the car and the same goes for the heat in the summer. Thin blankets and thick sleeping bags are your friend
- DO bring a pillow – a proper one at that, it makes a huge difference!
- DO download some good apps, for example park4night and where is public toilet – it makes life so much easier when you’re wanting to sleep in the car
- DO make sure where you are staying is free and not paid parking or you’ll be racking up quite a fine
- DO park somewhere with adequate phone signal – you’ll never know when you might need it
Is a road trip really a road trip if you don’t sleep in the car?
- DON’T sleep in residential streets if you can help it. Sleeping outside someone’s house, especially in a car is a little weird
- DON’T ignore local laws, in some places you are not allowed to sleep in your car and so you should abide by that or you could be caught and have to pay a hefty fine. **BTW, this includes the Netherlands, where you can’t sleep in one at all!
- DON’T park right next to the motorway or similar. I once slept on what I thought was a quiet lay-by at 3 in the morning. By 6am we came to realise that it was a busy road and it was so noisy that it was impossible to sleep which ruined our whole day because we were exhausted
- DON’T assume where you are sleeping will be safe. Do your research, some places are best left avoided if you’re sleeping out there on your own
- DON’T forget to lock your car. It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget
- DON’T forget to pack some snacks and plenty of water – if you want anything in the night, you’d have to wake and drive somewhere just for a drink. Not practical at all (that’s like waking up in your bed at home and having to go out to the shops in the middle of the night just for a glass of water)
- DON’T overfill your car. If you have a small car and fill the backseat with luggage, then you won’t be able to put your seats down far enough to lie flat and that’s going to be one s**t sleep
- DON’T forget about the shower situation. Plan in advance for showers in service stations before you sleep for a few consecutive nights in a row in your car
- DON’T sleep with your AC on. Not only will it kill your fuel, but it can kill you. Although rare, studies have found that if your car has a leakage, it can give you Carbon Monoxide poisoning
- DON’T have the ignition on to charge your phone, it will drain your car battery and then you’ll be stuck there
- DON’T have your belongings on show. We all know not to do this when we are out of the car, be this also goes for when you’re inside the car sleeping too
- DON’T forget to have your handbrake on and your car in gear… because you know, safety first (especially if you are one of those people sleeping with a view, like a cliff)
Enjoy your road trip!
So, there you have it, some basic dos and don’ts when sleeping in your car when out on your travels. In 2019 I think I may give sleeping in my car a pass after the last time. I was absolutely eaten alive by mosquitoes in my car in Italy to the point when my ankles and legs blistered and I couldn’t walk. Hope that doesn’t put you off TOO much. 😉 Have fun, stay safe and sleep well!