Is “car camping” legal? If I get tired while on a driving casino trip and have to pull out somewhere, will I wake up with a police officer tapping on my window, and he then he has the right to search my vehicle because I was breaking the law? I know most Walmarts allow overnight parking, but I just mean is my bankroll at risk if I have to pull over to nap in a parking lot while traveling?
Chairman: I've probably slept a hundred nights in rest areas and only once had a police encounter, strangely not a time I was sleeping overnight but I had just pulled off for a short nap. Truck stops and Walmarts are generally fine, too. The only time I was asked to leave was when some truck driver told me I couldn't sleep at a Fred Meyer. While I seriously doubted his authority to chase me off, I didn't want to have him do something like call the police, so I drove away, then pulled into the other side of the building and continued napping.
Snapper: Some casinos have RV lots, but be careful. I have heard that perpetrators will spray ether into your cracked window. Once you are knocked out, they break in and steal your stuff, torture you, slice you into pieces and … okay, so I'm not sure it's true but be careful.
I would find an RV or trucker at a Walmart or the casino RV lot and pull up behind them or close by for added safety. Or you could pay for a tent site at a campground and just sleep in your car.
ECBJ: I’ve done this a number of times. A common scenario is that the casino just closed at 3-4 am, and I'm in a dump of a town with one motel which would require waking up the person managing the front desk so they can either tell me there are no rooms available, or to check me in and tell me that check out is 10-11am. Even if I plan better and book the room ahead of time, any checkout time before noon can be problematic after a late casino night.
My preference is Walmart or a truck stop since I know that they explicitly permit overnight parking/sleeping. When that's not an option, I'll look for some other business with a similarly large parking lot. I have also occasionally on weekends used doctors’ offices or other small office parks if I felt there was a very good chance they are going to be closed the next day. With any of these locations, the goal is for your vehicle to appear as it belongs there, and for you to not take away a parking spot likely to be needed by a customer. Most people passing by will just think of it as a parked car, and won't bother to see if someone is inside.
For rest areas, I've seen signs indicating a four-hour limit and no overnight parking. I respect these limits, and have never used a rest area overnight. I also expect that you're more likely going to have an encounter with the highway patrol, a maintenance employee, or whoever else happens to be looking for people violating their rules. One final consideration when picking a spot is to make sure it's near a public restroom should the need arise. Happy napping! It’s better than drowsy driving.
Originally published on bj21.com Green Chip, edited for this format.