Whether you’re a penny pincher like me, or just need a free place to park your RV for a night, there are cheaper (and even free) options available. The experience will be closer to boondocking rather than camping, but there are plenty of sites where you can park and rest. And while it’s not exactly glamourous, in a pinch, you won’t care where you park your RV so long as you can get some shut-eye.
Walmart has been an RV safe haven since it’s founding
Sam Walton always considered RV owners to be great customers. And to make sure they always felt welcome, he offered the large Walmart parking lots for free up to any RV travelers that needed a place to stay. If you ever do see an RV parked at a Walmart late at night, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Though times have changed, and Walmarts are getting a bit picky about RVs.
If you plan on making an overnight stop at the superstore, you’d better call ahead. On the Walmart website, it explains that store managers are responsible for making the decision as to whether or not RVs are allowed. If they choose to prohibit RVs, and you show up anyways, you could get in a heap of trouble. In fact, you should call ahead when it comes to any potential RV parking spot on this list, as they’ll all have a similar set of rules.
While RVs may be welcomed on the site, you’re not vacationing in a Walmart parking lot. Keep everything contained, including your sleeping and lounging. If you have to run your generator, park far away from other RVs so everyone can get a good night’s sleep. Lastly, don’t overstay, just get up in the morning and keep on trucking (or, in this case, RVing).
Other superstores that typically allow RV parking
There are plenty of other stores with large parking lots, and they’ll often allow RVers to spend the night. Sam’s Club, also founded by the same Sam Walton of Walmart, has the exact same stance on RVs as the aforementioned superstore. And other shops like Home Depot, Lowes, and Costco allow RVs to park overnight. And, depending on the store, some Camping Worlds (or Bass Pro Shops) allow overnight parking as well.
If you’re feeling hungry, however, then you may want to consider stopping at Cracker Barrel. Not only are their dumplings sublime, but many have 40 ft parking spots for trucks and RVs. And they’re fine with you parking your RV overnight for free, so long as you’re not there for more than a night.
Large gas stations, like TA, are excellent overnight stops
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If you drive down a major highway, you’ll pass by a bundle of gas station giants. TA (which stands for Travel Association), Petro, and Pilot/Flying J to name a few. Unlike the superstores, these gas stations tend to be open 24/7. Meaning if you need something during your overnight RV stop, you can just walk in and buy it.
Many of these large gas stations/rest stops also have waste dumping facilities. If you’ve got grey water and black water onboard your RV, now’s your time to dump it. And while it might seem unsettling to sleep at a gas station, they’re often well lit. And being surrounded by truckers who are doing the exact same thing should, hopefully, ease your mind.
Highway rest stops (on a state by state basis)
It seems like stopping at a rest stop for the night would be the obvious solution, but what if I told you it might be illegal in your state? While some states allow you to stay at a rest stop overnight, others give you a certain amount of time before you get booted. Some allow 10 hours, others allow three hours.
For a complete guide on staying overnight at highway rest stops, take a look at Interstate Areas for a full list of state policies. However, just because you can’t stay overnight doesn’t mean you can’t get some shuteye. If you’re in dire need of rest, that’s what a rest stop is for. Just be sure to know exactly how long you can stay, otherwise, you’ll have a security guard knocking on your RVs window.
All of these are case-by-case solutions, and they aren’t luxurious RV parks. You have to keep yourself contained and not disrupt the other travelers and shoppers around you. But boondocking in parking lots rather than staying at RV parks will save you lots of money in the long run. So the next time you’re planning an RV trip, don’t worry about stopping at an RV campground every night, and call ahead to some of these locations.