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How To Choose A Rest Area To Stay Overnight

Know What to Expect Before You Exit

Twelve hundred full-service rest areas and 200 welcome centers have been built since the interstate rest area program began in the 1950s.

Currently, Title 23 of the US Code prohibits privatization of rest areas, so they are all government maintained.

However, the possibility of joint ventures with various businesses to provide commercial services is being looked at.

Truck stops and travel plazas, as well as rest areas are being used by more and more RVers on the nation’s interstates and toll highways.

Most rest areas provide modern buildings and various services. They may also offer the following:
§ Public telephones
§ Restrooms
§ Drinking water
§ Pet exercise areas
§ Snacks
§ Maps
§ Fueling facilities
§ Dump station
§ Exhibits on local events, history or culture
§ Restaurants
§ Gift and souvenir stores

The biggest complaints RVers have about staying in rest areas are about noise and diesel fumes from trucks.

The most common advice is about staying safe: don’t stay alone in isolated areas, be sure to carry a cell phone, and never open your door to anyone except the police, but even then be careful.

RVers also recommended against parking next to big rig trucks, which often run their engines all night, spewing offensive and often-dangerous fumes.

When you park at rest stops, make sure you stay out of the truckers’ way. Don’t park behind the buildings, as trucks come in late at night and need space for turning. If you see a “No Camping” sign, it means just that: no camping (not “no sleeping”), so don’t pull out the grill, lawn chairs, etc, and keep slides in.

Overnight parking is allowed by 15 states (AZ, AR, ID, KS, MS, MO, MT, NM, NV, OK, OR, RI, TX, UT, and WA). Of these, only Nevada specifically allows camping. Some specifically prohibit “sleeping outside of the vehicle.” The rest of states have a mixed bag of rules, with some being stingy in the extreme about stay limits.

The point is, use your judgment. Don’t abuse the privilege, just make it an overnight stay and only for a few hours. Some states have special areas set aside for RVs, and the restrictions they place on rest areas are mainly to keep the criminal element from using the area, and other people from setting up camp.

The RV lifestyle supports sociability with unfamiliar persons and a general community spirit. Unfortunately RVs can be attractive targets for thieves, as their owners tend to bring expensive items, such as cameras, golf clubs and video equipment. The first step toward protecting your vehicle is to park it in an area that is least likely to attract criminal activity. If you stop at a rest area, either use your own bathroom without leaving the vehicle unattended or, if traveling with a partner, take turns using the facilities so the vehicle is never left alone.

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