There are a lot of expenses when traveling: airfare, food, activities, accommodation, etc. More often than not, accommodation is the most expensive part of the trip and really adds up quickly! Because of this, combined with the fact that one of my goals while traveling is to do it as cheaply as possible by any legal means necessary, I get creative with sleeping arrangements in order to save quite a bit of money…
Skip the hotels and hostels and think outside the bedroom! Literally. You’ll need a sleeping bag [mummy bags work the best] and a sleeping mat as well.
Tip: I traveled with a very small pillowcase that I think I got on an airplane [not the pillow – just the case]. It’s practically nothing to carry, but really works out great! I used the lining of my jacket to stuff inside the pillowcase and used it every night to sleep with! You could just use your jacket folded up, but the micro-sized pillow case really kept my jacket lining in the perfect pillow shape all night and I slept great!
If you have a vehicle, then sleeping for no money is a piece of cake. A car might not be so comfortable sleeping with the two front seats down, but it’s definitely doable. An SUV is the way to go. Fold the backseat down to make a perfect sleeping area with your sleeping mat and sleeping bag.
If you’re in the middle of nowhere, then sleep in the rest areas on the road. If you’re in populated areas, search for a Walmart.
Walmart parking lots are known amongst many travelers as THE place to go to sleep overnight in your car. It’s the perfect spot for so many reasons:
1. The cops don’t chase you away because it’s Walmart property.
2. Walmart doesn’t care because their parking lots are big enough for all their customers 10 times over [plus I think that they think you’ll end up shopping there in the morning].
3. It’s the safest place compared to others because there is always at least 15 other campervans with people sleeping right next to you. It’s its own little community. People put out Welcome mats and walk their dogs around the parking lot. It’s quite a scene!
4. Also, Walmart is a safe place to park because a lot of them are open 24 hours. Therefore, something is unlikely to happen in the parking lot since there are always witnesses around.
5. When you wake up in the morning and need to use the restroom, brush your teeth, and wash your face, there are restrooms right inside!! No one cares if you just walk in and use the restroom – and usually, the restrooms are right by the front door.
Experience: People in their camper-vans in the Walmart parking lots make themselves at home! I mean, REALLY at home… I’ve seen people walk their dogs around the parking lot like it was their own neighborhood and even put out Welcome mats and lawn chairs!!
I really love sleeping in my SUV! I’ve lived out of my car all over the U.S., across Canada, Hawaii, New Zealand, etc. It’s really an amazing experience.
If you’re traveling without a car and you’re near the coast, beaches are great for sleeping!
Sand might be ok, but sand in combination with wind is a royal pain in the butt. Even though the sand is nice and soft, I still use my sleeping mat. I like the extra protection for my sleeping bag from the sand since sand gets into absolutely everything. If you have water-tight bags for electronics, I would definitely use those for the sand as well.
Also, sleeping bags that are mummy bags [the type that have a hood and string to tighten around your face so that only your face is exposed] are the best for the beach. Even if it’s in the middle of summer and hot during the day the mummy bag is still the best because (1) sand won’t get into you bag and clothing as easily while you’re sleeping if your sleeping bag has a hood and (2) even during the hottest part of summer, windy nights on a beach can be a bit chilly.
Be aware that most beaches have rules that may consist of “no camping”, “no drinking”, “no fires”, etc. Follow these rules! And I mean follow them literally!
“No camping” is not the same as “no sleeping” so if someone patrolling the beach comes along, play stupid and say that you thought “no camping” meant “no tents”. I don’t break laws – on the contrary, I follow laws, literally, word for word.
So what if you’re in a city that isn’t located on a beach, then what? Well, a public park is another option…
Your goal is to sleep peacefully and avoid being questioned in the middle of the night, so find a place in the park that is away from most of the public yet not so far or tucked away that it looks like you’re hiding. I try to find a spot in the park that is in the open on the grass but behind some trees or bushes, if possible. This way you’re covered in two ways: (1) you’re blocked by the trees from the public, but also (2) if someone questions you, you can play it off like you didn’t know and you were just lying there looking at the stars and fell asleep. If you’re hiding and really tucked away and you’re still spotted, it’s not as easy to play dumb.
If you research plane tickets often, then you’ve probably already noticed that usually the cheapest flights either take off or arrive during early morning [12am-3am]. I usually always choose these late flights in order to save money… However, it’s not so fun to arrive in anew cityat 2am and have to deal with finding an ATM, dealing with a new currency, knowing how much a taxi should cost in order to not get ripped off, not knowing where to go in the city, and then trying to find a hostel. And then [my least favorite], even if you do manage to find a hostel that is open 24 hours and you check-in at 3am, there is always the possibility that check out is that same morning – so you basically paid for a whole day in a hostel and only used a few hours to sleep… what a waste! Don’t go through all of this at 3am… Instead, save money in TWO ways: (1) by purchasing the cheaper ticket where the plane arrives at an awkward hour and also (2) by not paying for a hostel for just a few hours.
Sleeping in an airport is one of my favorite hobo sleeping spots! Airports are safe, dry, room temperature, and intended for travelers! If you’re sleeping on the floor in an airport, people walking by will just think that you’re waiting for a flight – they don’t think it’s so weird and just keep on walking!
Finding A Place To Sleep In An Airport:
Departure Terminal. The best advice about sleeping in an airport is choosing the opposite terminal in which you arrive. When you exit the plane, you’ll be in the “ARRIVAL” Terminal of the airport. However, no one in the Arrival Terminal is waiting to board a plane. In order to blend in and make it look like you’re waiting for a flight, find the DEPARTURE Terminal – for all anyone knows, you’re flight was canceled or you mixed up the times or who knows… but, nevertheless, it looks like you’re waiting for a late flight.
Corner. There aren’t too many places in the airport that are private, but if you can find a corner, then that’ll do just fine! But your bag in the corner [at your head] and make yourself at home in your little nook. A corner is best for two reasons: (1) you have foot traffic passing by so much and (2) your bag in the corner at your head is the safest place for it while you’re sleeping; in order for someone to take it, he/she would need to step over your and to grab it. Also, if it’s by your head, you’re more likely to hear if something is going on [but I can’t imagine ANYONE trying to steal a backpack in the middle of a crowded airport, so don’t worry].
Steer Clear of Businesses. When you’re scouting out a corner or some sort of area to sleep, more sure you take notice of businesses. Airports have a lot of little stores and restaurants that are closed at 2am, what might seem like a wall, might be the entrance to a coffee shop that opens at 4am.
Get Over It. A lot of people might feel embarrassed about sleeping on the floor of a public place. If you’re one of these people, you might want to rethink a major backpacking journey OR… GET OVER IT [and fast]! Sleeping in an airport is luxary compared to aLOT of situations when traveling around the world. Who cares if a complete stranger looks twice to see who is sleeping? People are allowed to sleep in an airport – especially when waiting for a flight for over 5 hours…
Experience: I’ve slept in a few airports in many different countries. I walk off the plane, get my checked bag from baggage claim, and follow the signs directly to the departure terminal. I find a nice corner that is away from as much as possible and start to set up: I blow up my sleeping mat and pull out my sleeping bag and use my jacket lining as a pillow stuffed in my tiny little pillowcase. I’ve slept more soundly in an airport and I have in a lot of paid accommodations. Try it!
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