Between their limited hours of operation and technology rendering them practically useless, post office parking lots sit empty most of the time. When you’re looking for a spot to park for the night, it might be tempting to pull in and set up camp for the night.
However, can you sleep in a post office parking lot?
Today, we’ll look if these facilities offer more than just snail mail. Let’s see if you might consider sleeping in a post office parking lot the next time you have a travel day that doesn’t go as planned.
Can You Legally Sleep in Your Vehicle?
The legalities of sleeping in your vehicle vary considerably across the country. There’s no federal law that prohibits individuals from sleeping in their cars. Cities, municipalities, and even neighborhoods often restrict overnight parking, making sleeping in your vehicle on the streets difficult or impossible.
It’s also important to note that you can’t just park your vehicle anywhere to sleep. Parking on private property without permission could get you in legal trouble. Failing to obtain permission to park somewhere to sleep for the night will likely result in an awkward middle-of-the-night demand from law enforcement or an angry property owner telling you to leave.
Can You Run out of Oxygen Sleeping in a Car?
A common urban legend has been circulating for years that states you can run out of oxygen by sleeping in a car. However, common sense tells us that cars are far from air-tight compartments. They pull in air from the outside, even when not running. It would be impossible for you to die of suffocation inside a vehicle while sleeping.
While you can’t die from suffocation or lack of oxygen, sleeping in your car can still be dangerous. Protecting yourself when choosing a spot to sleep in your car for the night is important.
Note: This example is for a vehicle that is turned off and parked in an open-air environment, like a post office parking lot. Keeping your car engine on in an enclosed space is a much different story.
Is It Safe to Sleep in Your Car?
Sleeping in your car can be safe, but only if you take a few precautions. You should never park in a location where you feel unsafe. Avoid areas with high crime rates. If you think you’re in a dangerous spot, you should move.
Additionally, vehicles are not air-tight; thus, you must be mindful of where you park. Parking next to exhaust systems can let harmful gasses inside your car. Carbon monoxide poisoning is very serious and can be deadly.
Keep in mind that if your engine is on, you’re creating carbon monoxide too.
However, sleeping in your car is usually just as safe as camping in many locations. Take a few precautions and do your best to protect yourself and your vehicle.
Can You Sleep in a Post Office Parking Lot?
Sleeping in a post office parking lot will be near impossible. Materials published from the USPS read, “Parking without authority, parking in unauthorized locations or in reserved locations, or parking continuously in excess of 18 hours without permission or contrary to the direction of posted signs is prohibited.”
You’ll have a list of hoops to legally jump through to sleep in a post office parking lot.
First, ensure the city has no local restrictions on overnight parking. Second, the Postmaster or head of the local post office mustn’t have any other directives regarding overnight parking in the post office parking lot. Lastly, you’ll have to obtain permission in advance and not stay more than 18 hours.
The number of places where this may happen will likely be few and far between. Don’t expect post office parking lots to allow sleeping while traveling.
Where Can You Sleep in Your Vehicle?
Just because you won’t likely get to sleep at the post office doesn’t mean they’re unavailable. However, you’ll need to be self-sufficient. Let’s look at a few options you might want to consider. Remember that these locations must follow local rules and regulations despite their hospitality.
Just because a location is on our list doesn’t mean you can sleep overnight at every one.
Many retail stores will show hospitality to travelers looking for a spot to park for the night. Common ones include Walmart, Bass Pro Shop, and wholesale locations like Costco. Plus, you can stop to pick up food and other supplies you might need during your travels.
However, Walmart and other large retailers have moved away from being open 24/7 and now follow standard retail store hours.
Pro Tip: Is Walmart Camping Safe?
Home Improvement Stores
Many home improvement stores have massive lots that sit empty for the entire night. Locations like Lowe’s and Home Depot have hundreds of locations across the country. If working on a project in your vehicle while traveling, it might even be worth parking in their lot, so you can avoid multiple trips to and from the hardware store.
Camping stores like Camping World, Bass Pro Shop, and Cabela’s often offer overnight parking. Some locations also have dump stations and potable water, but there’s no guarantee. These stores often have large parking lots with plenty of room to navigate. It makes getting in and out on your adventures much easier, especially for big rigs.
A favorite place for many travelers to stop for the night is Cracker Barrel. These are great spots to stop because you’ll often find them right off the interstate or other major roads. Staying at one of these locations can also make it easy to grab a meal after a long travel day or before hitting the road in the morning.
You should always support the establishment in some way if you choose to stay the night.
Many chain fitness centers are open 24 hours. They’ll have some customers coming and going throughout the night. This means you’ll see vehicles in the parking lot and won’t stick out like a sore thumb if you decide to park to get some sleep.
Additionally, they often have shower facilities for members to use. So you can have a place to sleep for the night and a place to work out and get a shower.
Truck stops are great spots for truckers to get some rest after a long day of driving. However, RVers and car travelers can also use them. With so many people coming and going, few people pay attention to the vehicles parked around them. This can allow you to blend in relatively well while you get some sleep.
As these facilities cater to truckers, they often have everything you could need. You’ll typically find food, shower facilities, and restrooms. These are excellent places to stay so you can hit the road with a full fuel tank and a stockpile of snacks for your travels.
Sleeping overnight at rest stops can be hit or miss. The state usually manages rest areas and will set its own restrictions. Some states prohibit sleeping at rest stops. However, some states allow drivers to get sleep but limit the number of hours they can park. Make sure you check restrictions and look for signs indicating any parking limits.
Get Some Rest and Stay Legal
You want to ensure you feel rested before hitting the road. Drowsy driving can be very dangerous and lead to a deadly accident. However, when picking a spot, you want to ensure you stay legal. Getting a knock on your window in the middle of the night is not how you want to wake up for the day.
Being forced to move can make finding a new place to stop difficult and sometimes dangerous. So make sure you’re legal before retiring for the night.
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