Overnight RV Parking: Dos and Don’ts of Lotdocking

Due to the popularity of RVing, overnight RV parking lots are being bombarded with campers of every shape and size. But, there’s also been an influx of disrespectful campers ignoring the RVers’ good neighbor policy. The rules of camping etiquette have flown completely out the window. So, what can RVers do to help prevent these businesses and municipalities from rolling up the welcome mat?

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Camper and RV sales have skyrocketed which means a lot of new RVers are setting out on the open road for adventure travel.

However, because of this huge influx of campers, campgrounds and RV parks are literally busting at the seams. Trying to even get a reservation or pull in for overnight parking has become quite a challenge.

This has resulted in a huge number of campers looking for cheap or free overnight RV parking that’s on their route.

But that in itself, has created an influx of ignorance and disrespect towards business property owners who invite RVers to park. Comparatively, a small amount of RVers and campers have taken to abusing the privilege. 

If we don’t get a handle on this serious issue now, we’re going to lose that privilege completely and be forced out to pricy and off-the-beaten-path campgrounds or RV parks.

No Overnight RV Parking Sign

Overnight RV Parking Complaints?

Most complaints from business owners and local authorities stem from how RVers leave the area. And sadly, we agree. There’s been a drastic increase in complaints of RV campers abusing the privilege of overnight parking on business property. 

We’ve seen for ourselves the heaps of trash in grocery carts, urine bottles, dog crap in the grassy areas, bags of household trash left alongside already full trash cans. There are even a few careless campers dumping their gray or black tanks in the sewers or even flat out on the parking lot.

Now granted, not all of those are the results of RVers staying overnight in the parking lots. However, after some of the issues we’ve witnessed, it’s no wonder these business’ are rolling up the welcome mat. But if we all set a good example and show that we are good stewards. We will earn that privilege and trust. 

But what can we RVers do to prevent businesses as well as local governments from closing the gates on RVers like us wanting to just park and catch some shut-eye?

Always On Liberty - Overnight Parking Etiquette-2

RVers’ Good Neighbor Policy

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand, you’ve no doubt, heard or read about the RVers’ Good Neighbor Policy. This industry-sanctioned policy backed by Escapees and FMCA is supported by over 20 of the most respected RV clubs and membership organizations.

In retrospect, it’s sad that these even had to be put into print. It’s just simple courtesy. And, it starts with each individual RVer and their families to follow these simple parking etiquette code of conduct.

So, let’s better understand each of these bulleted points of RV overnight parking etiquette and dry camping rules to remember.

Always On Liberty - Lotdocking

    • Park ONE night only

Remember, these businesses only permit RVers to stay overnight for one night only. These are intended as a quick overnight stay-over to catch some sleep or rest.

Never assume you can just park and go sightseeing either. If you want to tour the area or stay more than a night, it’s best to just find a campground.

    • Obtain PERMISSION from property management

Never assume that any business will allow you to park your RV in their parking lot; regardless if it’s day or night. It’s highly suggested to ask for permission first. But, make certain you ask the store’s management. Get their name and title just in case the local authorities try to send you packing.

Always On Liberty - No Camping Sign

    • OBEY posted regulations and signs

There are some municipalities who have enacted local ordinances disallowing RV parking. But also, the businesses themselves, may post signs for reasons of their own such as liability or their need to accommodate all of their customers.

    • Never set up camp

Lotdocking is NOT camping. These free overnight parking lots are not the place to set up camp. Do not set out your campsite mat, camp chairs, fire pit or grill. In fact, the only thing that should be out are your RV steps.

The RV next to us at a casino did just that. Their chairs were below our slide. And, unfortunately, we had to relocate because they became unapproachable belligerent drunks.

In other words, make your RV just as it should be; parked. 

Always On Liberty - Lotdocking Party
Don’t be this guy! Never set up camp! We were parked side by side at a Casino RV designated parking area. He setup camp right under our slide-out.
    • No hydraulic jacks on asphalt or soft surfaces

When your leveling jacks are deployed to the ground surface, know that the entire weight of your entire RV is forced onto those spots. And that means, there’s high potential of damaging the parking surface.

    • Leave it cleaner than you found it

No matter where you park your RV, there should be absolutely no evidence that you were there. But even so, if there’s existing trash around your parking space, pick it up and dispose of it properly. Show the management and owners that you care about their property as they care about allowing you to park there in the first place. So, pack in pack out.

