Walmart is an RVer’s go-to when needing to stop for some R&R while on the road. But these days, fewer and fewer stores are allowing overnight parking for campers.
What changed their minds? Could it be that the retail behemoth has lost its soft spot for RV travelers? Have campers taken Walmart’s generosity for granted?
We’re discovering if Walmart will still offer free overnight parking in 2022.
Is It Legal to Sleep Overnight at Walmart?
Generally speaking, Walmart welcomes overnight RVers to their parking lots. Their founder, Sam Walton, was an enthusiastic camper, and he saw the benefit of having RVers stay at his stores. Most would pick up items they’d need for their trip. In addition, many would help keep the parking lots clear of refuse and wandering shopping carts.
But bad behavior by a few RVers who would pull out their grills and camp chairs and set up camp in the lot or those that left their trash behind have ruined Walmart’s generous offer for the rest of us. Many campground owners near Walmarts also had a hand in making several stores off limits to RVers.
They reasoned that rigs that spent the night in a Walmart parking lot were rigs that would otherwise have stayed at their campgrounds, paying for the luxury to do so. These owners pestered local governments to enact new laws disallowing overnight parking in regional businesses, including Walmart stores.
It’s challenging to know which stores allow RVers to stay overnight and which don’t until you drive up to a specific store. The best practice is to call ahead and speak with a manager, asking permission. If it’s allowed, they’ll tell you which part of the parking lot they’d like you to inhabit.
READ THIS: The 7 Deadly Sins of Walmart Camping.
Can You Sleep in a Car at Walmart?
The same policies that allow or disallow RVers also apply to those staying overnight in their cars. Vehicles need to remain in the area of the parking lot where the stores have asked RVs to park, and it’s a good idea to black out your windows, either by Reflectix window coverings or a black board, so shoppers don’t know that anyone’s in the car.
Why Would You Want to Sleep Overnight at Walmart?
Walmart isn’t usually the first choice for a camping experience, but many tired RV drivers have discovered that it can be a great place to stop for a rest when on the road to a final camping destination. It’s convenient if you don’t need a campground experience or no need for all of the amenities of a resort.
It can be challenging to find a place on the road where you can pull a big rig in, turn off the engine and catch some shuteye, and Walmart has filled that need at many of its stores.
Why Are Some Walmarts Changing Overnight Sleeping Policies?
Sam Walton initially set the overnight parking policy for all his stores, but over the years, many actions have caused some Walmarts to rescind their allowance. Here’s why:
Some RVers have ruined it for the rest of us by ignoring the rules and being discourteous to the host. They park their RV at Walmart, pull out their camp chairs, put down their levelers, which sink into the hot asphalt and leave dimples in the parking lot, open all the slides, fire up the outdoor grill and treat Walmart as if it’s their long lost home.
In instances like this, it appears the party’s going to be a nightly occurrence, and Wally World has become their permanent address. It’s easy to see why many stores are cracking down on ‘users’ like these who are setting up a long-term campsite at the local big box store.
Trash and Vandalism
Some stores are located in high-crime areas and experience some vandalism and criminal behavior. And sometimes, the infractions come from an RVer who has decided to use his free overnight parking spot while inciting violence or committing a crime.
And more often than not, some campers leave their trash, don’t clean up after their pets, or leave remnants of their stay at Walmart, like oil leaks from their rigs and even RV parts that they have replaced while sitting in the parking lot. None of these actions would be tolerated at a campground, yet some RVers evidently think they’re above the rules and limits of common decency.
Local Rules and Regulations
In many cases, because of local laws and regulations, Walmart has had to limit overnight parking in stores. This came about with resident campground owners in towns where Walmart was allowing RVers to stay overnight.
The campgrounds felt like store policy was taking away legitimate customers who would have paid for a campsite if they didn’t have a place to park free. They lobbied for new rules to be passed that nixed overnight parking in business parking lots, and city law always trumps company policy.
How Do You Find Walmarts to Sleep Overnight?
Walmarts are usually found in any city of five thousand people or more, but the easy way to discover if one is on your travel route is to look at WalmartLocator.com, where all 3,900 stores are listed. You can also find most Walmarts that allow overnight parking listed on websites such as Campendium.com and FreeCampsites.net.
In addition, the Allstays Pro and iOverlander apps are helpful with this.
Tips for Sleeping Overnight at Walmart
If you plan on stopping at a participating Walmart during your travels, please follow the rules listed below so that the brand will continue to support well-behaved RVers in the future!
Always call ahead and ask permission, as some local laws supersede Walmart’s policies on overnight parking. If you happen to be driving by a Walmart and stop, go into the store and ask to speak to a manager, as they have the authority to tell you yes or no.
Support the Store
Think of the money you’re saving by not paying for a campsite at a local campground. Make sure to purchase something of use at Walmart as a thank you for their hospitality.
Keep It Clean
Always deposit your trash in a trash can, and make it a practice to clean up the parking lot as you walk each morning or night. It’s a great way to establish goodwill and help a harried staff.
Don’t Set Up Camp
Don’t put down your hydraulic levelers or put out your slides while parked overnight. Don’t pull out that grill and fire up dinner, even if the food was purchased at Walmart. These actions are a sure signal that you intend to ‘camp’ at Walmart, and that’s not allowed. Be considerate to the company that graciously allows you to rest on their property before heading down the road.
Keep Safety in Mind
As with any business, there’s the chance that some sketchy characters may be wandering by, just looking for trouble to get into. Before you decide to stay at a specific store, check your gut. Is it in a high-risk crime area? Does the parking lot have good lighting or a security patrol?
If you don’t feel safe driving into the lot, you won’t feel safe sleeping there, so drive on by. If, however, other RVers are already there, you may feel safe enough to stick close by them.
The Times Are Changing for Overnight Sleeping at Walmart
Many Walmarts are stalwart supporters of RV travel, offering overnight parking to weary drivers, and although some stores have been forced to take that privilege off the table for a variety of reasons, it’s not difficult to find a store that still welcomes campers to its parking lot.
You may have to do a little more planning and should call ahead. But it appears that most Walmart locations offer hospitality to travelers who need to recharge before heading back out on the road.
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