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Can You Camp in Walmart Parking Lots?

Can You Camp in Walmart Parking Lots?

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.

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.

Camper in a parking lot

No one is entitled to stay in a Walmart parking lot long-term, nor are we allowed to camp there. Walmarts that allow overnight parking are for just that – parking overnight and moving on the following morning.

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.

Truck camper in a Walmart parking lot

In some places, city ordinances prevent overnighting at Walmart parking lots because campground owners complained that their businesses were suffering by losing out on the revenue from overnight campers.

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.

Caravan respectfully parked in a store parking lot

Being respectful of Walmart’s requests is one way to ensure that they continue to extend a welcome to RVers as they have since 1962.

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.) (Part of the ToGo Suite of Apps & Services)

We love using as a way of determining good places to catch some much-needed rest along our various journeys.

The 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.

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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?

Walmart parking lot

Have you stayed in a Walmart parking lot overnight? Tell us about your experience!

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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Monday 22nd of January 2024

Very good, accurate information! We have overnighted at quite a few Walmarts in the last couple of years. We occasionally run into one where it is not allowed (and would have saved ourselves some time and trouble if we’d have checked the app and/or called ahead)! Once or twice we’ve moved on to somewhere else for the night because the Walmart seems “sketchy”, or we just didn’t have a good feeling about the location. Always trust your gut! Better to be wrong and spend the night in a better location than to ignore your intuition (or especially, your wife’s!) and find out you were right! We haven’t usually called ahead, though that is a good idea. We usually go to the service desk and ask permission, and ask if there is a log book we are supposed to register in - this has only been the case one time. We often encounter clueless employees, but eventually find a manager or junior manager who tells us it's fine with them - occasionally adding that the local sheriff might not share the opinion. In that case, we move on.

Linda McCaughey

Monday 22nd of January 2024

I have stayed in 3 different Walmart parking lots over the years. All three were times when it was late, I was tired and I was in a remote area with no campgrounds nearby. So grateful to have this option! I see it as a "last resort"--not a free camping spot to avoid paying campground fees. I think that is important. Use it when absolutely needed--don't abuse it! I parked as far away from the store as I could, walked my dogs (being sure to pick up poop) and did not turn on outside lights or play any music before sleeping. In the morning, I made it a point to be a good neighbor and do trash pick-up along the edge of the lot as I walked the dogs before leaving. Being considerate goes a long way.


Monday 22nd of January 2024

If only EVERYONE behaved the way that you do, Linda... we wouldn't be dealing with as many Walmarts (and other overnight-friendly locations) prohibiting us from staying! It seems that too many parents have failed their children (of all ages) by not teaching them the golden rules of leaving a place (or returning a borrowed item) in better condition than you found it... and OUR favorite of "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all!" 😉


Monday 27th of February 2023

Well I stayed in the Walmart parking lot for over 3 months with no problem. I was respectful of and off on the side where the best wifi signal was. There was about 9 other regulars but we never made a mess or did anything to bring notice to ourselves and now a lot off Walmarts don't mind people in there cars by side exit doors because people are less likely to come bolting out the door with an arm full of stolen goods so we were kinda good for loss prevention of course I live in lawless California so shop lifting is a major problem here. People just walk out the doors with stuff right past the greeter with no fear of concqunce. Side note. You see some strange people at the Walmart parking lot

The Wandering Websters

Wednesday 26th of January 2022

We have stayed at Walmarts on several occasions and plan them into our routine on long travel days. We always get dinner there (love the chicken they have there LOL) and pick up anything we may need in the rig or truck. When planning we use Allstays along with our RV Trip Wizard to find where we are stopping for gas and any overnight stays. Allstays is great because it shows the “red” (can’t stay there) and the “yellow” (ok to stay there) Walmarts on your route. We also call the Walmart for verification unless we already see multiple RVs already there and then we sometimes talk to the management inside to be sure and also just to show our gratitude and respect to them. We also call and thank the Walmart when we leave. One last thing, we have always had a good experience at Walmart. The Wandering Webster’s Camping4TheKingdom


Monday 24th of January 2022

When planning a trip with potential Walmart stays, I always check out this web site: Scrolling to the bottom, it shows a US map with all Walmart locations depicted. Clicking on your desired location, it reveals the Walmart location, phone number, GPS coordinates, and whether or not overnight parking is allowed. It is a GREAT planning resource!


Monday 24th of January 2022

Thanks for sharing that, Roger!

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