Here’s a Throwback Thursday post, first published in January 2018. Now that we’re making tracks out west, the distance between campgrounds is lengthening, necessitating overnight stops on the road.
We still find that rest areas provide the easiest and most convenient overnight stopover. We’ve stayed now at rest areas all over the country and have never been hassled OR felt unsafe. Enjoy this Throwback post!
When I was a kid, I remember stopping at rest areas while on road trips with my parents. The rest stops were equipped with clean restrooms and picnic tables. We’d have a bite of lunch and would be encouraged to run around to “get the wiggles out” before settling into another long stint in the station wagon.
Until we bought the RV, I hadn’t stopped at a rest area in years. We took plenty of road trips, but our modus operandi was to do everything we needed in one service station stop: gas, potty, and food to go. With two kids, we could be in and out of a gas station in under 15 minutes and not stop again until the car was on E. Rest stops weren’t even on our radar.
That all changed when we bought the bus. Driving the rig can be intense and tiring. We seldom drive for more than a couple of hours without taking a break, and rest stops provide a perfect facility for that. They are right off the road, easy on/off, and offer segregated truck parking fully long enough for our bus plus toad. After all, we can’t just pull into your typical gas station! Truck stops are fine for fueling and a quick restroom break, but few have pull-through parking spaces (and we can’t back up), so there is no place for us to park for a longer stay. Rest stops are perfect. And not only are they good for a short rest break, some states even allow overnight parking.
So why would we want to park overnight at a rest stop, when we could stop at a perfectly nice campground? The main reasons are cost and convenience.
The hardest part of moving the rig from one place to another isn’t the driving, it’s the packing and unpacking. It takes at least two hours to completely load everything, prepare the bus, hook up the toad, and get ready to move. At the destination, it takes another couple of hours to do the reverse. Because of this, we don’t want to go through all of that effort until we are somewhere that we want to stay a while. Also, since we don’t like to drive more than 300 or so miles in any day, it may take more than one “traveling day” to get to our next destination. In that case, we need to find someplace for an overnight stop.
We can (and have) gone to a campground for just one night. There are lots of options located conveniently near interstate highways. But pulling into one often requires unhooking the tow vehicle (due to lack of maneuvering room) and then, since we are paying for it, we’ll connect the hookups and put the slides out. In the morning we have to prep for the road again. But … wait … do we REALLY need hook ups for just one night? Nope. That’s the beauty of being fully self contained! We have a generator, we have fresh water, we have holding tanks – why pay $30-50 just to park somewhere?
So …enter the rest stop option. Rest stops have a safe parking area, sometimes with overnight security. We can pull in, rest, and just pull out in the morning. Rest stops have clean bathrooms. They are free. Sold! The only downside is that not all States allow overnight parking at rest stops. A summary of State rest stop policies is here. For example, our home State, Florida, does not allow overnight parking and in fact has a 3 hour stay limit. We did stay at Florida rest stops overnight several times during our Hurricane Irene evacuation trip, but that was an unusual circumstance. I’d rather not push it. But quite a few States DO allow overnight parking, including Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. If you do plan to stay at a rest stop overnight in your RV, here are a few tips:
- Plan ahead and pull out needed items from cabinets that are inaccessible with your rig’s slides in. You’ll have a parking spot, not a camp site – not a place to put out slides, awnings and hibachi!
- Fill your fresh water tanks and dump your waste holding tanks before leaving the campground. Make sure you have plenty of fuel for your generator and heating/cooling systems.
- Check the State’s rest area regulations at the link above or that State’s rest area website. When you pull into the rest area, check the signage to make sure overnight parking is not expressly prohibited.
- Arrive at the rest stop by early evening. Later on, truckers tend to fill up all available spaces and even overflow spaces. If you arrive too late, there may not be a spot for you!
- Be courteous and quiet.
- Enjoy your rest!
In the states where overnight parking at rest areas is not allowed, there are parking lot options such as at a Wal-Mart. But that’s another post!