One of the lures of RVing is the unpredictable nature of the journey. If you typically live in your RV vehicle, you may not have a fixed destination in mind as you may just want to explore the country. Even if you do have a destination in mind, there are usually times when there are no RV parks in your route where you can switch off for the night. When you are in such situation as this, won’t you love it if there are places you can just stay overnight without getting in trouble with the law or paying through your nose?
Well, there is some good news here because there are some really acceptable places right in town where you are allowed by the law to park your RV overnight all for free or for a little fee. A lot of these places are not just free but are safe for both you and your vehicle. But you know that in every rule, there is always an exception. You should know that a few of these parking lots may not be the quietest or in the safest communities. Use good judgment, scope it out and if it doesn’t feel right, move on.
Here are some of the places that would allow you to park your RV overnight with little or no cost implications.
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Walmart is one of the most popular places where RV owners can park their RVs overnight. Over 80% of Walmart’s across the U.S. allow free overnight parking on their premises. Best of all, there is a Walmart in almost every city or town in America, and they are often easily accessible right off the interstates. While they do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among their best customers. Consequently, they do permit RV parking on their stores a lot, as long as they are able to. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space, and local laws. But note that before you move in with your RV, you have to contact the management in each store to ensure accommodations are available before parking your RV.
Some Walmart parking lots even have RV parking spots painted to show where to park. If you don’t see these types of spots, Walmart still encourages RVers to park in their lots. However, always ensure that you park away from customers and entrances. It helps if your shop in the Walmart you’re staying at as well to show your appreciation for parking there.
If you’re traveling cross-country and have a friend or family member in town, they might let you park for a night or two. This is legal too. Know that you have to reach out to your network during your journey when planning to park on a private property. Craigslist can be a quick way to find people willing to let you park in their driveway should you need it. Services like RVwithMe and Outdoorsy can help you find private RV parking in a pinch, too.
While doing this though, you have to be mindful of city regulations to ensure parking on private property is allowed. More cities are banning RVs parking on neighborhood streets. If this is the case, and your RV fits in a driveway, you’ll avoid a hefty fine.
Parks are another place that allow RVs to stay overnight. RV overnight policies vary by locale, and by state. You may be able to find RV-friendly parks online by checking municipal rules for various locations along the route you map, and by visiting the municipality’s website.
State parks may charge a fee, but some have facilities for dumping tanks or topping up with water. All these are to your advantage and would be worth the fee you pay.
Business Parking Lots
Quite a few businesses allow RVs to park on their premises overnight. Among them are Camping World, which caters to RVers, and Walmart/Sam’s Clubs, which will be glad to sell you whatever you need for your journey. Some restaurant chains that target travelers, such as Cracker Barrel, also allow RVs overnight.
Casinos with huge lots typically say yes to RVs. They get RVers all the time, and casinos are always glad to take your money (which they usually do). Casinos have proliferated, so find out about one you may be planning to visit or merely park at. Some sports stadiums allow parking when there’s no game, but they may charge a fee and they may not allow overnight stays. Visit their websites or call to find out.
If you are allowed to stay overnight, be sure to return the kindness by patronizing the establishment. If you are not one for gambling, then you can consider dining at a casino. They’re open 24 hours; the food is usually pretty good and they are quite inexpensive.
Depending on the location and size, churches would be another great place that can allow you to park your RV overnight. As long as it’s not a Saturday or maybe a Wednesday night, it’s not usually an issue to park overnight at a church. For the sake of common courtesy, please ask permission before you spend the night.
Schools can be a quick way to find parking when you’re in a jam, so long as you’ve attended an event there, donated to a cause, or the parking lot is empty. This is one of your last resort parking spots if you can’t find anywhere else legal to park your RV. Some schools consider this trespassing; others don’t mind so long as you are part of the community. Check with school officials before parking and make sure to stay for one night only. Make sure to park exactly where school officials tell you to do so. Otherwise you may block traffic or cause issues for students moving about campus.
Fraternities and Military Veteran Organizations
There are some National membership-based clubs and fraternities that have created RV sites for their members in good standing. Some will allow reservations while others are first come first serve. So, if you’re a member of the Elks Club, Loyal Order of the Moose, Lion’s Club, or other fraternity-based organization, check for availability. Military Veteran Organizations like the VFW and American Legion Posts may also allow members in good standing, Active Duty, Military Retirees or Veterans a place to park. Call ahead to ask so you don’t work on assumptions
Some malls permit overnight RV parking as well. However, you will want to check with the proper Mall office or authority to get permission to park overnight. You will not want to be woken up at 2:00 am to find out that the Mall parking lot you where you are parked does not allow overnight parking, and has called a tow truck.
Supermarkets can provide a well-lit parking spot for RVers. Some RVers view the well-lit parking lots as a safer place to park overnight. Again, always check with the store manager to get permission to park overnight in your RV. And you can stock up on groceries while you are there too. Courtesy demands that from you.
Truck Stops such as Travel Centers of America or Flying J aren’t just for trucks, 18 wheelers, or over-sized rigs anymore. RVers are taking advantage of overnight parking at truck stops across the country every day. As long as you follow the rules of truckers, you’ll be fine. Be courteous, park straight, and be gone by mid-morning. Many now have separate parking areas for RVs. It is important to remember that Truck stops do attract all sorts of people. Make sure you lock your doors, windows, and keep valuables out of sight for safety whether you’re in the RV or out exploring. One of the benefits of truck stops is that you can meet some interesting people and learn about the culture that’s developed from these stops.
