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The word “free” strikes a chord with just about everyone, including RVers. There are thousands of free RV parking spots across the country; you just have to find them. Finding a parking spot that won’t cost you a penny doesn’t have to be tricky if you have the right tools. Today, we’re looking at how you can find free RV parking just about anywhere. Let’s get started!
What Is Free RV Parking?
As its name indicates, free RV parking is a spot where you can park your RV without paying a fee. These are typically public-use lands or private businesses that open their property to nomads seeking a place to sleep. Rules and restrictions vary from one location to the next, but the typical expectation is that you only stay for one night.
Typically, when you’re using a free RV parking spot, you’re not camping. You’ll stay in a parking lot or other designated area. You should avoid setting up camp and only get the essentials out during your stay. Depending on the spot, you may not be able to open all of your RV’s slides. This is typically a small sacrifice to pay for the monetary savings and convenience.
How Can I Find Free RV Parking?
Technology is your best friend when you’re looking for a free RV parking spot. Apps such as AllStays and Campendium are massive libraries of campsites, including free ones. Users can add new sites as they discover them and also leave reviews. These tools use your phone’s GPS, making it especially easy to find spots near you. Adjusting the search filters lets you narrow the search results to find the most convenient place.
Where Can I Park My RV for Free?
There are some common places that RVers look for free parking. Many RVers forget that it’s a privilege to stay at many of these sites. Agencies that manage these sites or local businesses can stop accepting guests if they abuse the privilege.
Guests must follow the “leave no trace” guidelines and leave the spot in better condition than they found it. Another major no-no is overstaying your welcome by staying past the maximum time allowed. If you’re staying at a business, it’s wise to call ahead and get permission from the establishment. Being a good guest ensures these spots remain available for future guests.
Boondocking on BLM Land
There are thousands of public-use campsites that the Bureau of Land Management oversees across the country. These spots are attractive options, whether you want one night or longer. There’s zero consistency when accessing these sites or their availability, so plan and do your research before parking.
Some RVers boondock on BLM land for free practically full time. You can save tons by RVing on these lands. There are even spots near some of the most popular attractions across the country where campground fees can be pricey.
Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome
Two of the best services for RVers are Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome. While Harvest Hosts locations are typically farms, wineries, and other businesses, Boondockers Welcome generally features individuals offering land for you to park on. These programs require annual memberships, but they can easily pay for themselves if you regularly use them.
When staying at a Harvest Hosts location, it’s customary to support the local establishment. Costs will vary depending on the type of establishment and what services or products they offer. While Harvest Hosts lots typically don’t offer amenities such as water or dump stations, amenities at Boondockers Welcome sites vary. Some very hospitable Boondockers Welcome hosts offer water, electricity, and a dump station for little to no cost.
Boondockers Welcome currently offers 3000+ incredible Hosts across the US and Canada, offering great places to stay wherever you go! This membership grants you access to boondocking for free on private property.
Locals invite traveling RVers to spend the night, share their stories, and save their money for the real adventure. Make new friends and sleep soundly.
Another free RV parking option is moochdocking in a friend or family member’s driveway. This lets you stay close to your loved one’s house and have your own space. You can enjoy spending time with them but then sleep in your own bed at night. Doesn’t get much better than that.
While moochdocking is technically “free,” the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” applies here. If you’re plugging in or using water, there will be a cost involved for someone. Be mindful of your power and water usage while moochdocking. If you’re staying during summer or winter, air conditioners and electric heaters can draw a lot of electricity. Depending on your length of stay, you may leave your host with a huge utility bill.
Big Box Stores That Allow Free Overnight Parking
Some of your favorite big-box retailers may offer free overnight parking. No matter what you’ve read online regarding availability, always call ahead and get permission. A store may have a special event or policy change that would hinder your ability to stay. Calling ahead and getting permission from the store’s management can save you from an inconvenient knock at your door.
One great place to stay is Cracker Barrel. They have many locations right off the interstate and often have RV-friendly parking lots. These are great free RV parking spots because they’re not open late at night, and their open parking lots can be extremely safe.
While this is a free RV parking spot, it’s a nice gesture to support the establishment. Many RVers will take the opportunity to support the business by buying a meal or their morning coffee before hitting the road.
For years, Walmart has been a popular option for free RV parking. They typically have massive parking lots that make maneuvering even large RVs easy. Because most people do their shopping during the day, these parking lots sit empty most nights. Several RVs parked towards the back shouldn’t be in the way.
Staying overnight at a Walmart makes it highly convenient to stock up on groceries and other supplies. The store offers food, household goods, and even a selection of affordable RV and camping gear.
While you may not think of Cabelas for free RV parking, they often welcome overnight guests. Some of their sites even have dump stations and non-potable water for flushing out your tanks. Their parking lots may not be as large as other big-box stores, but they often have several spots that are convenient for RVs and other large vehicles.
Home Depot and Lowes
Two of the lesser-known retailers that offer free RV parking are some of the largest home improvement stores in the country. Home Depot and Lowes offer more than just tools and home improvement supplies. They’re growing in popularity for their RV-friendly parking lots and for having a limited supply of RV accessories. If you need to grab a few tools or do an RV repair, parking in one of these lots can make it extremely easy. If you’re not taking on a large project, you can even complete the repair on the spot!
Truck stops typically offer amenities that make life easier for truck drivers. You can purchase everyday things like food and fuel, but many also offer showering and laundry facilities at a cost. When you consider they’re typically close to major highways, truck stops can make for convenient spots to stop for an overnight stop. Truck drivers usually leave their loud diesel engines or generators running throughout the night. It’s a good idea to bring a pair of earplugs or a noise machine to drown out the noises of a busy truck stop at night.
Is Free RV Parking Worth It?
Free RV parking is a great option, especially if you’re trying to pinch your pennies. Some boondocking sites can offer a tremendous amount of privacy that many campgrounds just can’t provide. You can save hundreds or even thousands in a year by choosing to stay at the free RV parking spots we’ve suggested today.
What are some of your favorite spots to park your RV for free?