How To Be Safe (and legal) Parking At Walmart Overnight

PublishedMarch 3, 2020

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.

Fort Walton Beach Walmart parking lot

Love it or hate it, as an RVer, you can benefit from one of their most incredible offers:

Free overnight stays at Walmart!

But wait.

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?

Sam Walton

Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart

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.

Problem Campers

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.

Walmart parking lot trash

Overnighting homeless (and just inconsiderate people) leave their trash behind for employees to clean up, instead of placing it in the proper receptacle.  

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 free RV parking overnight, 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.

Google Maps Walmart locations

Screenshot of Google Maps Walmart search.

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.)

No loitering sign

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.

Idaho Falls Walmart parking lot

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.

Airstream parked at Walmart

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.

Here is their policy:

  • 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.

Walmart RV parking

Does this count as 'stealth' parking? Heh. 

What Other Benefits Does Parking Overnight At Walmart Have?

Plenty!

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.
Walmart produce

Plenty of produce and other products to be had, so stock up!

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
  • Pilot
  • 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 RV parking (Check each stop. Rules vary by state.)
Kellys rig at Lowes

Kelly's very first night as a full-timer on the road. I rejected campgrounds from the beginning. So, Lowe's it was!

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 RV camping 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.
Boondockers Welcome campsite

Kelly and Marshall's very first Boondockers Welcome stay in Kalispell, MT - Summer 2019.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Idaho Falls Walmart store front

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!

Kelly Headshot

Hello! 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, we both converted to part-time RV life. Heck, I lived in my travel trailer for over 5.5 years, STRICTLY boondocking. I learned a lot about the RV life and lifestyle during those years. Now we share what we know with you here at Camp Addict.

After that many years of wonderful full-time travel, it was time for something new. These days, I'm often found working from my new Az home, and sometimes plotting and scheming whether or not to start collecting farm animals (or plotting my next RV trip!).

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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,
    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.

  • 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!!

    • Hi John,

      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.

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  • 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?

    • Hi Joe,

      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.

      Good luck!

    • 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

      • Hi Carroll,

        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.

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