The idea of parking overnight at Walmarts is one of the great debates in the RVing community. Some think that it’s a great way to spend a quick evening where you just need some rest along the way and the other extreme is that you’re a cheap blowhard if you stay at a Walmart. So, who is right? Why would anyone ever want to stay in a blacktop paradise?
My wife, kids, and I have spent a few nights at a couple of retail stores (like Walmarts).
So, are we cheap? Yeah, a little bit of it.
But really, the biggest reason is that we often need to travel a good distance and will get a start after work the night before and drive for a few hours. I don’t want to be “that guy” who pulls in at 11pm, or midnight, or even later and makes a bunch of noise while we get parked and do the bare minimum of setup. Even trying to be quiet, it always seems to be louder than I’d like.
So, it’s less about cheapness as it is about courtesy.
Which Walmarts Allow It?
Let’s say you want to stay overnight at a Walmart (or Sams Club or Cabelas or Bass Pro Shops or the like)… how do you go about it? What are the rules?
For us, we use the either Allstays Camp & RV app or Google Maps to look for Walmarts (or like stores) that are coming up along our route. Once we find one in a location near where we might want to stop for the night, we’ll call ahead first and ask if they “allow RVs to park overnight in their parking lot?” We always call first.
If the answer is “yes”, then we ask where in the parking lot that they prefer we park. Sometimes they have a recommendation, other times they don’t.
If the answer is “no”, then we thank them and move on. There is a variety of reasons they’ll say no. Sometimes Walmart doesn’t own the land and the land owner disallows it, other times the municipality doesn’t allow it, and others it’s the Walmart themselves that doesn’t.
Once we get to Walmart, we go to the area that they indicated. If they didn’t tell us a spot, we look for somewhere out of the way as much as possible. A lot of times, it’s off to the side of the Garden Center for some reason.
Next we’ll start to eye up spots that are the most level (our LevelMate Pro is an excellent aid). Ideally we’ll be at an outer edge where we are against grass. If not, we’ll park in line with a row of spots. We take up just one side of back to back spots; often times, we’ll get joined by other RVers or a big trucker on the spots adjacent to ours.
Take as few spots as possible, and never NEVER block a parking lot road/drive.
We’re Parked, Now What?
Back in the 90s, the Escapees RV Club established a “Code of Conduct” of sorts that other organizations have signed their support of. Looking at the current iteration, I see that it’s changed and evolved over the years. However, the basic idea is to stay only 1 night, ask first, leave the place better than you found it (bearing in mind, hydraulic jacks can punch holes in hot asphalt), don’t look like you’re camping (grill, awning, sitting outside), and to be safe and aware of your surroundings.
For that last note, we’ve never felt unsafe but I would leave if I ever did. We try to keep our setup as minimal as possible to make getting in the truck and leaving as quick and easy as possible.
We personally will lower our landing gear and/or stabilizers jacks just a touch. We don’t unhitch, but we do take a little pressure off of the hitch and suspension. I found this helps my wife and I to sleep better as the kid’s rolling over at the far end of the camper tends to disrupt our sleep/rest. After all, a good night of sleep is why I’m Wallydocking!
Can I Run My Generator?
This is a common question, “are generators allowed when parked at Walmart?” The answer is, “it depends“. Make sure that your generator noise isn’t going to intrude on others. Check to see if there are houses nearby and don’t pull up next to a RV parked before you who has their windows down. We had a truck do that to us before! As with everything else, courtesy first.
If you need to restock supplies or refuel, that night or the next morning before wheel’s up is a great time to do it. If you want to go a little further, find the manager and thank them for their hospitality (preferably with a cart of supplies!).