You need to think twice if you’re going to park your RV in a Walmart parking lot to catch some Z’s. Walmart overnight parking is coming to an end; even for stealth campers! But, for what reasons is Walmart rolling up the welcome mat and telling RVs, Vanlifers and even car campers to go take a hike?
Rumors are running ramped regarding why Walmart is banning RV’s, camper vans and road tripping car campers from overnighting in their parking lots.
But are they really just rumors or is it really true?
Many RVers themselves are saying it’s because of a handful of RVers that are treating Walmart parking lots like a campground.
While there may be some truth to that, there’s other extenuating circumstances of why Walmart officials are telling RVers to hit the road.
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Why Walmart Overnight Parking for RVs, Vanlifers and Car Campers is Ending!
It’s not unusual to see people parking their RVs at Walmart to load up their pantries and RV refrigerators with all the essentials necessary for their camping trips.
In fact, RVers spend lots of cash at Walmart. They buy everything under the sun from food and beer to RV and automotive supplies.
But seriously, does making a purchase entitle RV owners to park overnight at Walmart for free?
Walmart Overnight Parking Policy:
First, let’s look at the Walmart Overnight Parking Policy on Walmart’s website. Click on the third bullet down, “Can I park my RV at a Walmart store?” It states:
“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 parking lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws.
Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.”
All of that said, we are learning that all Walmart stores do not permit RVs, vans and even car campers to help themselves to overnight parking in their lots.
But, this is where rumors, myths and hearsay surrounding the debate come in.
You’ll oftentimes read on RV community pages on Facebook the reason is shutting down Walmart overnight parking is because of ignorant campers.
There’s reports that some ill-mannered RVers and campers are setting up as if they’re camping. They’re laying out their campsite mats, putting out their camp chairs, extending their awnings, and even firing up their camping grills! These type of careless and irresponsible campers are even blatantly not following the pack in pack out principles.
This unethical and questionable practice is totally against the proclaimed RV parking lot etiquette. It’s also assumed to be the reason why Walmart is pulling back on their overnight parking policy.
However, there’s far more pressing issues than RV parking etiquette that’s killing the privilege. Let’s get to them.
Conflicting Campgrounds or RV Parks
If there are campgrounds or RV parks in close proximity to Walmart, you can bet your last dollar that the campground owners get irked when they see RVs stacking in Walmart parking lots instead of their campgrounds.
RV parks and campgrounds are expensive just to pull over to get a good night’s sleep. In some areas even along the highways, it’s upwards to a $100 a night for a campsite.
And some of the campgrounds are off the beaten path. What RVer wants to drive their motorhome that gets 8-9 miles to the gallon to get to a campground that’s 25 miles away? With today’s fuel prices, it would take $25-35 just to get there and back!
Aside from that, there’s other reasons why RVers are blowing off overnighting at a campground.
It may be because of lack of availability of campsites (they’re booked), campsites are too small for their RV, poor campground reviews, campgrounds ban certain dog breeds or have super strict campground rules that take the fun out of camping.
If only campground owners would actually listen to to see why potential customers aren’t coming to their campgrounds.
Because of that, campground owners are missing out on business because of the Walmart overnight parking policy. But really, who’s fault is that?
So, they band together and approach their municipal government; complaining that Walmart and businesses that allow free overnight camping is taking away from their business.
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As just one of the reasons we talked about above, local governments are putting the hammer down on, not just RVers, but anyone overnight parking on any commercial or private property.
Whether it’s a business’ parking lot or a friend’s driveway, municipal ordinances are the government’s way of saying, “no room at the inn”.
And, there’s nothing transients can really do about it. Most likely, the ordinances stem from one, some or all of the reasons we talk about in the next sections.
If you’re looking to park overnight at any Walmart, it would prudent to ask the manager (not just any employee!), “so there’s no local ordinance that will tell me otherwise, right?”
Because no one wants to get that knock on the door at 2:00 am like we did at the Walmart at Lake Havasu City, Arizona (we honestly didn’t see the sign on the door).
Walmart Parking Lots belong to another business
In some towns and cities, Walmart may only be leasing the space on which their store and/or their parking lot sits on. It may be listed somewhere in their lease dictating whether or not overnight parking for anyone is even permitted.
Small Parking Lots
Let’s face it, even Walmart may not have a big enough parking lot to fit a mini rally of big rig motorhomes or fifth wheels. Add in a few big tractor trailer 18 wheelers and you have what looks like a NASCAR infield.
Also, some Walmarts have parking lot islands to navigate around, shopping carts to dodge and corrals and vehicles that are in the way of getting a decent space to park overnight.
And during the Spring and Summer, it’s even worse! Several parking spaces are taken up by seasonal lawn and garden supplies which make navigating or parking even more of a challenge.
Interfering with Delivery Trucks
We’re learning from a several Walmart managers that another big issue is RVers don’t take take into account of truck traffic.
At all hours of the day and night, large tractor trailers are delivering goods to their stores. Those trucks need plenty of room to navigate the parking lots to get into the loading zones. But when RVs are in the way, this creates a problem for truck drivers to offload their supplies.
