How to Legally Camp in a Walmart Parking Lot?
There are over 4,700 Walmarts in the United States, and many stores provide a much needed break from the road for travel-weary RVers. In fact, on long travel days, it’s our got-to spot to catch zzz’s.
Keep in mind, however, Walmart overnight parking is only allowed at more than half of those stores.
But, 2,300 is still a lot!
Read on to learn how to legally camp overnight at Walmart… and how to stay safe while doing so.
Walmart Overnight Parking… Can You Really Do That?
You might be wondering if Walmart overnight parking is really allowed. The answer to that is YES! But, there are caveats.
Parking overnight at Walmart is allowed in pretty much every state, but not at every Walmart.
Many Walmart stores gladly cater to the RVer, van dweller, and wayward road tripper. You might even hear of it referred to as “Wallydocking”.
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, wanted RVers to have a safe space to park for the night when traveling. He knew that, when given a free place to stay, the RVers would also patronize the store. It was a win-win situation, and still is to this day.
The stores that don’t allow it do so either because their parking lot is too small, or because city or county ordinance rules against it. But, many do allow it… So, keep reading to find out how you can know which store will accept you and which won’t!
Pro Tip: Here are the don’ts of Walmart camping.
How to Know Which Walmarts Allow Overnight RV Parking
Finding out which Walmarts allow overnight RV parking is pretty straightforward.
With some stores, it will be really obvious because they have “No Overnight Parking” signs throughout the parking lot.
With others, it’s hard to tell by looking!
Here are a few ways you can find out if a Walmart store allows overnight camping:
Call the store and ask for the manager. If it’s allowed, they’ll even tell you which section of the parking lot to park in.
Use the Allstays “Walmart Overnight Parking” app, or download the paid version of the full Allstays app. Both apps show Walmart locations and are updated with real-time user reviews. This way, you’ll know if a store suddenly changed it’s policy. You’ll also see reviews about noise, parking, etc.
Check the map on Walmart Locator. This map isn’t constantly updated by users like Allstays, so always call to verify.
Staying Safe While Sleeping in Walmart Parking Lots
In general, overnight parking and camping at Walmart stores is safe. You’re in a well-lit public location with security cameras. But, there are always some stores or neighborhoods that can feel a little sketchy!
If you don’t feel safe somewhere, don’t stay there. It’s as simple as that. But, here are some tips to keep you and your rig safe while parking overnight at Walmart.
Park close to a light pole. This may be annoying when you’re trying to sleep, but being in a well-lit location is better for your security.
Park out of the way. Park in the very far back or side of the lot to be far away from any traffic. This will help with noise, too.
Don’t leave anything valuable outside if possible. If you have expensive bikes or gear mounted to the back of the RV, bring them inside if possible or make sure they’re very secure.
Additional Resources: Here’s our recent report, Is It Safe to RV in America?
Benefits of Overnight Walmart RV Parking
Being able to park overnight at Walmart stores is a welcome reprieve from the road for many weary travelers. There are many perks to staying at Walmart stores.
- It’s FREE!
- Everything you need is right inside the store.
- Most stores are open 24 hours, so you can use the bathroom in the middle of the night if you need to.
- There are Walmarts all over the country – it’s not hard to find one to sleep at.
Rules and Etiquette for Boondocking At Walmart
There are some general unwritten rules about boondocking at Walmart. While they are unwritten, they should always be followed.
Being respectful about your stay and following these general rules will help keep these overnight parking options available for all travelers.
You know the saying “one person can ruin it for everyone” – don’t be that person.
Never fully set up camp. Walmart parking lots are for sleeping only – no setting up your camp chairs, rugs, or grills.
Avoid using your RV’s jacks if possible. They can cause dents in the asphalt of the parking lot.
The slide debate. There is much debate about whether or not you should fully extend your slides while “Wallydocking”. Some RVers can’t access their bedroom or bathrooms without them, so this is up to you.
Don’t overstay. It’s customary to arrive in the evening or at night and leave early in the morning. Some stores will ask you to leave by 8am. Never stay more than one night in a row at any store!
Patronize the store. Although overnight parking at Walmart is free, it’s a good gesture to purchase something during your stay.
Leave it better than you found it. This should go without saying but: don’t litter. Don’t let your tanks leak on the lot. Don’t leave anything behind when you go, not even food scraps or waste water.
Where to Park When Sleeping In Your Car (or RV) At Walmart
At many stores, it will be very obvious where you should park when you’re sleeping in your car or RV. When you arrive, you might even see a row of RV and car or van campers in a certain section of the lot. That’s the general area you should park.
If you don’t see other RVs or car campers, park in the far back or far side of the lot. Away from the store and the general parking area, and away from the flow of traffic.
If you call the store to verify that you can park there, the manager will usually tell you where you should park. It’s different at every store, but the idea is the same: out of the way.
Alternatives to Walmart Overnight Camping
There is free camping all over this country! If staying at Walmart parking lots doesn’t feel like your thing, you’re in luck.
Here’s our list of Overnight Parking Secret Spots.
Walmart Overnight Camping: Convenient and Free
RV Parking or car camping overnight at Walmart is undoubtedly convenient. It’s free, it’s safe, and everything you need is nearby. It’s a great respite from the road and saves you time and money on your way to your destination!
Has Walmart Canceled Overnight Parking Nationwide?
According to a Reddit thread posted in late August 2021, a user shared:
“Hi, the managers of my local Walmart are going around to the RVs in their lot and telling everyone that Walmart has changed it’s policy nationwide and will no longer allow overnight parking.
I’ve seen zero news articles and haven’t heard anything confirming this, is anyone here still sleeping at Walmarts since yesterday?”
Naturally, this is an alarming announcement for any RVer. Walmart has let RVers park for free overnight at many store locations ever since they were founded in 1962.
Today, the retail giant has over 5,000 stores in the US, and over half of them have been known to allow overnight parking.
So what gives?
As soon as we saw this thread, we were shocked.
We immediately reached out to Walmart HQ for comment and started digging online for any supporting information. So far, we’ve come up short. Walmart has not responded to our request for comment and there are no news articles or announcements posted to social media as of September 2nd, 2021.
Surely if a major retailer was making such a huge change in the midst of a pandemic when more people are on the road than ever, they’d make some kind of official public announcement… right?
In our opinion, it doesn’t look like there’s any truth to this claim. Unless Walmart is slowly working on rolling out the policy or keeping it from the public, as of right now it looks like this claim is false.
Of course, there’s always a chance this is a policy that Walmart is slowly rolling out. But without any official announcements or changes to the FAQ on the corporate website, we can’t confirm it right now.
The original poster goes on to comment “This place has 12 hour parking signs, that’s what’s so strange. At 9pm, managers walked around telling everyone in an RV that the nationwide policy had changed as of that day and they’d be switching the signs soon.”
So why would a store manager say this? Well, we don’t know who said it or even what store it was or the state that it was in. But, if we had to guess, they were just fed up and wanted the RVers out for good.
It seems like a weird thing to lie about, especially going as far as saying they are going to change the signs. But this is also the internet, so for all we know the story could just be hearsay.
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