7 Ways To Overnight Legally And Stay Safe When Camping At Walmart
By Kelly Beasley
Last Updated: September 21, 2022
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.
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
As a seasoned and passionate RVing expert, I have dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 5.5 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. Join me on this journey and let's make some unforgettable memories.
Other Articles You Should Read
I know people who actually live in Walmart parking lots for the last 10 years in their RV. Imagine all the savings in rent money
Yep, we’re not surprised. It happens.
These are the people that ruin it for everyone else, if they are caught/seen/are a nuisance/scaring off customers/or look like they are obviously living there (i.e. doing full vehicle repairs, leaving trash around, ‘setting up camp’, etc). It can be done in an acceptable manner, if they are always on the move and not staying overnight more than one night in a given month or so.
But with the worst offenders they either stay multiple nights at the same one, or pop around the same ones in a given area. And usually with scary-looking, trashy rigs. Just as many boondocking spots have been shut down due to overcrowding and people breaking the stay limit and other rules, more and more Walmarts will be forced to disallow overnight parking from customer complaints about these types of offenders.
I’m glad I did my full-time RVing when I did. A couple of my favorite places have been since shut down or offer limited use now due to overcrowding, trash, and overstaying. And more shutdowns and limitations are bound to come.
I’m 54 and pretty well homeless due to covid. I am sick with major arthritis to the point of being in a wheelchair a lot now. Sometimes I meet someone who has a paying respectable job I can do. I am alone in the world, no one to fall back on, absolutely no income except what I earn. I’ll pick garbage, weed, clean, wash dishes, ANYTHING DECENT that will buy us a meal or anything we need like dog food. Please don’t suggest soup kitchens etc no provision is made for disabled folks and I can’t stand in the line up for 2 hours and lots of these places are not wheelchair friendly plus I am female and terrified of being robbed or worse. 6x so far, just had my purse grabbed away but it’s just a dummy bag, keys, cash and cards are in my pockets. But those places are unsafe and unkind. No compassion for someone whose disability can’t be clearly seen and you are just picked at by the vultures if they notice so I’d rather earn my way. Good old Canada, you hell hole, soul destroying capitalism loving and rewarding pit. Looking forward to the day God calls me home and still I believe I MIGHT find a way to rebuild on my own. I won’t be any Pollyanna tho as I have helped people along the way who had less than me and NOT ONCE did I not get robbed, car stolen, assaulted, dog held for ransom, never met a TRUE CHRISTIAN only big talkers, because of having no children and not claiming “abuse” no womens shelter helped me EVER except for a sandwich and bottle of water but I got “the lecture” same as The Salvation Army. You have to sit and listen to why they THINK you are in the mess you are in, they have to make sure you feel like absolute worthless used chewing gum before they begrudgingly slide that $10 coupon across the “Christians” table. Great, I can get a sweater and some craft supplies now. Whoooopeeee! I think the women’s shelters are the absolute worst. Do you know in Vancouver you will have to meet with 2 or 3 —25 year old shelter workers and you will have to tell YOUR WHOLE STORY while they look at each other, roll their eyes, ask you the same question rephrased, clearly HOPING they can catch you LYING….”WHATS YOUR DRUG OF CHOICE????” Barked at you 5x during this so called INTAKE PROCESS which never once for me ended up being an INTAKE as they should just SAY UPFRONT they are full. Anyway you will be starving. No one asks if you could use a glass of water. No one offers any left overs. Not even a piece of bread. I finally HAD to ask as I am diabetic as the room was spinning as I had not eaten all day and I was REFUSED ANYTHING as “we have STRICT times we eat at…” I guess they thought I was out for fun at 1am. No I was out of gas, freezing and desperate and 211 told me to go there and that they would call ahead. When I got there the worker ripped my face off for coming unannounced….how did she think I got the address…..from 211. But lesson 1, never ever argue with these people, ALWAYS LET THEM BE RIGHT AND SAY THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING 5X BECAUSE ITS YOUR FAULT THEY ARE AWAKE…..be sure to keep your eyes down, but not too down as then you are hiding something but don’t look them in the eyes as then you are trying to appear too honest….but don’t flit your eyes around…..even if you have neuropathy from the diabetes as then you’ll be TOLD you are a drug addict. After your long interrogation, Top Staff will take her “colleagues into the kitchen to “decide what kind of fit you would be with the current household clients….” Just then a native woman came downstairs once, demanded the key for the fridge as her children were hungry, seems the eating hours suddenly changed as I noticed how much