The RV community is growing rapidly — and if you’ve recently set off on your own adventure, you’ll already have discovered that veteran RV’ers are always happy to share insider tips to make sure your experience is as smooth, safe, and exciting as possible.
Whether you’re about to head off on a cross-country road trip in your brand new RV, are planning on spending part of the year as a nomad, or you’re considering taking the leap into full-time RV living, you’ll definitely have some logistical and fiscal questions to work out. As you’re picking the brains of the dyed-in-the-wool RV’ers who’ve been at this for years, or even decades, there’s one name you won’t be able to avoid.
Walmart’s founder and his family were keen RV enthusiasts themselves, and even as his business expanded beyond belief, Walton always made it clear that he was grateful for the role RV-ers played in his company’s success. That’s why Sam Walton put in place generous policies that allowed people to park their RVs at every single Walmart store overnight. Walton passed away in 1992, but his legacy lives on.
Where can you park your RV overnight? If you ask the old hats, “Walmart!” is going to be one of the first answers you get. If you’re skeptical, however, that isn’t completely unfounded. Times have changed, after all. Here’s what you should know before you consider parking your RV in a Walmart parking lot over night.
How Long Can You Leave Your RV in a Walmart Parking Lot?
The fact that Walmart operates over 5,000 retail stores in the United States means that you’re unlikely to ever be far from a Walmart parking lot. That sure makes parking at Walmart a convenient thought, whether you’re hoping to rest up for a few hours or are looking for a place to sleep for the night.
Walmart continues to pay homage to its founder today, and “Can I park my RV at a Walmart store?” is one of only seven queries the company answers on its Frequently Asked Questions section about Walmart stores. The answer to the question is “yes”, but Walmart is vague about the specifics today:
Let’s break that down:
- Walmart’s corporate policy dictates that permission to park your RV is granted as the individual store “is able” to. Some Walmart stores are unable to offer longer RV parking times because the terms of their lease limits them, while others are restricted by state, city, or local laws.
- Walmart currently does not offer any additional services, so those stores that do allow RV parking are offering boondocking, also known as dry camping.
- Before you park your RV in a Walmart parking lot, contact the store manager to ask for permission to park and find out how long you may be able to park in the store’s parking lot.
You will notice that Walmart offers no time frame that tells you how long you may be able to park. Experienced RVers typically say (and CNN reports) that those Walmart stores that (are able to) allow parking to RVers do so for up to 24 hours. A whole day! That means that you can probably park your RV at Walmart for two, four, six, or even 12 hours without problems at those stores that are able to offer this amenity.
Are you wondering if it would truly be acceptable to park your RV at a Walmart for a certain period of time, though? Your doubt is a reasonable indication that permission is most likely required. Surely, you would prefer to be welcomed than to be shown the proverbial door? Call ahead, and you will know whether you are welcome.
Can I Park an RV at Walmart? Overnight?
In many cases, yes — you will be able to park your RV at Walmart overnight. The 24-hour timeline we just looked at certainly means that you can park your RV at Walmart overnight, at the discretion of the store manager and as local laws and the store’s lease permit.
Just how likely are you to get permission to park your RV in a Walmart parking lot overnight?
According to a CNN report, and based on data provided by Jim O’Briant — the founder of OvernightRVParking.com, which helps RV-ers out by finding them places to park overnight — the odds have gone down significantly in recent years. In 2010, approximately 78 percent of Walmart stores made overnight RV parking possible. A decade on, that percentage dropped to 58. Note that these figures apply to Canada as well as the US.
To provide a no-nonsense answer to your burning question, though — yes! You can park your RV in a Walmart parking lot overnight somewhere in the country. As long as you check with store managers beforehand, you will still be able to find Walmarts that actively welcome boondocking. Calling ahead to check what each store says can help you plan your route.
Can You Park Your Car Overnight at Walmart?
Walmart’s generous parking policies were extended specifically to RV-ers, but adventurers traveling the country in campervans have also, certainly, been permitted to park overnight at Walmart. Cars are smaller, and less intrusive, than RVs are. You may, therefore, come to the conclusion that if RVs are permitted to park at Walmart overnight, cars would be, too.
This may be the case, but don’t count on it.
We’ll have to refer you back to Walmart’s official, and rather non-specific, word on the matter: “Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws.” Call ahead. Explain your situation, and ask if you can park your car at an individual Walmart store overnight before you actually do. If you don’t, chances are that you will be asked to leave very soon. If you do, stores that allow RV parking are very likely to extend the same courtesy to other vehicles, so long as their owners do not seem like they will be any trouble.
