Sometimes when traveling, you simply need to rest and find a place that allows overnight RV parking. Perhaps you started later than expected and won’t reach your destination as you had planned. Maybe you had an incident like a blown tire and had to spend several hours trying to find a new set.
You don’t want to spend $45 to $50 for one night at a campground when you don’t need to do laundry, don’t need a playground for the kids, and don’t even need hook-ups. You just need a place to park and sleep. What do you do?
Most RVers turn to places to park overnight because of its convenience and price. But many people abuse this privilege. Let’s look at the seven deadly sins of overnight RV parking.
What Is Overnight RV Parking?
Overnight RV parking is a way to stop for the night and get some sleep before hitting the road again in the morning. You can find free overnight locations like at a Cracker Barrel or Walmart.
You don’t need a membership like Harvest Hosts, but you do need permission from the store manager. This perk provided by businesses all over the United States offers a safe place for weary travelers to sleep for the night.
The Benefits of Overnight RV Parking?
Overnight RV parking has two main benefits. Most RVers choose to do this when they need to sleep. Whether planned or unplanned, they don’t want to venture off the interstate very far or search for a nearby campground. Overnight parking allows travelers to pull in and pull out to continue their journey.
It’s also free. Campground rates have increased 20-30% or more over the last year. So if you drive a long distance over two days, you may enjoy the cheaper and quicker method of finding a parking lot to stop in.
You won’t have any amenities, you often can’t push out slides, and you have no hookups. But it’s convenient and inexpensive.
Can RVs Stay Overnight at Truck Stops?
RVers can choose to overnight at truck stops, which is safer since other travelers will join you. However, make sure to ask each location as not every truck stop permits overnight RV parking.
If you find a truck stop that does, make sure to park in an RV parking spot and not a truck spot. These locations were created for truckers to sleep, eat, do laundry, and shower. So be courteous and leave the long semi-truck spaces to the semi-trucks.
Pro Tip: Unsure what truck stops you can stay at? We researched what truck stops RVers can stay at overnight.
Can You Sleep in an RV in a Parking Lot?
You can’t just pull into any parking lot, although some RVers do, but you can stay in some. Do your research and call ahead. You don’t want to get towed or a ticket in the middle of the night.
Locations like Cracker Barrel, Walmart, Bass Pro Shops, and Sam’s Club usually welcome RVers. Other locations like casinos, churches, and city parks might also allow it. But always check in with someone or call ahead to verify overnight RV parking.
The 7 Deadly Sins of Overnight RV Parking
Convenience and price make overnight RV parking appealing for quick stays. However, RVers can ruin the experience for other travelers.
If people continually do these things below, places will likely stop allowing RVs to park overnight. Then we’ll all lose our chance to use this great option. So let’s avoid these seven deadly sins of overnight RV parking.
#1 Not Getting Permission
As mentioned already, it’s imperative to get permission. If you see a church with a large parking lot along your route, call the day before or earlier that morning to ask permission to stay there overnight.
If you see a Cracker Barrel at the next exit, don’t just pull in and hit the hay. Go inside and ask to speak with the manager to ensure they allow overnight parking and if that location has any rules. And if you can, grab a bite to eat there as a way to say thank you.
#2 Leaving a Mess
This doesn’t just apply to overnight RV parking but to any location where you set up camp. Do not leave a mess. It’s bad for the environment, it’s bad for the business, and it’s bad for the next RVers who come through.
There’s no reason to leave any trash at all when overnight parking. You shouldn’t break out the grill or have a picnic outside at Walmart. The primary purpose is to give you a place to sleep. So keep your area clean.
#3 Parking in the Way
RVers run into this problem often. Where am I going to park? Part of it is protecting the rig and not being a nuisance. When overnight parking, find a place as far away as possible so that you don’t disrupt other guests.
This is also why it’s important to check in with a manager or call ahead. Sometimes you’ll receive specific instructions about where to park so that you aren’t in the way. Guests who are actually using the location for dining or shopping purposes should have the closest and most convenient spots.
#4 Overstaying Your Welcome
Overnight RV parking is for one night. If you plan on staying in a location for two nights or longer, you need to find a campground or boondocking spot.
Some locations generously offer this privilege, but they expect you only to stay one night. If RVers start overstaying their welcome, some of these places may stop providing this free service to travelers.
#5 Being a Space Invader
This is very similar to parking in the way. You need to find a place in the back or off to the side so that you don’t invade other spaces. Even if you’re the only vehicle in the parking lot, like at a church, don’t park diagonally across seven parking spaces. Find a corner, make yourself as small as possible, and sleep for the night.
#6 Not Cleaning Up After Pets
Again, just like you shouldn’t leave a mess anywhere you stay, you shouldn’t leave dog poop either. Always, always, always pick up after your pet.
Whether out hiking in the middle of nowhere, enjoying a sunrise along the beach, or staying in a Bass Pro Shops parking lot, have your doggie bags with you to pick up their messes.
#7 Ignoring Signage
One of the last of the seven deadly sins of overnight RV parking is ignoring signage. If a parking lot has a sign that reads “No Overnight Parking,” that’s not a suggestion. And yes, it applies to everyone.
If a sign threatens the possibility of getting towed, don’t assume you’ll be safe for just one night. Follow the signs and rules of each location so that you don’t ruin the possibility of an overnight stay for the next RVer.
Pro Tip: Are you worried about How Safe is Overnight RV Parking? We took a closer look to help you determine your safety levels.
Be Respectful while Enjoying This Perk
Overnight RV parking is an excellent perk that locations all across America provide for weary travelers. When you just need a safe place to pull over for the night, it’s convenient to drive less than a mile into a parking lot. But don’t overuse or abuse this privilege.
Check-in with the manager upon arrival, park out of the way, and don’t set up camp like you’re staying for a week. By avoiding these seven deadly sins, you’ll help ensure that this privilege remains available for all travelers.
Have you parked overnight before? How was your experience? Drop a comment below!
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