RVing is great and fun and … kinda costly sometimes. So the last thing you want to do while traveling to your ultimate destination is pay a good chunk of change to stop for the night. Campground RV sites can cost anywhere from around $25 to $60 nightly, and it seems a little silly to spend that to basically park and sleep. And in some cases, there simply aren’t any facilities available where you stop. Luckily, there are a number of options for boondocking like overnight RV parking at Walmart and other places which you are sure to find wherever you may be traveling.
Your best bets for free parking are truck stops, travel centers (basically souped-up truck stops), rest areas (in some states), casinos, Cracker Barrel restaurants, and big box stores. These stores include (but are not limited to) Walmart, Bass Pro Shops, Home Depot, Cabela’s, Menard, Camping World, Sam’s Club, and K-Mart (if you can still find one!).
Whichever store you choose, you’ll need to ask a manager if it’s okay to stay in the parking lot overnight. Policies can vary based on the store and location. But most of the time, you can count on being able to stay at Walmart. And Walmart stores are often the most convenient stops anyway – not only can you stock up on stuff for your RV, but you can also get basic necessities like food and cleaning supplies.
You can rest a little easier knowing that there are always employees inside and sometime even parking lot security guards. Yes, there is some noise and light disturbance, but it’s nothing a fan or sound machine and a sleeping mask can’t counter. Plus, traffic in and out of the parking lot in the middle of the night is usually minimal.
While Walmart’s website doesn’t have a section directly addressing their RV parking policy, there is a frequently asked question and answer regarding the subject. It reads as follows:
Question: “Is There Overnight RV Parking at Walmart?”
Answer: “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 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.”
Now, do keep in mind that a quarter of Walmart stores DO NOT provide overnight parking. There are about 1,000 of the roughly 4,000 stores nationwide that have a policy against it. Sometimes there are local ordinances that prohibit overnight parking, while in other cases, the store is just renting the property and does not own the parking lot.
You can go online and find out easily whether there is overnight RV parking at Walmart or not. This site has a list of states you can click on to get information for stores located in that state. You can also visit this Google map, which shows you the Walmart stores that don’t allow overnight parking.
Even if you know for sure that the Walmart you’re going to allows overnight parking, it’s never a bad idea to go in and ask the store manager for permission to stay. And your best bet is to actually call the store while you’re traveling so that if they say no for some reason, you can make alternate plans.
Don’t just ask whoever answers the phone – the manager is the only person actually authorized to give permission for overnight RV parking at Walmart, so you should ask to speak to him or her. Aside from just showing the manager that you’re a decent person who follows the rules, this also gives the manager a chance to tell you if there’s a particular spot they’d like you to park in.
While you’re in the Walmart parking lot (or any other public parking lot), it’s very important to practice good RV etiquette. In many cases where stores do not allow overnight lot stays, it’s because someone has set a bad precedent. Don’t be that person! Follow these rules to ensure stores continue to value and help out RVers:
- Staying in parking lots requires “dry camping.” Dry camping just means you don’t use your external hookups like electricity, water supply or waste disposal. You can use your generator, but you shouldn’t run it all night long.
- Also, it’s recommended that you keep the slides in and the jacks up. If you must use a slide, ensure it’s not hanging out into a parking spot. Do not pull out the awning or sit outside in lawn chairs, and don’t use a grill.
- If the manager of the store has not directed you as to where to park, be sure to park out of the way of customers (usually in a far corner) and ensure you aren’t blocking any routes for overnight deliveries.
- You should plan on staying one night only; you don’t want to overstay your welcome. If you have to stay more than one night for some reason, get the permission of the manager. Most of the complaints stores have had with RV parking in their lots have to do with aesthetics and people abusing the privilege of free parking. Staying multiple nights is abusing the privilege, so again, don’t be that person!
- Spend money. It’s not a rule, but it’s just common decency to make a purchase at the Walmart you’re staying at. It’s a way of giving back for the free accommodations.
- Obviously, don’t leave behind any trash or dump any grey water. Leave the spot as clean as it was when you pulled in.
Overnight RV parking at Walmart allows you to save money and gives you more flexibility in travel time. You’ll still have your basic creature comforts, and you’ll have supplies available just outside your door. It’s a free and convenient way to meet your most immediate need: getting some rest.