More Walmarts across the nation are banning overnight RV parking.
Often revered as quick, safe, and free spots to catch some much-needed shut-eye, more cities and stores are banning sleeping in RVs and vehicles in their parking lots.
Why are they doing this, and what does this mean for RVers and travelers? Let’s dive in.
Overnight Parking At Walmart Is a Respite For Road-Weary Travelers
Since Walmart’s early days, founder Sam Walton always welcomed road-weary RVers and travelers for a quick and free overnight parking spot to get some sleep.
The “relationship” was a win-win: travelers get a free and safe spot to sleep, and the store got a customer.
Thousands of Walmarts all over the country still allow free overnight parking. But, due to city ordinances and disrespectful travelers, more and more stores are banning overnight parking.
Do All Walmarts Allow Overnight RV Parking?
No, not all Walmarts allow overnight parking. Usually, the store doesn’t make the rules itself. Instead, the city passes local ordinances and laws managing overnight parking more broadly.
In some cases, however, the decision is made by the store manager.
Of the 4,700+ Walmarts in the US, only an estimated 58% of those currently allow overnight parking. This information comes from Jim O’Briant of OvernightRVParking.com.
With The Surge in RVing Popularity, More Walmarts Are Banning Overnight Parking
There’s no doubt that RVing has seen a massive surge in popularity with the pandemic: with international borders closed, travelers have taken to the open road.
But, even before COVID, RVing as a trend was on the rise.
With the influx of new RVers and campers on the road, more and more people are taking advantage of Walmarts free overnight parking.
And not all new campers are savvy on overnight RV parking etiquette.
As a result, many cities are enforcing new ordinances that ban overnight RV parking or sleeping in vehicles.
This means that even if the Walmart store allows it, the city doesn’t.
Alternatives To Walmart Overnight Parking
Luckily, Walmart isn’t your only option if you need a free and safe place to spend a night or 3. Here are a few great alternatives to Walmart overnight parking. Use any number of these options, or a combination of them, to save money and find some cool spots to sleep while traveling.
Boondocking is camping for free without any hookups or amenities out in the wilderness. We have many resources to learn more about finding boondocking spots. Check out this video to learn how to find free camping near you:
Overnight Parking on Residential Streets
In cities where overnight parking is allowed, you can sometimes find a good overnight parking spot on city streets.
Many factors play into the viability of this option, such as availability, size and type of your rig, HOA restrictions, and more.
Research local laws and ordinances before trying this.
Other Parking Lot Options
Other stores allow overnight RV parking; you’re not tied to Walmart if you’d like to sleep in a parking lot!
However, if the ban is because of local laws or ordinances, you’ll likely have to travel a few towns over to find any parking lot to spend the night.
Other popular overnight RV parking lot options include Cracker Barrel, Cabelas, and Camping World. In the video below, Enjoy The Journey.Life shares why they prefer “cracker-docking” far better than Walmart anyway.
Proper Lotdocking Etiquette
As mentioned above, Walmarts and cities are banning overnight RV parking primarily due to poor etiquette.
“Lotdocking” is the term used for overnight parking in parking lots. Here are some tips to follow the unwritten rules of lotdocking and not spoil other travelers’ opportunities.
Arrive Late, Leave Early
The first unwritten rule of lotdocking is to arrive late and leave early. Never stay more than one night in any parking lot.
This overnight stay is a free opportunity for road-weary travelers to get some much-needed rest to be safer drivers. It’s not a free camping opportunity or a way for you to post up camp and explore a city!
If that’s what you want to do, find a campground or boondocking location nearby instead.
Never Leave Any Trash or Waste Water
This shouldn’t have to be said, but litter and human waste are among the number one reasons that free overnight parking sites get closed to RVers.
Never leave any litter behind.
And most importantly, never dump wastewater or leave behind human waste! Not only is it gross, but it’s also illegal and a serious biohazard.
Don’t Set Up Camp
Don’t set up camp while overnight parking in store parking lots. This means don’t set out your camp chairs and hang out outside. Also, don’t put out your awning.
Don’t use your leveling jacks if you can avoid it. Although it seems sturdy, asphalt is soft, and RV leveling jacks damages it.
Don’t put out your slides, either. It’s necessary to pop out a slide or two a little bit to access things like the kitchen or bathroom in some RVs. In this case, it’s okay.
But the idea here is not to make it look like you’re sticking around for a while.
Be Respectful, Patronize the Store
If you’re staying overnight at a store for free, the least you can do is buy something, even if it’s just a candy bar. The last unwritten rule of lot-docking etiquette is to patronize the store.
If you’re at Walmart, go pick up some groceries or other camping supplies. If you’re staying at a Cracker Barrel, grab some dinner or early morning breakfast before you hit the road.
Overnight RV Parking is A Luxury
Overnight RV parking is a luxury. Every traveler needs to do their part in being responsible, respectful guests.
Losing free overnight parking options affects us all. Proper lotdocking etiquette can go a long way!
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