Tips for Overnight RV Parking on a Road Trip

Road trips are a lot of fun, especially when you do so with friends, family, and fellow fans!

Some times though, our road trips are longer than a one day trip, meaning we have to stop and sleep somewhere along the way. What’s the tailgater to do?

Let’s take a look at the options for overnight RV parking.

RVs parked in a Walmart parking lot overnight - RV Overnight Parking on a Road Trip

Campgrounds and Parks

Obviously, the preferred spot to park is in a campground or state or national park, where you’ll have hookups for water, sewer, and electricity.

However, these benefits mean additional costs.

For those of us that have become accustomed to the good life though, these benefits may be well worth the cost. Especially if you have been on the road for a few days, need to empty waste tanks and refill the freshwater tanks.

If you know that the trip will take more than a day and you plan on splitting it up, we recommend that you plan your overnight stop. Many campgrounds and parks will be full during the common RV tailgating periods – in the fall (football) and spring/summer (baseball). Make reservations for campgrounds and parks when you plan your road trip.

If you’ve taken advantage of the National Parks and Federal Recreational Land annual pass, you may not have any additional entrance fees and can boondock for free. In some parks, only spots with hookups will cost you additional money.

You’ll want to check with the individual park for various fees and rules. For example, many parks and campgrounds have rules about how late you can arrive. This may not be best if you are staying for a short time and will be hitting the road first thing in the morning.

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Parking Overnight at Businesses

Slides are ok if you are parking your RV at a Wal-Mart, but make sure you don't obstruct the road

Walmart is the most recognized overnight RV parking friendly store. But there are others, including Cracker Barrel and Cabellas, that are RV parking friendly. Many casinos will also provide free overnight parking for RVers. Many Camping World stores are also welcoming for overnight RV parking.

Don’t assume that all the Walmart stores will allow overnight RV parking. Some local cities and counties have prohibited it and there is nothing that the local store can do about it.

Other stores may not have the room for you to be taking up 5 or more parking spots.

And don’t ignore “no overnight parking” signs. Don’t expect to be able to park at Walmart or other businesses in Florida during snowbird season! It is so busy and there have been so many abuses of the privilege that many places straight up don’t allow overnight parking.

My Tiffin Open Road parked at a Walmart in South Carolina for a quick overnight stop on the way to Charleston

From Walmart’s Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I park my RV at a Walmart store?
While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store parking lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.

See Also: Tips to Save Water while RVing on a Long Road Trip

Tips for Overnight RV Parking

Above all, be nice and unassuming. The best thing to do is to leave a favorable impression.

Here are a few tips to help make sure that these stores continue to allow overnight parking and stay RV friendly:

Motorhome parked at a Cracker Barrel parking lot. Cracker Barrel is one of many RV-friendly businesses that allow overnight parking.
Cracker Barrel is one of my favorite places to overnight. Usually only 1-2 RVs at most, which means quiet. And a good meal.
  1. When possible, use the store or restaurant. They are businesses and need to keep the doors open. So give back to them by buying their products and services. Make them see the benefit of helping out the RV community by adding to their bottom line.
  2. Don’t stay multiple nights in a row. This is usually not difficult for RV tailgaters, since we have games to get to. But perhaps you are making a longer trip and arrive a few days early or want to explore an area. Don’t stay in the same parking lot for more than 1, maybe 2, nights in a row.
  3. Arrive late, leave early. Don’t try to park or take up spaces during the prime shopping/eating times for these stores.
  4. Park in the back or side of the lot, away from the front door. Leave the close-in spaces for other customers. It’ll also make it easier for you to get out when you are ready to go, as it will be less likely a car is blocking you in.
  5. Take up as little space as you can.
    • This might mean you have to leave your slides in, if you can’t find an exterior spot hanging over some grassy area or there are lots of other RVs. If the lot is busy, keep the slides in. Whatever you do, do not hang out over the roadways as you could end up with some nasty damage to your RV.
    • Don’t pull out the awnings. You are using this as a stopover spot to get some sleep.
    • Don’t setup your tailgate with the grills, tables, carpets or rugs, and chairs.
  6. Stay quiet – keep music and other entertainment to a minimum.
  7. Stay clean – make sure that when you leave, you leave no trace behind. Pick up all your trash and dispose of it properly.
  8. Don’t dump waste tanks, even if there are sewer or storm drains nearby. Dumping into storm drains is against the law and could provide for horrible press coverage.
  9. If you are traveling with your dog, make sure you clean up after your dogs and keep their noise to a minimum. A long walk around the neighborhood goes a long way to keeping them quiet and sleeping well. Does you some good as well!

