Last Updated on May 30, 2022 by Chris and Lindsay
Wondering whether RV camping at Wal Mart is allowed? In this guide, we’ll help you understand everything you need to know about overnight parking at Walmart!
One of the first things you hear when you purchase or rent an RV is that there is free RV camping at Walmart stores. But this immediately begs the question: Can you really park overnight at Walmart?!
Sam Walton knew that most people traveling in a recreational vehicle would be great patrons and customers when given the chance to park overnight. So, generally speaking, the Walmart corporate policy permits parking at Walmart for one night. But the corporate policy doesn’t dictate local ordinances – so it’s tricky parking at Walmart overnight.
After more than 4 years of RVing full-time, we have mastered the art of free camping – spending on average less than $10 per day on camping expenses! You can bet that overnight Walmart RV parking is one of our top resources for saving money in our RV budget.
So in this post, we’re going to cover the myths and realities of Walmart overnight parking. Plus we’ll help you find participating stores and share how you can be a good camper during your overnight stay.
Now let’s get into the 15 best practices for camping at Walmart stores.
READ NEXT: If you want to know more about FREE CAMPING or camping on a budget, be sure to check out this post where we share our best practices on how to save money on camping.
15 Best Practices for Walmart Overnight Parking
First, we need to clear up a few terms. When we say “camping” at Walmart, what we mean is “overnight parking.” Camping implies that you set up for a relaxing evening enjoying the scenery outside your RV knowing that you are safe and sound in a formal campsite.
Instead, we should consider the idea that we are simply parking overnight at a place that permits us to do so. A Walmart parking lot is not a campground or RV park. So we’re not camping at Walmart.
If you full-time RV for any amount of time, chances are you will find yourself pulling into one of many Walmart locations that offer free overnight stays to weary travelers. And if you’ve been on the road for any amount of time, you may notice that are many Walmart stores that no longer allow overnight parking.
We want to help you understand the best practices of Walmart overnight camping so that you can join the hundreds of thousands of fellow campers who rely on the hospitality of America’s favorite big box store. But we also want you to know that we are ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.
In other words, if more RVers abuse the privilege of Walmart RV parking then we will all find more signs that prohibit overnight stays and fewer Walmarts that allow you to stay overnight.
So let’s get into the 15 best practices for Walmart overnight parking so that we can all find a nice, big free spot to spend the night after a long drive day!
READ NEXT: Check out this post on why Harvest Hosts is our favorite way to camp for free across North America.
1) Check mobile apps to determine where Walmart stores are located and which ones permit overnight parking.
We’ll cover our favorite mobile apps in more detail below. But there are several great apps and websites out there that will help you specifically target and identify Walmarts along your route.
Many times you will see recent confirmation that overnight parking is permitted. Other times you’ll have to figure it out on your own. But we always begin our search with several mobile apps.
2) Call the store ahead of time to confirm permission.
If there were no recent reviews in the mobile app(s) to confirm whether or not overnight parking was permissible, the next best thing you can do is to call the store ahead of time.
You may get bounced around on hold a few times. And you may end up speaking with someone who is not entirely sure themselves. But you can almost always find a definite yes or no answer by calling the store and finding the right person to ask.
3) Check the parking lot for “No Overnight Parking” signs.
Most shopping centers make it quite obvious whether or not RV overnight camping is permitted. Walmarts that are no longer allowing overnight parking will make it very clear with signs throughout their parking lots.
No will always mean “no,” so it’s not worth trying to ask the manager or trying to get away with stealth camping. Expect the dreaded midnight knock on the door or, worse, the ticket on the windshield in the morning.
IMAGE – No Overnight Parking Sign
4) Look for other motorhome campers and park where there is less store traffic.
Chances are you aren’t the only one trying to camp in the Wal Mart parking lot when you pull up. Generally migrating toward the back and corner of the lots tends to be the acceptable place at participating stores.
