As darkness begins to descend, travelers across America start looking for a place to get a good night’s sleep. Road weary wanderers check into hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and lodges. For those traveling by RV, the most common place to retire for the evening is an RV park. What happens when there are no vacancies at any of these locations? Where else can you find RV overnight parking?
You have two choices, you can either find a legal and safe place to park your RV to get some sleep, or you can risk an accident and try to continue driving until you can find a location to park overnight. You may be surprised to find out that there are retailers who will allow you to park overnight in their parking lot. This is a form of “Boondocking” or camping without any hookups.
Can You Park Overnight at Walmart?
Yes! Numerous Walmart locations across America allow campers to park their RV overnight for free in their parking lots. Parking overnight at a Walmart (or “Wallydocking” ) will enable you to keep costs down while traveling to your destination. El Monte RV calls Walmart camping the “best kept secret” in free overnight camping.(1) Parking here is totally free; however, you should be aware that you will be parking in a parking lot; therefore, there are no facilities or hookups available.
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The Dos and Don’ts of Overnight Parking at Walmart
Walmarts own website says: “While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store parking lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.” (2)
When it comes to staying overnight at a Walmart, there are a few things that you should be aware of before parking at the nearest Walmart. Following these camping etiquette tips will ensure you get a full night’s sleep without getting woken up by a security guard.
DO: Speak with the store manager to ascertain if overnight RV parking is allowed. When you speak to a manager, be courteous. If overnight parking is permitted, ask where you should park.
DO: Park in the designated area given by the store manager. Oftentimes, a Walmart will have defined RV parking spaces. RV parking places are generally located away from the main entrance, such as near the garden center. By parking away from the main entrance, you allow shoppers an opportunity to park closer to the main entrance.
DO: Be aware of your footprint. Try to keep it small. DO not use slides unless necessary, especially if you have a big rig. If you need your slides out, try to park along a curb at the edge of the lot so the slides do not take up parking space.
DO: Stay only one night at a Walmart. These locations are to be used from road weary travelers who are looking for a place to rest before continuing on to their destination. If you plan on touring the area, locate a nearby campground and park your RV there.
DO: Follow all posted regulations. These policies are in place to keep you safe and other shoppers safe. If you cannot follow the posted regulations, you need to take your RV to another location that has rules that you can follow. Obey all local laws.
DO: Realize that this is dry camping. There is no electricity, dump stations, or water on site. Instead, you will need to find another location to fill your water tanks and use a generator for your power. Furthermore, you will need to locate a dump station. One of the easiest ways to find a dump station is to search online for a website like www.rvdumps.com.
DO: Be a good camper and leave your campsite clean. Take all trash and dispose of it properly. Keep noise levels to a minimum and practice the same etiquette that you would use when staying at an RV park.
DO: Be a good steward and shop for your supplies at Walmart. Purchasing your items at Walmart is a great way to say thank you for the free RV camping overnight stay.
DO: Be safe. You must stay conscious of your surroundings at all times. If you feel unsafe when pulling into a Walmart, leave immediately, and find another place to park overnight. If something happens while you are parked, please contact the police or pack up and leave.
DON’T: Do not park near the store or park overnight at a location that does not allow overnight parking. If you do this, you may find yourself woken up by a security guard asking you to leave.
DON’T: Leave a dirty campsite. Doing this is not only in poor taste, but it may also result in Walmart no longer offering this free service to motorhome travelers.
DON’T: Place barbecue grills, chairs, or awnings outside of your RV. Overnight parking is just that – a place to park and sleep. It is not a place to set up camp. Keep all activities indoors.
How Do You Find Walmart Stores that Permit Overnight Parking?
There are many websites and apps that show free overnight facilities, including Walmart. One of the favorite websites to use to find free overnight parking is https://www.allstays.com/c/wal-mart-locations.htm. If you are specifically looking for a Walmart that offers complimentary overnight parking, you can visit https://www.walmartlocator.com/walmart-locations/.
