Where can I park my RV for free? Are there stores or other places that allow RV overnight parking?
If you’re trying to save money by not staying at an RV park or just passing through town, then free overnight RV parking in a safe place holds considerable appeal.
There are definitely ways to do so. But it pays to be polite at all times as you’re effectively an unpaid guest.
Also, typically, you’ll be parked away from other vehicles instead of crammed together like at some RV campgrounds.
If you’re asking, where can I park my RV for free, we have the answers. Public parks, truck stops, farms (by arrangement), churches (through reservation systems), RV dealerships, and retail stores with expansive parking lots often allow free overnight RV parking. Most places won’t have electrical hookups or potable water. So, you’ll need to periodically empty your black and grey water tanks elsewhere.
In this article, we provide 11 safe places to park your RV to get free overnight parking.
1. Casinos for the Bright Lights
Casinos may seem like an unlikely spot to park your RV for free. Nevertheless, many see the attraction of offering overnight parking to RV and motorhome owners who might otherwise never visit the casino and wouldn’t likely pay for a hotel room anyway.
Therefore, it’s a marriage of convenience.
Parking Spots and Full Hookups
Each casino usually has a designated parking area for RVs of different types and sizes including campers. They each have their size limitations for oversized RVs, so check their website to be sure before traveling there.
Many offer full hookups, access to showers, and sometimes the swimming pool too if there is one.
Casino Overnight Charges Vary
Some casinos offer free parking, others charge a fee during peak periods, and a few have overnight fees regardless of the season.
While you’re free to enjoy gaming at the casino, it’s not a requirement for a stay.
The buffets are available, and some shows might be laid on during peak season too.
Even when the parking spot is free, casinos keep busy and have the opportunity to provide their hospitality in various ways.
The Casino Camper site is designed to provide current information on the casinos that offer RVs a place to park overnight.
Other than checking on the individual casino’s website, it’s the next best resource.
2. Harvest Hosts for the Best Produce
Harvest Hosts is a paid network of farms, wineries, breweries, and other organizations (over 1,050 and still growing) that permit self-contained RVs to stay overnight for free.
It’s necessary to be a member of the network first, but then you can stay for free.
The Harvest Hosts Classic membership fee is currently $79 annually which compares well to the cost of a one-night stay in an RV resort or RV park.
There’s also their newer Harvest Hosts + Golf plan which includes hundreds of golf courses, country clubs, and access to spa facilities too.
While there, you’ll get the opportunity to sample their wares. This might be the local harvest, the latest wines, ciders, cheeses, and more.
The selection depends on where you’re staying, the time of year, and what they produce on their land.
3. Walmart RV Parking
Walmart is a popular place to park up overnight for free. Do some shopping to stock up while you’re there and head on out the following morning.
Does Walmart Allow Overnight RV Parking?
There are over 4,000 retail locations in the U.S. presently.
What Walmart stores allow overnight RV parking? The number is around 3,000 locations still allowing RVers and van life people to stay there.
Usually, this is for a one-night stay. Some people push this beyond the one night – trying to stretch a single into a triple – but security will move them on.
Walmarts That Allow Overnight RV Parking: Is it Increasing or Decreasing?
Approval for Walmart RV parking is steadily decreasing. Some stores have a “no park Walmart” sign displayed near the entrance.
In most cases, it’s not a new Walmart policy to allow staying overnight in their parking lot. Many of their stores are open 24 hours.
Also, a high percentage of overnight RVers and Van Lifers go shopping in the store before departing. And local store managers realize this.
However, new city ordinances are increasingly being implemented. These are forcing Walmart store managers to turn away people in the late evening to prevent them from boondocking there.
Also, realize that Walmart overnight camping isn’t advisable. This means no pulling out the awning, setting up the RV camping chairs, and so on. It’s not a boondocking spot!
Read Also: Walmart RV parking
4. Truck Stops for Big Rig Acceptance
Truck stops are usually expansive locations that are open to RVs staying overnight there. They fit right in because the parking spots are designed primarily for long-haul truckers.
Some of the truck stop advantages include:
- Paid showers – Not cheap at $12 for untimed usage but they’re clean and well maintained.
- Affordable refueling.
- Truck washing station (at some truck stops).
- Wi-Fi Access – A few dollars for a multi-hour or one-day period (at participating stops).
- On-site restaurant
To find a truck stop along your route, check AllStays. They have spots for drivers, rest areas, camping locations, and rooms all locatable on a map or by state.
