Alternative Free Overnight RV Parking
While RV travel is fun and adventurous, it does come with some challenges; like finding cheap overnight RV parking along your our that doesn’t require us to travel too far off the beaten path for a little rest. Well, we’re to help guide you to finding great alternatives. Through research, networking, and simply asking management of business establishments, we’ve been extended courtesy for a quiet place to park for the night.
Be it known though, what may work for one business location in one region or municipality may not be feasible for another. Be aware of local ordinances and code enforcement laws. This is one of those ‘ask for permission’ and never assume you can just drop your load and park anywhere.
If you are given permission to park, park as far away from the business establishment and take up as little space as possible. In our case where we can’t really move in our 5th wheel when parked, ask if you can put your slides out. Oh, and ALWAYS protect the parking lot surface using blocks or RV SnapPads. Equally important, leave no trace! Never leave trash or leveling jack indentations.
Before I go on with our comprehensive list of Overnight RV Parking, I would like to remind RV travelers that there IS a certain etiquette that we need to adhere to.
“Please preserve the privilege of overnight parking. Follow the code and encourage others to follow it too!”- Escapees
Please read and follow the Escapee’s Industry-Sanctioned Overnight Parking Etiquette: RVers Good Neighbor Policy
Now, if you’re a little squeamish about parking in business parking lots, there are other options like membership-based Harvest Hosts (participating wineries, farms and distilleries) and Boondockers Welcome (private parking spots, driveways, etc.).
Big Box and Retail Chain Stores
Some big box stores and retail chain stores may allow RVs to take overnight refuge in their parking lots during storms or the dark of night. K-Mart and Walmart have been the RV hospitality leaders.
However, as of late, not all big box stores allow large vehicle or RV parking. While each store may have their own policies, oftentimes local ordinances take precedence. So, if you are looking to overnight, make certain to pay attention to signs prohibiting overnight parking. Never assume that all Walmarts allow parking. Its best to ask the store manager (and get their name) if you can park your RV for one overnight. If they permit you to, it’s good etiquette to buy at least a few things to show appreciation of their hospitality.
Lastly, do know that these parking lots may not be the quietest or in the safest communities. Use good judgement, scope it out, and if it doesn’t feel right, move on.
Aside from Walmart and Kmart, you may want to look into Home Depot, Lowes, Sam’s Club and Costco. Again, always ask for permission!
Outdoor Fun Stores
We’re talking about Cabelas, Bass Pro Shops, and Camping World. We have stayed overnight at some Cabelas that have actual RV spots with hookups. They are typically in safe communities right off the highway. If it’s towards the end of our travel day, we will find a large out-of-the-way spot to park and go in to shop. Before we leave, we’ll ask the manager if we could stay the night as it’s getting late or we’re too tired to drive further. Most likely, they will direct us to where we can park. And of course, we go inside and buy something cool to patronize and show our appreciation.
There are some restaurants right off the highway exits that may allow RV parking. It all depends on how large their parking lots are and if they welcome overnight parking.
One of our favorites, Cracker Barrel, is noted for welcoming RVs with their designated long parking spaces. Never take for granted, though, that this includes overnight parking.
It’s always good to ask the management and if they grant permission, ask for the management’s name for reference in case of a question. Check with each individual location for details. Oh, please don’t abuse their hospitality. Go inside to eat or buy a cool something in their store. Even if it’s something you don’t want, they have awesome gift ideas!
As controversial as Travel Centers have become between truckers and RVers, there’s a reason why they are called ‘travel centers’. They all offer diesel fuel and some may even offer free or low-cost dump sites and potable water. Most have convenience stores, restaurants, paid laundry and paid showers on the premises. Since their patronage is trucking industry-driven, they stock 12-volt supplies, electronics and appliances. They also carry some tools and emergency repair items.
However, please know that federal laws require a certain number of resting hours for OTR truck drivers. This creates a disdain between truckers and RV owner patrons. So, if you need to get off the road due to fatigue or breakdown, please do not park in the truck-parking spaces.
Some travel centers have bonafide RV parking. If they don’t, choose an area that does not impede truck traffic or take away a parking space from a trucker. As well, be sensible if you’re going to use the laundry or showers realizing these professional drivers ‘live on the road’ just like us!
Some travel centers to check on:
Casino Parking is one of our favorites because their parking lots are huge and generally quiet on the outer edges. We can get a decent meal, enjoy a cocktail, or play a couple slots…if we’re feeling a little lucky. We always call ahead to ensure availability and to get permission. Sometimes, they may have a concert that prohibits large vehicle parking.
Some casinos have either full or partial hookups. Be it known that they may charge for overnight parking. Never assume their parking is free.
Fraternities and Veteran Organizations
There are some national membership-based clubs and fraternities that have created RV spaces for their currently paid members in good standing. Some of these will allow reservations while others are first come first serve. So, if you’re a member of the Elks Club, Loyal Order of the Moose, Lion’s Club, or other fraternal organizations, check to see if they’ll allow traveling members to overnight in their parking lots.
We’ve not known many Military Veteran Organizations like the VFW and American Legion that have ample enough parking however, it doesn’t hurt to ask. There are a few out there though. Most of the time though, they are located in small buildings in a strip mall or Main Street location, so don’t expect much. However, as a current member in good standing, you may want to give them a call to see if they would allow you to overnight in their lot in case of inclement weather or fatigue.
Always Have Good Lot Docking Etiquette
There are some written as well – as unwritten rules – of lot docking etiquette. But seriously, it’s really about common sense and respect. If you abide by the ‘if it looks wrong or bad, don’t do it’. Again, we highly recommend reading the Escapees Good Neighbor Policy (listed above); perhaps printing it out as a reminder.
Oh, and if I can offer one piece of friendly advice. Please refrain from taking photos of other RVs whom you think are violating etiquette and post them to social media. You don’t know their circumstances. They may have been granted permission by the business establishment to run their generator, put their jacks down, leave their RV, etc.
Lastly, never settle where parking is prohibited. Respect all property, property owners, and the rules set forth. Be kind, quiet, and respectful. Try to be a good example to other RVers and remember: you’re a guest.
This article was written by Dan & Lisa Brown of Always On Liberty.