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How To Pick a Safe Overnight Parking Spot for Idiots

Safety should always be your top priority while overnight parking.

Unfortunately, picking a suitable place to dry camp can be challenging, especially if you’re new to RVing or the nomad lifestyle.

Luckily, there are some things we’ve found to make it easier to find secure areas to park overnight. Today, we’ll cover the top tips to stay safe during your adventures.

Let’s get started!

What is Overnight Parking?

Overnight parking is precisely what its name implies, a spot to stop for the night. While you may never have imagined pulling over and sleeping in your vehicle, it’s not nearly as uncommon as you might think.

Travel days don’t always go as planned, and sometimes you must break up a long trip into multiple travel days. When you find yourself in this situation, you might not care if the spot has power, water, or sewer connections; you just want to sleep.

The best dry camping spots are typically large parking lots that are empty most of the night. In addition, truck stops, rest stops, and city streets can make for great places to pull over and sleep.

Is Overnight Parking Safe?

In general, there aren’t many safety concerns with overnight parking. Do bad things happen to people in their cars at night? Sure. However, you’re typically no more dangerous than camping in any other location. You should always take common-sense steps to protect yourself while stopping to rest.

You must keep in mind that some locations are safer than others. Your security will largely depend on what the surrounding area is like. If you’re stopped in the middle of a rough neighborhood with frequent criminal activity, it should be no surprise that you’re putting yourself in a risky situation.

However, there are plenty of quiet spots to park where people will leave you alone. It’s your job to find them.

Caravan unhitched at campsite at night
Not all overnight parking spots are safe. Do your research before you settle for the night.

The rules and regulations for dry camping can be pretty confusing and frustrating. As a result, the legalities of parking overnight depend on where you are. If you think finding a safe place to sleep for a few hours is tough, wait until you try to figure out if it’s legal or not.

Some cities and communities are getting overrun by people sleeping in their cars and leaving messes behind. Recently, we’ve seen increased rules about overnight parking to prevent the quality and cleanliness of their community from going downhill. Once they create regulations, they strictly enforce them.

Pro Tip: Only camp at legal overnight parking spots. Otherwise, you will have to deal with The Consequences of Illegally Parking Overnight.

How Do You Find Safe Overnight Parking?

Luckily, finding safe and legal places to park for the night is possible, especially with technology. If you have a smartphone or access to the internet, some of our favorite apps to use are Campendium, iOverlander, and AllStays. While there are other apps available, these are our go-to resources.

These apps are easy to use and have massive libraries that are constantly updated by their active user communities. They provide helpful information about the sites so you know what to expect to make the most of your stay. We’ve found some of our favorite spots to boondock using these resources.

RV in parking lot overnight
Use RVing apps to make finding safe campsites quick and easy.

7 Tips to Maximize Safety While Overnight Parking

If you value your safety, there are several things you can do no matter where you’re parking overnight that can help. Let’s look at some things you should do to ensure a safe stay.

1. Do Your Research

You need a general idea of what to expect when arriving at an overnight spot. Using apps like Campendium, iOverlander, and AllStays makes it easy for you to research. However, it’s important to remember that things can change in the blink of an eye when it comes to boondocking.

Just because an app lists a location as a safe doesn’t mean that’s always the case. Policy changes may make an area no longer accessible or available to overnight guests. If you want to avoid finding yourself in a sticky situation, then research before getting set on a specific place.

2. Be Able to Make a Quick Exit

If you find a spot to stay for the night, you want to consider how you position your vehicle. It’s a good idea to park so that you can leave quickly should you need to. You want to limit the tasks you’ll need to complete before hitting the road. 

Avoid unnecessarily lowering your landing gear, opening slides, and leaving any items, you’ll need to put into storage before exiting the spot. Every second counts during an emergency, and you want to be able to get out as fast as possible.

3. Store Your Valuables

One of the biggest mistakes people make when parking overnight is leaving their things in the open. If you have valuables in your vehicle, put them out of sight. Thieves or anyone up to no good will be more likely to break into a car if they see you’re making it easy for them. If they don’t see anything worth money, they may move on to look for another victim.

In addition, use locks if you have them. While it won’t stop determined thieves, it’ll slow them down. It’s one more thing that increases the effort required of the thief or seedy person. Since they’re likely looking for the easiest target, they have to know there’s a worthwhile financial return for whatever they’re trying to steal.

4. Park Near Lights 

If your overnight parking spot is a public parking lot, there’ll probably be street lamps added for safety. These security lights reduce the chances of sketchy activities taking place at the location. If you park near them, you decrease the chances that someone will want to mess with you and your stuff.

Criminals want to do their deeds in the dark, and you can shine a light on their activities by parking near security lamps. While trying to sleep with so much brightness can present some problems, we’ve got a solution for that!

RV overnight parking
Be prepared to leave your parking spot swiftly should danger occur.

5. Cover Your Windows

Bright lights shining into your windows can make it challenging to get a solid night’s sleep. However, a solid set of window coverings can keep the bright lights out of your RV and still allow you to park in a safe location. You can buy covers made specifically for your vehicle or create your own. It’s a relatively easy and inexpensive DIY project.

Additionally, window coverings prevent anyone from being able to peek into your vehicle. This could allow them to see your valuables and anything you have inside that might be worth taking.

6. Have a Source of Protection

When maximizing your safety, you’ll need a source of protection. This can be a touchy subject for some people, but the type of defense you choose is entirely up to you. Whatever it is, just make sure you know how and when to use it and that you understand the applicable laws.

Having bear spray is an excellent and effective source of protection against animals and people. It’s potent and will stop anyone up to no good outside. Ensure you know how to use it and understand that you only get so many chances before running out. 

7. Leave When Necessary

While it may not be convenient, there are times when you’ll need to choose to leave. If an area becomes unsafe, you should exit immediately. When you need to call the authorities, do so on your way out of there. We’ve never boondocked in a place we thought was worth putting ourselves in danger.

You should continue traveling until you’ve found a new spot you feel is secure. Is this going to be inconvenient? Absolutely. However, protecting yourself and anyone traveling with is essential. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Pro Tip: Looking for a safe space to snooze? Find out What Stores Allow Overnight Parking?

Maximize Your Safety While Parking Overnight

Whether you’ve got a camper or a conversion vehicle, having a comfy spot to sleep gives you a lot of flexibility for your vacations. But we want you and your loved ones to travel smart and have many years of adventures in the future. For the most part, safety isn’t a challenge with overnight parking.

However, no matter how secure the spot is, ensure you take all the necessary precautions. By taking the danger seriously, you reduce the chances of a scary experience.

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