Travel trailer RV parked in Walmart parking lot for free overnight spot

What You Need to Know for Free Overnight RV Parking

Free. It’s a great word, isn’t it? I know it always gets my attention, too. And when you string that word together with anything RV-related then you will definitely have my undivided attention for as long as you darn well please. Parking that big rig doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t come cheap. But, believe it or not, there are some ways to find free overnight parking for your RV.

The truth is, RVs are neither cheap to own nor inexpensive to live in. Nope, they require plenty of RV tools, supplies and equipment to make the whole dream work. And one of the required items that can easily become the most expensive on your list is a place to park that RV each night when you are out adventuring.

If there is one expense that I underestimated more than any other before hitting the road as a full-time RVer, it would absolutely be the cost of overnight accommodations. NO doubt.

Everything you need to know about free overnight rv parking

Our Personal Advice for When You Need Free Overnight RV Parking

Free overnight RV parking is wonderful. But it will not be your primary answer if you are embarking on a full-time RV adventure. These tips will help you better understand the available parking options for RV owners.

Top Free RV Parking Spots at Big Box Stores


If you’ve never dealt with anything in this realm before, you might automatically think that any wide-open store parking lot where you can fit your RV is fair game for an overnight stay. But you would be very wrong.

NOT ALL PARKING LOTS ARE CREATED EQUAL

Though we never experienced it, we have heard plenty of stories about RVers being abruptly awoken in the middle of the night by a police officer knocking on their door. Yes, the police will get involved pretty quickly if you are parked in a store parking lot without permission. That is not how you want to start your RV travels!

Here are the top overnight parking options that you should consider first in your effort to save some dough as you goooooo.

Overnight RV Parking Cracker Barrel

RV PARKING AT CRACKER BARREL

This restaurant may just become your best friend on the road. More than any other establishment they have really gone out of their way to make a concerted effort at attracting the RV crowd. They don’t just tolerate RVers; they love us!

This is the one business we have used for an overnight parking stop during our travels. Plenty of noise at the location in Colorado Springs made a good night’s sleep impossible, but other than that, the experience was a positive one.

The parking spots for RVs are huge. They have 645 locations in 44 states. Use the Trip Finder feature on the Cracker Barrel locations page to find restaurants along your route!

Consistent Parking Policy Across All Locations

And since all of the Cracker Barrel restaurants are corporate-owned, their policy is consistent across all locations. There is no guessing game for whether you will be welcome. I recommend giving the location a courtesy call on your way into town so they know to expect you.

They love it when you order a meal when you arrive or before you leave the next day, but it’s not like they are going to keep tabs on you! It’s your choice.

Personally, I think it’s a great place to find a free spot to park because I don’t pass on a Cracker Barrel meal.

OVERNIGHT PARKING AT WALMART

As a second option, you can choose to stop at one of the most popular retail stores in the nation: Walmart.

Easy to find? Um, yes. Consistent policy toward overnight parking? That’s a no. (You can use the Allstays App that we discuss below to help you navigate the different policies at Walmarts across the nation.)

Overnight RV Parking at Stores

The Walmart corporate policy states that: “Permission to park is extended by individual store managers based on availability of parking space and local laws.” 

Call Ahead to Confirm the Location Offers Overnight Spots

In other words, you must ensure that you speak directly with the store manager for permission before you arrive. If you cannot reach them by phone, go into the store when you arrive to discuss your options.

More than any other retail location, Walmart parking lots seem to be where you are most likely to get a “courtesy call” from an officer at your door in the middle of the night.

So please, don’t take a chance on this one. Get permission early in the day and try to arrive before dark, because when overnight parking is allowed, the spaces fill up fast.

FREE PARKING AT CABELA’S

Last but not least on our list of free overnight RV parking options is Cabela’s (or Bass Pro Shops, which operates under the same corporate umbrella). These popular stores are filled with everything you can imagine related to hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor activities. It is paradise for any avid outdoorsy person.

Not all Cabela’s locations allow overnight parking. Those that do, however, are well equipped. For instance, at one location in Acworth, Georgia they have five RV specific parking spots located at the back of the store that will accommodate any size RV.

