One of the greatest things about RVing is the fact that you have everything you need with you wherever you go. This is especially nice when you’re traveling and need to stop somewhere to sleep for the night. Finding a hotel is no longer necessary, and in reality, you don’t even need to look for a campground.
For quick overnight stays, consider saving your money and hitting up a Walmart, Cracker Barrel, or Cabela’s. As long as there are no city ordinances preventing them from doing so, these places will often allow RVers to park overnight in their parking lots.
Though you won’t have any electric or water hookups, these locations are just fine for a quick night of rest. And because they can often be found right off the highway, you won’t have to go too far out of your way to find one.
All that said, there are some things you should know before attempting to stay overnight in a parking lot. After all, the point is to get some good rest, and if you go in unprepared, it’s highly likely you won’t get the sleep and relaxation you need.
1. Consider the area you’re visiting
Before picking a place to stop for the night, carefully assess the area. Staying in a rough part of town is never a good idea, and driving into a place with narrow roads is equally dangerous. For this reason, it’s best to do your research before pulling off the highway to ensure you’re choosing the right spot.
2. Always ask
While these businesses rarely have a problem with RVs staying overnight in their lots, you will want to make sure to ask every time. Being kicked out of your parking spot at 2 AM is never fun. Besides, we all need to work together to help people see what a polite bunch we RVers are, and it is most certainly good manners to ask before staying somewhere overnight.
You may also want this complete guide, Walmart Locator (recently updated in July 2017). This comprehensive directory lists all of the Walmart locations in the United States and includes RV parking information.
3. Skip the slides
If you have slides, you may want to skip putting them out if at all possible. This allows others to park nearby if need be. Additionally, you won’t want to put out chairs, grills or other camping equipment. Setting up camp in a parking lot is considered bad manners and could even get you kicked out.
4. Stock up on water
Water is essential to life. You will want to make sure you have plenty of water on hand for your wallydocking experience. If you plan to shower, be sure to fill your freshwater tank with plenty of H2O. Otherwise, you can probably get away with using bottled water for everything. Just keep in mind that the more water you bring, the more you will weigh.
5. Pack earplugs and a noise machine
Parking lots can be bustling places. Delivery trucks come and go, and customers can have pretty loud conversations. Because of this, you’re going to want something to block out noise while you sleep. A pair of earplugs and/or battery-operated noise machine (or a “soothing sounds” type of app on your phone) should do the trick just fine.
6. Hang blackout curtains or shades
In addition to being loud, parking lots are also incredibly bright. While it is great to park under a light for safety reasons, a bright light flooding into your windows at night may keep you awake. Fortunately, many newer RVs come with highly effective shades. However, if your RV doesn’t have these, a set of blackout curtains or a new set of shades can take care of this problem quickly and easily.
7. Invest in battery-operated fans
Running the A/C while parked without hookups is not an option. Unfortunately, on hot nights this can leave you feeling pretty uncomfortable. In order to combat the heat, invest in some battery-operated fans. Placing a bowl of ice in front of one of these fans will create a nice, cool breeze.
8. Have breakfast on hand
Hitting the road without breakfast is enough to make anyone cranky. Because traveling on an empty stomach is never fun, you’ll want to have a quick and easy breakfast on hand. This will allow you to refuel before you go and start your day off right.
9. Move out early
Generally speaking, staying one night at a Walmart, Cracker Barrel, or Cabela’s is no problem. However, hanging around for more than a night is frowned upon. For this reason, it’s best to pack up and head out as soon as you can in the morning.
These simple rules will get you a long way when dry camping in a parking lot. To easily find a Walmart, Cracker Barrel, or Cabela’s location, plan your trip using RV Trip Wizard.