You will also want to make sure you are out of the way of the general traffic flow in and out of the parking lot. Park indiscreetly in the back, side or edges of the lot.
5) Try to take up as few parking spots as possible.
This is a big one, literally. Please don’t take up more spots than necessary. While you may be used to boondocking in wide-open BLM spaces, the Walmart parking lot is designed intentionally to accommodate its customers. Sure, you may be parked in the back and the parking lot may seemingly be empty.
But by the time you wake in the morning, you will be surprised at the number of other people in the parking lot. Show common courtesy both to genuine Walmart customers and to fellow campers by not taking up more space than you need.
Yes, there are some large motorhomes out there pulling big trailers or tow vehicles. If traveling with a tow vehicle, unhook it and park it normally to reduce the number of spots you’re taking up.
But if you are a large RV and/or you opt not to unhook your tow vehicle, please be sure to park straight across one row of parking spots and not diagonally across two rows.
6) Don’t crowd other campers.
Most RVers appreciate having a little space between them and the next RV. This applies when staying at Walmart overnight as well.
Most Walmart parking lots are huge. And although it is best to park near other campers out of the way of the general traffic in the lot, you do not need to park right next to the other RVs.
There will almost always be enough room to space out the parking so that your neighbor won’t hear you snoring your way to sound sleep!
7) Please contact management to confirm that it is OK to park overnight.
Don’t assume it’s ok. Although you may see other RVs, it is good practice to go inside and ask the manager directly. Sometimes the RV you saw in the parking lot was simply parked during a quick shopping trip.
Remember what they say about making assumptions (“ass-u-me”).
This is particularly important if there are no other RVs in the lot and you are uncertain whether the store will prohibit overnight stays.
8) Patronize the store while you are there.
The average cost of a campground in the US and Canada is between $25 to $50 per night. We’ve never met a Walmart that didn’t at least get $20-$30 from us before or after our overnight stay.
This is one of the reasons why Walmart locations allow overnight RV parking. Campers spend money just like anyone else. So go support their business by purchasing the items you need or want anyway.
You’d be impressed sometimes with the wide selection of RV-specific products and automotive parts you can buy to stay in stock. From RV accessories to automotive fluids, shopping at Walmart is a great way to keep the invitation to return open.
9) Don’t overstay your welcome.
Stay one night. Walmart is not a full-time campground. So even though you may not have forward plans, Walmart camping courtesy implies you’re just stopping in for the night, purchasing anything you need, and carrying on to your next destination.
Of course, after exploring a local area that has lots of activities to offer, doubling back a second night here or there isn’t going to hurt anything. But it’s likely you’ve seen an RV multiple days in the same parking spot at your local Walmart before.
The more people who take advantage of this incredibly generous offer, the quicker we will lose our collective good standing with Walmart and we will be left finding other options that allow RV parking overnight.
10) Don’t set up camp in the parking lot.
Don’t act like it’s your personal campground site (awning, chairs, tables, jacks, grill, etc). So you’ve been driving all day to escape the cold/hot/snow/hail and now you’re finally level in a Walmart parking lot. Don’t celebrate the day by breaking out your lawn chairs, rolling out your awning and cracking open cool drinks!
Sure, celebrate your little victory. But do it in the privacy of your own “home” (ie – inside your RV). Unless you own a majority stake in company stock, you don’t own the parking lot. So don’t pretend that you do.
11) Don’t put out your slide entirely.
This is a controversial practice as most RVs with slides require that you open them to some degree just to be able to access the inside of the camper. However, the further you put out your slide the more space you are taking up in the parking lot.
If you park properly, it may be possible to fully extend your slide without infringing on additional parking spots. But if you can do without fully extending them, or at least only using slideouts on one side of your RV, it is much better.
You will see other motorhomes and trailers with all of their slides out. Consider whether you need to do this as well, or whether you can get through the night without it.
