TOP

Free Overnight Camping: Boondocking at Wal-Mart?

Road tripping is awesome; trying to drive when you are exhausted, or falling asleep, is not. Luckily there are several answers to this problem and most are free. For now, let’s talk about one option for boondocking, also called dry camping, when there’s no rest area nearby.


Wal-Mart Camping! It’s not my favorite place to shop or stay, but it is a great option when you can’t make it to your destination and you just need some shut-eye.

However, they do have one thing going for them: many are RV, truck and car camping friendly. Walmart is one of the few retailers that allow you to stay in their parking lot overnight.
Camping out in a Wal-Mart parking lot
When you are on a long road trip and can’t find any rest stops or campgrounds along your route, Wal-Mart starts looking pretty good.  The important thing to remember when doing this is to do it the right way.  So watch the video, take some notes and let us know if you have any other helpful advice for others.  If so, just post advice in the comment box below.

Keep in mind this is not the definitive “how to camp at WalMart” guide, its just a short video about how we stay overnight at Walmart. Also it’s important to know that not every Wal-mart allows overnight parking, make sure you call to verify with the manager in advance before arriving, it may save you from being woken up by a police officer, or tow truck, in the middle of the night.

Famous for my "how-not-to" videos, and typically the man behind the camera, sometimes I’m forced to be here in the “spotlight”. When you see my face you’re probably reading something more technical than adventurous, but either way I do my best to tell it like it is and infuse my opinions into the commentary…after all this is a blog and not MSN.

Comments (62)

  • J

    I’ve slept in the bed of my truck under a tonneau cover in at least 5 walmarts in Florida and never had an issue. They are well lit up, have security and I usually park in direct sight of a security camera. With my truck configuration, you can’t tell I’m in the bed, but in the morning I’ve opened up and said good morning to security guard and did not get the feeling he really cared or I was in violation of any store rules.

    I can afford a hotel, but find that my truck is cleaner and sleeps better. Also, when you are getting back from something at 2am and plan to be out by 8am the next day a hotel is not such a great deal.

    I plan to use WalMart parking lots for sleeping, McDonalds for wifi and an LA fitness membership for showering this summer to spend a week testing car living. IMO, we spend way too much time inside on the couch and opening the fridge anyways.

    reply
  • I was suprised you said do not put out your slide-outs. Is that offensive to people?

    reply
    • Curious Minion

      WalMart parking lots aren’t meant to be campgrounds – they’re offered as a courtesy for a quick overnight stop. A lot of RVs can still be lived in pretty comfortably with the slides in and you really just need functionality for a quick overnight – not luxury. Having slides out can also call attention to your rig and lets people know you’re planning to be there all night. Also, most parking spaces are too narrow to safely put slides out – they can keep people from parking next to you, and pedestrians can walk into them and get injured. If you can’t use your rig without putting a slide out, you should park so that the slide side is next to a landscape island so you don’t have to worry about another vehicle hitting it. And you should never put your jacks down in an asphalt parking lot because the weight of the RV can really damage the asphalt.

      reply
    • michelle laming

      It’s called camping and stores have problems with camping. Unless everyone else is doing it I would not

      reply
  • Larry

    I seen your video on running your AC with your solar panels here is the device you need to put on your compressor it is called easy start $318 cut the start amps 50% Google it

    reply
  • 12620 SE 41st Pl, Bellevue WA 98006

    The parking lot is NOT owned by Walmart and security will ask you to park on the street. Walmart may say OK – BUT the parking lot is NOT owned by Walmart and the Parking Lot is posted with signs stating no overnight, offsite or commuter parking.

    reply
    • Each wal-mart is different. Some wal-marts allow overnight parking and others do not. We always recommend calling ahead and asking a manager before arrival.

      reply
  • Dann

    We are looking as well and we love the Murphy bed in the leisure van. Keep us up on your rv shopping.

    reply
  • Karem

    Very interesting comments. We are just buying a motor home so would like to keep posted on this site.

    reply
  • Hey Guys – as a fulltime RVing family traveling in a fifth wheel we do things a bit differently while Boondocking at Walmart. We wroteup our approach at:

    http://ditchingsuburbia.com/blog/how-to-boondock-at-walmart

    reply
  • Moirraine

    Walmart is.stopping many more people from parking overnight, most in Western Washington now have signs posted “No Overnight Parking”.

    It’s not just a pain for RV’ers, its dreadful for those of us who are homeless but still have a vehicle.

    What burns me the most? It’s not like any of us don’t then go shopping at these increasingly selfish corporations.

