Boondocking at Walmart: 10 Essential Rules For Overnight Parking at Walmart
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Introduction to Boondocking at Walmart
As someone who owns a travel trailer, we hear the question about boondocking at Walmart on a regular basis. Can you camp for free in a Walmart parking lot? I know the answer to this from personal experience. The answer is yes.
This past year, my husband and I were driving from Virginia to Colorado when my husband made the biggest mistake you can make with a diesel truck.
He put regular gas in the tank. Big oops. This, as you can imagine put a huge wrench in our plans. The truck had to be towed to a dealership for work. It was in the middle of winter when all the nearby RV parks had closed for the season.
What’s a family with 3 animals and a trailer to do??? Call your local Walmart!! They were fantastic and super accommodating considering our situation. We parked there for several days (this is generally against the rules).
Can You Camp Overnight At Any Walmart?
This is not a simple question to answer. Many Walmarts are no longer allowing people to spend the night in their parking lots either in cars or in recreational vehicles. While they used to consider RV owners some of their best customers and would welcome them to park overnight, many campers took advantage of this opportunity for a free stay and ruined the privilege for others.
RVers have overstayed their welcome by parking for too many days. They made messes and didn’t clean up after themselves. They took up far too much space in the parking lot (ie: camp chairs and other equipment). Some managers found it easier to remove the privilege than to deal with the ungrateful usage of the property.
Many Walmart stores across the nation still allow the use of their lots for overnight stays. It is very important to be aware of certain rules in order not to lose the use of the ones that are left.
What Are the Rules for Camping Overnight At Walmart?
1. Call and Ask Permission
If you find yourself in a bind, like we did, and need a place to camp overnight, Walmart may be your saving grace. Call and ask for the Manager. This is imperative. You can also check the Allstays app for Walmart Boondocking.
Many Walmarts nowadays are not allowing overnight parking anymore due to city ordinances or people taking advantage. Make sure that you have permission from the staff. They generally tell you where to park and give you any other important instructions that you MUST follow in order to use this free and wonderful privilege.
2. Park Where They Tell You
The staff will have you park somewhere out of the way where you won’t interfere with the popular parking spots of their shoppers. It will likely be near an outer edge or by the tire center and it will depend on the layout of the shop and parking lot. It is important that you follow these instructions in order to not get towed from the location.
3. Don’t Put Out Slides
If you have to put out a bedroom slide in order to sleep, make sure to discuss this with the manager and only use it when needed. Walmart is not a campground and should not be used as such. Do not take up any more space than needed with your rig.
4. Keep Locked Up
Keep your RV, tow vehicle, and personal belongings safe and locked up the entire stay. This should seem obvious. It is important to note that sometimes in stressful situations simple things such as locking a door can be easily forgotten.
5. It’s Not a Campground
Walmart is not a campground. You are not to treat this stay as if you are on vacation. This should be treated as a short stop-over for sleep and supplies. You should not put out lawn chairs, awnings, or other outside gear. Do not grill outdoors or hang out outside of your RV.
6. Buy Something
Walmart is extending a simple favor to you as a courtesy. Don’t forget this gesture. Purchase something from their store while you are there.
7. Follow City Ordinances
The manager may make you aware of certain city ordinances while you speak with them. It is not their responsibility to do so. Make sure to pay attention to any posted signs.
8. Stay One Night
It is important, as mentioned before, not to treat the Walmart parking lot as a campground. We had no other choice in our particular situation and received very specific permission due to our case. However, in most cases, plan to pack up early in the morning and be on your way to your destination.
9. Clean Up After Yourself
Make sure that you don’t leave any trash or evidence of your stay. Clean up after yourself and leave the place cleaner than when you arrived.
If you travel with pets, make sure that you clean up after your pets. Know the city rules/ laws for pets and keep dogs on leashes at all times.
How To Maintain Safety While Parking Overnight in a Walmart Parking Lot
-Be aware of your surroundings.
Be sure to check out your surroundings. If you don’t feel safe, leave. Always trust your gut.
-Lock everything up.
Be sure to lock all doors including your tow vehicle.
-Don’t leave valuables in plain sight.
Benefits of Boondocking at Walmart
There are some GREAT benefits to staying at a Walmart for a night.
Supplies for your trip are readily available for purchase in the store for a decent price.
There is generally a tire shop and maintenance supplies available in the store.
The parking lot is generally a safe place to park and is well lit.
You don’t have to pay exorbitant campground fees for that night allowing you to save money on your travels.
There are no reservations except for a phone call to get permission.
The location is generally in a fantastic place with restaurants nearby. You can get sleep and food before heading out the next day for more miles.
Many locations have decently priced fuel right on site.
Check out this article on apps that can save you time and money.
Alternative Free/Low-Cost Camping Options to Boondocking at Walmart
There are many other free or low-cost alternatives to parking in Walmart parking lots for RV travelers.
Truck Stops (Loves, Flying J, Pilot)
Many truck stops have free or low-cost RV spots for overnight parking. Make sure to call or check the website to see if reservations are needed.
When parking at a truck stop make sure to park in an RV spot if it is available and not to take a Trucker-only spot. You will not want to upset a Trucker who is doing a long-haul drive and has no place to park.
The restaurant Cracker Barrel generally has RV parking in their parking lots. This is a great place to stop and get food. I would get approval from management before an overnight stay.
Lowe’s and Home Depot
These big hardware stores sometimes allow RV parking and overnight parking. I would say that the same rules from above apply to these stores as well.
You may park RVs at rest areas. Make sure to read the signs. Some rest areas have signs that state “no overnight parking.” Make sure, just as with truck stops, that you park in the correct place. If there is an RV-specific parking place, do not take up truck parking.
The Harvest Hosts is an annual membership program. It is a reasonable yearly membership that allows you to stay on private land (many owned by wineries and breweries) for one night. It is a great option for many who make long trips and like to break them up.
Conclusion: Overnight Parking at Walmart
Things happen on trips. It is important to have a backup plan. We found that out. Cars breakdown. Trips get interrupted. Long trips need to be broken up. Sometimes you need to just stop for one night. Having these options is important. Just make sure to know the rules of each place that you go. Don’t ruin these opportunities for others. Happy travels and take care of yourself out there on the road!!
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Hello! My name is Cortney. I am 45 years old. I live full time in a 33 foot airstream trailer with my husband of 21 years. I run my own business out of my tin can and love living small. I have two grown kids and three pets. I have worn many hats including mental health counselor and truck driver. My husband is prepping for retiring from the Navy in the next five years. He has been serving for over 22 years faithfully.