It seems that a Dollar General is being built everywhere you look. This can come in handy for saving some cash and grabbing last-minute items you may need.
But what about if you need a place to park for the night? People find some interesting places to stay while traveling, so let’s see if camping at Dollar General is one worth considering.
Is It Safe to Sleep in Your Vehicle Overnight?
Sleeping in your car overnight is relatively safe, but there are some things you can do to maximize your safety. You first want to consider the area where you park. If it has a low crime rate and consistent police presence, you likely won’t have any issues while sleeping in your vehicle.
When looking for a safe place to sleep, you want to look for a spot with plenty of space, light, and some security measures. Many big-box retail parking lots have security cameras that can keep a constant eye on things. Those up to no good will likely be cautious about misbehaving in these situations.
What Is Dollar General?
Dollar General is a corporate discount retailer with more than 18,000 locations in the continental United States. They sell various products but specialize in consumable, seasonal, and home products.
You can find name-brand and off-brand items in the store. The company was founded in 1939, with its headquarters just outside Nashville in Goodlettsville, Tenn.
Can You Park Overnight at a Dollar General?
Dollar General has made no corporate statement regarding overnight camping at their locations. As a result, this leaves the decision on overnight parking up to the individual stores.
However, some stores only have so much authority, as local rules and regulations may prohibit them from allowing customers to park overnight. If you want to stay, call ahead to speak with a manager to check if they can allow you to park or not.
It’s also important to remember that Dollar General isn’t typically known for having massive parking lots at its stores. If you manage to get into one of their lots, you may have to put your maneuvering skills to the test.
Where Can You Park Overnight?
While some local bylaws come into play, a handful of go-to places have a track record for success. Give one of these places a try if you need a spot to park for the night.
Walmart is the go-to place for many travelers and nomads looking for an overnight parking spot. They have massive parking lots, making it easy to get in and out.
And you can stock up on practically any supplies you need during your travels. Just park toward the back of the parking lot and out of the way of customers or delivery trucks.
Even though Walmart is one of the most popular overnight parking spots, you should always get permission to stay the night. We’ve seen a growing trend in Walmart locations cracking down on overnight parking stays.
Some communities don’t want to deal with the trash left behind by overnight guests. Always clean up after yourself and leave the spot cleaner than you found it.
Pro Tip: Make sure you know these 7 Things You Should Know About Walmart Camping before you try camping for free in a Walmart parking lot.
The second most popular place to park overnight is Cracker Barrel. The chain has more than 600 locations across the United States. These southern restaurants typically sit next to major highways and interstates, so you can easily get in and out during your travels.
Many of these restaurants have designated RV parking spots. If stopping for the night and not just a quick bite to eat, check in with the manager on duty to introduce yourself and thank them for allowing you to stay.
Hospitals are some less-common places travelers turn to when looking for overnight parking. People typically come and go rather frequently, it has plenty of light, and your vehicle won’t likely stand out like a sore thumb if it’s parked there for the night.
However, large RVs and motorhomes might attract more attention than cars, truck campers, and vans.
Call ahead to get permission and check in with the receptionist at the front desk when you arrive. You can avoid any potentially frustrating situations in the middle of the night with the hospital’s security staff or local law enforcement.
Keep in mind that some hospitals have parking garages. These have low clearances and don’t provide sufficient height for taller vehicles.
If the hospital has a parking garage, verify the height before going out of your way to park there. You don’t want to damage your vehicle or find yourself in a stressful situation trying to find a place to stay for the night.
While these may not be the most glamorous places to stay, they’ll get the job done. Truck stops like Love’s, Pilot, and Flying J often has large parking lots capable of holding quite a few big rigs for the night.
However, it’s essential to remember that over-the-road truck drivers frequently use these to get some rest after a long day on the road. While nothing stops you from using these spots, truck drivers typically have fewer options than other travelers.
If you stay at a truck stop, park out of the way of other vehicles. Avoid opening slides, as drivers may not see them and accidentally hit them.
It’s also important to know that truck stops can be rather noisy throughout the night as trucks constantly come and go.
Many truck drivers will leave their diesel engines running throughout the night to stay cool inside their rig and to use TVs and other electronics.
The state manages rest stops which you typically find along interstate highways. Rules and regulations vary for parking at rest stops.
Some states or municipalities allow overnight parking but have strict time limits for how long drivers can park there. Look for signs indicating overnight parking restrictions or how long you can stay.
Tips for Parking Overnight
While we’ve never tried camping at Dollar General, we have stayed overnight in several unique places. We have a handful of tips to ensure you have a great stay and to help you park overnight responsibly. Let’s dive in!
No matter what you’ve read on the internet or heard from a friend, you should always get permission before parking. Failure to do so can cause serious issues, especially if you want to avoid the dreaded middle-of-the-night knock on the door that travelers fear.
When getting permission, ask to speak to a manager or someone in a position of authority. Take note of their name in case you get questioned later by law enforcement or an employee. It’ll save you some trouble if you can give the name of the individual who permitted you to stay the night.
Park Out of the Way
Never get in someone’s way when parking overnight somewhere. This attracts negative attention and could cause logistics issues for your host. It’s a good idea to verify where you should park when getting permission. However, typically stay toward the back and sides of the parking lot.
If you do get in the way, you’ll likely get an angry knock on your door telling you to move to another spot or vacate the parking lot. It’s easy to avoid this mistake, especially if you get permission to park there.
Arrive Late/Leave Early
The best way to avoid overstaying your welcome is to arrive late and leave early. We generally encourage travelers to arrive just before sunset and leave just after sunrise.
However, you should stay long enough to get plenty of rest to hit the road fresh in the morning. Just don’t come walking out of your vehicle to greet the world in your pajama pants and fuzzy slippers.
Clean Up Any Trash
One of the biggest reasons overnight parking locations have become more difficult to find is that people trash them. For some reason, people abuse the generosity and hospitality of the hosts and leave their trash behind when they leave.
Always leave overnight parking spots cleaner than you found them. This may mean picking up trash left behind by the previous guests. It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s one that we all must do to help keep these overnight parking spots available in the future.
Don’t Attract Attention
When you’re parking overnight, the last thing you want to do is attract attention. You want to do your very best to go as unnoticed as possible.
Try to tint your windows and use window covers to help reduce the visibility inside your vehicle. This will increase your privacy and reduce the chances of any wandering eyes looking inside.
While trying not to attract attention while parked overnight, spend almost all your time inside your vehicle. Don’t break out your favorite lawn game or a portable grill. While inside your vehicle, keep down the noise and avoid playing music or movies too loud.
Pro Tip: These 5 Things to Know About Stealth Camping will help you to have a successful free camping experience.
Know Where You Can Park Overnight
While Dollar General will not likely be a game-changer regarding overnight parking, it doesn’t mean you should completely write them off. An individual location may accommodate a traveler passing through town. If not, we’ve shared some great spots for you to try and some tips to help you have a smooth and uneventful overnight parking adventure.
Would you give camping at Dollar General a try? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
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