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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Working Around A WalMart No Overnight RV Parking Situation

Sam Walton loved RVers because they spent so much money at his stores. WalMart is a great place for RVers to shop because you can get groceries, hardware, auto parts, craft supplies and RV stuff all under one roof. You can also do some birdwatching there time permitting (really, no kidding, click here for more bird tales - Bird Watching On The RV Road.) But what happens if you've been traveling all day and you pull into a WalMart to spend the night and see a sign that says "no overnight parking." Well, you could just move on down the road or you can consider other options. A great idea is to buy a copy of the book that lists WalMart stores that do not allow overnight parking - you can buy it here at RVbookstore.com First, you should look around and see if the sign is for the actual WalMart parking lot or does it belong to another business sharing the same parking lot. If it's a shared parking lot chances are that the sign only applies to the other stores and you may be able to stay in the part of the parking area controlled by WalMart. Your second option is not to spend the night, but to spend several hours "resting" after you shop. To be honest it costs me more to spend the night in a WalMart parking lot than it does to stay at an RV park because I usually end up spending far more in the store than I do for renting a site. However, it's late and you don't know where an RV park is and frankly you're pooped. Fill up your shopping cart with whatever items you intend to buy and before you check out find the manager and tell him or her your RV is parked in the parking lot and you don't intend to spend the night, but you will be parked there for a couple of hours putting away groceries, reading the paper and resting up for the next leg of your trip. Ask them to inform security of your intentions and that you will be gone before anyone might complain and oh, by the way, when does the bakery put out the freshly baked donuts? RV friendly managers will understand and say something like, "OK, just be sure you don't spend the the night and the donuts will be ready at 5:30 am." Funny, but you never see signs that say, "No Over Day Parking." So, in my view if you're at a 24 hour WalMart there really is no such thing as "Over Night" because it's a 24-7 operation. Still, local authorities may come by and wake you up and tell you to move and that's the risk you take. Please click on the word "comments" below and tell us what kind of experiences you've had "resting" in your RV after shopping at WalMarts with "No Overnight Parking" signs. Doing my best to interpret the sign's of the times - Jim Twamley, Professor of RVing



  • I admit I am a new "RVer" but I fail to understand the fixation so many people have with freeloading in Walmart parking lots. Anyone who can afford a $50 to $100K plus motorhome and fill it with hundreds of dollars of gasoline and wants to fuss about paying $20 or $30 for a night of undisturbed sleep is beyond me.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 19, 2008 5:15:00 AM PDT  

  • We have spent the night in a Wal-Mart that did not allow overnight parking due to city ordinance. There were no campgrounds near us (except in the opposite driection in which we were traveling); the manager of the store showed us where to park so we would be as inconspicuous as possible. He said it was possible that the local police might wake us up and tell us to move, but they didn't. We ALWAYS go inside the store, ask for a member of the management team, and ask permission to spend the night. We don't abuse the privilege, either! We're grateful to Wal-Mart for providing overnight camping.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 19, 2008 5:51:00 AM PDT  

  • Whether you stay at Wal-mart, Home Depot, K-mart, Lowes, Menards, Sam's Club or any of the other available places, you should always check in with the manager. We've done this everytime and have never had a problem. Sometimes they want you to use a special location on the lot. amrvmaps@gmail.com

    By Blogger August, at April 19, 2008 6:10:00 AM PDT  

  • Many of the local municipalities have restrictive codes that prohibit parking an RV except in an RV park. However, private property is generally exempt - like Wal-Mart parking lots. I ALWAYS check with the Customer Service Desk in the store and ask for permission to park overnight. Almost all of the stores where we have stayed have allowed us to park. And then I ALWAYS follow up with a simple post card to the Manager thanking him for allowing us to park for the night. It really works wonders to let them know we are out there and appreciate their hospitality!

    By Blogger Lew and Dottie Anderson, at April 19, 2008 6:58:00 AM PDT  

  • We have always had good luck with speaking to the manager of a Walmart.
    Imagine if someone parked in front of your own home. Would you like to know who it is, and why they are parked?