The AllStays information for each truck stop includes details like washroom facilities, laundry, propane availability, dump station for RVs, internet access, and more.
They also have several mobile apps including Camp & RV and AllStays Pro with offline Google map access with every truck stop indicated.
Make it a point to look for RV-designated parking spots to avoid accidentally using one intended for hard-working truckers. Just about every truck stop has them clearly marked.
5. Church for Nondenominational Overnighters
While it won’t appeal to everyone, many churches provide overnight parking spots for RVers.
It’s up to the individual church as to whether they offer this free service, how many parking spots they have, and how accessible the lot is after hours.
It’s best to search Google for churches along your route to see whether there are any that offer overnight stays to RVers. Then follow up by giving them a phone call or email to double-check if the offer is still available.
No doubt providing a small donation to the church would be welcomed too.
6. Cracker Barrell for a Hearty Meal
When you’re going through a city or town with a Cracker Barrell restaurant, then it pays to consider parking overnight there. They make a good alternative to an expensive RV park or other alternatives, especially when traveling on the interstate.
Check with the Restaurant Manager
Whether a restaurant will participate in allowing RVs to park overnight at their Cracker Barrell depends on the manager at that location. We’ve found it’s not a consistent policy from place to place.
Check where the parking is located, if it’s on level ground, and how many spaces there are.
Also, ask about using a slide-out (if your RV has one), turning on the generator, or using the jack or leveling blocks. Some managers may insist on your not using jack pads whereas others don’t mind either way.
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Look for the Signage
When pulling your rig into the parking lot, keep an eye out for a sign confirming RV parking is permitted and under what terms. If it’s allowed, it’s probably there somewhere.
Number of Parking Spaces Varies Between Stores
Some participating restaurants have only a couple of small parking spots for RVs which are only large enough to accommodate a Class B or C motorhome, whereas others have 5 longer parking bays.
Obviously, in the busier travel seasons, these can get filled up fast on a first-come, first-served basis.
Take Advantage of the Delicious Food
It makes sense to dine out at Cracker Barrell when staying there. This is more or less implied and is courteous when enjoying the free parking.
Be Prepared for a Quiet Night
At night, it gets quiet in the parking lot.
There’s either security or local police driving by just to check on everyone, but you shouldn’t get disturbed at all.
7. Cabela’s & Bass Pro Shops for Outdoor and Fishing Gear
Cabela’s is a huge outdoor adventure sports store that has just about everything you could ask for.
They’re now part of the Bass Pro Shops chain, so they have close to 200 locations, combined.
Cabela’s RV Parking or Bass Pro Overnight Parking? Check with the Store Manager
Not all Cabela’s stores or Bass Pro Shops offer parking for trucks or RVs. Cabela’s RV parking policy does vary.
With Cabelas overnight parking, it’s dependent on the policy of the store manager and isn’t consistently reflected state-wide.
It is necessary to either look for signage, call in, or go in person to ask politely about it.
Knowing What to Do is Simple
For participating stores, they will usually have a green sign near the entrance directing truck and RV drivers where to go for RV overnight parking at Bass Pro Shops. Sometimes, they even have a dog kennel there too!
In the case of Cabela’s, the policy is that the free overnight RV parking is for customers only. Therefore, plan to purchase in the store if you’re going to use the parking facilities. Fair’s fair.
RV Dump Station
A few of the Cabela’s stores (which number at least 70) also have a Sani Star dump to empty your tanks without needing to find a dump station elsewhere. We do not currently know of any Bass Pro Shops that offer RV dump station facilities
If you’re making a purchase at a Cabela store and plan to use the station later, then ask for a free code. Otherwise, you can pay separately to use the dump station and pay by card.
Quick Tips at Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops
With RV overnight parking at Bass Pro Shops, be careful where you situate yourself within the RV/Truck parking area.
The designated parking area is usually located near the back of the store out of view. It is easy for other vehicles to block you accidentally. Therefore, choose your spot wisely to avoid this.
Ask about the most level spots to avoid having your RV or motorhome at an uncomfortable angle or not level.
8. Rest Areas for Relaxed Downtime
Overnight parking at rest areas is possible in some states but is outlawed in others.
It’s necessary to check with the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the relevant state to confirm their current policy on approved rest areas.
Which States Allow Rest Areas?
As of the summer of 2020, the following states have approved designated rest areas:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
Restrictions Apply for Overnight Parking at Rest Areas
Each state has extremely specific restrictions or limitations for parking at rest areas.
For instance, while Indiana currently has no restrictions on overnight stays, it’s not the same elsewhere.
