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Camper Secretly Parks Overnight at Walmart 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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  1. Debbie says:

    I took my Skoolie south to stay with friends in warmer climates ( I of course could not stay). I didn’t want a campground and was kind of leery about a National Forest or Park ( I’m very new to this). Walmart it is! I stayed at two different Walmarts; did exactly what you recommend, asked permission in person, parked away from customer traffic, became a customer myself and had a great experience in both locations. It was quiet, I felt safe, I got up early, made my coffee and headed out. Thanks for all of your tips!

  2. Neil says:

    Setting up permanent residence at locations such as Walmart will soon end the privilege of being able to park “for the night” while traveling. It is already happening at other locations. People ruin good things all the time by taking advantage.

  3. Cheryl says:

    I am sleeping in a Walmart parking lot in my car as I am reading this article…I am happy to have come across this particular article at this time…to be reassured that it is a area for parking and sleeping!

  4. Nan says:

    We’ve Wallydocked a few times. The first time inspired us to get light-blocking inserts for our ceiling vents — those parking lot lights are bright! Each time it was quiet most of the night except for a night in Fort Stockton when a jerk with a humongous Class A ran their generator nonstop. Fort Stockton was the most interesting. The Walmart there is extremely popular with RVers, and by early evening bore a strong resemblance to an RV dealer’s used equipment lot. There were easily several dozen RVs of all types and sizes filling most of the back third of the parking lot.

    We are careful to follow the rules. Always ask permission and be as inconspicuous as possible. Not our favorite place to stop for the night, but for sure it’s convenient if you’re just passing through an area.

  5. Philip says:

    You sounded bitter. If I’m a van lifer, I afraid to talk to whoever to get a permission esp. if I’d be there for long. If you don’t violate their policy, e.i. staying overnight, you don’t need to talk to anyone.

  6. Wallace says:

    Let say this As a Former Security Officer the was assigned to Walmart stores The facts are this
    You do not have premission to park sleep at anytime in a Walmart parking
    When you are caught you will be ask to leave cause you are trespassing if you refuse then the local police come and impound your vehicle while you sit in jail
    A besides that I think of 10 places
    To go the a Walmart parking lot at night that would be safer
    So for these publications to report
    That you can sleep at any Walmart or other private property is misleading and is not true

  7. Mcsmurf says:

    I stayed at Kingman AZ Walmart and it was extremely noisy because of cars with extremely loud mufflers. It seemed as if they were there mufflers make more noise on purpose.

  8. Griz326 says:

    Not a fan of Walmart parking lots but am grateful for them when my eyelids get heavy.

  9. Pierre says:

    @Griz326, Big fan of Walmarts, parked there when I’m on road . Very interesting place to rest in an rv class c . It’s a matter of rules and regulations.

  10. Lee says:

    We have stopped at Walmarts a few times, always asked permission to sleep and asked where we should park. We generally arrive after dark and leave early in the morning, before 8 AM if we can pry our eyelids open. Only one time were we refused permission in Springfield Missouri and the store manager explained that there was a lot of drug traffic in the area so we found a KOA for the night. Don’t abuse the privilege and we can all stay when we need to.

  11. Debby says:

    @Neil, yes we noticed that people out there don’t seem to listen, to care. One RV had it’s awnings down, another with their chairs outside..It’s crazy! 1 night and move on.

  12. Kathy says:

    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.

  13. Shawn says:

    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.

  14. Rebecca says:

    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.

  15. Steve says:

    Your grammar is exactly what I would expect from a “former security officer”.
    Get over yourself. People have overnighted at WM for years, 99% are respectful and move on the next day. You should try getting a security job at a library, and read a book while you are there.

  16. Mike burger says:

    Neil your exactly right it’s the ignorence of others who don’t care/think visiting many Walmart locations the recent 2 year’s insane amounts of trash left behind beer whiskey vodka bottles fast food garbage left in the spaces parked kids screaming yelling running all locations filled with out of control kids not be. Watched 4 Walmart locations have installed VERY STRICT ORDERS NO OVERNIGHT PARKING OF ANY KIND ( All 4 locations) 3 state’s across ( southern ) !!!

  17. Michael Jackson says:

    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.

  18. Michael Hebert says:

    We joined an organization that had camping places and available to members for a nominal fee. They are plentiful and come with none to a variety of services. We use Walmart often when arriving late at night. Walmart has the food and supplies we need and convenient. Paying outrageous fees to spend 8 hours is not for us.

  19. Christopher L. says:

    We’ve overnighted in the Brunswick, GA Walmart parking lot a couple of times when heading to Florida. This Walmart is 24-hour and has security at night. The first time we stopped there the security officer came over and checked on us. He told us he’d be there all night and not to worry about anything. When we came back through a year later on our next trip to Florida that same security officer was there and remembered us. Nice guy. Slept like a baby.

  20. Anonymous says:

    You got nothing else to do but seem like putting her under the bus. I’m off the road now because of medical issue But you have nothing else to talk about?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Have been following Emi and her Kitty for years now. I don’t know how she could be staying at the same Walmart for 2 years..she did a cross Canada trip last year including Newfoundland and Quebec to visit her parents. Must be one heck of a big parking lot! I recently returned from first 6000 mile road trip car camping. Was caught in aftermath of Hurricane Lee in Nova Scotia. Extremely high winds and heavy rains. Provincial Parks were closed due to storm. I hunkered down in a Walmart parking lot for 30 hours, along with vans, rvs, class a and all types..saw roof ripped off of Class A in the wind. I thank Walmart for what they let us do. Some Canadian Walmarts did not allow overnight..but there was signage to that effect. So I asked at a Canadian Tire nearby and they said yes if I don’t make a mess. That is a real concern for these merchants and I don’t blame them as some folkz are real hogs but I saw locals also dropping trash. I don’t know the answer but I feel your characterization of Emi is off base and a little mean.