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Free Overnight RV Parking: 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 definitely NOT us.

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 (unless I actually have to be there). Ideally, I don’t 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. I call this Serendipity Travel.

Free Overnight RV Parking Suggestions

There are many businesses that allow RVers to park overnight in their lots… for free!

However, this varies from branch to branch of a business because city and state regulations vary. So, for instance, don’t assume you can park at every Walmart. You’ll need to see which Walmarts allow overnight RV parking.

Unfortunately for RVers, city regulations banning overnight RV stays are on the rise. That means we all need to do our part to be exemplary guests when we do stay overnight.

We recommend following these Etiquette Tips to show locals we respect their home.

Free Overnight RV Parking at Cracker Barrel

Free Overnight RV Parking: No Reservations? No Problem! 1
Our Wonder at a Cracker Barrel.

One of our favorite free overnight RV parking spots is the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel Restaurant. That’s our RV shown at one in Piqua, Ohio. 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.

Free overnight RV Parking at Cracker Barrel
The great thing about free overnight RV parking in a Cracker Barrel parking lot is breakfast is only a few steps away in the morning

Free Overnight RV Parking at Costco, Cabellas, and More

But did you know that you can also camp in the parking lots of other major retailers, truck stops, and more?

  • Costco
  • Sams Club
  • Cabellas
  • Camping World
  • Lowes
  • Home Depot
  • Flying J
  • Travel Centers of America
  • Elks Lodge (if you’re a member)
  • Most casinos (some charge a very low fee)
  • Most highway and freeway rest areas

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. As long as you don’t set out lounge chairs and settle in for the day, you should be fine.

You Can Ask Permission, Too

You can also enjoy free overnight RV parking in most national forests, many state forests, and, provided you ask permission, in many churches, shopping centers, 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.

Do you enjoy your Small House and BIG Yard RV Lifestyle experience? Maybe you need a t-shirt or hoodie to tell the world. This saying is a favorite in our community. Don’t need a hoodie? We have mugs. ?

Tips for Staying Overnight in a Parking Lot

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 put 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, 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.

4 Helpful Resources to Find Free Overnight RV Parking

There are a couple of membership sites that will help you find more free or inexpensive places to stay while traveling, too. Many of the following are our RV Lifestyle Partners. This list will get you started. Also read through this post to expand your list of places to go.

AllStays Pro

For starters, check out AllStays Pro, they list more than 22,000 commercial campgrounds, state and national parks, and boondocking spots. They include everything from KOAs and Walmarts to state and federal forests, military, and BLM land.

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. It offers the most detailed information of any app I’ve yet found on places to stay.

Using this link and the discount code: rvpodcast you can save 10% off your All Stays Pro annual subscription.

Harvest Hosts

Harvest Hosts is one of our very favorite places to overnight. It 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 (it is recommended that you patronage these venues that you stay at).

There are more than 2,000 such places across North America to choose from.

There is also an upgraded membership where you can also camp overnight at golf courses!

Using this link and the discount code: HHFRIENDS15 you get 15% off Harvest Hosts annual membership.

Togo RV PLUS

Togo RV Plus INCLUDES access to all 14,000+ free boondocking locations in the OvernightRVParking.com app! Togo RV Plus also includes new RV GPS navigation that considers weight limits, low overhead clearances, grades of terrain, and propane restrictions to give you turn-by-turn directions specific to your RV. Just select a destination, add your vehicle size, and use the turn-by-turn in-app navigation. And it includes Roadtrippers Plus, where you can plan trips with up to 150 stops, collaborate with friends on route planning, and get real-time traffic along your route. Check it out – highly recommended! 

You can get $10 off your Togo RV PLUS annual membership using the discount code: RVLIFESTYLE21

Boondockers Welcome

Boondockers Welcome is another unique service that lets you overnight on private property, often at the homes of welcoming hosts. They have over 2,000 members who have graciously opened up a spot on their property, where you can find a safe, quiet spot to spend the night as you are passing through the area.

The hosts are usually RVers themselves and I’ve never heard of anybody that has stayed at a Boondockers Welcome place that hasn’t come away with a new set of friends! Boondockers Welcome is a great option to turn to if you’re nearby a big city or in an area where it’s almost impossible to find a spot for the night unless you book 6+ months ahead of time.

If you’re interested in hosting RVers on your property, it is free to sign up and for every guest that visits you, Boondockers Welcome will give you 3 months free to their subscription!

You can get 15% off your Boondockers Welcome annual membership using the discount code: RVLIFESTYLE15

Share Your Experience!

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.

Let us know in the comments how free overnight RV parking has helped (or hindered) you in your travels. Have you asked permission to stay somewhere unusual that was granted?

The Complete Guide to Boondocking

We created a PRINT version of our most popular guide to help you with the most common boondocking problems. We get a ton of questions from our subscribers about how to get started boondocking that range from where to go and wild animals to water conservation to what equipment to use and more. 

Free Overnight RV Parking: No Reservations? No Problem! 2

Throw off the shackles of traditional RV Parks and campgrounds, stop paying high fees every night that you spend in your RV, and experience the boundless amounts of nature while boondocking.

You’re done with the noisy RV parks, the 3.5 feet of room you have squished in between two other RVs, and other people’s kids running through your campsite?

You’ve ditched the hookups, the concrete blocks and have replaced them with self-leveling and Navy showers?

This is the book for you.

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4 Responses to “Free Overnight RV Parking: No Reservations? No Problem!”

August 24, 2021at3:33 pm, Alan Hansen said:

Can I get the packing list. Please

Reply

February 23, 2017at12:21 pm, Sammy said:

Campendium has a ton of free locations plus photos!
https://www.campendium.com/free-camping

Reply

January 02, 2016at10:17 am, Mary Kay Pfeiffer said:

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!

Reply

August 21, 2015at1:08 pm, wizzard said:

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?

Reply

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