How skipping hotels saved me $600 on my trip to the Northwest

Not everyone quite understands how my boyfriend and I sleep in his Toyota Prius when we go on road trips, or even how we fit inside the car during our “Pay off debt and save money” car-sleeping stint in 2015.

We get all sorts of questions and comments:

  1. How do you avoid the steering wheel?
  2. How can you possibly sleep comfortably?
  3. Isn’t it dangerous?
  4. How do you sleep sitting up night after night?

It might surprise people that sleeping in the Prius is actually quite comfortable. We fold down the two back seats, spread out our inflatable camping mats, use two pillows, and then either throw sleeping bags or a comforter on top. We basically have something between a twin and a full-sized bed. It’s a small and cozy space, and with the windows cracked a couple inches we feel the cool night air on our faces, smell the clean scent of rain in the moss-covered trees.

Sleeping in the Prius has a lot of benefits. We don’t have to search and then pay for seedy hotels every night where we sleep on dirty sheets and use bathrooms that aren’t quite clean. We don’t have to run the risk of sharing a bed with bedbugs. We don’t pay the high gas prices associated with an RV or tow-behind trailer. We can sleep almost anywhere, completely undetected, although we try to park in campsites or marinas or rest-stops or friend’s driveways.

A “cheap” hotel these days can run $100, with the best running a costing a couple hundred. On our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, we would have had to pay 6 nights of hotels. Instead, we slept in the car.

Our first night we slept in a campground in the Quinault rainforest, and heard the sound of rain pinging the roof and dripping off the trees all night long.

The next night we slept in a marina parking lot, and used their paid shower facilities.

The next we slept at Doe Bay Resort in the San Juan Islands.

Then a marina, a rest stop, and so on. All of it felt safe and comfortable, and I slept well most of the time. I like the freedom and affordability associated with sleeping in the car, and feel better about spending money on restaurants and breweries and movies at quaint theaters in Port Townsend.

We had a fantastic time exploring western Washington State, driving along the coast to Westport, through Aberdeen, and up 101 through the Olympic National Park. Unfortunately, the Hoh Rainforest was closed due to a road washout, but we hiked on another trail, relishing the moist air, the moss, the abundance of life that seems so hard to find in the Bay area.

It takes a little bit of time to get used to sleeping in a Prius. Rest areas can be loud and disruptive, as can parking lots, with people coming and going and walking past. One time, in a campground parking lot, a woman got out of her car and popped a squat right next to ours to relieve herself sometime around 2am. Awkward. And speaking of peeing, often, you can’t really get out of the car to go in the middle of the night. So, I have to watch my beer consumption, my water consumption, anything liquid about two hours before bed.

Otherwise, sleeping in the car is fun. It’s like an adventure, playing a game of fort. Plus, that $600 we saved on hotels wasn’t that bad either.


3 thoughts on “How skipping hotels saved me $600 on my trip to the Northwest

  1. Madeline says:

    Interesting idea! I wouldn’t have considered this form of “camping”, now I’m wondering if this is possible with my Honda Civic. I live in WA and Port Townsend is one of my favorite spots for a long weekend getaway. It sounds like you had a great time in my beautiful state!


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