9 simple tips for sleeping in a hotel car park (2023)

Can you sleep in the hotel parking lots?

Yes, you can sleep in the hotel's parking lots. But if they catch you, you will be thrown off the premises; believe me, it happened to me!

Hotel parking lots are one of the most convenient places to camp while hiding in a van.

I have had a few experiences sleeping in hotel parking lots. Everything from the dreaded "banging" of children playing next to my equipment to the arrival of the police at midnight.

But despite some questionable experiences, hotels are still one of the best campsites when I try to spend the night in my van. BecauseThe construction of a city car has its advantagesbut it can still be a challenge.

Concealed parking when you don't know the area can be scary, so here are my top tips from past experiences.

How to save a camp in hotels

9 simple tips for sleeping in a hotel car park (1)

1. Do a quick Google "Safety" search in the city

If you're new to a new city (especially a big one), it can be difficult to recognize the safer and riskier areas. Sometimes I ask a simple question: "Is X city safe?" Google search and see the best results. The results typically include a city's crime rate compared to the rest of the country.

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The results should be taken with a grain of salt, because we all know that everything will sound as scary as possible on the Internet. However, observing the environment and conducting a safety survey that yields uncertain results can help you make a more informed decision to stay or look elsewhere.

You can also do a Google search such as "safest areas in X-town" to narrow your hotel search to those areas. From there I connect "nearby hotels" to Google Maps and it shows all the hotels in the area.

If you find a number of hotels or several hotels in the same square, it is always a good idea to choose them as your destination. Especially since two or more hotel parking lots overlap, so they don't necessarily check which guest is in which parking lot.

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2. Avoid tourist towns

In my experience, there's a good chance you'll be seen if you camp in a hotel parking lot in tourist destinations (especially on the West Coast). If you find a smaller, less popular town on the outskirts of a big city, you're less likely to get caught.

In fact, many hotels in California have paid parking gates, so you can't even drive into the parking lot.

Since living in vans is much more common on the West Coast, it's not surprising that hotels are more aware of overnighters in their parking lots. That said, in the many nights I've parked at the hotel, I've only had problems a couple of times.

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I would consider California the hardest state to spend the night in a hotel parking lot. The only other state I had a problem with was once in a tourist town in Colorado.

In Arizona, Oregon, Idaho and much of the Midwest, hotel parking was fluid. Overall, you can assume you won't have a problem.

3. Focus on 2 or 3 star hotel chains

Best Western, Holiday Inn Express, Super 8 and Wyndham are the hotels I look for first. The protocol should be the same for all hotel chains, so if I managed to stay at one hotel chain, there's a good chance I'll go unnoticed to another hotel chain.

9 simple tips for sleeping in a hotel car park (4)

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I tend to avoid mom pop or local hotels - just personal preference. They tend to be smaller hotels than chain hotels, so it will probably be easier to spot my van. I also avoid fancy, expensive hotels because they most likely have stricter protocols and check license plates all night.

4. Arrive after dark and leave early

When I know I'm doing a "hotel night" on the town, I usually work until sunset at a cafe or public park and then go to the hotel. Arriving after dark greatly reduces the risk of hotel staff noticing your gear's arrival, especially if you're using simpler gear.

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I try to leave the hotel parking lots at 7 or 8. You might be thinking, "Why leave early? I've already had a good night, so who cares?" The more hotels around the country begin to notice this problem, the more they will try to prevent it. So for the sake of the future of hotels and other car parks, please go early to avoid detection!

There was a situation where I was noticed and asked to leave in the morning. But I was new to overnight hotel grounds and I was very naive. I had the side door open and made breakfast on the stove! Live and learn…

5. Take the side entrance

Many hotel car parks have multiple entrances and exits. Choose an entrance that does not require you to pass through reception. In these areas, the receptionist usually monitors the arrival of new vehicles.

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6. Park behind, but away from staff areas

I recommend parking away from the hotel building and in the rear parking lot. Concentrate on the area where there will be the least traffic at night.

Just remember not to park near the service sheds which are usually at the back of the car park. I once parked next to a hotel maintenance hangar and an employee spotted my van. They asked the manager to leave and I was asked to leave... so you should avoid parking next to sheds or places that staff often pass by.

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Once I was caught in a violent storm in a tourist town in Colorado. I made an emergency stay at the hotel but parked right in front of it. Around 1 o'clock the manager knocked on my van and asked me to get out.

7. Enter Ultimate Stealth Mode

After you've parked overnight, the idea is to pretend you're not even in your van. No one should hear sounds or see lights coming from your installation. Pull up the blinds, turn down the volume on Netflix, and get cozy. Hold the pot (I preferNalgene bottle) to be able to go to the toilet quickly in the evening if necessary.

I no longer get out of the van when I park overnight in the hotel car park. When I want to watch broadcasts, I wear headphones and only use my small kitchen light instead of overhead lights.

8. Think about what night of the week it is

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Hotels will always be busier on weekends than on weekdays. Weekend nights can be good though as you are more likely to go unnoticed. A van in a full car park is less noticeable than an empty van and staff tend to be busier. However, you will also have to deal with more crowded lots and be extra careful since there are more people around. And if you're like me, start the party next to your van (one of them even kicked my van!).

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I prefer weekday evenings as there are more undercover parking spaces available and less traffic. However, there were occasions when I often left because the parking lot was TOO empty and I knew I was exposing myself too much.

9. Don't steal continental breakfast

Some van lovers joke that they sneak into the hotel for breakfast in the morning. I'm not here to be a Debbie Downer, but I recommend this one for several reasons:

-Breakfast in hotels is usually terrible anyway (haha)

-You increase your chances of getting caught (and spoil it for the rest of us!)

-Just try to respect that you have a free and safe place to live


Hidden overnight hotel parking can be a really handy tool if you need it! It always gives me peace of mind to know that I have it as a backup option. I hope these tips will serve you well.

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9 simple tips for sleeping in a hotel car park (8)

9 simple tips for sleeping in a hotel car park (9)

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Is it OK to sleep in a hotel parking lot? ›

While some hotels may allow guests to use their parking lots for short naps or rest, others may have strict policies against it. Many hotels have security measures in place, such as surveillance cameras or security patrols, to ensure the safety and comfort of their guests.

Can I sleep in my car outside a hotel? ›

While it is generally possible to sleep in your car outside a hotel, it's important to be aware of local laws and hotel policies. Prioritize your safety by choosing a secure location and taking necessary precautions.

Can you sleep in your car at Lowes? ›

Home Improvement Stores

Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, and other home improvement chains are often popular choices for overnight parking. Like with Walmart, the stores themselves generally don't mind. However, the cities may have laws against sleeping in your car, or camping.

Can you sleep outside of hotels? ›

Yes, you can sleep in hotel parking lots. But if you're caught, you'll be kicked off the property–trust me, it's happened to me! Hotel parking lots are one of the most convenient places to stealth camp in a van. I've had a range of experiences with sleeping in hotel parking lots.


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