better First Nations people are treated as they will kick off if they don’t get their demands met and this is fact, saw it 20x at hospitals, food pantry, women’s shelters, Sally Ann’s EVERYWHERE their scream was I’ll be calling my lawyer….must be nice to have your own personal lawyer on retainer but staff all jump to pacify them. If I was to DEMAND I would be quickly put in my place and told I’m not special. Stop being a diva. Sure, a diva in sweat pants I hand washed in (sorry) Walmart and a diva in mismatched shoes as mine were stolen. Anyway, they emerge from the cone of judgement to smile so sadly and say “sorry, we don’t think you would be a very good fit with our current ladies….” I ask why. They will have an excuse….you don’t seem open about your life and our ladies are all expected to share…sat thru a few of those sessions and they just bash men non stop as does the group leader….an attempted cuddle from the husband gets relabeled as “attempted rape” husband expecting a meal on the table when he gets home from a 10 hour day at work translates into him being a “controlling fascist”. Then that becomes label of the day and ALL MEN are now “controlling fascists.” The women are encouraged to call police tomorrow and add this to their list of complaints and charges. Do you think a 17 year old with 3 babies from Poundmaker Reservation knows what fascist means? This untrained staff DO NOT HELP, to me they promote victimization and they encourage the woman to grow their stories for court. I SAW THIS MANY TIMES. I don’t want to be like that. The truth is bad enough. But anyway I am quickly ushered out the front door, “good luck, hope talking helped….oh heres a donated baseball cap and some pantyhose and 2 baby blankets. Bye.” #Slam#
If you think I am broken, I am.
If you think I am bitter, 16 limes have nothing on my heart because I was a wife, worked over 30 years, never drank, smoked, gambled, did drugs, never shoplifted ONCE, never begged but did ask for unwanted scraps in KFC once only to have the woman pour her child’s ice cream and the left over gravy on the chicken and fries. After she walked away, I still took it, shook the ice cream and gravy off and my dogs and I had a great picnic. It’s a mean world but like Garth Brooks sings,
“”I hear them saying you’ll never change things and no matter what you do it’s still the same thing,
Well it’s not the world that I am changing, I do this so, this world I know, never changes me…..””
I’m not perfect by any means but God knows I’m not deliberately cruel, in fact in writing this rant, I’m now editing what my original comment was and it was just your using the word “frigging” and I WAS BEING MEAN TO COMMENT. I took that part out now. I just needed desperately to “talk” tonight and I have this connection so I can.
Very tough day. So anyway, thanks for sharing your experiences, Kelly. I’m glad you had the option to go to a home after you had enough of your RV adventure. Please don’t judge ALL homeless people though. After my precious husband died I had nothing left from trying to get him help. I was weak, stupid and stuck and rather than facing being alone I took up with a man who seemed nice. He was not. I got badly hurt but I left and I did not go back. They say the average woman leaves and goes back 7x before she stays gone….or he kills her. I took my care, fit as much as I could in it. Our house had gone long ago on my husband’s illness so there was not much to worry about taking. I had sold everything of value but my wedding rings. I’ll die first. I don’t care, they aren’t big or fancy but they were given in love at a better time and as long as I can look at them, I remember him. He was so so brave and so precious to me. I hope God does not allow him to see me now.
BE CLEAR PLEASE. I’M ASKING FOR NOTHING HERE. I JUST WANTED TO TALK. So anyone that screams liar or scammer, you don’t know me and I don’t want anything from anyone. My dogs and I will carry on. God provides.
Not all of the homeless are slovenly or dirty or disrespectful but there are plenty that are as it was mainly the homeless who robbed me and hurt me. No fake happy stories where we all share and pull together. Because I am white and middle aged, I was the target of First Nations people constantly, mostly verbal abuse but lots of threats as I understand it must feel good for them to finally have some power and I guess they feel they are getting even with a rotten unkind world. I just am handy and look like easy pickings. With the exception of some bad police, who really love to torture the homeless, who know how to make you feel worthless and like a pathetic loser, those who you would think would not hurt you as they have been hurt, do most the hurting and the glee on their faces only shows me very hurting people but they have a choice before acting and they don’t deserve really for people to excuse them and their cruelty. It’s one thing to call someone bad names, quite another to grab someone’s purse, spit in your face, threaten to have their sons rape you.
HURT PEOPLE…..but **ONLY** if they choose to do so.
Please God that a better place awaits. Thank you for the Good Husband you blessed me with for those years. Let him not be seeing me now but let me believe still I will see him again one day in a better, safer, happier more loving place.
