7 Ways To Overnight Legally And Stay Safe When Camping At Walmart
By Kelly Beasley
Do all Walmarts allow overnight RV parking? Most do. However, some DO NOT permit camping at Walmart.
But how do you know if it's legal and safe to park your rig in Walmart store parking lots for the evening?
We've got you covered. Here you will learn:
- Does Walmart allow overnight parking?
- Overnight etiquette.
- How to make sure you are allowed to stay overnight at Walmart.
- Why at some Walmarts, free RV parking overnight isn't legal.
- How to stay safe.
- Do's and don'ts of Walmart camping.
No matter what you're driving, you can legally (and safely) park overnight for free at most Walmarts across the country.
Here are seven things you must know about camping overnight at Walmart.
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1. How To Make Sure Walmart RV Parking Is Legal
At some Walmarts (mostly big-city and popular destinations), you cannot sleep in the parking lot overnight, not in a car, not in motorhome campers, and not in a travel trailer.
This is most often due to city ordinances. It's best to call and find out if staying overnight is allowed before you drive hundreds of miles to get to that Walmart location.
Otherwise, scan the lot for signs stating NO OVERNIGHT CAMPING or similar.
2. Only Stay One Night!
This is a strict rule not to break. When people do, they usually break other rules, too, causing the city to ban overnight stays. Don't overstay your welcome while boondocking at Walmart!
3. Bring Your Earplugs
This likely won't be a quiet and serene stay. Vehicles are coming and going. If you're a light sleeper, you may not do well. Bring your earplugs and try to park where the least amount of traffic is going. Even so, you might wake up in the middle of the night with a semi-tractor (or motorhome) right next to you with an engine or generator running all night.
4. Be Alert While Sleeping At Walmart
If you're going to be Walmart parking lot camping, use common sense and intuition. Most Walmarts that allow free camping are in reasonably safe areas. Still, there are jerks up to no good ANYWHERE in the country.
The more populated the area, the more likely crime happens.
Lock all doors. Bring bikes inside if you can.
Use your common sense, and if you feel uneasy, leave. It's that simple.
5. Park With Others When Camping At Walmart
Either go in and ask the manager where you should park or park where all the other RVers are. Every Walmart RV parking policy is pretty similar, in our experience.
They pretty much want rigs as far from the store as possible. If there are many recreational vehicles there when you arrive, it's probably pretty safe to park within that crowd.
6. Things That Are Frowned Upon While Boondocking At Walmart
Here is a list of things you should avoid doing when you are Walmart car camping or RV camping at Walmart:
- Don't put slide-outs out if possible.
- Don't put levelers down- often puts divots in the pavement.
- No grilling/putting out chairs/hanging outside your camper.
- Don't leave your pet's poo. Pick it up.
- Don't run a generator all night.
- No dumping your waste tanks in the parking lot (I shouldn't have to list this one, but you'd be surprised).
7. DO Patronize The Walmart
It's free RV camping. The store has groceries and almost everything you need for your camping trip.
So buy something as a thank you. It's common courtesy.
As you can see, Walmart overnight camping is free, easy, and safe. Just follow a few simple courteous rules, and you should be set! Here are some frequently asked questions about parking a camper at Walmart.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do They Allow Overnight RV Parking At Walmart?
Good ol' Sam Walton wanted his recreational vehicle customers to have a place to stop for the night when traveling, so he allowed overnight RV parking at Walmart.
Walmart sees RVers as great customers of the store, and they have welcomed us for a long time.
How To Know If A Walmart Allows Overnight Parking:
- Store Managers: Call the Walmart in question and ask the manager. The manager SHOULD know about local restrictive ordinances. Even if a Walmart allows overnight parking, the city might not.
- Local Laws: Check local city ordinances for restrictive parking overnight policies. (Usually, it's easy as there will probably be signs stating "No overnight parking" in the Walmart parking lot.)
- AllStays App: "Allstays Camp and RV" is an app that allows you to filter for Walmarts that do and don't allow free camping at their business. Read the recent reviews for any particular store to find out what people posted about staying.