    Walmart is making enemies… Those in RV’s as well as those who are temporarily or permanently homeless….not a good idea.

    reply
    • Tony

      Yeah, it’s a pain, but heavy vehicles wreak havoc on asphalt pavement. Don’t slam Walmart!

      reply
  • shawn

    You need to avoid the Walmart in ukiah,ca last night I was so tired and as always found the closest Walmart but to my dismay about 2hr latter along comes a cop and says the security guard wanted me removed that no sleeping in vesicles was allowed at Walmart so the officer told me to go to the next parking lot over I praise that officer

    reply
  • Sandy

    I really don’t know why you say in your video that you’re not a big fan of Walmart. You just stayed there for free, you found yourself some groceries and rv supplies, you mention that it’s a pretty secure place to stay….why wouldn’t you be a fan?

    Many other grocery stores won’t let you stay overnight. I’m not a fan of those stores. Does Trader Joes? Whole Foods? Just sayin’…

    reply
    • I do appreciate that they allow overnight parking and I patron the store when I stay there. I don’t love some of their business practices. If you are curious what those are, check out the better world shopping guide. But that is my opinion, the purpose of the video is to help inform others of the common courtesies of parking overnight in a wal-mart parking lot. And yes, we have stayed in several Whole Foods parking lots. It’s usually more of a city code/space issue not necessarily which businesses do and don’t want RV’ers or others parking overnight in their lots.

      reply
      • Danny Acosta

        can you leave your rv at a Walmart parking lot (or loews, Cabellas, etc) while you go out to eat or sitesee?

        reply
  • Phil Bruce

    When you’re enroute do you use truck stops as you do Walmarts? Circle Js, Travel America and others apparently welcome RVers overnight.

    reply
  • Steve

    Why do you say not to put your slides out. We have a Winnebago Tour and have to put out our slides. You camped across from us in Spring Gulch camp ground in Lancaster Pa.

    reply
      • Roger

        Like parking a humongous RV all night in the parking lot isn’t obvious…even without using the slides. Seriously?

        reply
  • Gregg Bilger

    Not all Wal-Mart’s are RV friendly. Successfully stayed at one in Foley, Ala.(Gulf Shores),Panama City, Fl., Clearwater, Fl., Sarasota, Fl. Security will run you out in Pinellas Park, Fl., Florida City, Fl. and Daytona Beach, Fl. Cracker Barrel restaurants are very RV friendly.

    reply
  • Wal-Mart camping is a misnomer, resting overnight is what we do, been doing it for years, anything else is going to eventually spoil it for us all! You don’t take out your chairs and sit in the lot, that is camping! We inevitably spend $25 to $35 bucks each morning before we leave! We always sleep comfortably under the Wal * Mart star! Many have security driving around all night watching over you!

    reply
  • Jen

    Hey Jason,
    When you are on the road and not using a RV park, where do you dump and where do you fill up your water?

    I’m new so I don’t have a clue.

    BTW we love you and Nikki! When are you getting your own Reality show? Travel show,etc?????

    Jen

    reply
  • Micheal

    Just to shed some light on the power in the Walmart parking lots. The plugs are for people using the block heaters in their cars. At -40 nothing starts unless it is plugged in overnight, but they are for the night shift employees not RV’S. That being said if they are not being used well free is free. You will not find these plugs anywhere other than northern Canada.

    reply
  • Brette Hale

    Hey fellow RV’ers
    My husband and I are Boilermakers up here an d Canada and just started the Full Time RV thing last year. (What’s the point of paying for a house in one province when you are working and staying at a hotel in another? I know right?) Anyway I’ve just discovered your site and find it very informative and reassuring that “YES…we are doing it right” We actually just spent our first Canadian Winter in our 26′ Winnie Motor home and survived it beautifully.
    Something I didn’t see mentioned here while I was browsing the comments, is that some Wal-marts have 30amp hook ups in the light posts. Especially the ones that allow overnight parking. Up in Edmonton, AB there is a small section with mostly 5th Wheels parked and if you are lucky enough to get parked next to the lamp post, you got power! We have never plugged in ourselves as our stops are mostly for quick nap stops but I just thought I would pass this on for a) confirmation, and b) information.

    reply
    • That is news to me! We have never seen any with power in the light posts or anyone connected to them. although it could be because we weren’t looking for it. Thanks for the tip!

      reply
  • Patrick L.

    We attended your talk at the RV show at the Tradex in Abbotsford (we spoke briefly about the Burning man).

    I had mentioned that you can stay at Cabela’s with your RV. I only know the one in Lacey Washington (Seattle/Tacoma) and the Lacey store also has a sanidump. We stayed there and found it quite comfortable. There is always someone at the store as they are restocking at night so seems very safe) We were going to stay across the freeway at the Walmart but it was too busy, noisy, and bright as it was on a very busy road/intersection. I assume most Cabela’s will allow you to stay in their lot but I am not sure if they all have sanidumps.

    reply
  • In Europe it is quite common to see RV’s parked in truck stops on the freeways especially. We did this on a regular basis in our 25 foot motorhome.