    We have been asked to move a few feet over to another stall. Certain areas of some parking lots belong to the neighboring business.
    Being polite and respectful goes a long way in these situations.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 19, 2008 7:06:00 AM PDT  

  • We frequently stay in Walmarts while traveling cross-country, and find that often even those with signs posted will allow you to stay; just ask the overnight manager whether the sign is enforced and if it's ok for you to stay "before doing your morning shopping." Yep, we often do spend more at Walmart than we would to overnight at a campground, but it's mostly spending we would need to do anyway, and the convenience is so wonderful.

    Some signs seem to be placed to satisfy the complaining local campground or whatever, but don't undergo enforcement, and you are still welcome even if the "welcome mat" is misleading!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 19, 2008 7:45:00 AM PDT  

  • Why even stay at a location that is not RV friendly? Don't waste your time, or your money, trying to encourage 'anti RV' folks. A little trip planning goes a long way when searching for places to stay overnight. Let's not try to force Wal-Mart or any other business or community into becoming an RV park unless it wants to.

    By all means one should take advantage of the courteous and friendly attitude of those businesses eager for the RV dollar, but it destroys the atmosphere of the RV adventure when one must compete with adverse and illogically thought out policies regarding our lfestyles.

    RV lifestyle is fun and friendly-lest's keep it that way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 19, 2008 8:24:00 AM PDT  

  • Like most other things it's not the cost, but the value. Places like Wal-Mart are convienient when all you need is a few hours sleep. I have yet to visit a Wal-Mart that turned us away. Usually we wind up near a dozen or so tractor-trailers parked for the night as well.

    I have always said that if the campground operators were to provide and advertise cheap, no hook-up sites (like in an overflow lot) between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. I would definately go there rather than a Wal-Mart lot.

    It looses value when you only need to pull over to sleep and you have to pay the full rate at a campground. Campground operators...DON'T WHINE AND LEGISLATE - GET IN THERE AND COMPETE! If you provide it...We will come.

    Don't forget, those of us with the $50-100K rigs have mortgages to pay on them. Every dollar counts.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 19, 2008 9:04:00 AM PDT  

  • Hanz & Amy
    We have stayed in Palm Desert walmart (supercenter) where it said no parking.There were 3 other RV's from BC.We asked the other RV's abount parking there and they said they have parked overnite there before.We were in the most faraway corner so I guess walmart doesn't care.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 19, 2008 9:24:00 AM PDT  

  • the newbee has a lot to learn. we have stayed at non-traditional places
    and over the years have saved
    $100's of dollars on the 10pm to
    6:30am stay over. Those $$'s equal
    at least an rv payment or two. keep reading newbee you will learn more.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 19, 2008 9:57:00 AM PDT  

  • Tne Anti-RV "No Overnight Parking" ordinances in different cities aren't all written the same, nor are they enforced the same.

    In some places (Gulf Shores, AL comes to mind) the city Ordinance states that it is illegal to sleep in any vehicle unless the vehicle is registered at a licensed campground.

    Anchorage, AK, addressed this issue by banning overnight parking in the parking lot of any store that has more than 20,000 square feet of retail space. This was obviously aimed at Wal-mart and Sam's Club, but includes many larger stores and supermarkets.

    Other communities such as Mount Pleasant, IA, and Tilden Township (Hamburg), PA, have passed a law banning overnight RV parking in parking lots, but their policy is to enforce the law only when and if there is a complaint from the store or from a citizen. Their aim is to allow responsible RVers (who park rather than camp, and only for one night) to park for a night, while still retaining legal leverage to evict, ticket and/or tow those who set up camp, or who try to stay several nights or weeks in a parking lot.

    Other stores have "No overnight parking" signs, but the store management has stated to RVers that they mean 'No Trucks,' an RV's are welcome.

    You never know until you ask store management.

    As for knowing which Wal-Marts, Cracker Barrels, K-marts, Menard's and other stores allow Overnight RV Parking, there are a lot of available sources. The book that this website sells is one. The www.OvernightRVParking.com website charges an annual fee, and has much information. There are also several Yahoo Groups that discuss this topic, and a number of websites also have information (though many of these haven't been updated for several years).

    By Anonymous Jim O'Briant, at April 19, 2008 10:42:00 AM PDT  

  • We've been turned away 3 times over the years, and considering we rarely ever stay overnight in a Walmart, that's a high percentage of times.

    Once was broad daylight when we only wanted to go into a store to shop in Portland, OR. We didn't have a tow car, so only had the RV to drive.