- Google Maps: If you want to find nearby participating Walmarts, use Google Maps. Enter "Walmart" in the search bar. Get the phone number of the store you're interested in and call to ask.
As you can see, this privilege varies from store to store. Walmart's corporate website says this about their Walmart RV policy:
While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on the availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.
There you have it.
Always contact the Walmart you're considering before you try RV or car camping at Walmart. (Honestly, most people never call. We usually just check Allstays to be sure free overnight camping is allowed).
Walmart stores that are more rural are less likely to have any restrictions.
Can You Sleep In Your Car At Walmart?
Is it legal to sleep in your car at a Walmart? Yes, you can sleep in any vehicle for one night as long as the location you're looking at allows it, and the local ordinances don't prohibit it.
Are There Rules For Sleeping In A Walmart Parking Lot?
Yes, there are codes of conduct and rules you should abide by as their guest.
Escapees have their good neighbor policy that covers most of it.
1. Stay one night only!
2. Obtain permission from a qualified individual.
3. Obey posted regulations.
4. No awnings, camping chairs, or barbecue grills.
5. Do not use hydraulic jacks on soft surfaces (including asphalt).
6. Always leave the area cleaner than you found it.
7. Purchase gas, food, or supplies as a form of thank you from the RV-friendly Walmarts, when feasible.
8. Be safe! Always be aware of your surroundings and leave if you feel unsafe while Walmart RV camping.
Remember, you are not CAMPING in a Walmart parking lot. It's not a lifestyle. It's simply a place to sleep while you are traveling to a new destination.
Where Should I Park At The Walmart Stores?
Each Walmart RV parking set of rules is different. Your first indication is to look where the other RVs are parked. If you want to be sure, go inside and ask.
Staying near the front of the store at Walmart is never permitted. Most likely you will be asked to park on the outer perimeter of the parking lot.
Other Free Parking Alternatives
Walmart is not the only business allowing overnight parking. There are others that sometimes allow guests as well.
Here are some popular parking alternatives that might work for you.
- Flying J
- Other truck stops/large gas stations (Learn about truck stop overnight parking etiquette.)
- Cabelas parking lots (ask to park)
- Cracker Barrel (ask to park)
- Camping World parking lots (ask to park)
- Some large shopping centers (ask to park)
- Rest areas with large spots (Check each stop. Rules vary by state.)
100% Legal (And Safer) Alternatives To Staying Overnight At Walmart
Parking overnight at Walmart is free, but it's not the quietest or most serene stay.
If you want something quieter or with hookups, here are some possibilities.
These RV club memberships allow overnight stays (and sometimes longer).
They all charge for membership, though one or two nights' stay will pay for itself compared to regular campground fees.
- Harvest Hosts- Usually only one night. You're required to patronize the business. The good news is many are breweries, wineries, or distilleries.
- Boondockers Welcome- Park at other people's private properties. Limits are usually 1- 5 nights. Sometimes hookups are available for a fee.
- Passport America- Discount campground membership. It offers half-price on many campgrounds across the country. Limitations exist, such as times of year, weekends, and length of stay.
There are many options for the RV traveler to stay for the night.
Walmart camper parking is just one of many.
But parking at Walmart overnight is free and easy, with no reservation required, which is why it's my favorite quick-stop option when traveling long distances.
Free overnight Walmart parking still exists, but locations allowing it are on the decline due to overcrowding and users abusing the Walmart camping rules.
Obey the good neighbor policies and use your head as far as what not to do.
Generally, you are safe if you use common sense when Walmart overnight RV parking.
You're better off/safer when boondocking in the sticks than you ever are in a parking lot. Still, it's easy, convenient, and free to sleep at Walmarts that allow RV parking.
Bonus- you can arrive at night, and the place will be lit up! This allows for more travel time during the evening than if you tried to find a spot on public land.
Sleeping at Walmart- is it for you? Give it a try. Let us know in the comments about your Walmart overnight parking experience!
Author: Kelly Beasley
I dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 6.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road.