    On some European freeways there excellent non-truck stops where we regularly dry-camped.

    But best of all – France is ultra-RV friendly. Every town seems to have a square for you can dry-camp for free or for a minimal charge.

    During “winter” on the Mediterranean coast all the height barriers are removed at parking lots, often sea-side, and you dry-camp for free. FANTASTIC. See http://retiredandonthemove.blogspot.ca/ for details, especially Nov 2006 to March 2007

    reply
  • Mary Beth

    a better option than Walmart would be Cracker Barrel…..much quieter

    reply
  • Jacinta Crowe

    It is always great to have Walmart to fall back on- nothing worse then arriving in an area and not being able to find a spot tn a campground or RV park. Too bad The Walmart in Hood River OR is a no- mind you, they’ d have all us windsurfers and kite boarders parked there all season! Just remember you are an hour + up the Columbia at Hood River- so have a reservation somewhere during high season.

    reply
  • Wayne White

    On last years High School Reunion trip from Salem, Oregon to Anaheim, CA., I decided to take U.S. 395 instead of I-5,…bad decision.
    The RV Park I planned on staying in was full and I ended up driving un til I reached Anaheim about midnight.Driving on that road at night with a 40 footer was scary. wish I had found a Wal-Mart to use for the night…NEXT time !

    reply
  • Pam

    Hi Jason/Nikki….just curious how long is your RV? My husband and I one day want to buy one, but would like one that can, for the most part, be allowed into sate/National Parks. I know the parks all have their own regulations. Just wanted to know what you have? Thanks Pam

    reply
  • brooke

    Wow. That’s pretty awesome!

    reply
  • Gary

    We have an app. “Overnight Parking Walmart” from allstays.com. It has two divisions “Can” & “Can’t”; we have it on an iPad so the navigator can access it on the road. It is one of several apps we use while travelling.

    reply
  • tommy tires

    what kind of milage are you getting with your monaco? with gas 70 cents a gallon cheaper and the gas burner 50,000 dollers cheaper do you think you all made the right choice?

    reply
  • Hi! Just saw your House Hunters piece today. I love what you’re doing. I’m jealous! I have a quick question — who’s filming you when you both appear on camera? I didn’t see that answered in your FAQ. Happy trails!

    reply
  • Joe Peerson

    Hey Thibodaux residents here. We have a big walmart parking lot with lots of restaurants around it. I grew up on the road in a trailer. Several of our friends have motor homes. Thibodaux, Louisiana is a very historic place with lots of plantations and friendly people. Jim Bowie had a plantation here and right now it is sugar cane season. In February we will have Mardi Gras. Look forward to hearing from you guys. Cheers,
    Joe and Rita

    reply
  • Bill

    We love cruising the Walmart parking lot looking at the RV’s planning which ones we’d like to be driving when we retire. It’s a nice shopping lot too!

    reply
  • Carlos and Michele

    My husband and I just saw you on house hunters rv. We have the same plan to buy a rv and travel the USA but have to wait 6 yrs. we cant wait!!! It was great to see other young couples with the same idea. Happy travels!!!!!

    reply
  • Jeff Hyslop

    We have stayed at Wal-Mart a number of times. It is great for an over night stop when you are trying to get somewhere quick. I have seen some in our local Wal-Mart set up for 4 or 5 nights. That seems like taking advantage of their hospitality, besides if you can afford a motor-home you should have budgeted for campgrounds for longer stays.
    Thanks for the great video especially the advice about the levelers. (guilty).
    Hermantown,MN (near Duluth) doesn’t allow overnight parking either.
    Another great solution is Interstate Rest stops.

    reply
  • Mary

    I think it is a pretty nice that Wal-Mart allows camping in their parking lot. I am not a fan of Wal-Mart but they are trying to be more “responsible” or so it seems.

    reply
  • I quite often stop by walmart parking lots on long roadtrips. I bring carboard to block the light in the windows, they can be shockingly bright! My tip for the day.

    Happy travels.

    reply
  • Ken Barney

    We love Walmart camping and have some great ones that we stop at regularly. I spent alot of money for my self contained Monaco. I hate all the rules of a RV park anyway plus paying for that tiny spot. There are some walmarts that dont allow camping like Aneheim, Bloomington by St George and there is one on the Columbia river that says No. We Just crash there for the night then grab whatever we forgot and Hit the road Walmart is smart everyone forgets something.

    reply

Post a Comment