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Van Camper Sleeps in Walmart Parking Lot for 2+ Years

Van Camper Sleeps in Walmart Parking Lot for 2+ Years

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. 

Walmart parking lot.
When on the road, a Walmart parking lot can be a great option for camping.

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.

Ask Permission

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!

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Ellie Kim

Thursday 27th of January 2022

I stayed at a Walmart parking lot with my boyfriend in his camper van. We didn't ask for permission, but I did buy items from Walmart. Very safe and quiet. And we both have dogs. We stayed in a lot of Walmart parking lots. You just have to be respectful of your surroundings and the people.

Michael Jackson

Tuesday 25th of January 2022

I use to camp at a Roseville CA Walmart several times a month often the local police department would wake me up and tell me to move on. For a short time I found a place to live( which never lasted long). While I was in a share rental I squired and still have my best friend. Boo Boo Bear an Egyptian maw Siamese mix cat. Having to lost my place (BofA foreclosed the home i Shared) I returned to the Walmart in Roseville and not long after here come the cops to wake and roust me again,only to their surprise I have Boo Boo.while rousting I had Boo on my lap holding to him. Oh you have cat? They say and I say "yea he is and he's my best friend" .meanwhile Boo didn't like the officers nor the rude awakening,and his claws dug deep into my arm bitting me and drawing blood and stopping for a minute and starring the 4 officer who gathered around my truck. Then he go back to bitting me and stare them down repeatedly.. it wasn't long and they left letting me stay for the night. They never ever rousted me in that parking lot or anywhere in the Roseville area again. In fortunately Boo Boo Bear 10 years to old and I 67 years old are presently are homeless but placer county sheriff's are great people who know my cat and occasionally to ask me to move camper but they I believe they understand and my Boo, well he doesn't like humans all that much but he doesn't have a lot of hate of the officers like he expressed to the Roseville cops. You might say he is has tolerance for them. Love my Boo Boo Bear. January,24,2022

Rebecca

Sunday 23rd of January 2022

We took a 48 day 28 state tour of the county during Covid. We slept on turn outs on the Oregon Coast, empty parking lots, side of the road in neighborhoods, and Walmart Parking lots. We showered at planet fitness. It was an amazing experience. We had a highlander towing 2 motorcycles. We have a van now with a platform bed and some more storage. It's been working out well.

Shawn

Saturday 22nd of January 2022

I sleep in my Truck at a Walmart in their parking lot and have been doing so off and on for the past 8yrs. I always make sure I park far from the store and in no one's way. I have never one single issue in the years I have been doing this. The main thing is, mind your own business, do not leave messes and yes definitely be a shopper as well while your there.

Kathy

Saturday 22nd of January 2022

There are so many places to can camp besides WM. I prefer to use Home Depot out lots, Cracker Barrel, lg truck stops and I've quiet short streets that we off of interstate exit ramps.

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