    Another time was in Peoria (Phoenix) AZ, and as soon as we pulled into a Walmart lot to buy gas and shop, a security guard rushed up and told us to move along. Seems there's a city ordinance against parking there. After we explained that we were planning to shop and gas up, he allowed us to stay but didn't bother to tell us that the gas station would be closing within the hour. So we missed filling up but we did do our monthly grocery shopping. But we went elsewhere to spend the night.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 19, 2008 11:43:00 AM PDT  

  • We've always appreciated Walmart's Welcome Mat policy to we RVers. We do not abuse their hospitality. However: On our way to FL in 2006 we were near exhaustion and felt we should stop. There was a Walmart just off I-95 near Savannah GA so we drove there and joined other RVers already parked in the parking lot. We didn't see any warning signs posted. Then we went inside Walmart, filled a cart with nearly $125 in groceries. Once the items were stored away we went to bed... Around 1:30 a.m. we heard loud banging on our RV and went to the door to find a Walmart employee. He was getting everyone up and telling them to "move on... No overnight stays...you can drive over next door to Home Depot and stay there!". Well, we and the others did just that and we all vowed to NEVER go to that Walmart agan...not even for groceries or items. We've been back & forth from OH to FL 6 times since and don't (or ever plan to) consider shopping at that store. We'll wait until we get to a Walmart that welcomes RVers, not just their money.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 19, 2008 12:38:00 PM PDT  

  • Anonymous wrote:

    > On our way to FL in 2006 we
    > were near exhaustion and felt
    > we should stop. There was a
    > Walmart just off I-95 near
    > Savannah GA so we drove there
    > and joined other RVers already
    > parked in the parking lot. We
    > didn't see any warning signs
    > posted. ... Around 1:30 a.m.
    > we heard loud banging on our
    > RV ... a Walmart employee ...
    > was getting everyone up and
    > telling them to "move on...
    > No overnight stays..."

    As you were so rudely informed by that store, the presence other RVs in a Wal-Mart (or other) parking lot doesn't mean that overnight RV parking is allowed. Some RVers just pull in and park, without bothering to check with the store or ask permission to park overnight. The second RV sees the first and assumes it's ok, and before long there are several there -- only to experience what you did in the wee hours of the morning.

    It's always safer to ask, in case the other RVers who are there didn't....

    By Anonymous Jim O'Briant, at April 19, 2008 2:47:00 PM PDT  

  • We stay at Wal-Mart while traveling when we don't want to pay for all the extras at an RV Park. When your goal is just to relax and get some sleep, then why pay the high fees?

    I agree if the RV Parks would offer a no frills, drycamping sites for say $10, many would use them - but we would still search for the nearest parking lot.

    Another reason is that many times all the sites in rest areas are filled with trucks which leaves truck stops or parking lots as an option. And the majority of RV Parks often are a few miles off the freeway which is very inconvenient. And if it is late, they are closed which means either you can't get in, or if you park you have to wait around to pay in the morning.

    What it boils down to - there are more reasons than the cost of an RV Park for wanting to just pull into a parking lot for the night. When we are traveling with a destination and time schedule, we usually try to stop at a park every 3rd night.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 19, 2008 2:53:00 PM PDT  

  • Freeloading? Hardly! I've spent more money at Wallyworld since becoming a fulltimer than I ever did in my previous life.

    We sleep better when we ask management.

    We stayed in the Savannah WalMart last fall, without a problem. The security guard there took down our plate #s and introduced himself, he was extremely friendly and a great welcome on our first trip to the south.

    As long as you get there late and leave early, and don't set up your bbq, management seems to be fine with it.

    It's not about saving money really, it's about pulling over when you're tired and being safe.

    Like the other poster said, if RV parks charged just a few bucks for dry camping overnight, we would patronize that place, but so far, I haven't seen one park that is willing to do that.

    By Blogger LiveWorkDream, at April 19, 2008 5:23:00 PM PDT  

  • Unfortunately, many RVers ruin everything by "camping" at WalMarts (or other similar locations), sometimes for days at a time. Most of us who utilize such parking lots spend quite a bit of money restocking and resupplying our rigs. Most of us just want a quiet, level spot to spend the night before leaving in the morning. We don't need water, electric, sewer, a swimming pool or rec hall or anything like that. If campgrounds would offer a "boondocking area" with no utilities for a reasonable price, say $5-$10 a night, I believe they would get a lot of business. Escapee parks are a great example of parks with no-frill parking areas at reasonable prices.
    I believe that WalMart's general policy is to allow RV's at all stores but some local municipalities have laws prohibiting such policies. As stated earlier, some ordinances may be unenforceable and the store management should ALWAYS be contacted first, even if there are other rigs in the lot. It's just a matter of courtesy and lets them know we appreciate them letting us stay.

