Did you know Walmarts are losing more and more stores that can allow you to park? It's sad but true. (Mostly due to homeless people abusing the privilege.)
Regardless, chances are, you have at least once parked in a Walmart parking lot and shopped in the store.
Love it or hate it, as an RVer, you can benefit from one of their most incredible offers:
Free overnight stays at Walmart!
Do all Walmarts allow overnight RV parking? Most of them do, yes. However, some DO NOT permit Walmart RV camping.
There are numerous reasons for Walmart (or certain city laws) to prohibit overnight stays.
Here you will learn why this is the case and how to make sure you are staying legally for free at certain ones.
No matter what type of vehicle you're in, you can legally park overnight for free at certain Walmarts across the country.
Why Does Walmart Allow Overnight Parking?
Good old Sam Walton wanted his RV customers to have a place to stop for the night when traveling the country.
Walmart sees RVers as great customers of the store, and they have been welcomed for a long time now.
Even so, camping at Walmart has become a problem in some areas.
In some places, homeless people have taken advantage of the allowance and overstayed the nightly limit.
They have littered, caused disturbances, loitered, panhandled, and generally caused problems for the other customers.
In places where Walmart boondocking has been a problem, city ordinances are in place, disallowing overnight parking at Walmart (or anywhere else).
Even if the Walmart allows overnight parking, you cannot park there overnight if the city does not.
Try to stay anyway, and you should expect a knock on your door in the middle of the night from local police.
They will order to move. They also have the right to fine you.
Other Walmarts don't have the parking lot space to accommodate Walmart RV parking.
They cannot allow overnights due to limited space. There are still plenty of RV-friendly Walmarts out there.
You have to research to find out if they allow Walmart parking lot camping.
How To Find Overnight Walmart RV Parking That's Allowed
It's not hard to find out if any given Walmart store allows overnight parking.
Here are some ways to do your research:
- Store Managers: Call the Walmart in question and ask the manager. The manager SHOULD know about local restrictive ordinances, but they may not. Even if a Walmart allows overnight parking, the city might not. It's always a good idea to fact-check for yourself.
- Local Laws: Check local city ordinances for restrictive parking overnight policies.
- AllStays App: Allstays has an RVing app as well as a Walmart app. Both inform you whether any given Walmart allows overnight parking.
If you don't want to use an app, but you want to know where nearby participating Walmarts are, use Google Maps.
Enter 'Walmart' in the search bar, and stores will pop up on the map.
There, you can get the phone number of that store to call and see if overnight Walmart RV parking is allowed or not.
Remember to ask about local ordinances. Even if you ask, it's a good idea to check for yourself.
But the manager may be able to save you time. Check the parking lot for signs restricting overnight Walmart RV parking.
(This usually points to a city law restricting overnight parking.)
So it varies from store to store. Walmart's website says this:
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.
(If arriving late at a Walmart and you see many other RVs, this is a pretty good indicator that overnight parking is allowed. Still, it's best to still check ahead of time and to check with the Walmart store manager.)
Walmart stores that are more rural are less likely to have any restrictions. Even so, it's always good to walk in or call and ask for permission to park.
Can You Sleep In Your Car At Walmart?
You sure can.
IF that Walmart overnight parking policy allows it. And the local ordinances allow overnight parking.
It doesn't matter if you are in an RV or a vehicle, Walmart Stores that allow overnight RV parking also allow overnight car parking.
Free car parking is not there for you to sleep every night because you cannot afford to pay rent in the area.
It's also not a good idea to jump from Walmart to Walmart to try to stay under the radar.
This goes for RVers as well.
Car sleeping is allowed for the same reason RV parking is permitted- a quick stop for the weary traveler on their way to the next destination.
Tent camping is not permitted. Sleeping at Walmart in a vehicle is.
Is Free Overnight RV Parking At Walmart Safe?
Generally, Walmart overnight camping is safe. That said, NOWHERE is safe from other humans. So, use your dang common sense.
The least safe-feeling Walmart parking lot I stayed at was in Utah. (I don't remember the city, but it was off of I-15 somewhere.) I remember the lot people just looked... well... sketchy.
And I was all alone.
Right after I parked, a man approached me and tried to sell me a huge wrench.
I suppose he could have hit me with it, but he did not.
Also, almost immediately, a security guard intervened and told the man he wasn't allowed to sell things in the parking lot.
Did I feel like my safety was in jeopardy? Not at all. But I made sure I locked everything up.
The lot was well-lit, and I parked out in the open.
If you feel unsafe overnight parking at any parking lot, move on. It's that simple.
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.
- Stay one night only!
- Obtain permission from a qualified individual.
- Obey posted regulations.
- No awnings, lawn chairs, or barbecue grills.
- Do not use hydraulic jacks on soft surfaces (including asphalt).
- Always leave an area cleaner than you found it.
