When we were headed to and from Florida, we got our first taste of truck stop camping. Many people are afraid to try this, but we thought it was worth a try for a free place to sleep, especially considering the prices most parks right off the highway charge. What we learned is that as long as you are prepared, truck stop camping — aka Wallydocking/boondocking — is not as bad as they say. Here is what you will want to do to prepare for a good night’s sleep at a truck stop.
Blackout Curtains – Make sure you have some good, thick curtains or some other kind of window covering. The lights outside of truck stops are bright. This is great for helping you feel safe, but awful when you are trying to sleep. A cheap, simple fix could be to get some dark poster board to put in the windows. However, the Gro-Anywhere Blind looks like an amazing product, perfect for just this purpose.
Ear Plugs or Sound Machine – Trucks are noisy, and people visiting truck stops aren’t likely to realize people could be sleeping near by. Because parking lots get loud, it is important to have some sort of high quality ear plugs, battery operated sound machine, or a nice sound app on your phone. We went the app route and it worked well.
Propane for Heater or Ice Chest AC – Depending on the weather, you are likely going to need either heat or air conditioning.
As long as your camper heat runs off propane, that is an easy fix. If it doesn’t, check out this propane space heater.
When it comes to cooling off, there is a bit more of a challenge. Air conditioning requires electricity, and a lot of it. Unless you are allowed to — and willing to — run the generator all night or have a pretty sweet solar set up, running your built in air conditioner is probably not going to happen. The best alternative I have been able to find is a nifty little product called an Icy Breeze. This fancy contraption blows air over ice to create a nice, cool breeze. There is an option for a battery pack, which means an outlet is not needed. The downside? The ice will only last a few hours before melting away, so you will either need to get up a few times a night to replace the ice, or use the Icy Breeze to get comfortable enough to get to sleep and then deal With the warm temps. Using several ice packs helps avoid messes and makes rotating ice easier. Other similar products are the Go Cool 12V Air Conditioner and the Ice n’ Plug Portable Air Conditioner. All are the same basic concept as the Icy Breeze, but neither of them includes a battery pack, so both require an outlet. You can also make your own, homemade version of one of these portable air conditioners. The homemade version is not as pretty, but is much cheaper. I will write a post on that later.
Water in Tanks or Money For Shower – If you plan on showering, make sure your fresh water tank has water in it, or stop somewhere that will allow you to fill and dump.
Alternatively, you can pay for a shower at most truck stops. These showers are surprisingly clean, and provide you with unlimited hot water and a fresh towel. If you choose to go this route, you simply tell the cashier that is what you would like to do, wait for your shower to be ready (they will call your name or number), return to the cashier for a key and/or to check in, go to the shower you are given, do your thing, and leave. It’s very simple and painless, and is not the disgusting experience many imagine it to be. In fact, truck stop showers are generally cleaner than any campground shower I have seen.
I think this is about all you need to know to start your truck stop sleepover adventures. Sleeping at a truck stop, Walmart, or in any other parking lot is really not as bad as it may seem. It is fine for one night in any case, and a great way to save some money for fun outings! Give it a try next time you have a long trip and need to stop to sleep. Let us know what you thought, and what you learned in the comments below.