May you all find a safe place of shelter tonight and may you know, you are really never alone. Someone has it worse than you do. If you see them out there, try giving them a hand up but don’t expose yourself foolishly in the process. There truly are vultures and thieves at your back.
Some casinos also allow overnight RV stays.
Yes, some do!
The folks abuse privileges such as this are who ruin it for all. I have seen folks with awnings out, chairs set up generators set up with all the slides out. I even saw this at a rest area once, occupying three parking places. This is why so many states limit time in rest areas now. Lets all thank the abuser for ruining it for the rest of us!!
Thank you for your comment. Yeah, there are plenty of places where things have been shut down for everyone just because of some inconsiderate or obstinate humans.
All we can do on our end is to try to educate those who are in the wrong. I have little faith that a blog post or a comment section will change any of the really bad apples, but at least we can educate newbies.
This doesn’t only pertain to the RV industry, it’s across the board with anything and everything humans do. Some ruin things for all of the others.
Just don’t be one of them, and maybe we can collectively try to educate others so they might change their ways.
Great information. Awesome job young lady.
Thank you so much, Joshua! We sincerely appreciate you taking the time to give your kudos!!
Hi Kelly – My wife and I are putting together a one-way relocation trip with Cruise America, Portland to Phoenix. The bulk of the trip will take place in Oregon, California and Arizona. Given the current COVID-19 issues, we’re concerned that overnight parking/camping options might be severely limited. Do you have any insight?
Ever since the lockdown, both Marshall and myself have stayed put, so we don’t have real-life experience with this never-before-seen in our lifetime situation. My best advice to you would be to plan the route and call ahead to the establishments you are planning to overnight at to find out their current rules and to ask for permission.
That would be your safest bet. California is likely going to be your most challenging state. Call ahead. It’s your best bet. You can go for truck stops, big gas stations, big box stores, restaurants, churches, and more.
One last attempt would be to join Boondockers Welcome. With BW you get guaranteed stays.
How do I join Boondockers Welcome?
You can learn more about how to join Boondockers Welcome on our Discount RV Clubs page, including how to receive a 15% discount.
I am homeless and am a clean Van dweller, I have 4 Walmart store’s I want to get permission to park overnight at, at different night shuffling, Belmont n.c.,mtn. Island, two in Gastonia, please help me, some jerk keeps running me off,.
I make two purchases a day at either store thanks
We are sorry to hear of your plight. Hopefully there are programs in your town(s) that can help if you need a job or other resources for assistance.
We simply cannot support one bouncing from Walmart to Walmart. Walmart stores are not to be used as living space.
They are kindly made available for campers traveling to or from a camping destination. To stay more than one night/bouncing from store to store is frowned upon. More and more Walmarts have been closed to overnight stays because of this problem.
If you need to stay in the area you could try going to different places each night- side streets maybe, each night.
Oh, have you looked into Workamping or Workers On Wheels? This is where you work at a campground in exchange for living there. It could be the perfect option for you! Call local campgrounds or look up listings on the internet.
Also, there’s a site called Workaway.com. Again, you exchange work for staying at someone’s property. Some have living quarters, you wouldn’t have to live in your van.
Again, we hate to hear that you are without a secure place to live. But we also don’t support using Walmarts parking lots for living.
It’s an unfortunate situation. We suggest looking into Workamping and Workaway. And maybe look into government assistance of some kind.
Good luck and stay safe!
I understand your situation but this group and those with experience have made it clear, Walmart is NOT a permanent solution to being homeless. Imagine if every homeless person schemed it out as you have….every Walmart would be full. Their parking is 1ST for THEIR CUSTOMERS. No matter that you buy 2 things, you can’t expect 2 cooked chicken wings or a pop and a bag of chips to cover your nightly use of some Walmart parking lot. Its not for us to LIVE there. Maybe if you asked the manager if a couple nights in a row now and again might be ok but even then it’s a slippery slope as others will see you doing it and we ALL have “special circumstances” in our eyes. No, stick to their generous offer of a night and move on. You are only going to get into a vicious rut by relying on Walmart EVERY NIGHT. When would you stop this? 1 year? 3 years? You simply need to sort out a better permanent arrangement for yourself and it’s not Walmart. I wish you luck but PLEASE play by the rules or we all loose. Do you have anyone with a back yard or just any other option? I think it’s nice to give the people a little something too. Having “us” their daily and nightly is an imposition afterwhile even if they are too kind to say so. Don’t be a user. I know how tough it is but you’ll feel much better about yourself if you don’t try to cheat or use others.
Best of luck.
This couldn’t be more spot on. Thank you, Rita, and we sure hope you find some relief from your situation.