As if that weren’t enough, they also have a $5 RV dump station you can use if necessary. How’s that for handy?

And yes, the Allstays app will point out these locations for your overnight parking convenience.

Free RV Parking

OVERNIGHT STAYS AT CAMPING WORLD

Camping World operates more than 180 retail locations across the United States. In the past, they were very generous in allowing overnight parking spaces for RV owners. You can no longer count on finding free rest stops at Camping World as they have changed their policy in recent years.

Some locations do allow it so I recommend you call the store ahead of time to confirm. Also make sure you have a backup plan.

Alternative Free Places for Overnight Stays


While I cannot give you a personal example of staying at any of the following spots, these have been mentioned by other RVers and may be worth trying.

Please call ahead and check with the retailer. Who knows, you may have good luck finding free RV parking locations.

  • Home Depot and Lowe’s
  • Movie Theaters
  • Highway Rest Stops
  • Church Parking Lots

Except for church parking lots, all of the above typically have large parking lots. So if overnight parking is allowed, it’s likely to have a good spot for your rig. It’s worth a try.

Apps That Help You Find RV Parking


Don’t get me wrong: A quick Google search will get you started in researching this whole idea of free overnight RV parking, and even finding some places to stop. But you need something a bit more user-friendly than that when you are in full-on trip planning mode on the road.

Of course, apps are the answer, because there’s always “an app for that”. During all our months of RV travel, the Allstays app was worth its weight in gold.

ALLSTAYS CAMP & RV APP

How to find Free overnight RV parking

It is definitely not an exaggeration to say that I used this app multiple times per week during our travels to locate far more than just overnight parking options. I was able to search on AllStays for things like:

  • Truck stops that I was confident my travel trailer could fit into
  • Locations to refill my RV’s propane (LPG) tanks
  • Rest areas or roadside pullouts for quick pit stops
  • Low-clearance roadways that I needed to avoid
  • RV dump stations to empty my black and grey tanks

But on the overnight parking topic specifically, here’s the information you will find:

  • Cabela’s Stores
  • Bass Pro Shop Stores
  • Cracker Barrel locations
  • Walmart parking lots (indicating whether they allow overnight parking or not…but call to verify)
  • Other overnight parking options (casinos are very popular in some states, roadside picnic areas in others, city parks, etc.)
  • Helpful information for many locations when you click on the location (best spot to park, rules, reviews from users, contact info, etc.)
AllStays Free RV Parking

It’s simply an all-in-one type of resource that makes your life as an RVer much more streamlined and simple. Compared to trying to conduct research using a search engine, this will save you so much time and hassle for a nominal one-time fee.

For my money, there was no hesitation. And absolutely no regret after the purchase. It is well worth a few bucks!

WHAT IS THE BEST ALTERNATIVE APP TO ALLSTAYS

I was planning to give you a small handful of app options for navigating your free overnight RV parking options. I mean, that’s the customary thing to do in informational posts like this, right?

But the truth is that when I took a look at the other options out there, comparing them to Allstays in terms of number of reviews and number of stars, it just didn’t make sense.

In this space, Allstays dominates the competition. If you are going to spend any money on an app, I cannot in good conscience recommend any other option.

I may have overlooked some decent alternatives out there. If so, please submit a comment below to let us know about other apps that consolidate and publish free overnight RV parking. I would be more than happy to add them!

Overnight RV Parking Etiquette


This great option for RVers to park overnight for free at various locations should be protected, most of all by RVers themselves. And you know how the saying goes: “If you abuse it, you lose it!”

For decades, Escapees RV Club has been on the front lines of advocating for the rights of RVers in our country. We used them for mail service during our travels.

Free Overnight Parking in an RV

This organization opposed legislation at various levels that would have ended the opportunity for RVers to park for free at retail locations. They mobilized their membership base to fight for rights and fair treatment, and to make their voices heard.

Importantly, they have been the voice of reason in this space. Escapees took action that aimed to create a mutually beneficial situation for all involved.

