If you have a friend who spends too much time at Walmart, they’ll likely have nothing on “The Cat Lady Van” and her camper van.
RVers and van lifers love Walmart for its low prices and hospitality for overnight parking. However, the van camper takes overnight parking at Walmart to a whole new level. And, let’s be clear, we don’t recommend this.
Let’s look at her story and how she uses Walmart for more than just a place to stock up on supplies.
Who Is The Cat Lady Van?
“The Cat Lady Van” is a YouTube channel run by Canadian YouTuber Emi. In 2018, she hit the road in her SUV to get away from a long-term toxic relationship.
While she only intended to live out of her SUV for a month, it ultimately ended up being an entire year. She eventually used all of her savings to purchase a van that she shares with her cat, Kelly.
She documents her travels and experiences on her channel and shares tips and tricks for getting the most out of van life. She’s gained nearly 40,000 subscribers and almost 5 million views since April 2020.
Her fun personality, sense of adventure, and accent make her channel stick out from the rest.
How Many Years Has The Cat Lady Van Been Sleeping in Walmart Parking Lots?
Emi has spent nearly 2.5 years in the parking lot, particularly at the Squamish Walmart in British Columbia, Canada.
However, she’s good about it and doesn’t typically stay during the day. Instead, she’ll go about her day or find another place to park and return in the evenings to get some sleep.
She found that the Walmart parking lot was incredibly safe and quiet most of the time. She liked being near other camper vans, RVs, and limited traffic during the night. It’s also close to where she was working in town at one point.
Keep in mind: Emi is breaking many of The Don’ts of Walmart Overnight Parking.
Can You Spend the Night in Walmart Parking Lots?
Well, yes and no. While Walmart is a popular location for many camper vans and RVs, we’ve seen more stores prohibiting overnight parking. It’s often up to the individual store to create a policy, but the store must also follow local rules and regulations.
Some communities prohibit overnight parking to manage homeless and transient communities. Certain stores and communities have had issues with illegal activities and littering due to overnight campers. It’s far easier for them to prohibit the activity than deal with issues on a case-by-case basis.
If you’re looking to stay at a Walmart, make sure to speak with management to get permission. Failure to do so could result in a knock on your door asking you to move along.
Pro Tip: We put together a list on How to Legally Camp in a Walmart Parking Lot so you can sleep safe and sound on your next adventure.
How Long Can You Sleep in Walmart Parking Lots?
Most Walmarts don’t have a set time limit regarding how long they will allow you to stay. The typical expectation is that you’ll stay for the night and then be on your way in the morning. If you plan to stay consecutive nights, it’s a good idea to vacate the parking lot during daytime hours.
If you don’t like the idea of packing up and leaving during the day, it might be best to get a campsite at a local campground.
Walmarts are generous with their space during the overnight hours because their parking lots are empty for most of the night. If RVs and vans pack their parking lots during their peak operating hours, they’re likely to start enforcing rules and regulations.
Best Practices for Sleeping in Walmart Parking Lots
If you plan to stay in a Walmart parking lot, there are a handful of things you can do to be a good guest. This helps guarantee the store accepts future guests for overnight stays.
No matter what you read online or are told by a friend, you should always ask for permission if you want to stay in a parking lot. You never know if there’s a policy change or other reasons that prohibit you from staying.
Ensure that you get permission from the store manager or an individual with authority to grant you permission. Not just any store employee can approve you staying in the parking lot. If anyone questions you, ensure you have the manager’s name who permitted you to stay.
Don’t Set Up Camp
The Walmart parking lot is not a campground. If you’re expecting that kind of experience, make reservations at a campground. When staying in the parking lot, don’t put out tons of camping gear.
Remain as inconspicuous as possible. Drawing attention to yourself in any way is an invitation for trouble. So, keep your camping gear packed away as you’re only there temporarily.
Limit Your Time in the Parking Lot
Like Emi, being a good guest means limiting your time in the parking lot. You don’t want to be a nuisance to the store, the community, or those doing their shopping. It’s best to park in the parking lot in the evenings and leave around the time the store opens.
Make a Purchase
One of the best ways to say thank you to the store is by making a purchase. There’s always a handful of things you can use from Walmart. Even if you’re just getting food or restocking your road trip snacks, Walmart makes it incredibly easy.
Pro Tip: Avoid Walmart parking faux pas by making sure you never do these Don’ts of Walmart Camping.
Is Camping in a Walmart Parking Lot Worth It?
Yes, staying in a Walmart parking lot is most definitely worth it. However, you must be aware of your surroundings at all times and always trust your gut.
Don’t stay anywhere if you feel uncomfortable or get a sense that something isn’t right. Camping there is a great way to save money and can often be extremely convenient while traveling.
What’s Next for The Cat Lady Van?
Emi is still traveling in her camper van with her cat, Kelly, with no signs of stopping the van life. She still regularly chronicles her daily journey as a van lifer on YouTube while giving more insight into how she sleeps in her van in the Walmart parking lot.
Have you ever stayed in a Walmart parking lot? Tell us your story in the comments below!
Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).
You should give it a try!
As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site!
We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: