RV travel is fun and adventurous but it does come with some challenges. Sometimes finding a safe affordable campground just to lay your head for a few hours may not be on on your route. If only you can score a free or cheap place to pull in for the night that won’t rob our wallet or take us off the beaten path. Well, through our travels, we’ve found some great overnight RV parking options that may be what you’re looking for.
We’ve found there are great resources out there. And, by simply asking the management of business establishments, we’ve been extended courtesy for a place to park for the night.
Be aware that these parking lots may not be the quietest or in the safest communities. Use good judgement, scope it out and if it doesn’t feel right, move on.
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If you’re a little squeamish about parking in noisy or busy business parking lots, there are other options like membership-based Harvest Hosts (participating wineries, farms and distilleries) and Boondockers Welcome (private parking spots, driveways, etc.). Either way, you’ll want to note the following:
“Please preserve the privilege of overnight parking. Follow the code and encourage others to follow it too!” – Escapees
Please read and follow the Escapee’s Industry-Sanctioned Overnight Parking Etiquette: RVers Good Neighbor Policy
Just a few courtesy guidelines:
Never assume you can park anywhere; always ask for permission unless there is already dedicated RV parking spots. It may not be the business that disallows overnight parking. Most times anymore, its the local ordinances.
If you are given permission to park, park as far away from the business establishment and take up as little space as possible.
Ask kindly if you are allowed to put your slides out to get to your bed(s), bathroom and food. If you do put your slides out, position your RV where the slides overhang the grassy area.
Always protect the parking lot surface by using blocks. Our fifth wheel hydraulic jacks have special rubber shoes that protect the parking surfaces from indentations or sinking.
Leave no trace! Never leave trash or empty your RV’s tanks onto the parking surface or in the storm drains.
5 Free or Cheap Overnight RV Parking Options
1) Big Box and Retail Chain Stores
Some big box stores and retail chain stores may allow RVs to take overnight refuge in their parking lots during storms or the dark of night.
However, not all big box stores allow large vehicle or RV parking. Oftentimes local ordinances take precedence over store policies or even private property. So, if you are looking to park for overnight, pay attention to signs that state ‘no overnight parking’. Its best to go in and ask the store manager (and get their name) if you can park your RV for an overnight.
2) Outdoor Fun Stores
We’re talking about Cabelas, Bass Pro Shops, and Camping World. We have stayed overnight at a couple Cabelas who have specified RV sites with hookups. They are typically in safe communities right off the highway.
There are some restaurants right off the highway exits that may allow RV parking. It all depends on how large their parking lots are and if they welcome overnight parking.
One of our favorites, Cracker Barrel, welcomes RVs with their designated long parking spaces. You might want to check ahead if they offer RV parking. Oh, and show your appreciation of their hospitality by patronizing their store. Even if it’s something you don’t want, they have awesome gift ideas!
4) Travel Centers
As controversial as Travel Centers have become between truckers and RVers, there’s a reason why they are called ‘travel centers’. They all offer diesel fuel and some may even offer free or low-cost dump sites and potable water. Most have convenience stores, restaurants, paid laundry and paid showers on the premises. Since their patronage is trucking industry driven, they stock 12-volt supplies, electronics and appliances. They also carry some tools and emergency repair items.
However, please know that federal laws require a certain number of resting hours for OTR truck drivers. This creates a disdain between truckers and RV owner patrons. So, if you need to get off the road due to fatigue or breakdown, please do not park in the truck-parking spaces. Either use the designated RV Parking or park in an area that does not impede truck traffic.
Some travel centers to check on:
Casino Parking is another one of our favorites. Their parking lots are huge and generally quiet on the grassy edges. We can get a decent meal, enjoy a cocktail or play a couple slots if we’re feeling a little lucky. We always call ahead to ensure availability. And some casinos may even have designated RV spaces with hookups. However, they may charge for overnight parking. Never assume their parking is free.
5) Fraternities and Military Veteran Organizations
There are some National membership-based clubs and fraternities that have created RV sites for their members in good standing. Some will allow reservations while others are first come first serve. So, if you’re a member of the Elks Club, Loyal Order of the Moose, Lion’s Club, or other fraternity-based organization, check for availability.
Military Veteran Organizations like the VFW and American Legion Posts may allow members in good standing, Active Duty, Military Retirees or Veterans a place to park. Call ahead to ask.
Always have good lot docking etiquette
It’s really about common sense and respect. If you abide by the ‘if it looks wrong or bad, don’t do it’. Again, we highly recommend reading the Escapees Good Neighbor Policy to familiarize yourself with the do’s and don’ts of lot docking.
Please refrain from taking photos of other RVs whom you think are violating etiquette and post them to social media. We don’t know their circumstances. They may have been granted permission by the business establishment to run their generator, put their jacks down, leave their RV, etc.
Lastly, never set up your RV where parking is prohibited. Respect all property, land and property owners and the rules set forth. Be kind, quiet and respectful. Try to be a good example to other RVers and remember, you’re a guest.
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