Overnight parking can be a concern for many RV owners, van dwellers, and road trippers looking for safe, free places to stop and sleep for the night. As someone who enjoys the freedom of RV and van life, I’ve learned the best places to park overnight without worry.
What is overnight parking exactly? It simply means parking your RV, campervan, car, or truck in a parking lot and sleeping there overnight. For travelers on a budget, it’s an alternative to paying for a campground or hotel room.
While regulations vary by location, many businesses will permit vehicles to park overnight in their lot, as long as some basic rules are followed. With a bit of research, you can find great spots to park after hours.
What Stores Allow Overnight Parking
Some of my favorite go-to overnight parking spots are at major retail stores. These locations usually have large parking lots with well-lit spaces ideal for RVs and vehicles. Many are also open 24 hours and allow free overnight parking.
Walmart Overnight Parking
Walmart is arguably the most popular among RVers, vanlifers, and car campers for overnight stays. The retail giant allows overnight parking at most locations. Some Walmarts now even have designated RV parking sections.
When staying overnight:
- Ask the manager on duty where to park overnight. Often away from the store entrance is best.
- Look for and obey signs regarding overnight parking rules.
- Be quiet, don’t leave trash, and don’t set up camp.
With over 4,700 Walmart stores in the US, they make great spots to stop for the night while traveling cross-country. I’ve parked many nights trouble-free.
Cracker Barrel Welcomes RVers
The restaurant chain Cracker Barrel is famous for being RV-friendly and welcoming overnight parkers. Most locations allow you to sleep in their parking lots.
To ensure it’s okay, I simply give the local store a call first to confirm their overnight parking policy. Then I park away from the entrance and be respectful.
With over 650 Cracker Barrels, primarily along major highways, it’s easy to find one where you can spend the night safely.
Camping World Has Designated RV Parking
As an outdoor recreation store focusing on RVs and camping, Camping World is an ideal place for self-contained RVs to stop for the night.
Many locations actually have designated RV parking areas with enough room to accommodate large rigs. Check Camping World’s website to view individual store policies on overnight parking before stopping.
Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops Have Big Lots
Similar to Camping World, outdoor retailers Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops cater to the RVing community. You’ll typically find large parking lots and sometimes designated RV parking.
Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops merged in 2017, giving RV travelers over 180 locations to consider for safe, one-night stops. I prefer parking away from the main entrance.
Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement
Home Depot and Lowe’s allow recreational vehicles to utilize their expansive parking lots overnight in most cases. As with other retailers, avoid the prime spots near the entrance and exits.
Check individual city ordinances too, as overnight parking regulations can vary from place to place. Both chains have well over 2,000 stores across North America.
Tips for Successful Overnight Parking
While major retail stores are my top recommendation for RV and van parking overnight, here are some helpful tips to follow:
- Always call ahead – Confirm the location allows overnight parking. Ask where they prefer RVs to park.
- Use apps – Apps like RV Parky help you locate available parking.
- Park away from entrances – Allow easy customer access by parking out of the way.
- Be quiet – No loud noises or generators late at night.
- Follow posted signs – If parking isn’t allowed, signs will indicate so.
- Leave no trace – Don’t litter. Dispose waste properly.
- Be respectful – As an ambassador for RVers, make a good impression.
Following these simple courtesies helps preserve free overnight parking privileges. As more people live the van life, we need to protect access to safe, approved places to park after hours.
Alternative Overnight Parking Options
While retail stores are ideal, there are many other places you can park and sleep overnight in your vehicle:
- National forests – Dispersed camping is allowed for free with a self-contained RV. I recommend more remote areas over crowded campgrounds.
- BLM land – You can camp on Bureau of Land Management property for up to 14 days. Sites are primitive but free.
- Highway rest areas – Rest areas along the interstate highway system permit cars and RVs to park overnight. These are safe and legal, though amenities vary.
- Truck stops – Major chains like Flying J, Pilot, and Love’s cater to truckers and RVers with huge parking lots, convenience stores, and propane.
- Rural hospitals – Small town hospitals often let self-contained RVs utilize parking space overnight. Staff understand night shift needs.
- Casinos – Casino hotels and resorts frequently allow free RV parking with hookups. Great option when hotels are full.
Where Not to Park Overnight
While many locations will permit overnight parking, there are some places RVs and campervans are better off avoiding:
- Malls – Most malls prohibit overnight parking and have security patrols that strictly enforce this.
- Urban hospitals – Larger hospitals near downtown areas discourage overnight stays with parking enforcement.
- Churches – Often churches post “no overnight parking” signs. Be respectful of their wishes.
- Abandoned sites – Parking at vacant buildings may violate trespassing laws. Safety is also a concern.
- Areas marked “No overnight parking” – Avoid parking where prohibited to prevent ticketing or towing.
Research town ordinances on municipal websites for local overnight parking regulations if you are concerned. Many cities ban public overnight parking to deter homelessness.
Know the Laws on Overnight Parking
Before you park for the night, its wise to research relevant laws and regulations:
- Check city or county websites for ordinances on overnight vehicle parking in public areas. This varies greatly by location.
- Some towns strictly prohibit sleeping in vehicles overnight. Parking enforcement may ticket violators.
- Avoid parking overnight where banned by local laws. Fines, towing fees, and legal issues are not worth the hassle.
Responsible RVers make an effort to inform themselves on overnight parking rules in the areas they visit. With some research, you can almost always find legal spots to stop for the night.
Summary – Be a Respectful Ambassador for RVers
Major retail stores, truck stops, and other roadside businesses are your best options for safe, authorized overnight RV parking. To preserve access for RVers:
- Confirm overnight parking is allowed and follow posted rules
- Park out of the prime spots
- Keep noise and disruptions to a minimum
- Leave no trash or waste
With some common courtesy, we can protect the privilege of free overnight parking for RV travelers. Now that you know the best places to park, you have more tools to be a responsible RVer and explorer.
Happy and safe travels!