Several years ago when my son Rollins was only three, we took a road trip to North Carolina. My husband Michael and I decided to leave late at night so that Rollins, fingers crossed, would sleep on the way.

Well, he didn't. He woke up a few hours in and proceeded to projectile vomit all over the back of the car. We stopped and cleaned up the best we could and got back on the road. Then it happened AGAIN. Poor thing could not handle the drive, so we looked for the next rest stop. It was like a scene from The Exorcist up in there before we went to work using every wipe and paper towel we had. Making the executive decision to just hang there, we let him sleep so that hopefully, he would do better to finish the trip awake. We didn't want to have to clean any more grossness. So after catnapping, we began the trek again in the daylight and reached our destination puke-free.

But what if we hadn't come across a rest stop? Could we have pulled over on the side of the road or at a fast food restaurant and done the same? Is that legal to do?

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Can I Sleep in my Car on the Side of the Road?

Across the board, it is not recommended to sleep in your car on the side of the road. It's dangerous for cars traveling by and dangerous for you. If something were to happen and a car lost control, you would unknowingly be in their path. You may wake up to an officer knocking and shining a flashlight in your window. There are definitely better options if you find yourself nodding on the highway.

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Can I Sleep in my Car at a Rest Stop?

When we took our naps at that rest stop, I didn't even think to check if it was legal. I just assumed it was, I mean, it's in the name. However certain states don't allow you to stay all night. Alabama, for example. In Indiana and Illinois, you are good to go if you need to spend the night in your car at a rest stop. In Kentucky, you are apparently only allowed to stay there for four hours. Sleeping overnight is not permitted.

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Can I Sleep in my Car in a Walmart Parking Lot?

Surprisingly one of the only places you can sleep in your car for free is a Walmart parking lot. You know, come to think of it, I have noticed RVs and other vehicles in the back of lots at night while on road trips before.

Can I Sleep in my Car in a Public Parking Lot or Campsite?

Public parks are usually regulated on a local level, so that would just depend on the particular town you are in. It's generally a good idea to check for any signage in the lot before deciding to settle in for the night in your vehicle. You can ask management if you are pulled into a fast food restaurant or gas station, but there's a good chance they won't be able to allow you to stay. Campsites are a great place to park for the night but usually charge a fee for the evening. You would have access to a bathroom and maybe even a shower though, which would be nice.

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Tips for Safely Sleeping in Your Car

If you find yourself needing to catch some Zs make sure you do a few things to ensure your safety and the safety of anyone traveling with you. You should never sleep with your vehicle running to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Crack your windows just far enough to allow ventilation but keep anyone with sticky fingers from breaking in while you doze. It's also a good idea to park in a well-lit area to deter any thieves.
Source: autoinsurance.com and smartfinancial.com

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