Idaho rest areas are limited to 10 hours on interstate highways but 16 hours on state ones.
California currently restricts the maximum stay to 8 hours.
Finding the Approved Rest Areas
Use the AllStays app to locate the rest areas nearest to your current location.
Apply the “Rest” filter to narrow down your search to only rest areas and not truck stops as well.
Bear in mind that rest areas do get closed for various reasons. Therefore, check with the relevant state’s DOT site for the latest information before proceeding.
Amenities Available at Rest Areas
As you might expect, the amenities vary from state to state and between each rest area too.
Some of the possible amenities include:
- Wi-Fi internet access
- Vending machines
- Recycling facilities
- Electric hookups
- RV dump station
- Pet walking area
- Center for travel information
Quick Tips for Rest Areas
Parking spots fill up early. By late afternoon, you could be out of luck!
Ensure you have a secondary place to try for overnight parking nearby in case of a surprise closure or lack of available spaces large enough to accommodate your RV.
Some rest areas will be closed for prolonged periods while they’re being upgraded. There’s usually signage on the interstate to indicate this.
Most rest areas either have security guards or regular Police patrols. However, don’t rely on this. If you’re going to leave your RV, make sure it’s properly secured, and the alarm is turned on.
Read Also: Difference Between Motorhome and RV
9. Camping World for the Adventurer
As the largest supplier of RVs and RV-related goods, Camping World is an obvious place to park overnight for free. However, not so fast.
While it was true if you go back a decade or more that these retail stores were sure things for overnight boondocking, that’s not been true for some time.
Nowadays, many locations have fencing around their parking lots, they’re regularly patrolled and do not permit overnight parking.
To be sure that you can stay overnight, it’s best to call the store manager to confirm it first.
10. Free Camping on Public or Private Land for Dispersed Stays
RV camping on public lands (government-owned) is popular in certain parts of the country.
Dispersed camping is essentially camping in the wild. It’s something that is best suited to campervans for their portability or smaller Class B or Class C motorhomes on flatter land.
Hot to Find Well-traveled Boondocking Locations
FreeCampsites.net is a current reference for places that travelers have found to spend the night.
It’s an extensive resource for finding cool new places with great views or other conveniences.
The locations may be actual campsites that don’t charge for overnight stays but offer paid facilities like utility hookups, water supply, and other benefits.
Many are open camping areas on public land.
Bear in mind that due to its popularity, it’s not uncommon to go down a dirt road and discover 5 other solo travelers or couples already bunched in together.
How to Find Less Populated Boondocking Locations
To find a good spot for some boondocking, it’s necessary to be quite adventurous.
They’re often discovered by looking at Google Maps to scope out areas that look promising and then trying them out for yourself. This is the best way to avoid being overcrowded when you prefer solitude.
Boondocking on Public Land
It’s not uncommon to be allowed to stay for 10 days or 14 days depending on the type of land and what rules apply there.
In some cases, just moving on to another location still on BLM land is sufficient to restart the 10- or 14-day period again.
Individual states also sometimes have their own arrangements. For instance, Washington has their Department of Fish and Wildlife campgrounds and New Mexico has some free land to camp on when you pick up a paid pass.
Quick Tips for Free Camping on Public or Private Land
Park it and pack it out — Don’t leave trash behind. Areas that become trash-filled eventually get closed down.
Don’t Create Problems — Avoid creating a scene by running a generator in the late evening, turning up the music loud, or otherwise creating a nuisance of yourself.
Power to the People — Think about how you’ll keep power going. Having solar panels installed and being able to charge your batteries through your alternator is a good idea.
Supplies – The longer your stay before heading into town, the more supplies you’ll require. This includes drinking water, food that won’t perish, and enough propane to run the stove or heater.
Take Safety Seriously – Ensure you have a reliable First Aid Kit. It’s not a bad idea to think about having something for self-defense, just in case. Pepper spray is easy to get and doesn’t take up much space.
11. Urban Boondocking for the Daredevil
Owners with smaller RVs like a Class B, a campervan, or something else may try their hand at urban boondocking. This is where they find a place to overnight park out of the way but still in the town or city.
If you’re considering doing this, it pays to prepare ahead of time with blackout window curtains and other efforts to be stealthier. This avoids people calling the cops on you.
It’s important to verify what the local parking restrictions are for that road before parking overnight. Some business industrial estates make for good spots if you believe they’re safe (they get deserted at night).
Urban boondocking is a more advanced strategy. It’s usually better to be prepared first and try other places before graduating to this level.