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

PublishedMarch 3, 2020

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 greatest offers:

Free overnight stays at Walmart!

But wait.

Do all Walmarts allow overnight RV parking? Most of them do, yes. However, there are some that DO NOT permit Walmart RV camping.

There are numerous reasons for Walmart (or certain laws) to prohibit overnight stays.

Here you will learn why this is the case as well as how to make sure you are staying legally for free at certain ones. No matter what 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 be able 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.

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 have been implemented to disallow overnight parking at Walmart (or anywhere else).

Even if the Walmart allows overnight parking, if the city does not, you cannot park there overnight.

If you do so anyway, you will likely get a knock on your door in the middle of the night from local police.

They will order to move. You may even be fined.

Other Walmarts simply 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 just have to research to find out if they allow Walmart parking lot camping.

How To Find Walmarts That Allow Overnight Parking

It's not hard to find out if any given Walmart store allows overnight parking.

There are a few ways to go about doing your research.

  • Store Managers: Simply 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 overnights are 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 the time.

Check the parking lot for signs restricting overnight 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.

So there you have it.

Always contact the Walmart.

(If arriving late at a Walmart and you see a bunch of 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 rent.

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 allowed- 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?

Airstream parked at Walmart

Generally, Walmart overnight camping is safe.

That said, use common sense.

The least 'safe' 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, I was approached by a man trying to sell me a very large 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 all my stuff was locked 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 Walmart Parking Lot?

Yes, there are codes of conduct and rules you should abide by as their guest.

Escapees has its 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 to unsafe.

Camp Addict is adding a few things to the code of conduct, because some people don't use common sense:

  • 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.
  • Don't start your motorhome/vehicle in the middle of the night. The people parked next to you are likely to be awakened. (Ask me how I know.)
  • Keep your pets on a leash and pick up after them.

It's easy.

You are not really CAMPING in Walmart parking lot, you are simply staying one night.

To sleep. It's for convenience.

It's not there for you to party, or have a gathering. It's not a place to replace your brakes or to drain your tanks, nor is it there for you to stay more than one night.

It's a quick one-stop so you can carry on early the next morning.

(Sometimes security will make sure you are out by a certain time the next morning.)

Where Should I Park At The Walmart Stores?

Each Walmart 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:

  • Maintenance/Service: You can get your RV serviced, get new tires, batteries, and more.
  • Save $$: Walmart parking is FREE! Campgrounds are not. Still, 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 (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.)
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)

Despite all of the positives, Wally World (and other parking lots) is not the quietest or most serene overnight stay.

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 are expected to 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.
  • 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.

Wally World 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 simply 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 other humans are around.

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!

Camp Addict Kelly

Kelly Beasley is co-founder of Camp Addict and loves sharing her enthusiasm for the RVing lifestyle. As a full-time RVer since May 2015, Kelly's playful writing style helps make learning about the sometimes dull subject of RV products a bit more interesting.

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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!

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