If you’re on the road, tired, and in need of a nap or a place to sleep overnight, hotel rooms can get pretty expensive. Booking a room can quickly cut into any money you’ve saved for traveling, sightseeing, and eating. Fortunately, there are places where you can just pull over and (legally) get some rest — for free. Be sure to ask staff or management ahead of time, but your best bets are: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Camping World, Cracker Barrel, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and select truck stops.
In This Article
- What to Know Beforehand: Laws, Ordinances, and Safety
- Businesses Friendly to Overnight Parkers
- States That Allow You to Sleep in Your Car at Rest Areas
- Places That May Permit Overnight Parking and Sleeping
- Places That Don’t Allow Overnight Parking and Sleeping
What to Know Beforehand: Laws, Ordinances, and Safety
Before you park and sleep in your car, it’s important to check local parking rules. Some cities have ordinances prohibiting overnight parking for certain people or in certain areas. On streets, keep an eye on parking signs. If you park outside of a business, it’s best to check with the staff or management to find out if overnight parking is permitted.
Where overnight parking and sleeping is allowed, it’s important to practice good etiquette. If possible, ask permission when using a business’ parking lot. Find out the best location in the lot to park overnight, and make sure you aren’t blocking any routes for overnight deliveries. You might consider leaving information like your license plate number and car make and model with the business so you don’t get towed. Certain stores may have policies on towing cars that are parked overnight without permission.
When a business lets you use its lot, don’t overstay your welcome. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to stay one night only. If you’d like to stay longer, be sure to ask for more time. And don’t leave behind any trash. Of course, when businesses let people stay overnight in their lots, they often expect that you’ll also be a good customer. Consider making a purchase or having a meal, if appropriate.
Above all else, keep safety in mind when sleeping in your car. Keep the doors locked, and crack windows enough for ventilation but not enough for anything to come into your car. Park in well-lit areas when possible. And, finally, be mindful of the weather.
Businesses Friendly to Overnight Parkers
These businesses have parking lots and either have official policies permitting overnight parkers or are known to let people park overnight, even without an official policy.
Stores and Restaurants
A number of national retailers and restaurants allow people to park overnight in their parking lots as a gesture to the added business that usually results from the policy. Some of these businesses have an official policy allowing overnight parkers, while, for others, the policy is informal. Either way, you should always call ahead and confirm with management before parking overnight. Keep in mind, even the most parker-friendly business can’t allow overnight parking at all locations because some cities and towns have local ordinances restricting this practice.
When you check with management at the specific location to see whether overnight parking is allowed, you should also ask where in the parking lot they’d like you to park. Some will have designated parking spots or will ask that you stay away from Dumpsters or delivery areas. And, once you arrive, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to management or staff.
Below are some of the most popular stores and restaurants that allow free overnight parking. Because formal parking and sleeping rules are hard to come by for most businesses, we scoured many traveler and RV discussion boards to obtain reliable information from well-seasoned travelers. When available, we included company policies.
Bass Pro Shops
- Policy: Bass Pro Shops has no official policy on overnight parking, but many locations do allow it. Individual stores generally allow you to park one night and just ask that you park in an out-of-the-way area of the parking lot. They usually don’t have electrical hookups, WiFi, or other similar services.
- Locations: Bass Pro Shops has stores in most of the eastern half of the U.S., as well as California, Colorado, Washington, and Arizona.
- Find a Bass Pro Shop
- Policy: Cabela’s often allows overnight parking. Many Cabela’s locations have dedicated RV areas with dump stations, and some even have hookups.
- Locations: Cabela’s has stores in all states except Hawaii, California, Wyoming, New Mexico, North Dakota, Iowa, Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Delaware, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
- Find a Cabela’s
- Policy: Camping World officially allows overnight parking at many locations, and many stores have electrical hookups for those in RVs and the like. Some Camping World locations have campgrounds for those parking overnight, and, in that case, an overnight fee will be assessed.
- Locations: When you access the individual store’s page via the locator, scroll down and look for “overnight parking” under “RV services.”
- Find a Camping World
- Policy: Cracker Barrel reportedly has a good reputation for treating overnight travelers well, and some locations have marked RV parking. But, there is no official Cracker Barrel policy on letting people park and stay in their cars or RVs overnight in their parking lots. Generally, the more urban the location, the less likely overnight parking will be allowed.
- Locations: Cracker Barrel has restaurants in the south, most East Coast states, and Arizona.
- Find a Cracker Barrel
- Policy: The Sam’s Club’s website notes that overnight parking is permitted, but specifics vary by location because of city and state laws. Contact a Sam’s Club manager for permission to park overnight.
- Locations: Sam’s Club has more than 600 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
- Find a Sam’s Club
- Policy: Overnight parking is allowed at most Walmart stores. According to Walmart’s corporate website, “Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store parking lots as we are able.” There are no electric hookups or related services. Check with store management and look for signs about parking before you stay overnight. While there is no official list of which Walmart stores allow overnight parking, informal online reports estimate that 80%-90% allow overnight guests. Roundabout Publications maintains a useful directory of no-overnight-parking Walmart stores, but because it isn’t affiliated with Walmart, it is still a good idea to double check by calling the store.
- Locations: There are more than 4,000 Walmart stores nationwide.