12) Don’t leave trash behind.
Don’t Leave trash (including dog poop) or dump tanks (duh!). This is probably the quickest way to give RVers a bad wrap and have our privilege of parking at Walmart overnight revoked.
Most Walmarts have placed trash cans very conveniently located throughout the parking lot. (And the stores that don’t permit overnight parking typically don’t have as many trash cans!)
While they may not always be emptied at the frequency with which they are filled, you can almost always find another trash can to use. Remember, camping is a courtesy extended to RVers and we are not entitled to leave our trash in the parking lots- anywhere!
IMAGE – TRASH CAN
13) Don’t run your generator ALL night.
Don’t run your generator all night (Yes Generator George, we’re talking about you!). We all know Generator George. Hopefully, YOU aren’t him. Generator George runs his (or her) generator all night long regardless of who is around him.
Not only is this disrespectful to other campers who happen to be neighbors (especially those who arrived prior to Generator George), but also it is a nuisance to Walmart customers.
As a general rule of thumb for RVing, you should have an adequately-sized battery bank that charges while you are driving and/or with a modest solar system installed. However, if you need to run your generator for the microwave, a medical device or the air conditioner, consider doing this along the same lines as the “quiet time” hours posted in most campgrounds (typically 10 pm – 7 am).
And do note, from experience, most modern medical devices such as CPAP machines operate on very little power and can be run with a small power inverter and modest battery bank.
14) Don’t use stabilizer jacks in the parking lot.
Because you aren’t staying for more than a handful of hours, you don’t need to set up stabilizers in the parking lot. Most parking lots will be nearly level by default.
But in the event you need to stabilize your RV, be sure to put stabilizing pads or blocks beneath the jacks to ensure that you do not damage the parking lot.
15) Don’t unhitch your trailer.
This best practice goes along with the idea of being a temporary visitor when you park overnight. Most people that unhitch their trailers do so because they want to head out and explore the area or run errands.
If either of these happens to apply to you, chances are there are other more appropriate places where you can unhitch and go about your business. You may need to head out of town a few miles to find BLM land or National Forest. But most certainly, you shouldn’t need to unhitch in the store lots.
Frequently Asked Questions About Overnight RV Parking at Walmart
Now that we’ve covered our most helpful tips for spending one night in a Walmart parking lot, let’s get into some other frequently asked questions that might help you out.
Can I park my RV at ANY Walmart store?
The corporate policy toward Walmart Stores overnight RV parking is as follows:
“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 in our store parking 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, in general, you are able to camp in Walmart parking lots. But for each specific instance, you must check with the manager to ensure that it is permitted in that particular location.
SAVE MONEY: Be sure to check out RV clubs and memberships you should join before hitting the road.
How Do I Find the Walmarts that Allow Free Overnight Parking?
As you now know, whether a Walmart store allows overnight RV parking is dependent upon a variety of factors. So how do you know which ones do and do not permit free overnight parking?
Check out mobile apps.
We rely heavily on mobile apps to provide us with a wide range of information. Typically the most important information we’re looking for each day is where to spend the night. As such, we have 3 mobile apps and resources we recommend specifically for finding participating Walmart stores.
- AllStays. We rely on this to help us find all sorts of camping spots. And while the mobile app is often wrong (or not updated) it is a great place to start. Download here.
- Campendium. We often cross-check information we find on AllStays with what we find on Campendium to make the most informed decision about where we can camp. This mobile app is also updated by users and can be particularly helpful for finding recent reviews. Download here.
- Walmart Store Locator. Like AllStays, this website is a mostly accurate way of gauging which WalMarts allow overnight rv parking
READ MORE: Check out this post for all of the FREE RV apps we use on a daily basis to save time, money and frustration.
Call the store in advance
Of course, things change and mobile apps can have outdated information so be sure to follow up with the next methods.
If you are uncertain whether particular Walmart locations will host you for overnight camping, give them a call.
