The idea of sleeping in your car might sound outlandish and unsafe, maybe even downright undoable. However, it is actually quite the contrary. Road trippers looking for adventure and unique travel experiences do it all the time to save money. Equipped with the right information and tools, you too can master the act, save more cash, and travel a whole lot more.
Car Sleeping Checklist
You could simply decide to sleep in your car one night with no particular preparations in place. But it may be uncomfortable, and even unsafe. It can also land you in legal trouble. That’s why it’s essential that you check these boxes before deciding to sleep in your car:
• Sufficient Space
Folding down the back seats can create the perfect travel bed for two. If you’re planning a road trip with other people, make sure the car has enough space for everyone to sleep comfortably. Sleeping in a cramped space is a killjoy. Do your best to avoid it.
Mind the car’s indoor space, the dimensions of the seats, and the size of travelers when deciding individual sleeping spots. Taller individuals should ideally get more legroom, so having them lie down at an angle will help create more space for the rest of the occupants.
• Sleep Essentials and Accessories
Inflatable mattresses, blankets, and cushions are must-haves for when you plan on sleeping inside a car. Plan according to the projected weather of the places you’ll be traveling through. Carry mattress pads, lightweight comforters, and heating pads if you’re traveling during the winters or to colder regions.
The interior of a car isn’t your body’s natural sleeping environment, so you’ll need some additional aids. Tinted windows and car curtains are effective in creating the ideal light conditions for sleeping. If you’re a frequent traveler, use a professional’s services for applying proper window tinting.
Temporary curtains are cheap and easy to install, so they are ideal for a one-off sleep-in-the-car road trip. Use small magnets or Velcro to run a piece of string across the top of your car windows. Next, hang your blackout curtains from the string.
Car window bug screens and mosquito nettings are lifesavers. It’s hard to predict where you’ll end up parking and how bad the area’s bug situation will be, so it’s best to travel prepared.
Whether you feel like reading a bit, or if your child wants some illumination in the car at night, headlamps or hang lanterns always come in handy on road trips. If your headlamps or hang lanterns are battery-powered, make sure to pack adequate replacement batteries.
Sleeping masks are one of the most underrated of all travel accessories. Even the little light from your fellow passenger’s smartphone or tablet can keep you up. Sleeping masks are inexpensive and well worth a try.
If you’re a light sleeper, use earplugs. They are a cheap, effective way of cutting out unwanted noises. Simple foam earplugs work well for most people. If you need a little extra, you can try noise-masking earbuds that use natural music or white noise to drown out external sounds.
• Food Storage
If you’re traveling through bear-inhabited regions, use odor-proof bags to store your food supplies. Portable food coolers and insulated food bags are ideal for storing perishable food items such as milk and eggs.
Get the food cooler’s interiors frosty by adding ice. Once pre-chilled, it can keep your food supplies from spoiling for several days.
• Moisture Absorber
It’s advisable to crack the car windows at least a little when settling in to get some shut-eye. This will help maintain good airflow and minimize moisture build-up which can cause mildew and mold. If you’ve parked in a really cold region, the moisture can freeze up on the car windows and you’ll have to wait for it to melt before you can resume your journey.
Moisture absorbers can effectively handle all of these issues, and double as an air freshener. It is an excellent little investment.
• Entertainment and Charging Supplies
When it comes to entertainment, don’t rely on free Wi-Fi or your mobile data plan, as you can end up having to spend a night in an area with poor coverage. Download some good movies on your laptop, smartphone or tablet before you set out.
Make sure to carry fully charged power banks with you. In some cars, the internal charging ports do not function when the engine isn’t running. Even in cars where this is not the case, you should avoid using their ports overnight. Too much use could cause your car battery to go dead, leaving you unable to get going again in the morning.
Solar battery chargers are great for road trips. Place one on the dashboard during the day, and as long as it’s sunny where you are, you won’t have to worry about your electronics running out of power.
• Travel Insurance
If your car breaks down, you’ll be faced with the costs of repairs, additional accommodations and food. Your domestic insurance policy might not provide coverage for this delay in a different country. Medical evaluation due to sickness or accidents while on the road can also cost you a minor fortune. Travel insurance is essential to help cover your risks.
Before beginning an international car trip, be sure you purchase road trip travel insurance. A road trip insurance policy can provide valuable benefits such as trip cancellation coverage, trip interruption coverage, coverage for payments or deposits towards your vacation rental, and more.
Practical tips for sleeping in your car
Sleeping in the car has plenty of advantages over traditional car camping, wherein you travel in your car and set up a tent for spending the night. Your car offers much better protection against both inclement weather and wildlife.
Follow these tips to make the experience more economical, comfortable, and enjoyable:
• Always check the legality of sleeping in the car
Different U.S. states have different rules about sleeping inside parked vehicles. Some states only permit sleeping in legally parked vehicles during specific hours.
Rest stops that permit overnight parking typically allow for sleeping inside your car, but it’s best to be certain by checking the local laws online. Abstain from consuming alcohol or other drugs, even while parked, as it can get you charged for DUI.
Designated camping grounds, the parking areas of major chain departmental stores such as Walmart and Target, residential neighborhoods, and churches are among the safest spots for travelers looking to sleep in their car. If you spot a sign or notice that prohibits sleeping inside parked vehicles, look for a new spot.
• Keep your head elevated
Most travelers ignore the importance of finding a level parking spot. It hits them when they’ve been in the car for a while or are trying to fall asleep. If you’re unable to find a level surface, park your car so that the slant will elevate your head above the rest of your body when you lie down.
The alternative sleeping position can be quite uncomfortable, affect the quality of your sleep, and mess with your blood circulation.
• Turn off the engine
One of the most important safety tips for sleeping in the car is to turn off the engine while sleeping. With the engine left running, a weak or malfunctioning air conditioner, or exhaust fumes entering the car can lead to carbon monoxide buildup. Since carbon monoxide is odorless, you won’t even realize you’re being poisoned.
If you’re in a cold location, layer up. Use comforters or warm blankets to keep warm and cozy. For hot locations, portable car seat fans are an excellent cooling solution.
Turning the car off isn’t just safe, it’s also economical. It will help you conserve gas and avoid taxing the car battery, both of which translate to noteworthy savings.
When picking a parking spot, always seek out shade. Just a couple of hours parked under the sun can significantly heat up your car. A shaded parking spot will help keep your car interior cool, and reduce the need for cranking up the AC.
Sleeping in your car doesn’t just cut out expensive hotel bills. It allows you to spend more time with your fellow travelers and have a more spontaneous, memorable travel experience.
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