If you own an RV, you’re probably aware of the free parking over at Walmart. However, we bet you didn’t know that not every Walmart branch offer their parking amenities free of charge. And, stores that do now have some rules and limitations you definitely need to know about.
Just like the ever-changing world, Walmart has evolved as well, affecting RVers who are used to camping there for free. With the revisions in the store’s original overnight policies and rumors about security threats for those using the amenity, now is the best time to bring an end to all the confusion.
If you are planning to camp out overnight at Walmart to save up on hotel expenses, or if you are in dire need of some shut-eye, this article is for you. We know all these changes may be overwhelming, and that’s why we are here to answer all the questions and concerns you might have.
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Walmart Overnight RV Parking
The best thing about parking overnight at Walmart is that unlike other parking lots, this one is absolutely free. You can go ahead and stay there as long as you want, and since you are already in a supermarket, you could stock up on food and other supplies as well. Lastly, since Walmart branches are literally everywhere, they are extremely accessible to anyone.
Majority of Walmart stores are strategically located near gas stations, restaurants, and other establishments. Being in a convenient location makes it easy for people to gas up and have dinner all the while parked somewhere safe. Given all these benefits, it comes as no surprise that parking at Walmart is the preferred choice among RV travelers.
Is Walmart overnight RV parking available everywhere?
Isn’t it frustrating when your trip’s budget is ruined by unexpected expenses? Before planning your budget around the idea that you can park overnight at Walmart, make sure to find out whether it is indeed allowed or not. Because apparently, not all of them offer overnight parking.
According to some RV travelers, overnight parking is a service limited to Walmart SuperCenters only. As far as I know, though, certain regular Walmart locations do allow it. Some locations did amend their overnight parking policies, though.
Some Walmart stores who used to allow overnight parking have decided to stop doing so. Other stores who never allowed overnight parking before all of a sudden do. It seems like the decision is made on a per store basis, so it has really become a bit complicated, to say the least.
The most important question now is, how do we determine which stores permit overnight parking?
Which Walmart stores permit overnight RV parking?
There are various methods to learn whether a Walmart store permits overnight parking or not to help you plan your travels more efficiently.
The first method is using Walmart Locator. It is a website that allows you to click on a state, and more specifically, a Walmart store within that state. It will then tell you whether that store offers overnight parking or not. To be honest, though, the information you will find on the website is quite insufficient and at times, inaccurate.
The second method is via a mobile app called OvernightRVParking. It is incredibly simple and easy to use and will provide information as to whether a particular Walmart location permits overnight paring or not. It also allows users to update information about a location, upon approval, of course.
Check out the below screenshot of a Walmart location updated in 2018. As you can see, the app is jam-packed with information about the store such as the phone number, exact address, how to contact the manager should you want to stay overnight, restaurant and gas station locations, GPS coordinates, and best places to park. More importantly, it shows you when the location has been last updated – giving you an idea of how reliable the data is.
This app is definitely more useful than the Walmart Locator, because not only does it include information about Walmart stores, but other establishments such as Flying J, Home Depot, Sam’s Club, Safeway, Cracker Barrel, as well. So before heading out to your journey, make sure to check the app first. It will surely help you plan your finances more accurately, especially if you intend to park overnight.
Another reliable mobile app perfect for finding areas that allow RV overnight parking is Allstays. The difference with this app, however, is that it’s gonna cost you a few bucks to install. There are two different apps you can choose from — Allstays Overnight Parking Walmart ($2.99)and Allstays Rest Stops Plus ($1.99). Obviously, from the name itself, the first app is specific to Walmart information, while the second provides data for other areas.
The catch is, it does not contain info about other locations that provide free RV overnight parking across the United States and Canada. You won’t be able to get updates from Costco, Safeway, Flying J Pilot, Cabelas, and Cracker Barrel, for instance. Not unless you upgrade your app to Allstays Pro, that is. Doing so will give you access to all their other applications that provide information not just on overnight parking, but even propane locations, dump stations, campgrounds, and a lot more. The annual fee is $32.95, but you get a $3 discount when you renew.
Why do certain Walmart locations prohibit overnight parking?
Overnight parking is so convenient and beneficial to a lot of people, so why are some Walmart locations choosing to deny customers of the service? Well, apparently, certain local governments have passed ordinances banning overnight parking. If a Walmart store is under the jurisdiction of that particular area, then they have no choice but to abide.
Walmart stores, particularly those in locations with a high crime rate, are now also increasing safety protocols. So while others think it’s such a bother, it’s actually more beneficial in the long-run. RV travelers parking at Walmart is such a desirable and easy target for thieves. So think about it: are you willing to risk getting robbed all your belongings just for a chance to park overnight at Walmart?