Many casinos allow RVs to park when the spaces are available. Some casinos charge a small fee during peak weekends and holidays. It’s important to call ahead and check with management before parking. You want to ensure you park far away from parking spots to make sure you will not get towed. Some casinos have specific spots for RVers, so you need to find them. Other casinos allow RVers to park so long as they’re far enough away from the entrance.
A motorway is a controlled access highway, which provides for high speed traffic without traffic signals, and access is provided through ramps and slip roads. Most motorway service stations allow overnight stay for a fee. But you have to observe the basic rule of contacting the authority in charge to be sure you will be allowed to make use of the position.
A a travel center is a commercial facility which provides refuelling, rest, and often ready-made food and other services to motorists and truck drivers. As controversial as Travel Centers have become between truckers and RVers, there’s a reason why they are called ‘travel centers’. They all offer diesel fuel and some may even offer free or low-cost dump sites and potable water. Most have convenience stores, restaurants, paid laundry and paid showers on the premises. Since their patronage is trucking industry driven, they stock 12-volt supplies, electronics and appliances. They also carry some tools and emergency repair items.
However, please know that federal laws require a certain number of resting hours for OTR truck drivers. This creates a disdain between truckers and RV owner patrons. So, if you need to get off the road due to fatigue or breakdown, please do not park in the truck-parking spaces. Either use the designated RV Parking or park in an area that does not impede truck traffic.
A rest area is a public facility, located next to a large thoroughfare such as a motorway, expressway, or highway, at which drivers and passengers can rest, eat, or refuel without exiting onto secondary roads. Some rest areas (in some States) allow you to stay overnight. You can check with the State Police or Highway Department. Even those rest areas where you can’t stay overnight, you can often pull in for a few hours and take a nap if needed.
Businesses in the United States that Would Allow you Park Your RV at Them
15. Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is an almost free overnight RV parking location. It’s not exactly free because you have to pay a very reasonable membership fee but then you have access to almost 1000 free overnight RV parking locations. And these are gorgeous locations at wineries, breweries, and farms across the US. And you can add on Golf Plan to add another 400+ free overnight RV parking locations.
- Camping World
In the past, Camping World was always a reliable spot for a free, one-night overnight stay. However, as Camping World has changed its focus from accessories, parts, and service to RV sales. AN increasing number of Camping World stores now have fenced and gated parking lots which are locked at night, and they no longer welcome overnight RV stays.
It does seem, however, that a new twist is developing. Camping World in Wood Village, Oregon now allows overnight RV parking if the RV was purchased at a Camping World dealership. That is, of course, if you jump through all of the hoops like arriving before closing time, asking permission, verifying that your RV was purchased from a Camping World dealership, and obtaining an overnight RV parking pass which must be displayed on your rig. No parking pass means no overnight stays, and the excellent possibility of your RV being towed off in the middle of the night.
Costco locations are often very convenient, and their parking lots are usually well-lit, providing a pleasant environment for overnight parking. As an added benefit, you can purchase gas, camping gear, RV supplies, groceries, and even tires at significantly discounted prices. Just join Costco to make use of this freebie.
- Cracker Barrel
Cracker barrel is another business in the United States that would allow you park overnight in their premises. Just remember that every location has different rules, so it’s proper etiquette to obtain permission from the manager. You can even call ahead to do this.
- Elks Lodges
As many RVers know, one of the many benefits of joining your local Elks Lodge is the availability of RV accommodations at Elks Lodges. There are more than 2,000 Elks Lodges in the USA, and about half of them have RV facilities of some sort. The facilities range from full-fledged RV parks with 30/50A electric and water hookups, sewer connections, and even Cable TV, to a spot to dry camp in one corner of the Lodge parking lot, and everything in between.
In nearly every case, these RV facilities are for the use of Elk Members in good standing only. Some lodges do allow the RV of a non-Elk who is traveling with an Elk RV to stay as the guest of the visiting Elk.
- Home Depot
Many big stores such as Home Depot will allow you to park overnight on their lot. Often, the manager of the store has the final say, so it is always best to talk to the manager and get permission. Follow the rules and thank the store by stocking up with some supplies or gear before you leave.
Like Home Depot, some Kmart stores will allow you to park your RV overnight on their lot. The manager of the store does have the final say, so like with Home Depot, it is always best to talk to the store manager and get permission. Follow the manager’s rules and thank the store by getting a few supplies before you leave.
Unless local ordinances forbid it, Menards is another regional retailer that typically allows RVers to park overnight for free on their lots. Follow the rules of etiquette and ask for permission. Spend a little money to say thank you and be gone by mid-morning.
- Moose Lodges
Moose Lodges have the same availability of RV accommodations for its members as Elks Lodges. But you must be a Moose member to stay overnight in your RV, and there are Moose Lodges all over the US.
Target like some other big stores allow RVs to park overnight in them. Policies may vary depending on the store’s manager. Talk to the manager and get permission before staying overnight. If the store is gracious enough to allow you to use their parking lot overnight, follow the rules and spend some cash before taking off in the morning.
- Planet Fitness
Some Planet Fitness locations allow RVers to park overnight if you have a membership to the gym. It’s a great place to park for the night and get a workout in the morning. Imagine using a stone to kill two birds.
When parking an RV in an oddball place, make sure you check with the manager, owner or officials who regulate the area. This ensures you won’t wake up in the middle of the night being towed. Some will be more than happy to let you park for a night; others won’t be. Make sure you follow instructions on where to park, what rules are in place, and leave the spot pristine when you hit the road. As an RVer, you always want to make sure you’re as responsible as possible when parking anywhere out of the ordinary. This could help you stay out of trouble.
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