I also recommend that you talk to local manager. If possible, call ahead to make sure it is OK and if not, you’ll have time to find somewhere else. Once you arrive, if you see several other RVs or large trucks staying the night, it may not be necessary to talk to a manager.

However, make sure that there is plenty of space left for regular customers to get in and out of the parking lot if you are parked there.

Basically, use your discretion on talking to management (but do abide by any local laws – hate for you to be sleeping and then get the knock on the door from local police!)

See Also: How Tall is your RV? RV Clearance Tips

Park Your RV at Wineries, Golf Courses, Farms, and More!

If you don’t like the idea of staying in a Walmart parking lot – perhaps because of noise, light, or all the people around, then consider parking at a winery, golf course, farms, or similar business.

The problem is finding them. But that’s where Harvest Hosts comes in!

A Harvest Host blueberry farm in North Carolina
A blueberry farm in North Carolina serves as a Harvest Host and is a great stop near Charlotte. Much nicer than staying with the big trucks.

Harvest Hosts are great places to stay for a quick overnight stop. It’s normally boondocking, just like at Walmart. But you are often the only person there, so you don’t have to worry about noisy truck engines. And they usually don’t have a problem with you putting out your slides and enjoying everything you have in your RV.

I mean, it is just a night or maybe two at a time. So you won’t setup your tailgate. But it sure is nice to stay at a winery with an awesome view on your road trip.

Often, you’ll also have access to things like the pro shop, the restaurant, or other attractions.

Harvest Hosts are great in areas that have limited overnight parking because of local ordinances! Be sure to check out these locations as options on your road trip!

Join Harvest Hosts and get 15% off the purchase price!

Can I Park my RV Overnight at a Rest Area?

There is often a big debate about whether RVers should park at rest areas.

Basically, the argument goes that rest areas are one of the few places that truckers can park, while RVers have a lot more options.

My take is that rest areas are perfectly acceptable places for RVers to park overnight on a road trip.

Some rest areas even have special RV parking, separate from the truck parking. In this case, it is definitely OK for you to park at the rest area.

Rest areas often have RV dump stations, allowing you to dump the black and gray water tanks. Some really nice states have even provided potable water connections so you can refill you fresh water tank.

Even when there isn’t dedicated RV parking, I still think it is OK. After all, I (and I would imagine all the truckers too) would rather you to be well rested rather than cause an accident on the highway that is going to close it down to all traffic because you fell asleep at the wheel.

However, I do try to avoid it if I can, so that the trucks can park there. Plus, many of our other options are a lot quieter than rest areas.

Do not be afraid of RV parking at Walmart if you need to rest

Other Overnight RV Parking Options

Some more options for overnight RV parking:

  • Some city convention centers or stadiums will let you park overnight for free if there is no event going on. We definitely recommend that you do your research on this one if you plan on using this option.
  • Truck stops, like Flying J and Travel Centers of America, will let you park overnight. Some even have separate RV parking to let you stay away from the trucks that idle all night. You’ll be able to fill up the gas tanks and some even offer dump sites!
  • Elks Club and Moose Lodge members can park for free in some of their lots. Other lots may require a fee or donation. But for those that have stayed in one of these campgrounds, the reports have been good (clean and often with hookups). 

In general, large parking lots, like around malls, shopping centers, or churches, are options. However, it is best to check with local management if you aren’t sure whether the lot is an option.

If you aren’t sure, it may be worth a trip to a local police precinct to ask permission – they may even let you stay in the station’s parking lot if they have extra space. Talk about security!

One final tip

Be mindful of the surroundings. Your personal safety is very important and not all stores are created equal. Security is not guaranteed.

If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t stay.

What are your tips for overnight RV parking on the way to or from a game?

Comment below with your tips for RV overnight parking on a road trip!

Want to join Harvest Hosts? Use THIS LINK to get 15% off the purchase price!

