After a long day of driving, finding yourself in an unfamiliar area without any RV parks in sight means seeking a safe overnight RV parking spot.
Finding overnight RV parking is a challenge most RVers face at one time or another. Many newer RVers are a little uncertain about this, especially regarding safety.
But generally speaking, you don’t have to worry too much – if you keep a few key things in mind.
Join us as we take a look!
What is Overnight RV Parking?
For our purposes, we’ll consider overnight RV parking to be any place you can park your RV and rest for a night with no or sometimes very low cost.
This excludes most developed RV parks, meaning you’ll park your RV in a public or semi-public space. An essential element of overnight RV parking is the “overnight.”
These are temporary one-night stopovers, not a multi-day camping spot (so, this definition also excludes traditional boondocking spots, too).
Where Can You Park Your RV Overnight?
If you need a place to park your RV and bed down for the night, you have a few options depending on the area you’re in. Always double-check local laws and ordinances to make sure where you’re parking is legal.
No one wants a rude awakening from a police officer or security guard in the middle of the night!
Depending on parking laws and availability of space, you may be able to park on the street like any other vehicle.
In addition to local parking rules, determine if the area you plan to park has a Homeowner Association (HOA) that may have additional regulations.
Pro Tips: Here’s some insight on the legality of street camping.
If you’re driving anywhere people live, or businesses exist, chances are you’ll pass tons of parking lots without even thinking about it.
While they may not be luxurious, they can offer a quick place to park overnight if you’re in need. Check if this is allowed by local laws and the business owner before doing so.
Box Store Businesses
Big box stores like Walmart are among the most popular RV overnight parking spots. This is due to their generally lax policies on RV parking and large, easy to navigate parking lots.
Plus, you’re never far from a Walmart, except in the country’s most remote areas. Talk with the store’s manager before parking because not all stores allow overnight parking.
Keep in mind: Avoid a visit from the cops, it might be illegal to park at some Walmarts.
Some City Parks
Certain city parks can provide a great overnight RV parking spot. If you’re lucky, you’ll find one with an official campground, potentially even with limited hookups.
You may have to pay a small fee for these, but it might be worth it, depending on the situation. As with our other options, always check before camping overnight in any parks that aren’t specifically designed for it.
Federal Public Lands
Camping overnight on public lands like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or National Forest land can be an incredible option for those willing and able to camp off the beaten track. Developed campgrounds will charge a fee for their upkeep and sometimes offer hookups or require reservations.
Dispersed camping on public lands basically amounts to finding a suitable campsite and pulling off the road.
Dispersed camping areas are usually located along smaller secondary roads, which may not be easily accessible for all RVers. Campsites amount to little more than a flat, cleared area. This is an excellent, free, legal option when available.
Is Overnight RV Parking Safe?
Most of the time, yes! If you use common sense in choosing your overnight RV parking location, you should be just fine.
Always read reviews of the spot if they’re available. And, always have a Plan-B.
Most importantly, when in doubt, leave.
There are plenty of places to park for the night, and it’s not worth risking it. And chances are you won’t get much rest anyway if you’re worried about your safety!
How to Find Safe Overnight RV Parking Options
You’ll want to consult the local government or police department for advice about city streets and parking lots. Rules and laws change from city to city and even neighborhood to neighborhood, so reaching out directly is your best bet.
Plus, you may learn more about the area that may make you reconsider, even if you’re legally allowed to park there. Talking to locals about their neighborhoods can also be helpful, even if they may not know the details of parking regulations.
There are also tons of popular apps that can help you find safe overnight RV parking wherever you are. These include Campendium, Allstays, FreeRoam, and the federal government’s own Recreation.gov app.
Most will allow you to filter by type, while others like Recreation.gov specialize in just one particular site type.
Pro Tip: Popular chains that allow overnight parking often have websites or directories dedicated to tracking them, like this one for Walmart.
Tips for Safe Overnight RV Parking
With just a few easy steps, you can ensure you keep yourself and your loved ones safe while overnight RV parking.
Always Read Reviews
If you’ve located the overnight RV parking spot through an app or website, always read the reviews.
They’ll contain valuable information about laws and regulations, as well as the general vibe of the area. Any crime or safety incidents would obviously be a huge red flag.
Park in a Well-Lit Area
Bright streetlights may be annoying to your sleep, but they’re also discouraging to thieves and other would-be crooks.
Staying in a well-lit area makes it that much more difficult for a criminal to get away with something, so they’ll most likely move on to easier targets.
Trust Your Gut
If you don’t feel comfortable in an area, it’s a good chance there’s a reason why. It can be hard to put your finger on why a certain spot feels off, but trusting your gut is usually good practice in these cases.
The most you have to lose is a few more minutes searching for another spot.
Hint: Learn from our mistakes, these are the 5 worst places we parked overnight.
When In Doubt, Get Out
When you’re talking about your safety, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution. If anything about your parking spot has given you a reason to worry, get back behind the wheel and find another.
This is, after all, one of the big benefits of an RV! Most of the time, you’ll find yourself in a more satisfactory situation before you know it. Like we said – how much rest are you going to get anyway if you’re worried about your safety?
Safe Overnight RV Parking Is Possible
Overnight RV parking is an excellent resource for travelers needing a place to stay for the night and can be quite safe if done right.
With a little research into potential spots, and local laws or regulations, you’ll find many great choices. Keep our tips in mind to stay safe during your overnight stays.
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