It’s not the Ritz, but a parking lot can sometimes seem just as comfortable after a long day of traveling. However, you can’t just pull over into any old space and bed down.
Two of the most common options for overnight parking are Walmart parking lots and truck stops. But why are these two such valuable options, and which is best?
Let’s take a closer look at the choices.
Sometimes You Need to Sleep in a Parking Lot
Sleeping in a parking lot is rarely anyone’s idea of a good time. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes a necessity.
You may find yourself delayed by traffic, weather, or other unforeseen events and end up exhausted without a hotel in sight.
In other cases, you may be traveling on a budget and simply can’t or don’t want to spend the money on other accommodations.
There’s no shortage of uncommon or unplanned circumstances that might require you to get a few hours of rest in a parking lot somewhere. You’ll be grateful for the opportunity if you ever need it.
When you’re in a bind for a place to park, try urban stealth camping in these unconventional places.
Overnight Parking at Walmart vs. Truck Stops
These two common choices offer different advantages and drawbacks to the overnight sleeper. When considering which one is right for you, here are some crucial factors.
While Walmart has a reputation for allowing free overnight parking, this isn’t the case at every store. Only some allow this benefit, spawning online directories that aim to catalog the status.
Still, the only surefire way to know whether you’re allowed to park overnight is to call the store and speak to a manager. This can be difficult or impossible if you’re making a spur-of-the-moment decision to stop.
On the other hand, truck stops are almost universally designed to accommodate those looking to get some rest on the road. Truckers look to get everything they need in one place — including a spot to park and rest.
It’ll be a rare truck stop that prohibits sleeping. Still, you should be aware of any rules and regulations regarding parking, noise, trash disposal, and length of stay.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to truly know for sure about the safety of parking at a given Walmart without knowing the area. While the chain rarely opens stores in bad or dangerous neighborhoods, you never know whether you may be relatively close to one of these areas.
In addition, while some Walmarts may have overnight security, it’ll vary from location to location. Still, while crime can happen anywhere, parking at a Walmart overnight will generally be a reasonably safe option.
Safety is another area where truck stops see an advantage due to their explicitly designed overnight nature. Many truck stops will include security to ensure things stay safe, and others are busy and well-lit enough to prevent most crimes.
Therefore, parking overnight at a truck stop should generally be considered very safe.
This is one factor where there may be no clear winner. Truck stops are generally active spaces, with truckers coming and going at all hours of the day and night.
There will be a fair amount of vehicle noise, in addition to any noise from nearby interstates or other highways. Still, those using truck stops overnight typically understand that others are resting and remain respectful.
On the other hand, Walmarts will run the gamut from nearly silent to just as loud as any interstate truck stop. This will depend entirely on location and whether nearby roads receive much traffic at night.
Those parking in 24-hour Walmart parking lots may also encounter more noise from late-night or early-morning shoppers. Most people don’t expect others to be sleeping in a parking lot, so you might experience random noise from overnight deliveries or other sources.
Comfort may vary from traveler to traveler. Some may be unnerved by the hustle and bustle of a busy truck stop, while others may feel less safe alone in an empty parking lot.
Will you need a bathroom, or are you traveling in an RV with facilities inside? Truck stops are far more likely to have a place to relieve yourself at all hours if needed.
Keep in mind that for those in RVs with slides, you’ll likely need to keep them retracted in either location.
At Walmart, you’ll be able to stock up on food and other supplies to make your night more comfortable. On the flip side, you may encounter a closed, darkened store with no amenities whatsoever.
Conversely, a nice truck stop can feel like an oasis to a weary traveler. It may contain showers or other private bathroom facilities, restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations, and so much more.
In some parts of the country, truck stops can almost function as a mini-city! While there are certainly no-frills truck stops out there, they tend to come more frequently in regions with other nearby accommodations.
How to Find the Best Truck Stops for the Night
If you can plan ahead, you can do some research on the best truck stops along your route. Use specialized apps, online directories, or consult websites of popular truck stop chains like Pilot Flying J and Love’s.
These services can help you compare amenities and other features to find the perfect spot for your overnight stay.
If you’re on the road, you may not have the ability to check these services and research various options. In this case, your best bet may be consulting any signs along the road, which should indicate any truck stops coming up ahead.
Who Offers the Best Overnight Parking?
With all this in mind, the answer to Walmart vs. truck stops for overnight parking should be clear. Truck stops come out on top for their superior location, legality, safety, and comfort.
While Walmart parking lots can still be valuable places to get some rest in a pinch, the lack of consistency in amenities and whether parking overnight is allowed make it a less attractive option.
Overall, your chances of hitting the road refreshed, clean, well-supplied, and well-fed are much higher at a truck stop.
Where do you do your overnight parking?
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