The Walmart parking lot may not be your final destination, but a glowing blue sign may be a welcome sight after a long day of driving. Overnight RV parking is often a necessity on RV road trips and usually requires you to have a few RV boondocking essentials to make it happen since you won’t have hookups.
Wal-Mart, along with other chains like Cracker Barrel and truck stops can be a cheap and convenient place to park your rig for the night when you’re en route to your destination. Increasingly, though, retailers like Walmart are having to restrict overnight parking, in part because people aren’t being respectful during their stay— or because they simply aren’t leaving at all. We’ve researched the official rules for Walmart RV parking and have put together some helpful guidelines on how to be a model RVer when overnighting at Walmart and similar locations.
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Walmart’s Policy on RV Parking
According to Walmart’s corporate website, RV parking is generally permitted. Here is the official statement:
“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.”
However, RVers are finding that fewer and fewer Walmarts are allowing overnight guests. One report put the number of locations permitting such stays at 58%. Believe it or not, there’s also a very popular Wal-Mart Locator book that breaks down all the locations – including those offering overnight parking.
Asking Permission to Park at a Walmart
The policy of Walmart welcomes RVers to spend a night in their parking lot, as long as you have the individual location’s permission. In some places, city zoning laws or ordinances will prohibit overnight stays in parking lots. Typically, larger cities are most likely to have these types of restrictions in place. Travelers find that staying in parking lots in smaller towns and communities is often met with less resistance. OvernightRVParking.com (and their app) as well as the Allstays app are helpful guides on which locations will be likely to allow overnight parking.
Once you find a location, be sure to call and speak to a store manager. The individual store is the only one that can give you the final okay. You don’t want to show up and settle in for the night, only to be told you’ll need to keep driving for another two hours. This best practice extends to all chains you may find yourself parked overnight at.
The exception to the permission rule? Truck stops and travel plazas are generally open 24 hours, and they usually don’t require anyone to ask permission. However, do be sure to ask if you aren’t sure where to park. Some truck stops even offer showers, laundry, and other amenities inside. These can be a good option if you can’t find a Walmart or the park you want to visit is at capacity.
Best Practices for Your Overnight Walmart Stays
Just because you have permission to stay doesn’t mean you have free reign over the parking lot. Walmart and other chains could easily change their policies if there are repeated incidents of disrespectful RVers. To keep the invitation open and extended to other travelers for years to come, it’s important to follow these best practices. Be sure to avoid some of the “don’ts” of Walmart camping outlined in the video below by Drivin’ and Vibin’.
Keep It Compact
One of the biggest complaints that stores will get about RVers is that people behave like they’re at a campground when they’re in a business parking lot. When you’re parking at Sam’s Club or a Visitor’s Center, the goal is to take up one parking space. If that isn’t an option due to the size of the spaces and the size of your rig, your goal is to find the least obtrusive space to park. Look along the outer edges of the lot. Or try a truck or RV space if there’s a larger space available.
It’s considered rude to set up your camping chair, open up your awning or have a cookout. Putting your slides out should also be avoided if at all possible. If you absolutely must extend the slide-outs, position them in a way so they don’t extend into another space. Remember, overnighting at Walmart and other businesses is a privilege, not a right.
Keep It Quiet
Can you spend a night, or even two, in most Walmart parking lots without attracting attention to yourself? Absolutely. Should you play loud music and invite all of your friends to visit you? No. Even if you’ve asked the business’ permission to be here, they didn’t okay a raucous event. They said you could sleep there, so stick to sleeping and actions that don’t disturb shoppers or employees.
Keep It Short
You’ll hear stories about or may even encounter communities where the local retailers are no longer allowing overnight parking. It’s often because those parking lots had become a home base for people living out of their vans and RVs. It’s one thing to spend a night, or even two, at a local business. But when you’re planning a week’s vacation with Walmart as your home base, it’s really not respectful to them or to the other guests hoping to stay a night there.
Always try to keep it short. Stay for one night, two at the max, and then move on. If you’ve chosen to spend a week staying in parking lots, make sure to keep moving rather than staying in one retailer’s space. Some great stays can be found at visitor’s centers, restaurants like Cracker Barrel, and even some shopping malls. You can even try your hand at finding a boondocking campsite!
Show Your Gratitude
Businesses don’t extend their parking lots to travelers as charity. They do it to win your business. Make sure that every time you spend the night in a parking lot, you thank the business by shopping at their store. Buy a meal, do your grocery shopping, grab some wine or a gift. You’ll feel like this is a fair transaction and so will they.
If you’re ready to reserve an RV for your next vacation, get started here. You may also enjoy these articles on how to keep cool this summer in an RV, how to save money on the road and easy RV meals.