- Purchase gas, food, or supplies as a form of thank you, when feasible.
- Be safe! Always be aware of your surroundings and leave if you feel too unsafe.
We are adding a few things to the code of conduct because Escapees has to be 'user-friendly.' And, common sense isn't a universal trait:
- Don't park your camper in a manner where you take up many spots unnecessarily.
- Do not disconnect your trailer.
- Keep it down. Walmart RV parking is not the place to jam out or to have a party.
- If you have slides, only use the ones necessary to get in and around your RV. If you can, park so your slide goes over an island, so it doesn't take up any extra spaces.
- Don't run your generator all night. You are likely keeping your neighbors up, and worse, you could be gassing them out. Only use a generator sparingly and if ABSOLUTELY necessary. (Not for your coffee... maybe to recharge your battery so you can use your life-sustaining medical device.)
- Don't start your motorhome/vehicle in the middle of the night. The people parked next to you are likely to be angrily awakened. (Ask me how I know.)
- Keep your pets on a leash and pick up after them.
It's freaking easy, guys.
You are not really CAMPING in a Walmart parking lot. You are simply parking for one night.
To sleep. It's for convenience.
It's not there for you to party or to have a gathering. You shouldn't be replacing your brakes or draining your tanks, nor is it there for you to stay more than one night.
Walmart overnighting is a privilege to be able to stay at ALL and for free. Only use it as a quick overnight stop so you can carry on early the next morning.
(Sometimes, security will make sure you are out by a specific time the following day.)
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. To be sure, go inside and ask.
Walmart Stores will have their own RV parking information about where you should park.
Staying near the front of the store at Walmart is never permitted.
Usually, it's along a side or as far away from the store as possible.
What Other Benefits Does Parking Overnight At Walmart Have?
Let's look at how else you can benefit from Walmart RV parking:
- Maintenance/Service: You can get your RV serviced, get new tires, batteries, and more.
- Save $$: Walmart parking is FREE! Campgrounds are not. Therefore, you should buy something from the store as a thank you.
- Supplies: Well, Walmart has just about anything you need. So you can stock up on groceries and more while you overnight. Some Walmarts even have propane and gasoline. Bonus!
- No Reservation Necessary: If you are staying at a campground, you may have to reserve first. In five years of full-time RVing, I have never come across a Walmart parking lot that was too full to stay.
Alternative Free RV Parking Spots
Walmart is not the only business that allows overnight parking. There are others who kindly allow guests as well.
Here are some popular parking alternatives:
- Flying J
- Other truck stops/large gas stations (However, do not park in a truckers spot with your RV!)
- 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 RV parking (Check each stop. Rules vary by state.)
Walmart Overnight Car Parking Alternatives (paid)
Wally World (and other parking lots) is not the quietest or most serene overnight stay despite all of the positives.
If you are looking for something potentially quieter or with hookups, here are a few possibilities.
These memberships allow overnight stays (and sometimes longer) in different places, based on availability.
They each have a yearly fee, though one or two nights' stay will pay for itself compared to regular campground fees.
- Harvest Hosts- Usually only one night. You must patronize the business, but many are breweries, wineries, or distilleries, so, FUN!
- Boondockers Welcome- Park at other people's private properties. Limits are usually one night to 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. Water, electricity, sewer, and trash are usually available for rigs staying at these locations.
There are many different options for the RV traveler to stay for the night.
Walmart RV parking is just one of many.
But Wally Docking is free and easy with no reservations required, which is why it's my favorite quick-stop option when traveling long distances.
Walmarts that allow overnight stays are still around, but they may be on the decline due to some user abuses.
Proper etiquette is to obey the good neighbor policies and use your head as far as what you should not do.
If people continue to abuse this privilege, we will eventually lose it everywhere.
Generally, you will be safe if you use common sense when Walmart overnight RV parking.
Crimes can happen ANYWHERE when humans are present.
You're better off/safer when boondocking in the sticks than you ever are when Walmart boondocking. Still, it's easy, convenient, and free to sleep at Walmarts that allow RV parking.
I love doing it MUCH more than trying to find a place to boondock on public land for one night.
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 how it went for you!
Author: Kelly Beasley
He-llllo. I'm the co-founder of Camp Addict, which my biz partner and I launched in 2017. I frigging love the RVing lifestyle but in December of 2020, I converted to part-time RV life. Heck, I lived in my travel trailer for over 5.5 years, STRICTLY boondocking for pretty much all of it. Boondocking is a GREAT way to live, but it's not easy. Anyway, I'm passionate about animals, can't stand campgrounds, I hardly ever cook, and I love a good dance party. Currently, I can be found plotting and scheming whether or not to start collecting farm animals (or plotting my next RV trip!) at my beautiful new 'ranch' named 'Hotel Kellyfornia', in Southern Arizona.