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RV 101: Sleeping in an RV & Best Places to Sleep

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RV 101: Sleeping in an RV & Best Places to Sleep
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It’s 12:35 am.

You’re driving across state lines with your family in your shiny new RV.

Blasting your favorite song to stay awake, you look for a place to safely stop to rest your poor, tired eyes.

“Where can I go?”  

Here’s the low down on sleeping in an RV and the best places to park and rest!

It’s a bit of a grey area when it comes to the legality of sleeping in your car. It varies from state to state, and even city by city.

For the most part, you can’t just pull off to the side of the road and park to sleep.

rv-trailer-camper-recreational-vehicle-where-to-park-at-night

Can You Sleep in an RV at a Rest Stop?

The first rest areas appeared in the US in the late 1950s along with the Federal Aid Highway Act. These rest stops were created for people to pull off to the side of the highway if they needed.

The American Association of State Highway Officials, or AASHO, in 1958 stated,

“Rest areas are to be provided on Interstate highways as a safety measure…for emergency stopping and resting by motorists for short periods…[and are] designed for short-time picnic use in addition to parking of vehicles for short periods.”

Today, rest areas include bathrooms, vending machines, pay phones, dog walking spaces and large parking lots for many to be able to stop in and rest.

You may have noticed that many rest stops have signs posted that say, “no camping” or “no overnight stays.”

What does this mean?

Overnight Stays

Literally, it means you can’t stay overnight. This area is designated for emergency rest only and shouldn’t be taken advantage of.

Camping

As long as you’re not setting up camp with lawn chairs, tent, and grill, you can stay for as long as you need.

Bottom line:

Rest stops are meant for doing just that: resting…long enough to be able to safely drive to your next destination. Don’t start hosting BBQs for everyone in the parking lot!

SAVVY TIP:
Need help finding a rest stop? Download the
USA Rest Stops app! 

Overnight Street Parking

Although parking on the street sounds like an easy option, it’s not a good idea.

Why?

Because it could be considered loitering if you position yourself in front of businesses or someone’s house.

Loitering can definitely get you in trouble with the police.

And, we wouldn’t want that now, would we?

RV Dump Stations

Not a place to stay, but a designated location, usually at RV campsites, to dump your black and grey tanks.

Located underneath your RV, these tanks store your waste from the sinks, showers (grey) and toilet (black).

Take a look at this map of RV dump stations if you need help finding one.

Best Places to Sleep in Your RV While Traveling Across the Country

Where to Sleep for FREE in an RV

US National Forests

You can generally camp anywhere in the US National Forests unless marked otherwise for $0.

All the National Forests are clearly marked on Google Maps. You can also use The National Forest Locator to find specifics on the area you want to camp in.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to be self-sufficient.

Yes, I’m talking about squatting (Asian-style) outside to do your business!

Why?

Because you won’t have access to any amenities or hookups for your RV to get unlimited electricity, running water and sewage service.

 

rv national forest parks blm overnight stay

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

Similar to National Parks, the BLM is 245+ million acres of land that’s only in the western parts of the US. Publicly managed, camping overnight here is also free of charge. 

Finding the right BLM does require a bit effort because they don’t show up on Google Maps. Try looking up more information on their own website.

We can’t always anticipate the curve balls life throws at us.

So what can you do if there are no National Parks or a BLM in sight?

Can You Sleep in an RV at a Walmart?

Actually, yes!

Walmarts are one of the safest and most well-known places to park overnight.

Not only do they provide a well-lit area, but they also have security cameras running 24 hours.

Ran out of toilet paper?

You’re in luck!

Walk 50 feet to the Walmart right next to you to get more. You can even use their bathrooms during regular business hours too.

Remember to park away from the entrance and always ask the store manager for permission to stay overnight.

Thanks to the adventurers before us, there’s a list of Walmarts that have already been OK-ed to stay overnight in.

Here’s a place you may not have known you could stay overnight at.

Casinos

They got pretty much everything you need and more!

Restrooms, buffet restaurants, well-lit parking lots with security cameras and some gambling fun.

Just like Walmart, many casinos will allow you to park and stay overnight, but you’ll need to ask them first. 

Good thing there’s already a list of RV-friendly casinos floating around.

Truck Stops

truck-stops-are-also-a-place-for-rv-to-park-overnight

Found along the interstate highways, truck stops have restrooms, a fueling station, parking area and usually a small restaurant.

Larger truck stops may have things like showers, convenient stores, souvenir shops, and different restaurants to choose from.