    By Anonymous ABDriver, Encinitas, CA, at April 20, 2008 9:40:00 AM PDT  

  • We stay at WalMart, Flying J, Pilot or whatever not to save money - just to get some sleep. We get in late - leave early. We do shop at the whatever establishmnet we stop at so it isn't exactly freeloading. Just can't see paying a fee for a camp store we aren't using, a pool and game room we aren't using, sewer hookups that we aren't using and the list goes on.

    By Blogger Don, at April 21, 2008 6:37:00 AM PDT  

  • Newbie, I know of few RVers, no matter what the cost of their rig, that are apologists for the exorbitantly high costs of RV parks – unless they are somehow connected to the RV park industry. This may not be fair, but does the word “SHILL” mean anything? (Look it up in Wikipedia – now days they’re all over the web.) If it applies, consider yourself outed. If it doesn’t, I apologize.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 22, 2008 3:05:00 PM PDT  

  • ABDriver wrote:

    > Unfortunately, many RVers ruin
    > everything by "camping" at
    > WalMarts (or other similar
    > locations), sometimes for days
    > at a time.

    Sad, but true. Many of the municipalities that have Anti-RV "No Overnight Parking" laws originally passed them because of exactly the kinds of abuses you describe.

    Well-meaning newspaper stories about "Camping at Wal-Mart" also hurt by using the word camping when they mean parking, and then other RVers get the idea that it's OK to camp out there.

    > I believe that WalMart's general
    > policy is to allow RV's at all
    > stores but some local
    > municipalities have laws
    > prohibiting such policies.

    When asked about their corporate policy on Overnight RV Parking, Wal-Mart states that they have no policy, and that it is left up to the individual store managers. Most (but not all) store managers allow Overnight RV Parking where it isn't banned by local ordinance.

    (In an earlier comment, someone mentioned that these laws would not apply on private property, but that's incorrect. These local ordinances are worded differently in different places, but the majority of them do apply to private property.)

    > As stated earlier, some
    > ordinances may be unenforceable
    > ...

    But the officer who wakes you at 3 AM to kick you out of a parking lot WILL enforce it, if only in the short term....

    > ... and the store management
    > should ALWAYS be contacted
    > first, even if there are other
    > rigs in the lot. It's just a
    > matter of courtesy and lets them
    > know we appreciate them letting
    > us stay.

    Amen to that!

    By Anonymous Jim O'Briant, at April 23, 2008 8:38:00 AM PDT  

  • I'm a "newbie" to RVing but recently (3/08) stopped in Kingman, AZ where sign at WalMart said "No overnight CAMPING". I asked the security guard (as I always do or management) and he said one night was okay. It pays to ask. It pays to thank the store. It pays to only sleep - not set up camping there! It's unfortunate we now have so many people who can only afford to sleep in their small RV's or even their cars and have to resort to staying at WalMart (Hotel!). Shame on America! Lady Traveler

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 15, 2008 8:18:00 AM PDT  

  • I don't think the newbie(s) have a right to judge others as to where they do or don't stay and what their choices are. To each his own. Some choose to stay in lower cost state parks, blm lands and antional forests also. Another alternative for travelers are "Flying J Travel Centers" for always welcomed parking overnight or anytime for that matter.

    There are many options if you seek out dry camping or boondocking. I think we are all different and can choose what works best for us whether it be a resort RV community, a peaceful campground out on the boonies,a Flying J or Walmart... What I think is NOT cool is when some floks think they have the right to dictate what is right and best for EVERYONE. To the newbie and all of us for that matter: If we spend our energies on improving our own lives and enhancing others instead of judging everything and everyone that comes down the pike,,, Our own lives would be so much more fulfilling as well as be a positive influence in our sphere of influence. Food for thought. Not a small thing...

    Blessings for Your Journeys, Brenda

    By Blogger Simply What Matters, at August 16, 2008 10:08:00 AM PDT  

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