How to Choose a Safe Rest Area While Traveling in Your Minnesota RV

During those longer road trips we take (from Minnesota to California for example) in our new or used Minnesota RVs, you may find yourself in need of a break that wasn’t originally part of your plan. For instance, let’s say you had planned to stay the night at a specific campsite, but unforeseen reasons have put you behind schedule and you could really use a break. This is where “rest stops” come in. If you haven’t already guessed, a rest stop should be used for exactly what its name says. A rest stop.  While the average family or person stopping at a rest stop will have a pleasant experience, there are some rest areas known to be commonplace for criminal activity and potentially dangerous situations. Luckily for us, TLC has provided some great tips on how to choose a rest stop and what do once you are there. Stay safe out there, Minnesota RVers!

Be Aware of Your Surroundings. As you pull into a rest area, it’s important you remain alert. Take note of the stop’s name or the closest mile marker, so if you have an emergency you can give the authorities your location. Avoid individuals who seem to be hanging around parking lots and restrooms; that’s a good indication he or she is up to no good. It’s also a good idea to stay away from places where criminals might hide. Don’t park beside large trucks, which can block your view of the parking lot. When you’re walking up to the building, be wary of blind corners, recessed areas and thick vegetation. A well-designed rest area will have a rectangular design with few walls or bushes behind which people could hide.

Look For Secure, Well-Lit Areas. Proper lighting can go a long way in discouraging crime at rest areas. Buildings are often well-lit, but look for places where the parking lot is illuminated as well. At night, avoid the peripheral parts of the rest area, like picnic tables, trails and surrounding woods, where illegal activity sometimes occurs. At rest stops where crime is particularly bad, frequent police patrols or even permanent security officers may be present. If this is the case, approach the trooper or security guard and ask them to look out for you while you visit the facilities, especially if you’re alone.

Choose Your Stop Carefully. While crime can occur at any time of day, a rest area is most dangerous after the sun goes down, especially if it’s isolated and empty. If you’re traveling alone at night, it might be a good idea to visit a staffed facility like a fast-food restaurant or a convenience store instead of a rest area. If you want to know how safe a rest area is before you visit it, there are a limited number of resources available to help you plan your trip. One such book is the “Interstate Travel Guide,” a directory of America’s rest stops that, among other details, employ onsite security.

Take All Reasonable Precautions. Often the simplest safety measures are enough to keep you out of trouble at a rest stop. When you pull in to a parking place, don’t linger in your car. Closed up inside with the music on, you can easily become oblivious to your surroundings, giving criminals the time and opportunity to target and confront you. When you get out of your vehicle, lock the doors to prevent theft. Also, try not to enter the rest area facilities alone. If you’re traveling with young children, see if a family restroom is available. Even older children and adults should have someone accompany them to the restroom or wait for them outside.

Don’t Spend the Night. While it may be cheap to spend the night at a rest area, it isn’t necessarily safe. Many states have banned sleeping at rest stops due to increased crime, and many others have put up signs that discourage it. Your best bet is to look for campgrounds or state parks along your route where, for a small fee, you can more safely snooze in your car. If you have to sleep at a rest area, in an RV or car, keep the doors locked and don’t open them to strangers. Talk to any strangers through the window or door, and if you feel threatened, drive away.