In today’s post, we’re revisiting the question, “Can you camp in a Walmart parking lot?”, and we’ll give you a real, honest response to that question (which we continue to hear & read, year after year). Plus, we’ll share some tips for how we can all accept the gracious invitations of parking lot overnighting in such a way that will benefit all travelers… AND the stores that accommodate us.
Anyone who’s done the slightest amount of research about overnight stops while road tripping knows that many Walmarts have long extended a welcome to travelers who need a place to rest while on the road. Over time, as tends to be the case with human nature, there are some travelers who have abused the privilege, and this has made things more difficult for everyone, including Walmarts.
Let’s address this once and for all, in hopes of dispelling rumors, correcting misinformation, and keeping the lights on at Walmarts for tired travelers who need an easy place for the night.
- 1) Is It True That You Can Camp In Walmart Parking Lots?
- 2) Can You Boondock In a Walmart Parking Lot?
- 3) Can You Sleep In Any Walmart Parking Lot?
- 4) How Do I Legally Stay Overnight In a Walmart Parking Lot?
- 5) How Do I Know Which Walmarts Are Likely to Allow Overnights?
- 6) Have You Stayed Overnight In a Walmart Parking Lot?
Is It True That You Can Camp In Walmart Parking Lots?
NO! It is not true that we can camp in Walmart parking lots. Never has Walmart extended an offer to travelers that their parking lots are campgrounds. There is NO camping allowed at Walmarts anywhere.
What IS allowed at SOME Walmarts is a space to park your rig and get some rest before leaving the following morning to continue on your journey. Walmart is a place to rest overnight, to restock groceries and other necessities, and to spend the night in the quiet company of other travelers for the safety that lies in numbers.
NOT for a party. NOT for a place to camp. NOT for a place to sit for days.
Can You Boondock In a Walmart Parking Lot?
Technically, you can boondock in some Walmart parking lots. Indeed, everyone who overnights in a Walmart parking lot is boondocking, because Walmart parking lots don’t offer hookups to power, water, and/or sewer. And that’s what boondocking is – it’s staying off the grid, using only the self-contained power, water, and other systems you have onboard your rig.
If you sleep overnight in your car in a Walmart parking lot, you’re boondocking. If you stay overnight at a Walmart in your RV – any type of RV at all – you’re also boondocking. If you’re a trucker napping or sleeping overnight in a Walmart parking lot, you’re still boondocking!
So, yes – technically you can boondock in SOME Walmart parking lots. But don’t confuse the term “boondocking” with the term “camping off the grid”. While we’re surely off the grid whenever we’re boondocking, we’re NOT invited to camp in a Walmart parking lot. We’re invited to rest overnight before moving along.
Camping and parking overnight are two very different things, and knowing the difference is the key to Walmarts continuing to allow us to safely rest so that we can safely drive the following day.
Can You Sleep In Any Walmart Parking Lot?
Nope. Not anymore, and there are a couple of reasons for this.
The first, as we noted earlier, is that some Walmarts have decided to close their parking lots to overnighters because of people camping in their parking lots: setting up camp with their chairs out; drying laundry; cooking outside on a BBQ grill; dumping trash right in the parking lot; even draining gray water tanks (or worse!) into drains in the parking lots. None of this is what Walmart intended to offer to travelers. They simply offered a place to rest quietly overnight in exchange for the opportunity to shop in their stores while on the premises.
The abuse of this privilege by some campers has made it so that respectful overnighters are no longer offered a place to rest at many Walmart parking lots.
The second reason why some Walmarts no longer allow overnighters to get some rest in their parking lots overnight is that in some areas, local campgrounds complained and put pressure on rule-makers because they were no longer seeing the revenue they once saw from travelers who would spend the night in their campground while in the midst of a long road trip.
If you’re traveling on a long stretch of highway and your destination is 400 miles away and it’s late at night and you’re exhausted, would you prefer to stop at a Walmart, get some food and complete a few other errands, get some sleep, and then carry on the next morning having only paid for the food and other items you purchased in the store? Or do you want to pay $45 to sleep for a few hours at a campground?
So, campground owners understandably have a different point of view of the Walmart parking lot overnighting situation, and many have successfully argued against it.
Finally, in other locations, local ordinances may have been enacted that prevent anyone from spending the night in their RV. Again, this is likely the result of people abusing the privilege and causing problems for locals and businesses. It’s not uncommon in highly-desirable destinations, as the sheer number of people who would want to overnight in the area would be overwhelming.
For these reasons, the answer is no – you can’t sleep in every Walmart parking lot.
How Do I Legally Stay Overnight In a Walmart Parking Lot?
The best way to assure that you’re legally staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot is to call the Walmart in question and ask a manager for permission to stay. This is always the best policy.
There are ways to find out which parking lots other RVers have not only had permission to stay in but have also had good experiences staying at, but you should still get permission, regardless of what you read.
