Table of Contents Show
- What Is Boondocking at Walmart?
- Does Walmart Still Allow Overnight RV Parking?
- Great Walmart Alternatives for Overnight RV Parking
- Tips for Finding Spots and Having a Safe Experience
- Try One of These Walmart Alternatives on Your Next Trip
Rules and regulations have swept across the country regarding overnight RV parking. Sadly, the most popular locations for overnight stops, Walmart parking lots, were some of the hardest hit. With so many parking lots off-limits, many travelers must find alternative overnight parking options.
If you’re struggling to find a place to park overnight for free in your RV, we have a few options to consider. Let’s take a look!
What Is Boondocking at Walmart?
For years, Walmart stores have been the go-to place for many RVers and travelers looking for a place to park overnight.
They had massive parking lots sitting practically empty throughout the night. Parking there was also an excellent opportunity for RVers to stock up on groceries, supplies, and anything else they needed during their adventures.
Many people refer to camping overnight at Walmart as boondocking, but it’s not. Boondocking is camping on public lands, typically ones the Bureau of Land Management or the United States Forest Service maintains.
Walmart parking lots are anything but public land and are private property. You must check with the store to ensure they’ll allow you to spend the night in their parking lot.
Does Walmart Still Allow Overnight RV Parking?
Walmart, as a corporation, has no official policy on travelers using their parking lots for the night.
They appear to leave the decision up to individual stores. However, stores must follow local rules and regulations for overnight parking.
The availability of many of these spots can change without notice. Even if an area has no restrictions for overnight parking, many stores get tired of dealing with the messes rude and inconsiderate guests leave behind.
You’ll want to check with each location if you plan to park overnight in a Walmart parking lot. Ask to speak to a manager or someone with authority for permission to stay overnight.
The store has no obligation to allow you to stay in their parking lot. So be respectful and courteous no matter how they respond.
Great Walmart Alternatives for Overnight RV Parking
While Walmart parking lots have been excellent for overnight RV parking in the past, it’s looking like those days are quickly fading. Here are a few alternatives for overnight RV parking when Walmart lets you down.
Did you know you can do much more than gamble at a Casino? Some are happy to let you spend the night in the parking lot. Even if gambling isn’t your thing, many casinos have restaurants, shows, and other sources of entertainment.
If you enjoy gambling, you might hit the jackpot and buy that new RV or massive solar upgrade you’ve always wanted. You’ll want to call ahead and see the policies for overnight parking.
With more than 650 locations, Cracker Barrel offers more than delicious food and southern hospitality. Cracker Barrel locations often have parking spaces for RVs.
When local ordinances allow it, they’ll even allow guests to stay the night in their parking lots. Because they are often near major highways and interstates, it can be straightforward to get in and out of their locations.
However, go easy on the biscuits and gravy if you grab a bite before hitting the road. The last thing you want to do is stuff yourself before a travel day. Trust us; we speak from experience!
Churches of varying religions and denominations will often open their parking to show hospitality to travelers. Many of these parking lots sit nearly empty aside from Wednesdays and Sundays.
However, church parking lots are private property. This means you’ll need to get permission from the church before setting up camp in their parking lot.
In addition, you’ll want to verify there are no restrictions regarding overnight parking. While Christianity and many other religions encourage followers to show hospitality to those in need, local ordinances still exist. Ignoring these rules and regulations could get you in hot water.
Hospitals are another place where people constantly come and go at random times throughout the day and night. In most cases, people aren’t paying much attention to other vehicles in the parking lot.
As a result, there’s a good chance you could fly under most people’s radar if you park out of the way and avoid drawing attention.
Some hospitals use parking garages instead of parking lots. You’ll want to check their clearance levels, as driving a large truck or an RV into these facilities may not end well for you or your vehicle.
Give the hospital a call and see if it’s possible to sleep in a section of their parking lot that’s out of the way. You may have to speak with the security department, but it never hurts to ask.
Keep in Mind: If you do decide to Boondocking at Walmart, then here are 6 Rules You Must Follow!
There are plenty of fitness centers like Planet Fitness and 24-Hour Fitness that are readily available and never close. They can be an excellent spot to consider if you’re looking for a place to park your RV overnight.
If you’re a member of one of these clubs, you might even squeeze in a workout and enjoy a nice long, hot shower. Many RVers who enjoy boondocking will join these clubs to have a clean place to shower during their travels.
Many Elks lodges have RV sites for members and non-members. As expected, members typically save a few bucks per night. Visit the Elks website to find a list of lodge locations offering RV facilities.
You’ll find everything from dry camping to full hook-up campsites at Elks lodges across the country. You may even see them near some of the most popular tourist destinations.
Big Box Hardware Stores
While many people flock to big-box retailers like Walmart and Costco looking for a place to stay overnight, they overlook big-box hardware stores like Lowes and Home Depot.
These stores often have equally roomy parking lots sitting empty for most of the night. You should call and ensure the store will permit you to stay the night, so you don’t waste your time or gas driving to their location.
Big Box Sporting Goods Stores
A couple of big-box sporting goods stores like Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s are convenient alternatives for free overnight RV parking. Some Cabela’s locations even have relatively inexpensive dump stations.
You’ll want to call ahead, get permission, and confirm that the site will have room for you and your RV. However, their parking lots are typically spacious, and they’ll likely have room for multiple rigs to park for the night.
Tips for Finding Spots and Having a Safe Experience
If you’re new to finding and using free overnight RV parking spots, you should know a few things. Here are some tips to help you find great locations and stay safe.
Use Reliable Apps
Two of our most-used apps for finding these spots are Campendium and AllStays. However, we’ve also heard some RVers had luck with iOverlander. Use these apps to help find places near you or where you hope to stay.
Users on these apps often leave detailed reviews for each location. They’ll help identify safety concerns or issues with a particular spot. We’ve used these tips to avoid certain roads or entrances that may not have worked with our rig.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have these RV Apps already, you need to download these ASAP!
Make Sure to Call and Ask for Permission
You should always get permission whenever possible, especially if you’re staying in a business’s parking lot. You don’t want to waste your time, energy, or gas driving to a location and leaving immediately because they do not allow overnight parking.
When you arrive at your destination, you should speak to a manager and confirm you have permission. Write down the name of anyone you talk with, so you can give that name to anyone who may come knocking during your stay.
Don’t Set Up Camp
Free overnight RV parking spots are not campsites. It’s not the time or place to pull out camping chairs or grill steaks on your Blackstone. You want to spend as little time outside your rig as possible to avoid attracting attention to you and your RV.
Pack everything away so you can quickly leave in the morning or if the situation becomes unsafe.
Spend Something at the Business
It’s customary to spend some money to support the business where you’re staying. It doesn’t have to be an expensive purchase.
Just buy something to support them and say thanks for the safe place to sleep. This won’t be a problem if you stay at Walmart, Costco, or Cracker Barrel.
Don’t Stay for More Than One Night
You should try not to overstay your welcome. Travelers should only expect to stay one night before hitting the road.
We typically recommend arriving around dinner time and leaving after breakfast. You want to spend as little time as possible in the parking lot to avoid being in the business’s way.
Try One of These Walmart Alternatives on Your Next Trip
It’s likely only a matter of time before Walmart stops allowing overnight RV parking in their lots.
You may want to start utilizing a few of these Walmart alternatives, so you have a backup plan when Walmart parking spots are no longer available.
However, clean up any messes you find, no matter where you stay. This will help ensure overnight RV parking spots remain open for travelers in the future.
Where is your favorite spot to park overnight?