Save money on a rental RV vacation spending the night somewhere other than RV parks & campgrounds

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Guidelines for Rental RV Camping at Wal-Mart and other non-RV specific places

by Steven Fletcher
It's not really camping, it is sometimes referred to as boondocking but it's probably more accurate to call it overnighting. What ever you call it, lots of RVers have spent then night in places other than RV parks and campgrounds. It can be a good way to save money on your rental RV vacation.

Below are Guidelines for Overnighting at Wal-Mart and other non-RV places

Ask permission. There's an old RV joke about asking permission. - An RVer asks security guard at a mall if it's okay to park overnight. The guard says no. The RVer points to other RVs parked in the lot and asked the guard why the get to park there. The guard answers, 'they didn't ask.'

The point is, use your judgment. If you see other RVers there it's probably okay for you to park too. If you're the only one and your not sure then you should ask permission. You really don't want security or the police to knock on your door telling you to move in the middle of the night.

Don't abuse the privilege, make it just an overnight stay and for only a few hours. Our guideline is that you should never stay longer than 12 hours but 10 would be better. If you park at 8:00 P.M. you should be gone by 6:00 A.M. And you should leave by 10:00 A.M. regardless of how long you've been there.

If the parking lot is small you should leave before the business opens. Also keep in mind that night time is when most parking lots are swept and other landscape maintenance is done so it's always good to ask for permission to park there.

Be discreet. Please, no awnings, lawn chairs, BBQs and such. If you want to 'camp' go where it's allowed.

Show your appreciation. If you stay overnight at a truck stop buy your fuel there. If you stay at a restaurant have dinner or breakfast or both. You get the idea.

Following the guidelines above, here are some places to overnight.

* Highway Rest Area. Some states allow overnighting and even have special areas set aside for RVs. However, most restrict parking time and some do not allow overnighting at all.

These restrictions are mainly to keep the criminal element from using the area, and other people from setting up camp. That said, I've never seen a ‘No Overnighting’ law enforced when RVers follow the guidelines. Highway patrol and state troopers will tell you they've better things to do than roust RVers if they are not causing problems. Especially if you arrive late and leave early.

* Wal-Mart parking lots are preferred parking places for many RVers. While Wal-Mart may not overtly welcome overnighters they are certainly one of the most tolerant of businesses who allow it. Unfortunately, too many RVers have ignored the guidelines above and taken advantage of this generosity. There are now some Wal-Marts where overnighting is no longer allowed.

* Truck stops. A lot of RVers overnight at truck stops and some truck stops have special a area set aside for RVs. If they don’t have a special area it may be a good idea to ask where they want you to park. Remember it’s a truck stop first so do your best not to park in the way or in a space where a truck could park.

* Camping World allows RVers waiting for an early appointment to overnight. If the lot is not full it should be okay for you to overnight as well.

* Gambling casinos parking lots are almost always okay. For casinos with RV parks don't park until you first go inside and ask if they have a "coupon" or similar promotion that allows cheap or free use of the RV sites.

* Some tourist attractions (museums, amusement parks, etc.) allow overnighting but call ahead to ask permission on arrival.

* Side roads. Make sure you don't block access to farm fields or work sites and have to move out of the way of workers early in the morning.

* Federal and State "Wild Life Refuges" (as opposed to "Wilderness Areas" where you can't take vehicles). Some allow over night parking. When asking the ranger mention how you want to do some bird watching at sunrise.

* Places to avoid:

Downtown and other areas that are fine by day can become dangerous after dark.

Church parking lots may be okay but often have activities at all hours.

Any place off the road that's littered with lots of beer bottles and trash

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