You might also like:

Tips for RV Driving in Atlanta
Tips for Driving an RV on the Blue Ridge Parkway
5 Tips for an Epic RV Tailgate Road Trip

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  1. We went to Anderson CA to have some warranty work done our camp trailer. Camping World was very willing to let us stay there for 2 nights. (We did spend $300.00 in the store). After the work was finished (about 6 hours) we stayed an a nice Campground in Cottonwood CA. My wife’s sister lives in the gated community that also has the RV park. Since we were related to one of the home owners in the community we had no trouble getting a space. (We were also there around Dec.10, 2016.) The RV park will take outsiders, but there has to be room and the fees are higher. There are both full hookups and ele/water only also. We stayed a few days so the snow could clear from I5 north and we got home between snow storms. Before we left home I did buy cable chains for the 1500 Ram and the camp trailer just in case. Those are things that I hope to never use, but SAFETY is FIRST.

    1. Most Camping Worlds are pretty good about letting you park overnight!

      And yes, safety first! It’s good to always secure your property no matter where you are spending the night.

      Thanks for commenting Wayne.

      1. That too, but I was talking about the cable chains that for the tires in case I got caught in a snow storm. Packed snow and towing a trailer can get interesting if you are not prepared. I got caught in a late snow storm on Highway 58 it was a long trip on the packed snow. That day ODOT was not requiring tire chains, but it could have happened and we would have had to park somewhere until the snow melted the next day.

        1. OK, gotcha. Yes, definitely must consider safety when driving in bad conditions. I prefer just to stay parked. As an Atlanta, Georgia native, well… we don’t do well with snow! We make the national news when it snows here, we are so bad at dealing with it.

    1. It’s really a shame that cities have ordinances against RV parking. I get it though when RVers have abused the privilege, and it is why we need to work real hard to make sure that we are good neighbors when we park our RVs overnight at one of these businesses. And also to promote building more campgrounds to make campground overnights more affordable and accessible (there just aren’t enough for as popular as RVing has become).

  2. Go Casino! Most will allow, and you get to eat in their restaurants that usually have good prices and better food than is typically available on the road. Plus they have good security. Your backup late at night is Pilot or Loves Truck stops, but use their auto spaces and do not use a truck parking spot, those guys cannot just pull in anywhere. Check with cashier at the truck fuel counter if in doubt where to park. And make sure you SPEND MONEY AT THEIR STORE OR FUEL PUMPS!

  3. I like that you said that it’s best to reserve the campgrounds and parks where you’d like your RV to be parked in advance. My husband is actually looking to have a road trip using his RV next month. He mentioned that he’d like to make sure that he won’t feel any pressure when it’s time for him to park his RV since he might be new in some places that he will visit. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. In Texas, some small communities have even set up small overnight parks (including electrical hookups) for overnighters to stay up to three days. They feel it helps the local communities economy because campers spend money while staying.

    1. I love this! Hopefully, more towns will do the same and make RV travel more convenient for everyone. Do you know of a listing of communities that have spots?

      I know that Lynchburg, Tennessee has a small electric and water only hookup place right off the town square and within walking distance of Jack Daniels. I stayed there last year. It was totally convenient since I don’t tow a car and we definitely spent some time and money in the town.

  5. The result of local city ordinances have restricted the ability of stores like Walmart and shopping malls. They more and more RVs taking up residency in the parking lots and not cleaning up after themselves. It is too bad, as Walmart has supplied a great service to RV travelers.

    1. It is a shame that a small subset of RVers have been ruining things for the rest of us. It makes it that much more important that each of us represent the RV community in a positive manner – cleaning up, shopping at the stores, etc.

      We also need to be lobbying each of our local communities to add RV parking/campground spots in local parks and to not pass these ordinances. We don’t want the remaining overnight RV parking spots to disappear and it would be awesome if we could add some more spots, even if paid. Many of us wouldn’t mind spending some money for a RV parking spot, especially if they had electric plugins for us. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just big enough for the Big Rigs to get in and park.

  6. I have been wanting to take an RV cross country camping for a while now. It seems like would be an awesome way to see the country. It is good to know that you can stay overnight at most Walmarts.

    1. Michael, yes, you can stay at many Walmarts, local ordinances permitting. Unfortunately, we are seeing too many bad actors spoiling it for the good RVers. That means we need to be extra aware of our actions – not being a nuisance, picking up our trash, spending money in the stores, etc. RVers should always be good neighbors.

  7. Thanks for helping me understand that it would be better to keep the RV slides in when the lot is busy to keep it from acquiring damages. I will follow your advice now that I will buy an RV for my family this year. We plan to camp for a couple of days in the summer season since we have never done that before, and it would be a good way to withdraw from the modern world. This tip will be helpful to first-timers like us.