Did you know that there are thousands of RV friendly places where you can park for free for an overnight? In fact, there are ways you can travel across the United States without paying for a single campground! I mean, why pay a campground or RV park $35-$50 a night just to pull in for the night to get some sleep? Let’s take a look at where to find these free RV overnight parking options.
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Where to Find FREE Overnight RV Parking
First, before showing you where to find those free places to park your RV, let’s talk about why traveling RVers need them and issues surrounding free overnight parking locations.
Why RVers avoid parking at Campgrounds or RV parks overnight
First, as we mentioned above, campgrounds and RV parks have become quite expensive; upwards to an average of $40-$45 just for a single overnight. In some parts of the country, it can be even upwards to $100 a night. That’s crazy if you just want to pull in to catch some sleep.
But also, our routes may not bring us close to affordable campgrounds along the way. Most of us just want to score a place to pull in for the night that won’t rob our wallet or take us off the beaten path. So, what do we do? The last thing we want to be doing after a long day of driving is to scamper around looking for a safe place to park our RV for an overnight.
You could always take your chances pulling in somewhere and asking if you can park your RV overnight. However, you may not get a welcome reception for several reasons.
In summary, here are some reasons why you may not park your RV for an overnight just anywhere:
Local businesses are literally handcuffed to local or city ordinances that disallow any overnight RV parking or sleeping in vehicles.
Local campgrounds banded together and approached the municipalities to squash the free offerings because it allegedly takes business away from them.
Locals shut it down because of poor etiquette by RVers dumping their tanks, setting up like they are in a campground or trashing the premises.
Criminal activity in the area; from getting knocks on the door from vagrants or panhandlers to local dragsters using parking lots for street racing gatherings.
With the influx of homelessness and uptick in RV sales, it comes with a plethora of social issues, security concerns and lack of RV parking etiquette.
RV Overnight Parking Etiquette
All of that said, it’s super important that if you DO have permission to park your RV for an overnight that you respectfully follow the code of conduct written by Escapees Overnight Parking Etiquette: RVers Good Neighbor Policy.
Never assume you can park anywhere. Always ask for permission unless there is already dedicated RV parking spots.
Park in their designated parking area. If they don’t have designated RV parking, park your motorhome or camper as far away from the business establishment. Take up as little space as possible.
Ask if you are allowed to deploy your RV slides Most need to put the slides out to get to your bed(s), bathroom and food. If you do put your slides out, position your RV where the slides go over the grassy area or parking lot island.
Avoid deploying your leveling jacks. However, if you need to level your motorhome or trailer, always protect the parking lot surface by using leveling blocks under your leveling jack pads. Or, if you’ve not already, invest a little money in RV SnapPads to protect parking surfaces from indentations or sinking.
Support and patronize the business! While yes, parking your RV may be free, it would be a grand gesture to patronize them through making a comparable purchase or clean up trash in the parking lot.
Leave no trace! Never leave trash or empty your RV’s holding tanks onto parking surfaces or in the storm drains.
So, now that we got all the ins and outs of why RVers choose free overnight parking over spend campgrounds or RV parks, let’s check out where you CAN park (with permission, of course!).
Free Overnight RV Parking Options
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 or retail chain establishments allow 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.
Outdoor and Camping 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!
Travel Centers and Truck Stops
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 travel centers 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 may create 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 unless directed to by management.
Either use the designated RV Parking or park in an area that does not impede truck traffic. And it’s recommended if you park in the truck parking area, never deploy your slides as it may impede truck maneuverability.
Some truck stops or travel centers may offer RV parking:
Casino Parking is another one of our favorite free RV overnight parking options. Their parking lots are huge and generally quieter if we stay out on the perimeter parking spaces.
We can get a decent meal, enjoy a cocktail or play a couple slots to show our appreciation. But, we always call ahead for permission and to ensure availability as sometimes there may be a concert event that doesn’t allow for RV parking.
Be aware though, some casinos may have designated RV spaces with hookups thus, may charge for overnight parking. Never assume casino parking is free.
There are some membership-based clubs and lodges that have designated temporary RV sites for their members in good standing. They may require reservations. So, it’s wise to call them first to ensure they have RV parking accommodations.
Some clubs or fraternities may offer RV parking:
- Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks
- Loyal Order of the Moose
- Lion’s Club
- Military Memberships – VFW, American Legion, DAV
Military Veteran Organizations like the VFW, DAV and American Legion Posts may allow members in good standing, Active Duty, Military Retirees or Veterans a place to park. Always call ahead to ask.
Membership RV Parking Options
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.).
And one of our favorite venues of finding free RV parking options digitally is through Campendium. Or you can also find free RV parking or free camping at Free Campsites. We also give some great recommendations at our Best RV Trip Planning Apps and Websites.
That’s a Wrap!
Look, as RVers, we all need to be grateful for these free RV parking venues. Remember, we’re guests at these establishments. Never park your RV where overnight parking is prohibited. Respect all property, land and property owners and the rules set forth.
Again, we encourage all RVers passing through to follow the RV parking etiquette code of conduct. Be a good example to other RVers.
Never park your RV in any lot that has a No Camping or No Overnight Parking sign.
Lastly, be aware that some 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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