Originally designed for the industrial semi-truck driver, now these stops also welcome other motorists and are even family-friendly.

Some popular truck stops franchises to look out for are:

You can easily spot truck stops because obvious signs are posted along the highway.

In case you love to plan beforehand, here’s some help finding truck stop locations.

SAVVY TIP: As a last resort, ask someone if you can park in front of their house for the night. Maybe even offer them some money. That’s what I’d do anyway.

The worst that can happen is they say ‘no’.

Home Away From Home

Not feeling the Walmarts and National Parks? Want something a bit more upscale? Check out these places!

rv camp site resort park campground campsite

Kampgrounds of America (KOA)

Oh, you’ll like this one!

With 500~ locations across North America, Kampgrounds of America is the world’s largest, privately-owned campgrounds.

KOA maintains one of the cleanest campsites with pull-thru and back-in spots, on-site laundry, full hookups with 30- or 50-amp service, and even a place for Rover to play fetch.

To boot, your family will also enjoy their premium services like bike rentals, water and land sports, movie nights, and pancake breakfasts!

Luxury RV Resorts

You’ll also like this one! 

Imagine this.

Paved and spacious lots with beautiful landscaping. Privacy away from the neighbors.

Cooking dinner in a full-sized kitchen while creating memories with your loved ones on the patio.

You can enjoy private showers when you need the occasional break from the family and relax in the hot tub after a long day of traveling. 

If you want a home away from home, RV resorts might be for you.

Luxury RV Parks

If you’re looking for long-term RV parking, an RV park might be ideal for you.

Why?

Well, you’ll feel more comfortable!

They offer monthly accommodation and have facilities like:

  • convenience store,
  • swimming pool,
  • hot tub,
  • laundry service,
  • golf course,
  • gift shop,
  • BBQ area,
  • wifi and more!

You can find RV parks in large cities, small towns or even in forest parks throughout the US.

Need some help finding one? Check out this RV park directory.

How Does 10 People Sleep in an RV?

Well, a simple solution would be to get a big enough RV that can fit 10 people.

If you’re like me and can’t afford a motorhome with all the bells and whistles, try these tips to maximize your space.

Keep Everything Off the Floor

  • Put things on hooks, over-the-door hangers, and inside-the-door storage
  • Use containers to hold utensils, toothbrushes and even shoes
  • Take advantage of the walls and even the ceiling with cabinet-mounted dispensers for paper towels, tin foil and cling wrap

Be Organized

  • Use drawer dividers – this way you can store more things off the floor
  • If you have a designated place for all your things, you can also find things faster

Multi-Purpose Furniture Only

  • Your bed doesn’t need to just be a bed – add drawers underneath for storage
  • Try to apply this concept to all your furniture
  • Better yet, hide or tuck away your tables and beds when you’re not using them

What if with the beds and couches occupied, you still can’t fit 10 people? 

Then, it’s time to camp outside in a tent under the starry night.

Come on, it’ll be fun! 

Speaking of space-saving beds, here are some you might want to look into.

Collapsing Bunk Bed

These exist!

You can mount them to the wall for a more permanent solution.

OR

Since they’re portable, just set it up at night. 

Perfect for families with small children.

Murphy Bed

Very popular (and nostalgic)!

In fact, so popular that they’re built into RVs now.

What exactly is a murphy bed?

It’s basically a bed that hides by either pulling out from a drawer or from the wall.

These days you can DIY just about anything.

If you’re a handy person and are looking to save money, you can try to build a murphy bed yourself.

Hammockuse-a-hammock-inside-and-outside-RV-to-save-space

Okay, I know this may sound crazy.

But you can actually attach your hammock to the inside of your RV with some extra hardware.

Don’t worry, you can easily pick that up at your local hardware store.

Just ask for heavy duty ceiling or wall mount hanging hardware.

They might even have a hammock hanging kit – don’t be afraid to ask.

Problems Using a Sleep Number Bed in an RV

There are always two sides to a story, right?

Sleep Number beds come hand-in-hand with motorhomes. 

There are two pretty pricey models that are made for RVs – Comfortaire r3 and r5.

Both come with various sizes to fit your needs, remote control to adjust comfort level and a 25-year long warranty period. 

Sounds pretty good, right?

Some of the common problems are:

  • air components under the bed becoming disconnected,
  • bladders leaking, and
  • remote control breaking

If you have the budget and can live with these issues (or are a handy person), then go for it!

RV Trips with Kids

You might think your kids will be bored, but they won’t be if you plan things right.

