Overnight parking at Wal Mart is something every van lifer knows about. Find out the truths and myths of camping at Wal Mart.
So, you’ve taken the plunge to become a full-time van lifer. Life is good, right? Well, as with most things in life, there are some considerations before setting off. One of the biggest things to consider is where you’re going to park your van at night.
Although this seems like the simplest thing when it comes to van life, it can become a problem if it isn’t properly thought through. This is because state laws differ greatly and what’s legal in one state might be illegal in the neighboring state.
In this guide, we’re going to be looking at the option of overnight parking at Walmart, why it’s a great idea and the downfalls of doing so.
Let’s dive in!
Why Choose Overnight Parking at Wal Mart?
First things first, why Walmart parking lots? The long and the short of it is that it’s convenient, generally safe, and free.
Walmart stores permit RV parking but it’s down to local laws whether or not overnight parking is allowed in the particular state. However, where it is permitted, it is a mutually beneficial arrangement between Walmart and RV customers.
It’s no secret that Walmart values RV travelers and considers them some of its best clientele. When travelers stay overnight, they generally pick up supplies for the journey ahead and often spend decent money in the store.
RV travelers are usually covering large distances on a weekly basis and Walmart’s parking space is the perfect overnight stop-off. It’s not going to be the most spectacular location in terms of views but it’s a great location for free overnight camping.
Most Walmart stores are also open 24 hours a day, which means you’re able to pick up much-needed supplies, and even grab a midnight snack if you’re in the mood. Their stores also have bathroom facilities which come in handy if your RV doesn’t have toilet facilities.
Yet, another reason why Walmart locations are a great option for RV travelers.
Are Walmart Parking Lots Safe?
Generally speaking, Walmart RV parking is safe but like anything in life, it’s important to keep your RV locked and follow your general safety precautions.
After being out in the wild or at a national park where there can be no one around, it’s easy to slip up, leave your RV unlocked, and become a victim of crime.
But, if you keep your wits about you, Walmart lots are generally pretty safe. There is normally security at each individual Walmart parking lot so your RV should be pretty safe.
At most, RV enthusiasts will only park overnight between traveling so for a quick, I’m happy to conclude that overnight parking at Walmart is safe.
Is it Legal to Park Overnight at Walmart?
To put it simply, Walmart stores do allow for overnight car camping. But it is essential to contact management ahead of time to check in with regard to local laws.
While Walmart allows for RV camping, state law might not allow for free RV camping overnight.
Therefore, my advice to you is that if you’re looking to utilize a Walmart parking lot overnight, to please contact individual store managers to check whether you’re allowed to do so.
Walmart considers RV enthusiasts some of their best customers and the store manager is normally more than happy to have you. But the correct protocol needs to be followed to ensure that everyone is on the right side of the law.
Do all Walmart Stores Allow Overnight RV Parking?
According to Walmart corporate, RV parking is allowed as long as they are able to do so. This means that as long as state law allows for it, overnight RV parking is allowed at their parking lots across the country.
The advantage of Walmart stores is that they have branches throughout the country which means that you will always be able to find a store close to you. Even if you’re not using them for overnight stays, but simply to stop off to use the restroom and stock up on supplies, they’re a great option for RV owners.
General Advice for Walmart Store Parking Lots
When it comes to overnight parking at a Walmart store parking lot, there are a number of things to bear in mind. While Walmart has no official rules around RV parking, there are a number of things that you should do in order to keep in the good books.
This basically boils down to the correct camping etiquette to follow when utilizing a Walmart parking lot. It’s also important to note that the company stipulates that the overnight parking is for RVs only and other recreational vehicles as well.
Cars, vans, and trucks are not necessarily permitted (though nobody is out there in the parking lot to enforce this). In no particular order, these are the top tips for van life enthusiasts when occupying a parking space at Wal Mart for one night:
Keep the noise levels down
It is unlikely that you will be all alone in the parking lot and there will more times than not be other RV owners making use of the same area. It is common decency to be respectful when it comes to making a noise.
If you become unruly and start making too much noise, it is ground for store managers or security to ask you to leave. This not only ruins it for you but also gives fellow users a bad name. This could ultimately lead to Walmart banning RV owners to use their parking lots in the future which will be a huge loss to the RV community.
Don’t consume alcohol or do drugs on their premises
While this is possible to do so in a national park or at a campground, consuming alcohol or doing drugs in your van in public is grounds for getting yourself a DUI charge. Although you might not be driving, it is illegal to do so inside a vehicle, stationary or not.
