As we head into the summer months, I thought I would take a few minutes to remind you of one my personal campaigns: How To Find Free Overnight RV Parking and help RVers take control of where they spend the night.
A big part of that mission, of course, is helping RVers avoid spending upwards of $40 a night.
In fact, there are many opportunities for you to hit the road this summer and not have to spend a dime on overnight stays.
Of course, it’s no secret that across North America, many towns and cities are becoming increasingly anti-RV, prohibiting overnight camping anywhere except in RV campgrounds, which often charge an arm and a leg for what can often be pretty dismal campsites.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t many opportunities available.
Here are our four favorites:
- OvernightRVParking.com offers more than 14,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada where RVers are welcome to camp overnight. It also identifies what locations do not allow RVs overnight. The site is a subscription service – $24.95 a year. If you use this link and decide to subscribe, your 1-year membership will be extended from 12 months to 15 months. That works out to a pretty nice discount.
- Harvest Hosts members can stay for free overnight at member farms, wineries, golf courses, and attractions all over North America. There are over 1,000 locations to choose from. We'll be staying at several over the next week or so. You can see the photos on Instagram account #rvlifestylemike. You can get 15% off your Harvest Hosts annual membership ($79) using the discount code: HHFriends15
- Boondockers Welcome is a service that lets you overnight on private property, often at the homes of welcoming hosts. It’s where people open up a spot on the driveway, or maybe out back, where you can find a safe, quiet spot to spend the night as you are passing through the area.
- AllStays Pro is the other major go-to site Jennifer and I use for finding places to stay that really stand out, especially out of the way National Forest boondocking spots and dispersed camping spots. Many RVers are familiar with the AllStays app. It is awesome. But since Jennifer and I discovered AllStays Pro, the browser-based subscription site, we rely on the map that shows all the spots in our area during our RV travels. Using this link you can save 10% off your AllStays Pro annual subscription ($29.95) using the discount code: rvpodcast
Having so many options not only will allow you to save money, but also have alternative places to stay if your campground is full, or if you simply want to get away from a crowded space.
There are other places.
Locations include different Walmart stores (not all allow overnight camping if local law prohibits), Cracker Barrel restaurants (our favorite), casinos, malls, as well as some Home Depots, Menards, Lowes, Sam's Club, Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s, Target stores, and many, many more.
As we've discussed on the RV Lifestyle Podcast, we’ve stayed overnight in many of these places and never felt unsafe (though some can be quite bright and/or noisy at night so be sure to examine your surroundings and trust your gut).
Overnight RV Parking also lists plenty of municipal parks, many that are downright beautiful and, again, free!
“Basically, if you paint a broad stripe up and down in the middle of the United States from Wisconsin and Illinois, and Michigan over to Montana and then all the way south from there to the golf course to the Mexican border, a lot of cities and towns in those states have campgrounds,” Jim O’Briant, of Overnight RV Parking, recently told me. “And the history of those goes back to the Great Depression of the 1930s. People were traveling as best they could to try and find work. And cities and towns did what they could to provide a free or inexpensive place for them to spend the night because they knew nobody had any money. It was the depression after all. And a lot of those campgrounds are still in existence.
The website and app (which do require an annual subscription that is well worth it) are super easy to use.
Simply enter a destination and a map will pop up with color-coded pins.
You’ll want to look for the green pins that indicate where you can park overnight for free.
Light red pins are places where you can’t park, even though you may have expected to be able to stop for the night.
Yellow pins are places where you technically aren’t supposed to overnight, but users have reportedly been able to camp without issue (i.e. prohibited parking rules are not enforced).
Purple pins are for membership organizations like the Elks, the Moose, etc., where members can generally overnight (some have hookups).
Dark green pins are for places that aren’t free, but are $20 or less.
Gray pins mean the location is simply known to exist, but Overnight RV Parking doesn’t have enough info to provide users any additional details.
“We try to make that information as complete as possible and include a lot of detail that you can’t get anywhere else,” O’Briant said. “The other thing is that if you switch that map from just a map view to satellite view and zoom in on one of those pointers. For example, if you zoom in on one of the Walmarts, that pointer is in the part of the lot where that store wants you to park according to our best information.”
Another feature I’m especially appreciative of are the GPS coordinates provided by the service.
The site is updated regularly, based on information provided by users who are motivated by the ability to receive subscription discounts by providing updates on specific locations.
Overall, it’s a great site and one of those things out there for RVers that we consider a must-have
All in all, with so many great references available, there's no reason you shouldn't be saving a few bucks (or have trouble finding alternative places to stay) when you're out there on the road.