Can You Park Your RV Overnight at Churches?
Could a local church parking lot be the answer to your overnight parking prayers?
With campgrounds and many free camping spots filling up, you may find yourself desperate to find a place to stay overnight. It’s possible a local church will offer a space to get some rest.
Let’s find out!
Is It OK to Park Your RV Overnight at Churches?
Church parking lots are private property, much like businesses that serve as popular free camping sites. These establishments, to an extent, can choose who they allow to camp in their parking lot overnight.
Even if a church is willing to let an RVer camp overnight, they can’t override local ordinances. Many cities and other local governments are no longer tolerating messes left from rude transients.
Many of these overnight campers will leave trash, abandoned vehicles, and even sewage behind. As a result, many cities and local governments are creating ordinances to prohibit camping in parking lots. Check any local regulations, even if a church has given you permission.
It’ll help to have a relationship at a church or denomination, but there are still ways to find overnight in a church parking lot. Let’s take a look at one great option.
How to Find Churches to Park at Overnight
FaithfulParking.com launched to connect churches with those looking for an easy overnight stop. Faithful Parking is similar to Harvest Hosts, but for churches. One of the key differences is that Faithful Parking doesn’t charge a membership fee. Amenities and costs will vary from one church to the next.
You can also look for churches that might be convenient along your route.
Call to tell them you’re passing through and ask for their permission to stay the night. Avoid staying on Saturday nights, as a larger vehicle may be in the way of normal operations on a Sunday morning.
However, if you do mention you plan to attend services, it may help.
The slogan for Faithful Parking is, “Don’t Get Stuck In a Big Box, Travel with Faith.” We agree, big-box store parking lots can be a drag.
However, we think Cracker Barrel is a great option for easy overnight RV parking.
Is It Legal to Park Your RV at Churches Overnight?
The legality of staying in a church parking lot will vary from church to church but also from city to city. Some churches prohibit overnight parking. And some cities have strict policies in regards to camping overnight in a parking lot.
Make sure you have permission and comply with the law.
Rules for Overnight Church Parking
You want your overnight church parking experience to be a good one for you and the church. Here are a few tips to ensure you get invited back the next time you’re passing through.
Don’t Set Up Camp
Keep in mind that you’re in a parking lot, not in a state park, RV park, or campground. You should avoid setting up lawn chairs, lights, and other camping accessories. You’re only staying for the night.
Be respectful of your hosts and avoid pulling out unnecessary gear and cluttering up your camping spot during your stay.
Arrive Late, Leave Early
You should plan an overnight stay at a church to be just that — an overnight stay. Arrive late and leave early in the morning. You don’t want to inconvenience your host by being in their way during the day. Generally, these types of stops are best for long travel days.
Make sure you communicate with the host and ask their expectations for arriving and leaving. They may be OK with you arriving early, as it gives them a chance to help you with parking or getting situated. Be aware of any potential special events or circumstances that may require some flexibility on your part.
Don’t Stay for More than One Night
Don’t overstay your welcome. Many of these overnight stays limit you to one night. The hosts are incredibly generous to let you stay in their parking lot for the night. Don’t take advantage by pushing the limits to see what you can get out of them.
Keep your stays limited to one night and then move on to the next adventure.
Alternatives to Churches for Overnight RV Parking
Churches are the newest groups to jump on the overnight RV parking bandwagon.
Places like Walmart, Cracker Barrel, Cabelas, and even Home Depot are opening their lots to RVers. You can find many great places to stay by using apps like Campendium and iOverlander. If you’re looking for an easy place to park for the night, give them a shot.
Pro Tip: Here’s our guide to finding the best overnight parking for your RV.
Or Try Boondocking!
Campendium and iOverlander aren’t just great at finding businesses with free overnight parking. If the campgrounds and big-box retailer parking lots are full, you may be able to park overnight on free public lands.
Boondocking means you’ll need to come with everything you need for your overnight stay. When you boondock, you need to be self-contained. This means you carry everything with you that you’ll need for the night, including a restroom, a way to prepare food, and a place to sleep.
When you boondock, you can experience incredible views while camping in beautiful national forests and other public lands. You may even catch a glimpse of a rare animal while you’re out in these remote camping spots.
Churches Are Another Great Overnight Parking Option
Many churches embrace the directive to feed, clothe, and welcome others. Whatever you believe, it’s great to see more places opening up to travelers. Would you stay overnight in a church parking lot?
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Sunday 25th of July 2021
Now you have an article that is in my wheelhouse! I'm a Christian Evangelist that is on the road in a small 26' Class A about 6 months per year. I've been an on-the-road Evangelist since 2016. In that time, I've never been rejected by a church to stay overnight, even when I'm just passing through or it's not part of my denomination. Make sure to call ahead. Stay only one night unless you are working/visiting the church for some function! Almost always they will tell you where you can park, and where/if you can plug into the building for electricity (with a dog-bone adapter you will have lights and fans and electric heaters but no microwave or A/C). If there is a church service the next day, you should go and make sure if you are plugged in that you move your RV out of the way of the main parishioner parking.
We even have developed a schedule using Thousand Trails campgrounds (of which we are members) and churches. Thousand Trails has a park-to-park 4 day option. So, we would get to a TT park on Sunday night and stay for 3-4 nights. Then we would move to another TT park until Saturday night when we would camp in a church parking lot. Attend Sunday church and head back to a TT park that night, repeating the weekly sequence.
This way we never pay for camping except our TT dues.
Sunday 25th of July 2021
We have never stayed overnight in a church parking lot, but we often stop there for lunch breaks. It is especially good during the weekdays and Saturdays.During the pandemic, Sundays were also okay, but now churches will be meeting in-person starting in the fall.
Sunday 25th of July 2021
Try a local hospital lot. Patients and visitors arrive and leave at all times of the day and night. If you’re desperate there may be a hospital cafeteria open. Mike