    • Patronize the business

As a thanks to the businesses that allow overnight parking for RVs, show your appreciation and gratitude by patronizing their business. Whether it’s fueling your vehicles, eating a meal, making a purchase or supporting through a donation, give these businesses and the municipalities good reason for continuing to allow RVers a safe place to park overnight.

    • Be safety conscious

As you travel throughout the Country, you may occasionally find yourselves driving through some less-than-desirable locations. Before parking anywhere, scope out the area before. If you see questionable behavior or sketchy characters, don’t stick around. Never put your family or yourself in a potentially dangerous or uncomfortable situation.

A few unwritten rules for overnight RV parking

We wanted to add in a couple other RV parking etiquette tips that we feel should be taken into respect as well.

    • Slide-outs or no slide-outs?

Deploying your RV’s slide-outs is such a hot topic and understandably so. But even though it’s not one of the overnight parking etiquette code of conduct bullet points, it is a measure we all need to respect. While some may wave their finger and scold “don’t deploy your slide-outs”, other RVers defend the practice because they have to.

Being honest, we have to deploy our driver’s side slide-out to even put down our Murphy bed. But we are selective in where we park our motorhome. And because we’re small enough really to park in a regular parking spot, we will typically find a back corner space and deploy our slide-out over the grass edge. Or, if that’s not possible, we unhitch our Jeep and park it on the same side as the slide.

So,  if you need to deploy a slide-out to access your bed and/or bathroom, find an out of the way parking area where you can deploy your slide-out over a grassy island or side area.

Always On Liberty - Overnight RV Parking - Slideout-2
Though our slide-out don’t go over our parking space line, we still put our safety cones out to alert others who may park next to us.

Do not deploy your slide(s) in a parking spot that isn’t wide enough to accommodate it. Some establishments have not taken into consideration of RV slide-outs therefore, the spaces may not work for your motorhome or camper. Sometimes, we will put out our high-vis safety cones just to be an extra precaution so others don’t run into our slide-out.

  • Park your RV in appropriate-sized spaces

Parking in an appropriate-sized space is our other RV parking etiquette tip. To be honest, this really never occurred to us until we downsized from our big rig fifth wheel to our tiny Class C motorhome.

If you’re parking a van or much smaller RV, there may be smaller overnight parking spaces to park in. Leave those big long parking spaces for big rig motorhome, fifth wheels and travel trailers.

Again though, always ask first or suggest where you wish to park.

Always On Liberty - Overnight RV Parking - Van
Don’t be this guy! A small van camper parked in large vehicle and truck parking. Just because a van listed as an RV, it doesn’t not need to take up an RV or truck space.
 
    • Never impede automobile or pedestrian traffic

If you are given permission to park in a regular parking space that backs up to a curb, make certain you do not impede or block traffic. This includes pedestrian and bicycle traffic as well as handicap spaces.

Always On Liberty - Overnight RV Parking
Don’t be this guy! He completely blocked the sidewalk which impeded pedestrian traffic. 

Overnight RV parking overview

Look, we all get that campground and RV park fees have gotten a little expensive; especially if you just want to sleep for 6-8 hours. And we realize you may not want to drive 20 miles off the interstate to the first available campground.

But here’s the thing. These RV parking etiquette rules aren’t just parking lots. They should also be applicable to Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, HipCamp, Moose and Elks Lodges, etc. In fact, every place we park our motorhomes and travel trailers, we should be respectful to the property owners and our fellow RVers.

So, take these lotdocking and overnight RV parking etiquette guidelines as a friendly ‘just do it’. Municipalities across the United States have clamped down by passing ordinances that prohibits parking on business or private property.

Unfortunately, it’s because the lack of respect from a few that supersedes the respectful RVers. Let’s change that. If we all put forth in following these simple rules, we’ll continue to enjoy this awesome benefit.

Always On Liberty - No RV Parking
This sign is the result of a state and municipal parking ordinance.

Some great resources for overnight RV parking:

If you have any further concerns or questions about any of these overnight parking etiquette and RV lotdocking rules, consider reading our other articles below.

Always On Liberty - Overnight RV Parking-2

Other RV Parking Articles:

Where to Find FREE Overnight RV PARKING

Why Walmart Overnight Parking May Be Ending for RVs

LEAVE NO TRACE: Pack in Pack Out Rules of Camping

Where to Find RV Dump Stations and Potable Water

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