In only 3 days I’ll be able to say I’ve been sleeping in my car for 2 years straight here in warm and sunny southern California. It has it’s ups and downs, but so does every other circumstance, right? Luckily, I don’t have to pay rent, although I do like to joke that my rent is only about $70/mo aka car insurance. LOL
To keep up with the Free Mindset I wanted to list some ways you (and myself) can sleep for free. This is another subject that no one really talks about. You don’t hear news stories on places you can sleep for free – or do anything for free to be honest. So I did a little research and added my 1 cent (can’t afford 2 cents) to the list below to help you find locations to sleep for free whether you’re homeless or traveling or simply want a mini-adventure. List below is in no particular order.
1. Wal-Mart / Retail / Gym Parking Lots
This is my choice. Not all retail parking lots are equal. Some have security or foot traffic or employees going in and out etc. My location is at a Wal-Mart that is not 24/7 but does have a night crew that frequents the parking lot and front of building throughout the night. So I feel somewhat safe.
2. Shelters / Tent Cities
Indoors is always the way to go if given the option, whether it’s in a tent or a shelter building. But be aware of your surroundings as the more people next to you, the more stressful it can become for you.
3. CraigsList.org / CouchSurfing.org
We all know about CraigsList.org, but did you know about CouchSurfing.org? I just learned about it today, and supposedly it’s the same functionality as CraigsList, but more community based and safe. But ‘safe’ is a relative term.
4. Highway Rest Stops / Truck Stops
You’ve seen these on the side of freeways labeled Rest Areas where truck drivers or any other vehicles can take a rest from their long drive. There’s usually no security here but often there’s showers; though not always free. Of course there’s restrooms and vending machines and sometimes more amenities.
5. Public Parks / Open Land
These places are preferred for those who wish to be alone, away from the city and other people. There’s plenty of open land across the United States, but be careful and watch for signage dictating when and where you’re allowed to go. Or if you’re in a secluded place, be wary of wildlife.
6. Residential Neighborhood / Apartment Complexes
If you wish to stay within the city, parking on the street of a residential neighborhood is a great place to sleep, however, if you’re there more than one night, someone may take notice and contact authorities. But apartment complexes are even better, especially those without security patrol. More traffic goes through apartment complexes, so you can get away with parking in the same complex (but not the same spot) for days or weeks at a time.
7. Church or Other Community Parking Lot
If you’re a religious person, you may think to park in your church’s parking lot, and they may allow it. But if it’s not your church, some may ask you to participate in attending the church or working off your time allotted on their property. Other places such as YMCA or Rec Centers may also work, but they usually have some type of security patrol and may ask you to leave.
8. Beach / Lake
A great place to ‘camp out’ is at the waterfront. Not all beaches or lakes are patrolled, and some have shower stalls you can use for free. Drive up and down the coast and try out different locations and see what works best for your situation. The cool breeze and fresh atmosphere is a great place to brainstorm.
9. Vacant Homes / Barns / Cabins
This can be a bit tricky, and is not recommended for more than a night or two. If you’re traveling and stumble upon a vacant building, you may want to stake it out the first night (if you’re able) before sleeping inside. The building could be vacant for a number of reasons, or it could already be taken up by a group of squatters who will return late in the night.
10. Bus / Train Station
Just like the truck stop or rest areas, these parking lots have frequent traffic and many parked vehicles. So parking for a couple days may work out without any issue at all. With restrooms and other amenities, it could be a hassle free location to sleep during your travels.
11. Park & Ride / Parking Structure or Lots
Park & Ride are small parking lots usually within a city where people park their cars for most of the day while joining a carpool in the morning on their way to work. These also rarely have security patrolling, but cops may check them out on occasion. Parking structures may work in your favor, but they may also have security or cops patrolling as it’s a frequent place for illegal activities.
The above is opinions based on my personal experiences as well as others found throughout the internet. What’s your experience with the above locations? And should I add more places where you can sleep for free? Let me know in the comments section below!