Think about things like

  • How long you’ll be traveling for – is it just a few days or a few weeks?
  • What their source of entertainment will be – AKA will there be wifi?
  • Who else is going on the trip – can they bring a friend or a close cousin?
  • What is the destination – will it be fun for them too?
  • Sleeping arrangements!

Short Term Travel

Depending on how old your kids are, they can share a bed.

They’ll be fine!

I remember camping with my family, in a pop-up trailer, when I was 12.

I had to share my twin-sized bed with my 6-year-old brother.

We were only on a 3-week trip, so having my own space wasn’t that big of a deal to me.

We also got along well, so that helped! 

RV life with your kids cant be better than this

RV Living with Kids

If you’re planning on long-term traveling, making your kids share a bed is probably not ideal.

For you AND your children!

Your best bet for maximizing bed space while minimizing the fights is probably a bunk bed.

Need Personal Space?

Look, I’m sure your kids are great and you love hanging out with them!

But sometimes you need a little bit of “me” time.

ESPECIALLY living in such close quarters.

No one blames you.

Living in such close quarters with each other 24/7 makes you really appreciate your own personal space.

So bust out a tent and get them to sleep under the stars while you have the RV all to yourself.

This will give you the space you need and it’ll be a treat for your kids too!

7 Tips to Sleep Better in an RV

Curious about how to get better sleep in general?

In addition to the below tips, check out our other articles on how to get better, deeper sleep: thesleepsavvy.com/resources/

Blackout Curtains

I’m hypersensitive to light.

If you’re like me, even the dimmest glow from the computer can keep you awake.

So park your home in a space where it’s less bright. Take into consideration other campers using their flashlights, headlights from cars, street lights and things like that.

Don’t want to take the risk?

Then, get your hands on some black out curtains.

The best rest I’ve ever gotten was from sleeping in a room that had these curtains.

Black out curtains work so well that you might need to set an alarm to avoid oversleeping!

Ear Plugs

Ever slept next to a snoring bear?

Maybe you married one!

Ear plugs are magical when it comes to drowning out noises. Maybe your neighbors are chatting loudly, dogs are barking or vehicles are passing by outside.

I always carry a pair with me when I’m traveling!

tips for great sleep in an rv

Climate Control

According to experts, the ideal sleep temperature is 68-72F° (20-22C°).

If your RV has an air conditioning unit, go ahead and turn that bad boy on for some optimum Z’s.

If you don’t have AC, no worries.

You can:

  • Take a cold shower before bed
  • Use a fan – just make sure it isn’t blowing directly on you!
  • Drink cold water before bed
  • Use a cold compress or rag on your head
  • Sleep with a thin sheet
    • This may sound like a terrible idea in a hot climate, but it’s actually more comfortable to sleep with a blanket than not.

Clean Bedding

Okay, so let’s be honest.

How often do you really wash your bedding? Once a month? Twice a month?

You should wash your bedding at least once every two weeks. If you have allergies, then every week!

Surprised? Me too.

On top of getting rid of weeks worth of dust, dander, and dirt, keeping your bedding clean makes you feel good when you lay your head down to sleep.

And did I mention the amazingly fresh linen smell?

Everyone loves the smell of clean laundry! Breathing in that clear and crisp scent will have you fast asleep in no time at all.

Quiet Place

One of the best advantages of having an RV, in my opinion, is that you can move your house pretty much anywhere!

If you’re sensitive to sound, try to find a secluded area to park and set up your mobile house.

SAVVY TIP: Don’t park in an actual campground.

Find a place off the forest service road in any of the National Forests. This way you can have your own spot with no one around for miles!

Reduce Movement

Keep in mind that your home is on wheels, not a solid foundation.

When someone gets up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, you may feel the whole RV shift.

The first and easiest step to minimize any commotion in the RV is to park it on level ground.

The next best action to take is to set up your RV on stabilizing jacks. Most RV’s come with a pair of these.

Keep your Regular Sleep Routine

Be nice to your body.

It doesn’t know you’re out living your best life on the road.

Just because your day-to-day life has changed doesn’t mean your sleeping patterns should too.

Here are some simple tips to keep your routine:

  • Avoid naps during the day
  • Do the same “wind down” activities before bed
  • Go to bed and wake up around the same time

Whether you’re traveling long term or just want to camp for the weekend, keep in mind all the possible options of sleeping in an RV!

Have a safe trip!

>> Looking for a short queen RV mattress? Good thing we did our homework and scooped out the best for you already! <<

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