Nature

Living the RV Lifestyle: No Reservations? No Problem!

There are plotters and planners and the highly organized RVers who never set out without a detailed itinerary that lists every stop, with reservations locked in far in advance. Let me tell you right up front: that is most definatey NOT me.

No way do I want to be locked into an agenda, even if it’s one I set myself. No way do I have to be somewhere. No way do I want to have to avoid missing something because I need to stick to the schedule.

So we travel without reservations, stopping when and where we want as the spirit moves.

One of our favorite overnight spots is the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel Restaurant. That’s our Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL shown at one in Piqua, Ohio as the featured image accompanying this post. Not bad, huh?

Cracker Barrel is just one of many places that – unless prohibited by local government regulations – allow RVers to spend the night in their parking lot. Free. Most of you know about Walmarts. They love RVers and sometimes their parking lots look like an RV rally is going on, that’s how many folks camp there.

The great thing about overnighting in a Cracker Barrel parking lot is breakfast is only a few steps away in the morning
The great thing about overnighting in a Cracker Barrel parking lot is breakfast is only a few steps away in the morning

But did you know that you can also camp in the parking lots of most Sams Club,  Costco, Cabellas, Camping World, most casinos (some charge a very low fee), Lowes, Home Depot, truck stops like Flying J and Travel Centers of America, Elks Lodge (if you are a member) and in most highway and freeway rest areas (as long as you don’t set out lounge chairs and settle in for the day).

Yes, I know, some rest areas have signs posted saying you can’t stay for more than a few hours. But seriously, I know of no one in a Class B motorhome who has ever been told to move along. Rest areas are to rest. That means sleeping. Pull in at sunset or later, leave in the morning and you will usually be just fine.

You can also stay free in most national forests, many state forests, and, provided you ask permission, in many church, shopping center and supermarket parking lots. Just ask.

One time, in Nebraska, after a day of exploring, we found ourselves in need of a night’s rest, with no campground nearby. So I stopped at the local police station in North Loup, Nebraska and asked. They directed me to the parking lot of the local baseball field. No problem, no cost.

Good sleeping in a parking lot usually requires some adjustments. Often, there is a lot of light from those big streetlights.  You may want to out something in the windows to help those standard RV curtains or blinds better block out the light. It also helps to run a fan for a little white noise. Big parking lots tend to run their street-cleaning sweepers after midnight, when traffic clears.

Also try to avoid parking next to semi-tractor trailers. They often keep their engines running all night and the diesel brakes bleed off from time to time with a loud hissing sound that is guaranteed to wake you up. Be aware of where you park. At a Deming, New Mexico Walmart earlier this summer, we parked at the back of the lot next to a row of tall shrubs. Turned out there was a homeless guy living in those shrubs. He caused no problems. But it was a bit unnerving to wake up at dawn and see him sprawled out under the branches a few feet away.

There are a couple of membership sites that will help you find more free or inexpensive places to stay while traveling.

For starters, check out AllStays Pro, they list more than 22,000 commercial campgrounds, state and national parks, and boondocking spots, everything from KOAs and Walmarts to state and federal forests, military, and BLM land. This is my favorite app and website, offering the most detailed information of any app I’ve yet found on places to stay.

AllStays Pro is the major go-to site Jennifer and I use for finding places to stay that really stand out, especially out of the way boondocking spots and free places to stay. AllStays has generously offered 10% off the annual AllStays Pro subscription ($29.95) if you use this link and the discount code RVPODCAST when you signup.

There are other resources.

Harvest Hosts is a unique membership service that lets RVers camp overnight FOR FREE at lovely outdoor venues such as wineries, breweries, museums, farms, orchards, and creameries. You can get 10% off the Harvest Host annual membership ($49) using the discount code: HHFriends

Another resource to help you find free or very low-cost places to stay while traveling in your RV is called OvernightRVParking.com. As of today, it has a database of nearly 13,800 locations around North America that can be searched, listing places that allow and prohibit overnight RV parking. The site is a subscription service – $24.95 a year. I had a great conversation with the owner and he has made a nice offer to our readers. If you decide to sign up, he will extend your membership from 12 months to 15 months. That works out to a pretty nice discount so use the link above to sign up and receive your 3 free months!

We’re not against campgrounds. We use them all the time. But when on the move and just overnighting, these free overnight spots can sure help your RV travel budget go a lot farther.

3 thoughts on “Living the RV Lifestyle: No Reservations? No Problem!”

  1. Thanks for the post! I’m trying to figure out why so many people park in parking lots when on the road versus outside of cities. I’m new to boon docking but wouldn’t you have more possibilities to overnight just out of town a little bit and avoid all the traffic/noise of the city?

  2. Mary Kay Pfeiffer

    Love casino parking lots – they seem to be the quietest! We’ve stayed in Wal-Mart lots and always do a little shopping and sometimes even rent a Redbox movie to watch while we get a takeout pizza from a nearby pizza place. We’re like you Mike- we like to play our trip by ear too!

Comments are closed.