RV Boondocking Tips – All The Best Places For FREE Overnight RV Parking

Most of today’s RVs are labeled as self-contained — meaning that you have the means to live comfortably onboard.

Cooking, sleeping, water, shower and toilet facilities are included in your RV.

So you can basically park on any open spot and declare yourself home for the night.

rv-parking

When my wife and I travel cross country — with the goal of just getting from point A to point B — paying $35 a night to stay in an RV park seems a bit pricey.

After all, what we really need is just a simple parking spot to stay for the night so we can move on in the morning.

Check out our list of all the best places to stay overnight for free when you’re RVing…

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Popular Free RV Overnight Parking Spots

Walmart has welcomed RVers for many years, graciously allowing overnight RV parking in their parking lots.

There is no official corporate policy regarding overnight parking at Walmart.  Instead, they leave it up to the individual stores to determine whether they will allow travelers to spend the night in their parking lots or not.

If there is a local ordinance forbidding overnight parking, there will be signs posted.  Otherwise, you’re welcome to spend the night in your RV in a Walmart parking lot.

Camping World allows RVers to spend the night in many of their parking lots as well.

rv-mall-parking-lot.jpgKmart is reported to be the first corporate giant to formally endorse the policy of allowing RVers to park overnight in their parking lots. Some malls permit overnight RV parking as well.

Truck stops are another great place to stay for free — though some RVers might find the noise level a bit annoying, due to all the semi trucks coming and going.  Many of the larger chains such as Travel Centers of America or Flying J have separate areas in their parking lots designated for RVs.  Usually, these spots are away from the big rigs that typically idle all night long.

Many small towns will offer a free night’s stay in their city-sponsored park or campground.  They use it as a way to draw tourists into their business district with the hope that they will spend money during their stay.  We found this practice common in little towns across west Texas.  Some even provided free electrical hookup for your stay.


Free RV Overnight Parking Places You Might Not Think Of

rv-casino-parking-by-Larry-Page.jpg Did you know?…

If you’re a member of the Elks or Moose you can park at any Elks Club or Moose Lodge in the country for free.  Again, pending local ordinances.

Supermarkets provide a well-lit parking spot for RVers — which might be viewed as safer by some. Always ask the store manager if it’s alright for you to park overnight in your RV.

Casinos typically offer free RV parking overnight as well. Check out:

If you notice that the is sun setting and your eyes are getting weary, places like schools and churches typically have large parking lots that could suffice in an emergency. It’s better to be safe than to fall asleep at the wheel!  Whenever possible, you should ask permission first.

Finally, you might want to stop by the local police station and ask where you can park your RV for the night.  By presen
ting yourself upfront (rather than them finding you parked somewhere), they will recognize that you’re not a security threat.  They may even offer the use of their own parking lot.

In the end, how you present yourself is of the utmost importance wherever you choose to stay.  Having a clean, well-kept appearance, keeping the immediate area around your RV clean and free of the normal campsite sprawl will go along way toward appeasing both the property owner and the local authorities.

When you’re traveling by RV and you need a place to park, but you don’t see one of the above nearby, usually all you have to do is ask. If you ask a store manager (not just a store clerk) for permission to park on their lot overnight, 9 times out of 10 they’ll probably say yes. Case in point: here’s one RVer’s attempt to park his RV in a Lowes parking lot.

 

RV Parking For Longer Than Overnight

Looking for a place to stay for free on a longer basis?  National Forests are a good choice.  Many have established campgrounds that are usually a modest price.  Facilities may be restricted to merely a pit toilet and hand pump for a water source.  Keep in mind, if you stay outside the established campground, there is no charge.  Dry camping is free and you’re welcome to set up camp and get comfortable.

The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) controls vast amounts of land across the southwest and other areas of the country.  They allow you to pick out your little corner of the desert and stay for 14 consecutive days in one spot before you’re required to move at least 25 miles away where you can again spend an additional 14 days.  If you establish 3 to 4 campsites — and rotate between them — you could stay indefinitely for free.  Or you could stay in one of their Long Term Visitor Areas for a flat-rate seasonal fee.

the-rvers-friend-parking-directory.jpgThere are a number of books which mention places with free RV parking and boondocking websites  that can point you in the right direction to find free places to stay — some for overnight, others for longer stays.

 

Before You Go Boondocking…

First and foremost, use common courtesy and follow these boondocking etiquette tips.

RVers who ignore the laws of the land and common boondocking courtesies give the rest of us law-abiding RVers a bad name and jeopardize the future of free camping in parking lots. Free overnight parking in public lots is a generosity that can disappear quickly if it turns into a problem for local authorities.

The polite RVer will maintain a low profile when they’re taking advantage of free camping at one of these amazing boondocking locations.  That means you should forgo the outdoor grill and lawn chairs.  For the most part, you’re expected to stay onboard your RV while you’re parked there.  And keep the noise level down too.

Spending the night and moving on in the morning is what these stores are supporting.  Don’t plan on spending a week with the green Astroturf carpet rolled out at your front door.  If you do, you’re ruining it for all RVers and this privilege will probably not last much longer.

Be sure to obey local ordinances avoid parking on private property, otherwise you may be dealing with the local sheriff before the night is through.


More About RV Overnight Parking

Curtis Carper

I’ve been involved in RVing for over 40 yrs -- including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking at home, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller, you've got a good idea of who I am.

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  • tyler agent

    Thanks for the post, and I have to say that whenever me and my family go on vacation. We always try and go to a rv park. But the last trip we went on, we stayed at a rv park in Albuquerque. And I have to say that that camp ground is going to be hard to beat.

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