Also, some Walmarts have street sweepers or parking lot cleaners that do their jobs at night when there’s supposedly no vehicles to contend with.
But, when RVs are haphazardly parking here and there, that creates another logistical issue that affects their business.
Abusing the Walmart Overnight Parking Privilege
We’ve all seen and heard it all. There’s several stories of RVs and campers setting up camp in Walmart parking lots as if they were at a campground, tailgating event or even a NASCAR race.
Also, they’re unleashing their kids and allowing them to ride their bicycles around the parking lots and running around between cars.
And let’s not forget to mention some are loading up shopping carts with trash and things they don’t need. But, even if Walmart does provide trash cans, some RVers and campers are loading them up with their large bags of household trash.
But the biggest offense of why the big box store is banning RVers from Walmart overnight parking is some are actually dumping their black tanks either directly onto the parking lot or in a nearby sewer.
As if the piss bottles full of urine aren’t enough to get RVers, Vanlifers, car campers and even truckers kicked out, this surely will.
Needless to say, ALL of those offenses are the wrong way to lotdock at Walmart or any parking lot for that matter.
It’s no secret that many Walmarts are located in less than desirable areas of cities.
In fact, in our 9 years of full-time RVing, it’s not hard to notice the influx of people loitering at Walmart parking lots.
From panhandling to prostitution, criminal activity is causing Walmart to pull back on allowing RVs to park overnight on their lots.
One doesn’t need a degree in Criminology degree to know these vagrants are not there to support Walmart. This leads us to question, “why anyone would really want to even park anything overnight at a Walmart anyway?”
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How to know which Walmarts allow overnight RV parking?
Aside from actually visiting a Walmart and going in to ask the manager, there’s got to be an easier way to find Walmart overnight parking.
There is a smartphone app that you can download called All-Stays Walmart Overnight Parking.
All-Stays Walmart Overnight Parking app states:
“The store founder was an RVer and the general policy remains that RVers can spend one night free in a store parking lot. You get some rest, maybe shop a bit and move on early in the morning.
How will this app help you? RVer or not, this app shows all Walmart locations in US and Canada. Use it to find shopping now and for RVing later.
Want to know where every Walmart is located and which ones have been reported to allow and don’t allow overnight parking?
Filter map to see if has fuel, pharmacy, garden center, a restaurant and much more.
This app plots every Walmart store in the USA and Canada on the map view. It uses location services to find your location and as you move.”
This particular Walmart overnight parking app is also crowd sourced. It will ask you to update any information to help other RV travelers who may want to park overnight at a particular Walmart.
There’s also important information on where to park, if anyone’s been towed or told to leave, etc.
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Other overnight RV parking options
We’ve found that really, there are far better options than Walmart overnight parking or really any parking lot that may be in question.
We absolutely love our Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome memberships.
Harvest Hosts permit us to park for an overnight (reservation only with membership ID#) but with much nicer venues on quiet farms, wineries, breweries, some museums, and other cool venues.
Boondockers Welcome hosts grant us permission (again, reservation only with membership ID#) to stay overnight for even up to a few days on their property.
But there are also plenty of other overnight parking options that allow RVs to park for an overnight. Most importantly, always make certain that overnight parking is permitted. Never assume that you can just roll in and put your parking brake on for the night.
And if you are permitted to park at any given Walmart (or other businesses), follow the overnight parking lot etiquette or RVers good neighbor policy (below).
RVers Good Neighbor Policy:
Regardless of what type of RV you are traveling in, we should ALL follow the Escapees’ industry-sanctioned Code of Conduct, also known as the RVers Good Neighbor Policy.
These lot docking etiquette guidelines will help further curtailing of Walmart overnight parking. They apply to all RVs; motorhomes, towable RVs, schoolies, buses, vans and truck campers and even car campers.
Escapees’ industry-sanctioned Code of Conduct:
1. Stay one night only!
2. Obtain permission from a qualified individual.
3. Obey posted regulations.
4. No awnings, chairs or barbecue grills.
5. Don’t use hydraulic jacks on soft surfaces or asphalt.
6. Always leave area cleaner than you found it.
7. Purchase gas, food or supplies to show gratitude and appreciation.
8. Be safe! Always be aware of your surroundings and leave if you feel to unsafe.
And, we’re adding in:
Final thoughts on Walmart overnight parking
In closing, if you’re on the road and need to pull over to catch some Z’s, never assume you can just zip into any Walmart assuming they allow overnight parking.
Always look for signs (like this article’s cover photo) that tell whether or not parking overnight is permissible.
If Walmart overnight parking is not allowed, just keep rolling down the road until the next one.
Wherever you land your RV for an overnight, appreciate those business’ that do extend overnight parking privileges as they may be revoked at any time.
Ordinances can change. Business owners may change as well as other extenuating circumstances may arise that give RVers the boot.
The point is, never assume you can park overnight on any commercial or public property.
But do know that there’s tons of other places you can park overnight. Not just Walmart.
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DISCLAIMER: We are not affiliated with, sponsored by or in any way compensated by Allstays LLC or Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to write this article and share their information.