A rest area is a public facility located next to a large thoroughfare such as a motorway, expressway, or highway, at which drivers and passengers can rest, eat, or refuel without exiting onto secondary roads. Other names include: motorway service area (UK), services (UK), travel plaza, rest stop, oasis (US), service area, rest and service area (RSA), resto, service plaza, lay-by, and service centre (Canada). Facilities may include park-like areas, fuel stations, public toilets, water fountains, restaurants, and dump and fill stations for caravans / motorhomes.
A rest area with limited to no public facilities is a lay-by, parking area, scenic area, or scenic overlook. Along some highways and roads are services known as wayside parks, roadside parks, or picnic areas.
Most state-run rest areas tend to be located in remote and rural areas where there are practically no fast food nor full-service restaurants, fuel stations, hotels or other traveller services nearby. The locations of these remote rest areas are usually marked by signs on the freeway or motorway; for example, a sign may read, “Next Services 45 miles” “Next Rest Area 62 miles” or “Next Rest Stop 10 km”.
Driving information is usually available at these locations, such as posted maps and other local information, along with public toilet. Some rest areas have visitor information kiosks or stations with staff on duty. There might also be drinking fountains, vending machines, pay telephones, a fuel station, a restaurant/food court, or a convenience store at a service area. Some rest areas provide free coffee for travellers which is paid for by donations from travellers and/or donations from local businesses, civic groups, and churches. Many service stations provide Wi-Fi access and have bookshops. Many rest areas have picnic areas. Service areas tend to have traveller information in the form of so-called “exit guides”, which often contain very basic maps and advertisements for local motels and nearby tourist attractions.
Privatised commercial services may take a form of a truck stop complete with a filling station, arcade video games, and recreation center, shower and laundry facilities, and fast food restaurant(s), cafeteria, or food court all under one roof immediately adjacent to the motorway. Some even offer business services, such as ATMs, fax machines, office cubicles, and Internet access.