While Walmart may have everyday low prices and be a great place to stock up on supplies for RVing, they’re terrible places to camp. While many in the RVing community may lust over the idea of free overnight camping, they’re not telling you the complete truth.
Walmart parking lots can not only be bad; they can be downright awful. Some of the most shocking RVing stories we’ve heard took place in Walmart parking lots.
Read why we think Walmart parking lots are an RVer’s nemesis!
Free Walmart Parking Comes With a Cost
If you’re looking for a free place to park, a Walmart parking lot could be the answer. However, that free camping spot comes with a few hidden costs that may have a high price.
It could cost you a bit of your safety, comfort, and peace of mind. Parking in a Walmart parking lot can be unpredictable from one parking lot to the next.
So if you’re not up for a bit of adventure and risk, we strongly suggest avoiding a Walmart parking lot.
5 Reasons Why Walmart Parking Lots Are an RVer’s Nemesis
Before you go camping in a Walmart parking lot, there are a handful of things we think you should consider. Let’s look at the dirty truth and see why Walmart parking lots are an RVer’s nemesis.
Large, bright lights in parking lots may be great for increasing safety and minimizing the risk of scandalous behavior; they’re not great for sleeping. Engineers likely had security in mind when designing these parking lots, not RVers and truckers trying to get a good night’s sleep.
You better hope you have quality window covers or blackout shades to reduce the amount of light in your RV. If you’ve spent the entire day staring into the sun while driving, the last thing you want is to stare into bright lights while trying to sleep.
The odds of you being the only person trying to catch some Zs in the parking lot are pretty slim. Depending on the location, some of these parking lots can have tremendous amounts of traffic all through the night.
Trucks will come and go as they deliver items to the store. Large amounts of heavy traffic all through the night can be incredibly frustrating and not allow you to relax fully.
Some large trucks will also take advantage of these parking lots. These trucks will typically run throughout the night to keep their driver comfortable while they sleep. Trying to get some sleep while a large engine is running next to your RV can be difficult.
While many in the RVing community discourage running generators in these situations, not everyone is on board. Getting sandwiched between a large truck engine and a noisy generator won’t make for an ideal night’s sleep.
It’s also important to remember that many of these parking lots are in more populated areas. This means you’re likely to hear emergency sirens or loud vehicles accelerating at an intersection.
If you’re a light sleeper, Walmart parking lots can be a miserable experience.
They’re Not Always Safe
Depending on where you’re staying, some Walmart parking lots can be a hotbed for seedy activity. If you decide to park in a Walmart parking lot, make sure you take the proper precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.
Lock your doors and all of your compartments and have a protection plan. You want to have an escape plan should a situation become unsafe and you need to hit the road. It’s never a good idea to put you or your loved ones in harm’s way, even if it’s for a free campsite.
Finding Free Walmart Parking Is Inconsistent and Unpredictable
In recent years these parking spots have become inconsistent and unpredictable at best. Local rules and regulations change often, and we’re seeing more and more RVers turned away when inquiring about staying. Some of the most popular Walmart parking lots now no longer permit camping, and RVers must find other camping options.
The inconsistency and unpredictableness of these parking lots can create a tremendous amount of frustration. This is especially true if you’re planning to stay after a long travel day. After a few disappointing encounters at a Walmart parking lot, you’re likely to scratch them off your list as potential options for overnight parking.
Why Do RVers Park at Walmart, Anyway?
It’s hard to understand why so many RVers choose Walmarts when there are so many major negatives. However, your willingness to take risks increases the more desperate you are for a spot. You may be willing to overlook a bit of road noise or bright lights after spending the entire day traveling.
Keep in mind that Walmart typically allows guests to stay for free, and there are well over 4,000 Walmarts across the U.S. Sometimes staying at a Walmart is a necessity for RVers.
Alternatives to Overnight Parking at Walmart Stores
If you’re not comfortable staying at Walmart, there are other options to consider. Let’s look at a handful of alternatives.
Free Camping on Public Lands
There are thousands of free camping locations managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. RVers love these spots because they’re free and provide incredible views and privacy.
You likely won’t have to worry about bright lights or traffic noise when you camp in these locations. These spots can be remote, but some may be much more convenient than you might think. You can find many of these sites by using free resources like Campendium or iOverlander.
Other Department Stores
Walmart isn’t the only big-box retailer that sometimes welcomes overnight camping in its parking lots. Some other popular options are Cracker Barrel, Lowes, and sometimes even shopping centers. It’s always important to obtain permission and confirm the legalities when it comes to staying overnight.
Some local ordinances forbid overnight camping. So it’s never a bad idea to double-check with the local law enforcement before getting too comfortable. If not, you may risk getting the dreaded knock on your door in the middle of the night asking you to move on down the road.
Boondockers Welcome is a membership service ($50 annually) with more than 2,800 sites where locals host travelers. This can be a great way to meet and share stories with others interested in the lifestyle and save money.
Many hosts offer great accommodations and amenities that are very budget-friendly. There are even some hosts with full hook-up sites with no expectation of payment. It’s hard to beat that!
Harvest Hosts is a membership service ($99 annually) with more than 2,400 farms, wineries, and other unique locations across the country. Many of these hosts offer spots for RVers to stay in exchange for support at their establishments.
So instead of paying for a campsite, you get to support a local business by purchasing something from its store.
Passport America is a membership service ($44 annually) and offers 50% discounts on more than 1,400 campgrounds across the country. Because camping fees differ from one campground to the next, discounts will vary as well.
They have their own rules and regulations because each campground is individually owned and operated. Some campgrounds only accept Passport America for stays during certain days or seasons.
It’s a great membership to have in your arsenal of planning tools when it comes to finding campsites in a pinch.
Would You Stay at a Walmart in Your RV?
Because staying in a Walmart can be very hit or miss, it may not be the best idea to count on them. There are plenty of other options that provide more secure and convenient locations for RVers to camp.
However, some locations are incredibly safe, secure, and welcoming to RVers. Whether or not you should stay at a Walmart boils down to your comfort level. Trust your gut, and don’t be afraid to leave if you ever feel unsafe.
Have you ever stayed the night at a Walmart in your RV?
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