So – here’s our first pro tip on how to legally stay overnight in a Walmart parking lot: Call the specific Walmart where you plan to overnight and ask permission. If you use an app, a direct line to the Walmart you’re inquiring about will likely be provided. Use it. Otherwise, contact the general Walmart line and they’ll provide the phone number of the store you need: (1-800-WALMART)
Here’s our second pro tip on how to legally stay overnight in a Walmart parking lot: Once you’ve obtained the proper permission to stay, DO NOT BECOME A WALMART CAMPER. Don’t set up camp. Don’t abuse the gift of a place to stay overnight for free.
Be respectful of the rules, which means park where store management tells you to park, and ONLY there. You don’t get to spend the night near the door that leads directly to the produce section because you want a watermelon. Park where management asks RVers and other overnighters to stay. They usually have a section they want you to use for this purpose… and it’s often in a spot far away from the store and out of the busiest flow of traffic.
Respecting the rules also means leaving no trace that you’ve been there – no garbage strewn about, no liquids dumped on the ground, and all the things your mother taught you were rude to do at someone else’s house. No feet on the coffee table, etc. (Nevermind – we got carried away there for a minute. 😉 But you get the point!)
Anyone with the ability to read these words should understand what “don’t set up camp” means. Park your rig (respectfully!), only put out your slide(s) if absolutely necessary, don’t put your jacks down (doing so could damage the asphalt), grab some goodies from inside the store, and go inside your RV and relax and spend a quiet night. Don’t invite your neighbors over for wine and start a campfire in the parking lot. You can do that at the next campground you patronize. Walmarts are for sleeping – not entertaining, or anything else-ing.
How Do I Know Which Walmarts Are Likely to Allow Overnights?
The best way to know what’s what with a particular Walmart is, as noted above, to call Walmart directly and ask if they allow overnighting.
There are also apps that do a great job of showing us which Walmarts allow overnight parking. (We still recommend calling for confirmation, however, as things may have changed since an app or review was last updated.)
OvernightRVParking.com (Part of the ToGo Suite of Apps & Services)
We love using OvernightRVParking.com as a way of determining good places to catch some much-needed rest along our various journeys.
The OvernightRVParking.com database offers information on well over 16,000 parking (and no parking) locations throughout the United States and Canada. The database allows you to locate free RV parking on your phone, tablet, or computer by searching using your current location, or by city, state, province, or zip code.
If you happen to check out OvernightRVParking.com and think it would work well for you, we’ve got a discount coupon for you, so be sure to use it! By purchasing a ToGo Roadpass, you’ll get access to OvernightRVParking.com, RoadTrippers trip planning, an RV-safe GPS app, and more!
Upgrade your RVing experience with Roadpass Plus. One annual subscription gets you access to Roadtrippers Plus (a comprehensive trip planner), Campendium (for finding free boondocking spots all...Show More
Upgrade your RVing experience with Roadpass Plus. One annual subscription gets you access to Roadtrippers Plus (a comprehensive trip planner), Campendium (for finding free boondocking spots all over North America), OvernightRVParking.com (for finding free overnight RV parking spots), ToGo RV-Safe GPS (for RV-specific turn-by-turn navigation), and access to savings on RV Tires (save up to 45% on major brands).
Save $10 on your subscription when you sign up using coupon code RVGEEKS.Show Less
Allstays is available on the web and as an app in Apple’s App Store. They offer a number of different apps, in fact, all dedicated to assisting travelers of all kinds in finding places on the road where they can sleep, stay, camp, shop, eat, get coffee, get gas, and much more.
The key here is that Allstays allows you to use filters that allow you to see stores that welcome travelers to stay (respectfully) in their parking lots overnight. This includes Walmarts, Cabelas, Bass Pro Shops, Cracker Barrells, and many others.
You can set the Allstays filter to show you the Walmarts that DO allow overnighters and those that don’t. Once you tap the Walmart showing as allowing travelers to spend the night, you’ll be shown the precise address, a phone number (to call for express permission), and reviews from fellow travelers who’ve stayed in that very location. Reviews may say that they enjoyed a quiet stay and a delightfully roasted chicken from the deli, or they may say it was impossible to sleep with all the noise, they didn’t feel safe, they were asked by security or police to move, or anything in between.
We recommend checking those reviews before choosing to stay overnight, calling Walmart for permission, and then using your sense of discernment when you arrive to determine whether you want to stay there or not. The great thing is that Allstays is probably also showing you six other Walmarts within reasonable driving distance.
Have You Stayed Overnight In a Walmart Parking Lot?
We’ve had good experiences staying overnight in a few Walmart parking lots over the past couple of decades. (Walmart began extending the invitation to overnighters way back in 1962!) We’ve been respectful (and very grateful) overnighters who’ve also made sure to patronize the stores where we’ve spent the night, and we’ve met some nice people.
We’re interested in knowing how many of you have stayed overnight in Walmart parking lots and what your experiences have been. Feel free to leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments section!
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