The thought of RV camping can conjure up images of campsites overlooking sandy beaches or joyous campers consuming gooey S’mores by a campfire under a star-filled sky. But sometimes, to get from one incredible location to another, you might want a spot with no ambiance–just a place to grab some Zs. In that circumstance, you might be asking, “Are there any locations where I can park my RV for free?”
Where Can I Park My RV for Free?
There are two categories for free RV parking. One, free overnight parking in a space just used to sleep. You’ll have to be set up for dry camping if you choose this option. And two, boondocking areas where you can stay and set up camp if you want.
Let’s look at the overnight options first!
Does Walmart Still Allow Overnight RV Parking?
Walmart was the first corporation that saw a benefit in allowing RVers to stay overnight in their parking lots. And with so many stores located all over America, their generosity provided numerous destinations for campers to get some rest, then pick up supplies inside their stores before heading down the road.
However, some local campground owners introduced ordinances against overnight parking within their municipalities. Some speculate this may have been a ploy to gain campers’ money, driving them to campgrounds, even for a single night’s sleep.
Now, Walmart stores within those affected areas cannot allow overnight RV parking in their lots. Most other stores that don’t have these ordinances still welcome RVers, but it is always good to call a specific location to check the parking rules first.
Additionally, many Walmarts have banned overnight parking due to a lack of respect from the RVers using their facilities. Unfortunately, trash has been left behind and some folks get too comfortable and take up more spots than they should. It’s also good etiquette to call the Walmart you to plan to stay ahead of time and ask for permission.
Can RVs Stay Overnight at Truck Stops?
Many truck stops allow overnight parking for RVs. But one thing is very clear: Do not use semi-truck parking spaces.
Most lots have a designated area for semi-truck parking near the diesel fuel islands, and when asked, the management may require RVers to park their rigs in the opposite direction. The RV spots are usually near the general parking lot where cars park.
Truck drivers have a limited time to take breaks and get rest, making their downtime precious (and short). They’re working when they pull in and out of fuel stations that perfectly accomodate their needs.
So, if you decide to park overnight at one, please don’t make a trucker’s job more difficult by taking up two spaces, pulling out your slides, or putting your RV in an area for semi-parking. As with anything, it all boils down to common courtesy.
How to Find Free RV Parking Near Me
Some of the most efficient ways to identify overnight parking when you travel are using phone apps and websites designed specifically for quick searches. We have found the following apps to be the most beneficial.
Campendium search for all types of campsites, including free ones. You’ll find reviews that tell you about access, noise, cost, and even cell service at a national forest, private, public, and dispersed campgrounds. Plus, it shows you free overnight parking options.
Allstays Pro is a web-based service is one of the most concise programs for everything overnight parking. It shows you free parking, campgrounds, dump stations, camping services, propane fill-up stations, truck stops, and more. You can even use the website to discover low clearances along your travel route and stopovers like Cabela’s and Walmart.
FreeCampsites.net offers an easy way to look up locations and immediately see which campsites are free, have a fee, or require a permit to use. A map shows all campgrounds in the requested area. When clicking on a specific site, you’ll find a street address and GPS coordinates, a price, and any reviews that users have left.
Dispersed camping on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) is usually free but off the beaten path. So, if you want a quick overnight place to park your RV for free, this website is likely of no use to you. However, if you plan for some of the more scenic and unique lands in the western United States, you can find many boondocking places. You can find free camping directly through their website, but we prefer to use Campendium.
National Forest Service Land
Like the BLM, the national forest service allows dispersed camping on various federal forest lands. Some official national forest campgrounds have fees, but boondocking in designated areas is usually free and quite scenic. Check the website to find these camping spots. You’ll discover that there are not many national forests or BLM regions in the eastern United States, however.
What Is Boondocking?
If you want to park your RV for free, you’re going to learn how to boondock. Boondocking is basically setting up camp in self-contained vehicles without hookups like electricity, water, or sewer. Some consider staying overnight in a parking lot as boondocking. Others might say only those who camp off-grid in dispersed camping areas are boondockers. For our purposes today, let’s use the latter definition.
This requires that you provide for your power, water, and bodily functions within your vehicle. In other words, your rig is self-contained. If you want to use electrical functions like lights or TV, might mean using solar power to charge your RV batteries. You must have a self-contained toilet, and you need to provide fresh water, whether it’s in a freshwater tank or a bottle.
How to Find Awesome Boondocking Spots and Camp for Free
You can usually find some amazing boondocking sites by reading the reviews and perusing photos in the apps listed above. It’s really easy to open an app on moving day and find a place where you can park your RV for free quickly.
Campers are great storytellers when they discover the perfect campsites. If you want a truly unique experience along your route, look up sites mentioned on the apps listed above. These websites give specific locations for boondocking sites, listing their amenities and prices, and they usually include photos.
Necessities Needed for Boondocking or Free Camping
You might think of boondocking as setting up camp for several days in a dispersed camping area. Or finding a place where you can park your RV for free might just mean stopping for some sleep in a Walmart parking lot. Either way, both require some of the same necessities.
You might be able to run your lights and furnace using your rig’s battery power if you’re just parked overnight. But if you’re camping for several days, you’ll need a way to produce more energy for those batteries. You might use a generator, solar power, your motorhomes engine, or even wind power.
You’ll also need fresh drinking water, as well as water for sinks, the shower, and the toilet in your RV. For this purpose, most campers fill up their freshwater tanks before embarking on a camp trip.
And because RV tanks can only hold so much, find appropriate dump stations if you’re boondocking or enjoying free camping. Even a few overnight stays at Cabela’s will eventually require you to empty your gray and black tanks. You can find dump points with several of the afore-mentioned apps and websites, like Allstays Pro.
Many RVers also fill their propane tanks, knowing they’ll use the fuel for their stoves, furnaces, and some refrigerators. So, it’s best to start your camping trip fully loaded.
Parking Your RV For Free is Easy
To sum up, when you’re on an RV trip, free overnight parking can become a part of your route planning. Your destination might also include boondocking. Both options give you an excellent opportunity to save money and enjoy the journey as you travel!