It is also possible that, after a couple of drinks, for people to get a bit loud which goes against the first bit of advice about keeping the noise levels down. Rather avoid it altogether and head to a local bar for a beer or glass of wine instead.
Don’t light fires/barbeques in the parking area
This might be common sense to most, but some people don’t think twice before doing so. It is against the rules and will also get you kicked out, and give van owners a bad name – you know the drill.
Rather wait until you’re back camping in a proper park that has these facilities. After all, your stay will most likely be a short one so I’m sure you can wait a night before having a barbeque or sitting around that campfire.
Keep your area clean
You’d be surprised how messy and inconsiderate some people can be. It’s simple – leave the parking space as you found it and take all your trash with you. It’s another way for Walmart to ban the use of their parking lots which will ruin it for everyone.
Keep your engine off at night
While it’s often necessary to charge your RV batteries to keep your basic van functions running, avoid doing so at night. This is noisy and can disturb others, and the fumes can also make it rather unpleasant for everyone else.
Instead, think ahead, and make sure your batteries are charged during the day. If you end up in a situation where you are absolutely desperate, take a short drive around town and give those batteries a quick boost.
Make use of the 24-hour bathrooms
While most RVs have built-in bathroom facilities, not all van builds do. And everyone needs to use the bathroom. So, rather make use of the bathrooms inside the stores as the 24-hour operating hours are there for you to take advantage of.
It is non-negotiable that you leave no trace of your visit and bathroom waste is no different. The last thing you want is to come across someone’s bathroom waste in the parking area. Just don’t do it.
Cooking and food preparation
Lastly, do all your food preparation and cooking inside your van. Although you might be making some delicious food, it could be off-putting to those around you. Better yet, use the stop-off as an excuse to treat yourself to a meal out and take the night off from cooking.
What are the Advantages?
There are many advantages of Walmart camping that make van life parking an overall win. Firstly, overnight RV parking is free. I would say that this is the top advantage when it comes to using a Walmart parking lot.
The van life movement aims to reduce living costs and by saving on rent and other costs, you can greatly reduce your monthly living costs.
Another advantage of overnight parking outside a fully-stocked store is that you can stock up on much-needed supplies. This is especially convenient if you are between remote locations where you might be off the grid with no stores close by.
Lastly, there is usually a Walmart store in every town you pass through. This means that you don’t usually have to go out of your way very much to find one, especially since it’s normally just for one night.
Oh, and Walmart is generally a big fan of RV travelers and considers them some of their best customers. This is always a nice feeling and makes you want to go back and always support their stores.
What are the Disadvantages?
Like anything in life, there are unfortunately some downsides associated with overnight parking at Walmart.
Walmart has been offering RV parking for their customers as an overnight rest stop for many years now. This has been a great alternative to RV parks and truck stops and has always been free. However, many people have taken advantage of this arrangement and as a result, are ruining it for others.
Fewer Walmarts are now allowing people to park their RVs in their store lots which is unfortunately forcing RV owners to look at different options. One of them is Sam’s Club.
Sam’s Club also offers free overnight camping, but the downside is that there aren’t as many locations around compared to Walmart. They do also have rest areas available but once again, it is important to contact the store manager ahead of time to see whether or not they offer free camping.
On the subject of inconsiderate people, this can often be the case at Walmart lots. Often, other people don’t share the same level of consideration and will be loud and unruly, making it unpleasant for everyone else.
If you can look past these downsides and turn them into positives, then it’s again a great option.
Now that we’ve gone through all there is to know about overnight parking at Walmart, I trust that you have all the information you need for when you next need to make use of this wonderful option.
Always contact the individual store managers ahead of your visit to ensure that it is legal in the particular state that you are in. This is one of the most important aspects of making use of Walmart parking lots.
There is normally a large availability of parking space and the stores don’t have an issue with motorhome campers. As I mentioned before, van and RV owners are some of Walmart’s best customers and it is a great arrangement between the two parties.
It’s such a fantastic option available to van owners and should always be seen as a privilege and not a given. Therefore, always leave the space you occupied as you found it, be considerate to others, and don’t be loud and unruly.
The managers are sometimes even willing to allow you to stay longer, allowing overnight parking for multiple days depending on your situation.
So, as a van life community, it is important to respect Walmart stores and their property so that this amazing opportunity can continue to be available for years to come.