Escapees rv club

In an effort to preserve this privilege for many years to come, Escapees RV Club developed and promoted the “RVers Good Neighbor Policy” back in the early 90s. Simply put, it is an effort to remind and encourage all RVers to do their part in terms of protecting this privilege.

The best way we can do that is by following the Escapees RV Club Code of Conduct. These are the 8 core principles to follow when using a free RV parking spot:

  1. Stay one night only!
  2. Obtain permission from an authorized individual.
  3. Obey posted regulations.
  4. No awning, chairs, or barbecue grills.
  5. Do not use hydraulic jacks on soft surfaces (including asphalt).
  6. Always leave an area cleaner than you found it.
  7. Purchase gas, food, or supplies as a form of thank you, when feasible.
  8. Be safe! Always be aware of your surroundings and leave if you feel unsafe.

Not following this RV code of conduct has serious consequences that would be detrimental to the rights of all RVers.

One More Consideration About RV Parking


I don’t claim to understand this entire topic better than an RV club that has been around for decades advocating for the rights of RVers. Believe me. And there may be a good reason they left this piece out of their policy.

  • PRO TIP

Do not use a generator while you are parked at any free overnight parking location.

But I have to say this because it seems that I see complaints about it so often in social media: Don’t use a generator at ANY free overnight parking location! The noise is unacceptable. If you do, you are asking for trouble (from neighbors and from the establishment where you are parked). You could also jeopardize this parking privilege for everyone.

RV generator

Are You Ready To Try Out Free Overnight RV Parking?

I know it can be intimidating to try one of these options out for the first time. You’re afraid you might do something wrong, get a dirty look, get yelled at, get arrested….just kidding on that last one.

But it is totally worth it to get out of your comfort zone a bit and take advantage of this fantastic way to cut costs during your travels.

And by the way, if cutting costs AND having some fantastic experiences at wineries, breweries and golf courses across the country sounds like a match made in heaven, you must check out our post that sings the praises of the Harvest Hosts Membership! This is “almost free” overnight parking with a very tasty (and often scenic) twist. Don’t miss out on it!

Well, what are you waiting for? Start locating some of these fantastic ways to pinch a penny and expand your horizons out on the open road!

Safe travels, friends.

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve been camping in RVs for 36 years, and started using free locations about 10 years ago, when it made sense. Most often I’ve used truck stops and Wal-Marts, calling ahead or checking inside while filling up at the pump before settling in.

    I was surprised to see the rules from the RV club also didn’t include “turtling”, or keeping all slide-outs in, or mostly in if it can’t be avoided (one of two reasons I prefer floor plans that allow access to the bathroom without extending a slide-out; I also dislike slide-outs that completely cut off access to parts of the camper). Partly for the same reason rule #4 exists: the more we call attention to ourselves, the higher the chances of immediate problems and future laws/regulations that prohibit any overnight camping. Also partly for safety. If you suddenly feel unsafe and need to leave, the more stabilizers and slide-outs you need to retract, the longer you’ll be there and the more you’ll expose yourself as you fiddle with that stuff. Personally I only extend the tongue jack to make it a little more level for the fridge and the humans. No corner stabilizers, no X-chocks. If I have to leave suddenly and have 60 seconds, then I can retract it, otherwise I accept it will get bent and I’ll deal with it when we’re safe.

    I don’t agree with your absolute rule against generators. Every place I’ve stayed, everyone is using a quiet inverter-generator or built-in. I agree with you that old-style “screamers”, always running at 3600 rpm and making lots of noise, should not be used at free locations. Again we don’t want to call attention and they are just not appropriate around other campers (even in paid campgrounds that have generator hours, IMO). But the quiet models allow life to go on normally inside the camper without bothering anyone. Nobody wants to sleep on a 100 degree parking lot without air conditioning. Looking to the future, large lithium battery banks will allow AC and everything else for a night without any generator at all.

    1. Hi Doug, really appreciate your perspective an insight on this topic based on your years of experience.

      I have to agree that generators are becoming quieter and less of a problem, but should always be used with caution and consideration in these settings.

      Peace.

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