Tips for Staying Overnight at a Rest Area

Let's start with why you would want to sleep at a rest area when there are so many nice campgrounds out there to choose from. Sabrina and I move around a lot, we have put over 30,000 miles on our RV since last May. And when we are traveling for her work, we cover a lot of ground in a short period of time.

This means most of our days are spent in our cushy captain's chairs rolling down the road. When it is time to stop for the day, we are usually going right to bed, waking up early the next morning and getting back on the road again. It just makes more sense for us to pull over for the night, rather than pay for a campground we will never see. The rest areas are easy for us to pull into and get back out again and most of them have clean bathrooms, as well as picnic areas where we can have dinner before turning in for the night.

How to have a more comfortable stay at a rest area:

So now that we have the why, let's get to the how. We have stayed at many rest areas in the last 30K miles and have come up with a few helpful tips on how to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

Prep your RV

Before we even arrive at our stop for the night we always stop to fill our gas tank and make sure we have plenty of propane. Depending on the weather conditions, you may be running your generator for A/C or propane for heat. We travel in a Class A motorhome and when our fuel gauge reaches a quarter tank, it shuts down our generator to prevent us from running out of gas and being stranded. Those of you who do not have a hardwired generator, making sure it is plugged into your coach and ready to go before you arrive at the rest area can help you avoid any late-night trips outside the rig.

Winnebago Vista being filled up at gas station

Arrive before dark

Once the RV is ready, we do our best to arrive at the rest area before dark. This usually gives us a better selection of spaces and ensures we will be able to find at least one spot open. There have been times when we have arrived after dark and the rest areas are usually filled up and we have had to keep driving down the road until we found one with open spaces.

Park strategically

Picking the right location at the rest stop can really make a difference. If traveling with a dog, we recommend choosing a spot near the grass, so you have easy access for potty breaks. And when you pull into the space, stay as far back in the lane as possible without sticking out. This will keep your RV as far away as possible from the noise of the diesel trucks starting up and shutting down when they park next to you. This also helps other RVers easily see that the lane is already taken while they are searching for their space.

Winnebago motorhome parked in rest stop parking lot with dog standing on the dash

Setup for the night

With a spot chosen, it is time to setup for the night. We personally do not put our jacks down. We do not want to give the appearance that we are camping at the rest area and also our jacks can damage the tarmac by leaving imprints or even possibly cracking it.

One of the things we do inside the RV to block noise from trucks and other RVs is turn on a white noise app on our phone. The app we use is called Relaxio, and if we place our phones on airplane mode it does not use any data. Running your phone all night will drain the battery though, so we also use a portable charger called an Anker. This allows us to run the app all night and still wake up in the morning with a full charge on our phones. The Anker is capable of charging both of our phones at the same time.

View of grassland and trees from the rest stop with setting sun

One other thing we did shortly after we bought our RV was spray paint the vent cover in our bedroom black to help make our bedroom darker. This helps block the parking lot lights from bothering us and has helped Sabrina sleep during the day while working night shifts.

Our last tip is a bit controversial and will not be for everyone. Sabrina likes to sleep with earplugs. I do not care for them, but then again, I am a much heavier sleeper and almost nothing wakes me up. The controversy with earplugs is the fact that some people say they block out too much noise and you will not hear an intruder or smoke alarm going off. I know for a fact that Sabrina still hears everything with them in and it just tones things down for her. We also travel with our dog Belle who will not even let anyone walk around the outside of our RV without letting us know, let alone have someone trying to enter it. We have heard from many other RVers that they will not travel without their earplugs. But, this is a personal decision.

The most important tip

Our final tip is to trust your instincts. Sabrina and I have a rule that if either of us has a bad feeling about a place we will leave and look for another spot. This rule has not failed us yet.