Note that this absolutely does not mean that you can indefinitely park your car at Walmart, dump your garbage in their bins, and cause disruptions to other customers. The fact that disruptive people, including those in the homeless community, have been abusing Walmart’s generous parking policies is a very large part of why it is now harder to find a Walmart that will allow you to park your vehicle overnight.
Pros & Cons of Parking an RV at Walmart
On the face of it, the pros of parking your RV at a Walmart are obvious. While Walmart is a powerful global company today, it started humbly — just like any other business. As an RV-er, you’ll find in Walmart a company founded by someone who was part of the very same community you belong to. Appreciating both the challenges that finding a place to park your RV overnight pose and the loyal custom RV-ers brought to Walmart, Walton wanted, essentially, to be a good host.
The benefits of parking your RV in a Walmart parking lot are twofold. In the first place (and perhaps most importantly), you get a free space to park and lay your head down. Secondly, you’ll be in a place that values you and your lifestyle. As an added benefit, because Walmart is everywhere, it is not going to be very hard to locate a store that allows you to park your RV — making Walmart a convenient solution to a pressing need.
Once you find a Walmart that allows you to park your RV overnight (or even for a nice couple of hours during the day time, while you catch up on some sleep and grab lunch), you are, essentially, a guest in a stranger’s home. Depending on your current needs, that stranger may offer you much-needed respite that you haven’t been able to get elsewhere, or they may leave you feeling rather deprived as you aren’t able to use the electricity, dispose of your trash, or even put your chairs outside to soak in some fresh air.
The same things that make a Walmart parking lot a great place to park your RV are also the negatives. It’s free, so you only get the very basics. Did you want a place to camp, rather than a place for boondocking? Head to a camping site, instead.
The Do’s of Parking an RV at Walmart
Think of parking your RV in a Walmart parking lot more or less like you’d think of renting an AirBnB… that happens to be free of charge. (Or, if you like, imagine parking your RV on the property of your great aunt Trudie, who you haven’t seen in the last 15 years.) That means that you should do as Walmart’s policy asks you to.
Contact the customer support team and either deal with them directly or ask to speak to the store manager. Explain that you would like to park your RV at the store and for how long, ask whether that would be OK, and then inquire where you can park and if the Walmart store has any other policies in place for people parking RVs.
You’ll likely be asked to park at the back of the parking lot, and may be told exactly where you can do so. Then, as you would do if you were a guest anywhere else, try to make your presence as pleasant for the host as possible.
You’ll need fresh supplies, at least in the form of food and water. Get them from the Walmart whose space you are occupying.
Don’t overstay your welcome; leave as soon as possible. If the appropriate online avenues are available, let the store know how much you appreciated being able to park there. The store will get a good review, and the rest of the RV community will simultaneously know that that particular Walmart is friendly to RV-ers. It’s a win-win!
The Dont’s of Walmart RV Parking
- Don’t litter.
- Don’t take up more space than your RV does, which means that you should not extend your awning, unhitch, put down stabilizing jacks, or bring your RV furniture into the Walmart parking lot and enjoy a rowdy BBQ (with meat you bought at Target).
- Don’t be noticed at all, for that matter, unless you’re on your way to the store itself to be an excellent customer.
- Don’t be loud and disorderly, don’t run your generator (and definitely not all night!).
- Don’t do a disservice to the rest of the RV community by behaving so badly RVs won’t be allowed to park at the store you were at in future.
Can You Camp in a Walmart Parking Lot?
No! Absolutely not! What you’re allowed to do at Walmart is boondocking — in this case, because it’s Walmart, sometimes called Wallydocking. You’re not there to camp. You’re there to get some rest, stock up, move on, and be grateful for the amazing opportunity to park your vehicle overnight free of charge.
People who are after the full amenities that campsites might offer them should get them legally and in a respectful manner by booking a spot at a campsite.
Parking Your RV at Walmart (Overnight): A Final Word
A combination of factors has made it harder for people to park their RVs at Walmart for extended periods of time, including overnight, in recent years.
The fact that the RV community has grown rapidly and that the newcomers aren’t as versed in the finer details of RV etiquette as the veterans has a lot to do with that, as does a growing homeless population of people living in vehicles because they have no other choice.
In addition, increasing numbers of Walmart stores are now leased in malls, leaving parking lot policies outside of the company’s jurisdiction.
Despite that, it is still very much possible to find Walmart stores that welcome RV-ers with open arms. All you have to do is call ahead, ask for permission, and be a good guest if you’re offered the opportunity.