- Find a Walmart
Suggested article: Walmart’s Mattress Return Policy on Air Mattresses etc
Truck stops are a reliable option when looking for a place to park overnight and sleep in your car. As the name suggests, truck stops serve trucks — specifically those carrying freight. But they usually also have services for other overnight parkers, including road trippers in cars and RVs.
Many truck stops only have a single location, and you can use a tool like The Trucker’s Friend to search for them to contact about overnight parking. We list a few nationwide truck stop chains and their policies below.
Pilot Flying J
- Policy: Pilot Flying J truck stops allow you to park for up to 24 hours for free, provided you can find a spot. Some locations have paid “prime parking.”
- Services: Most locations offer restaurants, free WiFi, and bathrooms with showers. Pilot Flying J also has a mobile app and rewards program that gives you access to discounts on gas.
- Locations: Pilot Flying J has locations nationwide.
- Find a Pilot Flying J
Travel Centers of America
- Policy: Free parking is on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can park for up to 23 hours — check-in is at 4 p.m. and check-out is at 3 p.m.
- Services: Travel Centers of America truck stops usually have convenience stores and restaurants. Drivers can take advantage of coupon savings. There is a rewards program, but it is only open to those with a commercial driver’s license. And, while they do have showers, they are available only to professional drivers.
- Location: Travel Centers of America has locations nationwide.
- Find a Travel Centers of America
States That Allow You to Sleep in Your Car at Rest Areas
According to federal regulations, rest areas must be maintained for the public’s use, free of charge because they are part of the interstate highway system. Rest areas are intended to be a place for tired drivers to rest so that people can be more alert on the roads. States are allowed to set specific rules on parking in rest areas, and, while most encourage drivers to nap in their cars if they’re feeling too tired to drive, few permit overnight parking. Many rest areas also have bathrooms and basic tourist information.
When parking at rest areas, keep your safety in mind — these areas are often poorly lit, and, unlike most businesses, they don’t have security or cameras
- Parking policy: Overnight parking at rest areas in Arizona is permitted.
- Locations: Map of Arizona rest areas.
- Parking policy: You can park at rest areas in California for an eight-hour period. That period can be overnight, as long as you don’t pass the eight-hour limit.
- Locations: The California Department of Transportation maintains a list of rest areas, amenities, and closures in California, as well as a map of rest areas in California.
- Parking policy: There are two rest areas in Minnesota where overnight parking is permitted. Minnesota also allows camping at these two sites.
- Locations: Manitou Rapids Rest Area (on Rainy River, eight miles East of Birchdale on T.H. 11) and Pomme-de-Terre Rest Area (at Pomme-de-Terre River, North of Appleton on T.H. 12)
- Parking policy: You can park for up to 24 hours at rest areas, and overnight parking is permitted.
- Locations: Map of rest areas in Nevada and list of amenities
- Parking policy: There are eight specific rest areas along the Ohio Turnpike where you are allowed to park overnight. The areas are intended for RV, so RV services, including bathrooms, are available for $20. Parking overnight is prohibited in all other rest areas.
- Locations: Find a map of rest stops in Ohio Turnpike’s RV Lot Brochure.
- Parking policy: You can park at rest areas in Oregon for any 12-hour period. Many rest areas have free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, thanks to local non-profit groups.
- Locations: List of rest area locations in Oregon.
- Parking policy: You can park at rest areas in Texas for up to 24 hours.
- Locations: Map of rest areas in Texas.
- Parking policy: You can park at rest areas in Washington for an eight-hour period. Some stops also have free coffee.
- Locations: Map of rest area locations in Washington and a list of amenities.
Places That May Permit Parking and Sleeping
The following are not chain stores or state governments, so there are no uniform rules. Nonetheless, these locations often have parking lots and may not mind an overnight traveler, as long as you don’t overextend your stay or abuse their hospitality.
Churches, synagogues, and other religious buildings. You should check with the staff, if possible, and introduce yourself. Be aware of when services are held so your vehicle is not in the way. Also, be aware of signs with parking rules. Remember, even though religious buildings are often friendly to those in need, local ordinances may restrict overnight parking.
Businesses that are open 24 hours a day. This might not be the quietest place to sleep, but constant traffic and light posts mean more safety than some other options. If appropriate, ask management before parking and sleeping. It’s a good idea to find out what part of the parking lot is the best for you to sleep in so that you don’t block any deliveries to the business.
Casinos are a popular overnight parking spot among RV motorists. Casinos often welcome overnight parkers because of the possible business, and they usually have security, so parkers feel safe. Some casinos have even built campgrounds to accommodate overnight guests with RVs or camping supplies. Casinos with campgrounds will generally charge for overnight parking.
Local police stations. If you feel comfortable parking at a police station, it’s worth a call to see if they’ll allow you to park for a night. Police stations are one of the safest places where you can park and sleep overnight.
Places That Do Not Allow Overnight Parking and Sleeping
The following businesses didn’t make our list because they have no official policy, and more often than not, don’t permit overnight parking. Nonetheless, they often have large parking lots and may be worth calling to see if a particular location will allow overnight parking.
- The Home Depot
Large retailers and restaurant chains are some of the more obvious choices for parking and sleeping overnight, and some even have a general policy of allowing over-nighters — subject to local parking ordinances. Truck stops and rest areas are other options and are ideally located if you are on a road trip. Whichever place you decide, be respectful of whoever has let you take up a spot, and always keep your own safety in mind.
For the list of places where you can park a semitruck or a commercial truck for a few hours or overnight, see our article.