Sure, you are likely to be transferred to a handful of different people who may or may not be able to answer directly (or tell you the truth). But it’s better than assuming that it is OK.
Call the Store Again
If you are unsure or didn’t like, the previous answer when you called the Walmart of choice, go ahead and give them another call. Maybe you speak to a different person in a different attitude with a different answer.
Just know that you still may or may not be getting the best and most correct answer.
Go Inside And Ask The Manager
Go inside and ask the store manager. The only way to know for sure how to find a Walmart that allows overnight camping is to go into the store and get the answer straight from the highest level of management possible.
You still may not like the answer you get. But at least you will have certainty in knowing it is the correct answer.
READ MORE: Check out this post on how we camp on a ridiculously cheap budget!
What Alternative Options Do I Have For Free RV Overnight Camping?
If you struck out in asking the local Walmart manager if you could overnight camp in their parking lot, chances are you have a few more options before resigning to drive all night to the next town with a store that allows free overnight camping.
Here are a few other corporate businesses and locations that have a general principle to support overnight parking.
- Bass Pro Shop
- Cracker Barrel
- Truck stops
- Rest Areas
We are also BIG FANS of using our Harvest Hosts or Boondocker’s Welcome memberships when it comes to finding free camping. Both offer unique camping experiences that will introduce you to incredible people who understand what it’s like to not know where you are going to spend the night.
We have both memberships and encourage you to consider purchasing both as easy, affordable alternatives to overnight Walmart RV parking.
Why Park Overnight at Walmart?
Here are some of those reasons we have spent the night at a Walmart:
- Convenience. There are Walmarts virtually everywhere. It’s likely that you won’t be further than a few hours away from a store wherever you travel in the US and Canada. And after a long drive day, pulling into a wide-open lot that you know you are permitted to park overnight in will make sleep more restful.
- Cost. You can’t beat free when it comes to camping expenses. And while it might not be luxurious, if you’re looking to save a few bucks on camping then you really can’t beat free.
- No alternatives. Maybe you ended up visiting a popular destination at a time when it was far more popular than you anticipated. You are willing to shell out for a proper campground, but with no sites available you find yourself stuck.
What Can I Expect When Staying Overnight At Walmart?
Spending the night in a Walmart parking lot will be mostly uneventful. Depending on where you are, it may be the best or worst sleep of your RV life! Here are a few things to expect once you’ve finally set up for the night.
- Noise at all hours. Whether it’s a street cleaner, teenage drag racer or semi-truck delivery vehicle passing through, chances are you will hear noise throughout the night. If you’re a light sleeper, invest in some ear plugs.
- Bright lights. One nice thing about these parking lots is the feeling that you are safe. Whether or not you actually are is virtually up to chance. However, nearly all lots will have bright lights that illuminate the entire parking area. Expect light to enter your RV at all hours of the night. If you’re a light sleeper, invest in a face mask.
- Not always secure. No place is 100% secure. But Walmart parking lots are some of the most secure for overnight parking. Many have signs and cameras indicating the level of security the company has invested in its customer’s safety. Rest easy, but take your normal safety precautions as well.
- Not always level parking. Parking lots may vary in grade and you may need to move around a bit to find a relatively level place to park. If you have a gas absorption fridge, you want to stay within 3-6 degrees of level or risk longterm damage to the appliance.
IMAGE – SIGN OR CAMERAS
Wrapping Things Up
The simple answer to the question “Can I park overnight at Walmart” is yes… and no. So maybe it’s not so simple.
What is simple is following the established best practices and common sense courtesy that will keep Walmart supporting those of us who choose to call the road our home.
As soon as we RVers start to abuse the kindness of the company’s overnight parking policy then the privilege will likely be revoked and we’ll have to get back to scouring the road for new places to stay.
Have any tips or suggestions we missed? Feel free to leave that information in the comment section below so we can update the post for our future readers!