Lastly, it has become a trend for the homeless to make RVs their home. They then abuse the free parking at Walmart, and sometimes even dirty up the lot. This then becomes a huge problem for the store and prompts them to prohibit overnight parking altogether as a permanent fix.
Are Walmart stores really considering changing their current policies?
Some campers report that they were asked by Walmart not to park their RVs overnight, prompting many RV owners to worry about the changes in the current policies of Walmart. If you check the store’s corporate website, a question on the FAQ section asks whether or not you can park your RV at their store. Here’s the store’s response, for reference:
“Walmart does not offer services and accommodations for RVs, but we do understand RV travelers’ needs. As we consider them one of our best clients, we do allow RV parking on our parking space as long as we are able. Individual store managers are given the authority to allow or deny overnight parking based on local laws and parking space availability. You may reach out to the local manager before heading out to the store to secure RV parking accommodations.”
So, basically, while Walmart’s policy on RV overnight parking has not changed, more and more store managers are starting to decide against it for various reasons.
Do crimes really take place at Walmart parking lots?
Unfortunately, yes. These crimes usually involve minor assault and shoplifting. But, more heinous crimes have occurred in some stores, as well. As a matter of fact, a wrongful death lawsuit against Walmart does exist. The case alleges that Walmart is choosing not to take action despite being aware of just how unsafe their parking lots are.
The lawsuit was filed by the family of a man who was shot dead at a Walmart store by a driver following a heated argument. The driver apparently angered the man for driving too close to a baby carriage. While Walmart technically had nothing to do with the incident, it was their responsibility to provide security measures in their store.
To be fair, however, crime rates involving RVs do not take place solely at Walmart. RV-related crimes occur in other parking lots and locations, too. Additionally, such incidents occur infrequently, and could honestly be averted only if RVers behave with more caution.
How safe (or unsafe) is it to park overnight at Walmart?
Despite all that’s said, I’d say that Walmart is considerably a safe space to park your RV overnight. However, you do need to take precautionary measures to ensure your security. Here are some helpful tips for a safe and hassle-free overnight stay:
- Contact the store manager and ask for permission to park overnight. Also, check the particular location’s history of crime.
- Contact the local police to check on the security level of the store. You may also ask the police to supervise the parking lot.
- See if there is a security guard at the parking lot. If yes, introduce yourself and kindly ask them to watch over you.
- Pick a well-lit space to park in.
- Don’t stay out too late. Finish all your errands at daytime and lock yourself in the safety of your RV come nighttime.
- Don’t get out of your RV if you see or hear something sketchy. Instead, call the police immediately.
- Before heading to sleep, make sure all your doors and storage compartments are locked.
- Listen to your instincts. If you don’t feel good about a location, just leave. Better safe than sorry.
What should I expect when I stay overnight at Walmart?
So, apart from the free parking, why do RVers and truckers love spending the night at Walmart? What’s it gonna be like? First and foremost, the fact that it’s one of the most popular spots to park overnight, you’ll spot other RVers there parking overnight. Campers who have asked permission to park overnight will be asked to park in the same area. You’ll also easily spot the ones who didn’t ask for permission as they’re normally parked elsewhere.
Make sure that you and your RV are self-sufficient when staying there overnight. You won’t have access to electricity the entire time, so make sure all your gadgets are completely charged, and you have portable power banks available if needed.
Also, expect other campers running their own generators – it could be a little noisy, so be ready for this. And, if you can’t sleep with the light on, bring a blindfold with you – you’ll most likely be asked to park in a well-lit area for your own safety.
Road noise is inevitable too, especially if the Walmart store is located near a busy road or a major highway. Tractor-trailers travel in the wee hours of the night to make their deliveries, so expect such noises during your stay. Some RVers are gonna pull in any time, too, so that’s going to make some noise as well.
How to Be a Courteous Overnight Camper
When staying overnight at a Walmart parking lot, it is essential that you behave properly to ensure that you, your fellow overnighters, and Walmart employees all have a safe and comfortable experience. Check out some of the standard rules of etiquette you need to adhere to when parking overnight not just at Walmart, but anywhere else:
- Ask for permission first. It’s not really that difficult to contact a store manager to see whether you can park overnight or not.
- Introduce yourself and your company to the store manager and security guards and politely inquire where you should park.
- Stay for one night only. Don’t stay too long and leave the following morning.
- Check with the manager if there are rules and regulations you need to be aware of. For instance, if you plan to run a generator, make sure it’s allowed.
