It’s the season for road trips, festivals and late nights! Everyone’s inner free spirit comes out during summer and somehow the sun just makes us happy, even with less comfort.
We wouldn’t recommend you to sleep in your car – it’s never fully safe – but if you have to sleep in your car, here are a few things to remember and some tips to do it safely.
Is it illegal to sleep in your car?
Your travel plan is ready and you know that you might need to sleep in your car at some point during your drive – but first things first, is it actually legal?
Luckily, the Highway Code is clear on this. It’s recommended to take a 20-minute break for every 2,5 hours of driving to avoid fatigue. But before you pull up just anywhere and tuck in at the back seat, there are a few things you need to know.
If it’s illegal to sleep in your car or not depends on your location. This is obvious, but you shouldn’t, for example, just park on double yellow lines and start snoozing. Same way, you can’t stop on a hard shoulder of a motorway to take a nap.
As desperate as you are to count sheep, don’t forget about the next morning. If you choose to sleep at a car park, you might wake up to an angry face of a security guard and get fined. Many car parks have limited hours of stay, or might be free at night but start service early morning, so plan your stop all the way through.
If you’re on a night out and want to take a power nap before driving home, make sure you don’t have alcohol in your system – you can’t sleep in your car to sober up. You wouldn’t be driving but it’s all the same in the eyes of the law; if you’re caught by the police, you could be prosecuted for being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle.
5 tips for sleeping in your car
The #VanLife looks all glamorous on Instagram but none of that happened spontaneously (definitely not those perfect sunset dinners on the bonnet!). Whether it’s a planned overnight stop during a road trip or a quick 40 winks at a gas station, these tips will help you feel more comfortable – and maybe you can then dream about that glam van.
1. Find a safe place to park
Finding a safe spot for sleeping in your car is a must. Park out of the way so you’re not a danger to yourself and other drivers when the traffic comes back to life. Always look for signs to check you’re allowed to be there.
Some peace for the night sounds great, but you don’t want to be completely away from civilisation either. Women especially will find it safer to stay in a secure car park or a campsite – perhaps look for residential areas.
You can scroll through apps like AppyParking, JustPark or NationalCarPark to scope the surroundings.
2. Pack your essentials
You know how dreadful flying can be; trying to get comfortable in a small space. At a minimum, keep a warm blanket in your car to help you snooze off, or maybe a sleeping bag.
Other handy things to keep in your boot are an emergency kit, water, a flashlight, an eye mask, snacks and some toiletries. You’ll be surprised how badly you’ll miss a pair of woolly socks or a neck pillow when trying to fall asleep in a car – be prepared.
3. Get some air
Your first thought might be that it’s silly to leave any windows open but ventilation is important. Especially in the summer, you can expect to wake up hot and sticky, and super thirsty, if you’re fully sealed inside the car.
A sunroof is great if you have one, or open one of the windows just enough to get some fresh air but enough to stop any animals or people getting in.
4. Create privacy
You don’t want to wake up to a group of early morning joggers trying to get a good look at you, or a big-eyed squirrel staring at you in the face. Pack some fabrics, towels or scarves, with you so you can block out your windows – there are some blackout blinds that only cost about £20 if you want full darkness for the night.
If you’re sleeping in the back, park the car facing out from the busy areas; keep more car between you and whatever you might wake up to. Remember though, the Highway Code says that you have to park in the direction of the traffic flow, unless in a recognised parking space so be wary of your location here too.
5. Set the scene for sleep
If you’re one of those people who just drift off anytime, anywhere – well, thanks for making us jealous! Most of us (yes, most of us!) need quite a bit of comfort to fall asleep properly, so make an effort.
Pack a pillow and maybe even a thin mattress if you’re on the road for days. Roll down your backseats if you can and fully go for it. For emergency, make sure your mobile phone is charged up and perhaps download some Netflix to make you feel at home – or read a book like we’re really supposed to before bed.
If you absolutely must sleep in your car, these tips should help you doze off before the 50th sheep – stay realistic though, you might be in for a rough night. Just remember – never sacrifice your safety!