Have you ever seen a parking garage and wondered if you could stay overnight? Depending on your route and RV size, sleeping in a parking garage might be for you.
Keep reading to learn more about using parking garages as possible overnight options in your RV.
Let’s dig in!
How Do We Define Overnight Parking?
Overnight parking is camping for one night in a parking lot or similar location. It’s less about the camping experience and more about just finding a safe place to spend the night to get some sleep. Overnight parking is either free or almost free.
When looking for overnight parking, there are a few essential things to consider. You should select a place that is legal, safe, and well-lit.
Additionally, you’ll want overnight parking with a noise level you can sleep through. Finally, you should choose a location that doesn’t deviate too much from your route.
The Benefits of Sleeping Overnight in a Parking Garage
Parking garages are often well-lit places. But depending on what garage you choose, you might not be the only one there.
Garages at 24-hour grocers and hospitals have cars coming and going at all hours. Your vehicle arriving late in the night might not raise any eyebrows.
You can avoid the noise and disruption of vehicles coming and going by parking on the highest level of the parking garage. The upper level also has the best airflow, helping you get fresh air inside your small RV or van.
Many parking garages have security meaning there’s always someone looking out for dangerous situations. You need to keep a low profile and be stealthy with security present.
The Disadvantages of Sleeping Overnight in a Parking Garage
While having security can be a benefit, it can also be a disadvantage. Even if the parking garage doesn’t have signage banning overnight parking, security can ask you to leave.
Another disadvantage of choosing a parking garage is that you might not even fit. Depending on the size of your rig, it might exceed the maximum height limits of the garage.
Depending on where you park in the garage, you might find it difficult to sleep with cars coming and going. Sound is amplified inside a parking garage.
Lastly, parking garages pose a real threat to proper ventilation. You will want to crack your windows. However, parking garages can trap carbon monoxide, creating a dangerous situation for yourself and your passengers.
What is a Safe Parking Program?
The Safe Parking Program is a legislated program that provides homeless people living in their vehicles with safe places to overnight. The parking locations also have restrooms and trash services.
The program is for homeless people transitioning from homelessness to stable housing. It also helps people connect with services, employment, and education.
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Portland, San Diego, Eugene, and St. Paul have safe parking programs.
Safe Parking can possibly help RVers and vanlifers living as nomads due to financial issues. Full-timers need to apply in their area, and once approved, they’re given the exact safe parking location.
The end goal of the program is to get people into permanent housing. So if you are nomadic by choice, this program is not for you.
What Are Better Options for Free Overnight Parking?
Rather than overnighting in a parking garage, check out the local big-box stores such as Walmart, Lowe’s, Camping World, Cabela’s, and Bass Pro Shops. They often allow overnight parking.
Remember that the stores are bound by city ordinances and may not allow overnighting. You’ll want to check before you set up for the night.
Another option is parking at Cracker Barrel. They even have parking spots for RVers. You can stay the night in their lot and then stop for breakfast before hitting the road. In addition, you can choose to overnight at truck stops or rest areas.
You can find these and other free or low-cost options in apps such as Campendium, AllStays, and iOverlander.
You could also join membership programs such as Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome. For a yearly fee, these groups provide free overnight parking at places like farms, museums, golf courses, and people’s homes.
These program hosts typically only offer dry camping. However, some may have partial or even full hookups for a small fee.
Is Sleeping in a Parking Garage Worth It?
Sleeping in a parking garage overnight may not be worth it. You run the risk of either getting into trouble with security or not being entirely safe. Noise and car exhaust are also issues. We’d much rather look for one of the alternative options we mentioned above.
Do you think it’s an option for you, or have you ever slept overnight in a parking garage? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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