- If you do have a generator, make sure it’s turned off from 10:00 PM until 8:00 AM. Be respectful of other campers. They don’t deserve to be bothered by your noise.
- Buy any supplies you need at Walmart. After all, they are nice enough to let you camp out for free. It would be impolite to buy stuff elsewhere.
- Clean before you go.
- Keep the noise to a minimum.
- If you have pets, make sure to clean their mess as well.
- If your pets are staying outside the RV, make sure they’re on a leash.
- Do not use your awning; just stay inside the car.
- The parking lot isn’t your backyard: do not take out your grill or outdoor kitchen.
Is Walmart the only store that offers overnight parking?
If a certain Walmart store doesn’t allow overnight parking, there’s no need to fuss. There are other places you can park overnight as an alternative. Here are a few:
- Cabelas – Select establishment locations provide special overnight parking spots for their customers. These spots are located behind their store and provide a really quiet space at night. They have a Sani Star dump station as well that costs $5 per use. The parking spot does not offer potable water.
- Camping World – RVers have been counting on Camping World in providing free overnight parking spots for over 15 years. However, more and more stores have been restricting overnight parking. In Wood Village, Oregon, though, overnight RV parking is permitted as long as your RV is bought from their dealership. That is if you comply with their numerous requirements: asking for permission, securing an overnight camping pass, arriving before closing time, et cetera.
- Costco – Majority of Costco stores permit overnight parking. The stores are usually closed by 8:30 PM, so the parking lot is empty by then. The manager usually allows a well-lit area in the parking lot for RVs. Just like Walmart, though, Costco policies vary from store to store. Make sure to check whether the location allows overnight parking or not. You do not need to be a Costco member to enjoy their free overnight parking.
- Cracker Barrel – This restaurant chain has been up and running since 1969. They have more than 650 stores across the country, most of which offer free overnight parking for RVs. The spacious parking lots usually allow buses and RVs to camp out there for the night, but it’s still the store manager’s prerogative to permit or decline your request.
- Flying J Truck Stops – The Flying J has designated parking spaces for RVs and big trucks. You can use the spot on a first-come, first-served basis. In Ripon, California, the Flying J has six spots for RVs for free. The rest may be used for a fee of $15 per night.
- Highway rest areas – There are currently 6 states that provide free overnight parking at their highway rest areas, namely California (8 hours), Idaho (8 hours for interstate highways, 16 hours on other routes), Minnesota (6 hours), Oregon (12 hours), Ohio (8 hours), and Washington State (8 hours).
- Home Depot – This is another establishment that allows you to park your RV overnight for free. While there are no existing overnight policies at Home Depot, it is still best to check with the store manager to know whether you can park your RV and spend the night or not.
- Kmart – Here’s another store that offers overnight parking upon the manager’s approval. According to some campers, while permission is required, they’ve never been declined by Kmart. They will even have security guards keep an eye on you during your stay.
- Lowe’s – The great thing about overnight parking at Lowe’s is their free wi-fi and available bathroom. However, there aren’t a lot of establishments near the store, so unlike Walmart, it does not provide easy access to food. Security is a bit lacking as well since the store isn’t open 24 hours.
Are there better parking lots than Walmart that also offer overnight parking?
Apart from Walmart, there are other alternatives (and even better) parking lots that you could park overnight that’s (almost) free. Here are two of my favorite locations for overnight camping. You’ll need camping memberships to enjoy the free parking, though, but I think they’re truly worth the fees.
First up is Harvest Hosts. Members enjoy more than 670 spots to park overnight for free. And, mind you, these spots are astonishingly beautiful. You’ve got wineries, farms, breweries, orchards, and other breathtaking sites where you can park your RV for free.
Joining the Harvest Hosts requires an annual fee of $70. Members are given access to these impressive parking locations via their website and a mobile app. For an additional fee of $20, you also get to park at more than 300 golf courses all over the country. All in all, a $99 fee isn’t so bad, considering all the free overnight parking spots you can use. Being a member personally, I highly recommend it.
Another club perfect for RVers is the Boondockers Welcome. The free overnight parking lots are owned privately, so you can expect it to be a lot safer than public spaces. The club currently has over 1000 parking locations across the continent.
Their concept is actually really interesting: members of the club who are willing to allow fellow RVers to park at their property are listed in their easily accessible website directory. Host members may also provide water and electricity, so that’s another plus. As a thank you, it is customary for guest members to give the host a present or pay a few bucks.
Usually, these parking lots are located near the member’s actual home, so you sometimes also get to interact with people who have similar interests, and even get tips about the particular location.
If you liked this article then you might like our other RV How-To Guides.