Is It Safe?
Why Choose Walmart over an RV Campground?
The cost of traveling in an RV can quickly add up. The costs associated with RV travel include frequent fuel fill ups, regular maintenance, and campground fees. One way to cut down on your travel expenses is to take advantage of free overnight parking. Walmart overnight RV parking offers you numerous benefits, including:
- Shopping for Supplies – Walmart has a plethora of RV supplies, including camping gear, RV toilet paper, hoses, household supplies, and groceries. Purchasing your items here is a great way to thank the store for offering this service. Furthermore, you can go online and order your supplies. When you get to the Walmart you will be staying at, your items will be ready for pickup.
- RV Maintenance – Most Walmart locations have a tire center that offers several services, including tire rotation, tire replacement, oil changes, and battery installations. If your RV needs to be serviced while you are traveling, there is no better place to have this work done than at a Walmart.
Staying overnight at Walmart allows you free RV camping in a safe environment. No, a Walmart parking lot is not luxurious. You will not find any trees, babbling brooks, or amazing views, but you will find a location that is near the interstate. Furthermore, staying at a Walmart allows you to pick up the supplies that you need and get your RV serviced at a reliable location.
Do Other Places Allow Parking Overnight?
- Flying J Truck Stop – Flying J Truck Stops are RV friendly; however, they tend to fill up quickly. In order to ensure you can stay there, arrive early.
- Camping World – Certain Camping World stores allow you to RV camp overnight. However, city regulations may prevent the store from offering this service.
- Cracker Barrel – Cracker Barrel locations prefer overnight campers to arrive near closing time to prevent taking up parking spots, but most will allow you to spend the night. Overnight RV parking at Cracker Barrel also offers you the opportunity to…you know…eat breakfast at Cracker Barrel. YUM!
- Kmart – Kmart was the first retailer to offer overnight parking and continue to do so. The store does ask that you contact the manager prior to staying and park away from the main entrances.
- Highway Rest Areas – Certain highway rest areas allow overnight RV camping. The parking spaces are typically located in the semi parking lot. If you will be staying overnight, try to park near other semis or RV to reduce the risk of theft.
- Home Improvement Stores – Lowes and Home Depot allow free overnight RV parking as long as the manager approves the stay, and you do not park near their entrances.
- Fairgrounds – If you are in a small town, look for a fairground and see if they offer overnight parking. You may be surprised to find that many of these locations provide hookups.
- Cabela’s – Cabela’s is a retail store that often offers overnight camping. This store will have many of the supplies that you will need throughout your journey. Always ask before camping.
- Public Lands – Most Federally controlled lands allow free camping (with local restrictions) If there is time on your schedule to take a look at Freecampsites.net
- Cosco/ Sams Club – Overnight RV parking at Costco or Sams Club is another great option. You can also get enough marshmallows to feed the entire campground!
No matter where you are trying to overnight park, call ahead and ask to speak to the manager if possible. The manager may ask questions that include what time you will be arriving and your expected time of departure. While on the phone with the manager, ask where you should park and whether you need to check in when you arrive.
Traveling in an RV allows you an opportunity to save money on overnight stays, which will enable you to have extra money for sightseeing. If you are traveling and cannot find an RV park with vacancies, you may be able to stay at a retailer like Walmart. In fact there are a good few places to park an RV overnight. These retailers provide this service to their customers as a way to give back; therefore, follow good camping etiquette like cleaning up after yourself and following the posted rules. Always ask before overnight RV camping and thank the retailer by purchasing any needed supplies from the establishment.
(1)ElMonte RV: https://www.elmonterv.com/guide/rv-rental-information/overnight-stay-information/
(2) Walmart: Frequently Asked Questions: https://corporate.walmart.com/frequently-asked-questions
(3) Brent Rose, Roadtrippers: https://roadtrippers.com/magazine/find-safe-rv-parking-over-night/