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FREE CAMPING: 7 Deadly Sins of Overnight RV Parking

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? Overnight RV Park.

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.

Whether you’re camping in a parking lot, truck stop, or forest, there are many unspoken rules to overnight camping.

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.

No entry for RV signs
Always ensure you’re allowed to park where you are at before you set up camp.

#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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  1. Danny says:

    It a tragedy you even feel it necessary to bring these suggestions up….yet I have seen every one of these 7,and more, way to often.

  2. Cornelieus says:

    They’re usually far up I’ve been doing it for 5 years. Spend one night go to work the next day. But I’m not driving a RV. When I got sick I had to stay in one location for about a week. By the journey bounce around to three different locations. Then there’s your State Park during the day if you’re not working. But when I work I get off go to sleep at a Walmart Kroger lot they’re also rest stops. But you have to do it in a way that respects everybody. When you go to state parks you have to go to a part of the park that is rustic. Where is mostly gravel pull over Park know when the park closes and do your thing. There’s a lot of common sense involved. You have to look at the size of the lot and park on the very outside of the lot. I’m parked in a lot right now we’re semis Park. I have parked a different Walmarts where cars were broke down. One car been broke down for a year sitting on three flats. So that’s a safe place to park. Now if anybody was to come out and say something to me. I’d point if that broke down car that’s from out of town. There’s another one I said at or spend the night at. But I’m generally gone when the store opens up. So truthfully they won’t even know I’m there. But like I said you got to bounce around you have to show respect. I never felt trash on the ground. If you’re living out your vehicle have piss bottles. Then have an empty gallon jug with a screw cap and a funnel and pull your piss in it. Then when you get to a place where you can pour it out pour it out. It all comes down to respect that’s all

  3. Liz says:

    An issue that really bothers me happens in Walmart parking lots. Overnight RVers go shopping and going all the way back to thei RV (far end of the parking lot) and leave the shopping cart outside their RV and drive away the next morning leaving the cart.

  4. gypsy says:

    While the majority traveling campers are families. I would be more concerned about safety. Crime rates are up, alot of City Walmarts and also even highway rest stops attact weirdos and criminals… in Colorado there is always breakins on trailers in parking lots. even the more secure moving type ones… most camper doors are flimsy and one good tug will open…
    Most people also vacation in the summer months… planning to stay in parking lots… they don’t realize you can’t run your vehicle or generator to use the a.c.

  5. Loretta says:

    We have parked many times in Wal Mart, Sam’s Club and Lowe’s. We ALWAYS call ahead and ask them where they want us to park. We never put our slides out because we can access our kitchen, bathroom and bedroom without putting slides out. We usually shop in these stores while we’re stopped.

  6. Bill Washington says:

    I just completed a 3,000 mile trip to Texas and stayed everynight at a different Crackle Barrel each night. There are so many of them available. I was a single camper with a truck camper on my Ram 2500. Every manager I talked to at the each Crackle Barrel was very polite and very welcoming. Always talk with the Manager, clean up around your camper. I never once felt threatened at any of them I stay at. I also either bought a dinner or breakfast or at least a cup of coffee at each stop.Please, do not mess this unique and very inexpensive way of traveling up for everyone.

  7. Yes i over night several times while traveling
    I find many people do not respect other people properly
    Trash left on ground, parking in premiums parking
    Chair/table outside drinking beer
    Can in parking – bbq in parking
    It’s terrible to see a
    Big rv w car park length in premium
    It should be a no. No

  8. FRANCES R EVANS says:

    I have only used highway rest areas anything else I use compendium to locate boondock spots, out of 14 states I traveled I only paid for one spot at a camp ground due to my nationial park senior pass, paid half price for the spot. it just take research an patience to find places for the night or even longer stays.

  9. Ellen says:

    What do you with the skirting when it’s time to leave ???