Is Walmart RV parking going away? There are more and more RV unfriendly Walmart parking lots these days.
You most likely know that Walmart is an international company with hundreds of stores across the United States. But you may not know the history and ties between Walmart and the RVing community.
As an RV enthusiast, you may not be aware of an alarming trend: RV unfriendly Walmart parking lots.
Across the country in recent days, the media has been running stories like this one from CNN about RV parking not being allowed at some Walmart stores. Actually, it's an old story. But the number of RV unfriendly Walmart parking lots has noticeably been picking up in recent months to the point that it now appears to be a trend.
Ten years ago about 78% of Walmart stores allowed overnight RV parking. Now, it's close to 58%.
To understand why there are more RV unfriendly Walmart parking lots these days, we need to go back in time and take a look at the history between Walmart and the RV community.
Sam Walton Loved to RV
Walmart founder Sam Walton opened his first store on July 2, 1962, in Arkansas. It only took the entrepreneur a decade to turn his idea into a national chain. Walton built his dream on the cornerstone principle of extreme customer service. Sam Walton was also an RV enthusiast.
And he opened his parking lots to free overnight sites shortly after opening his first handful of stores. Walton felt that RVers made great customers. After parking, most came into the store to purchase supplies. It was a win-win arrangement.
RVers still carry the tradition of parking overnight in a Walmart lot. The culture is the subject of blogs, podcasts, documentaries, and even a beloved Facebook Group.
What changed? What started the alarming trend of RV unfriendly Walmart parking lots?
RV unfriendly Walmart parking lots – Local Ordinances and Rules
Over the past two decades, many local governments around the country began to notice the popularity of the RV lifestyle and the growing number of RVers who were overnighting in Walmart parking lots.
What sparked the local government's attention? Some believe that the focus was sparked by local campground owners who saw Walmart-as competition. Instead of getting $35 a night (or more from RVers passing through, Walmart was letting them stay in the parking lots for free.
Campgrounds and their association began lobbying local governments to draw up no overnight camping regulations, even presenting boilerplate ordinances that they could pressure town councils to rubber stamp. Add to that the growing problem of homeless folks moving dilapidated cars into Walmart lots, throw in some well-publicized crime sprees and violence in a handful of Walmart lots, and the trend began to take off.
It doesn't help when the RVers overstay their one-night welcome and leave messes behind.
“No Overnight RV Parking” signs are now springing up in the parking lots of many of Walmart's 4,700 stores.
A few months ago, RV Travel ran a survey asking readers if they believed Walmart would still allow overnight parking in 2025. 57% said, “No.”
Jim O'Briant of OvernightRVParking.com, a membership website that helps RVers find free or very inexpensive places to stay, says too many RVers are unaware of good etiquette.
Jim can be heard on Episode 306 of my RV Podcast talking about the problems newbie RVers are are causing that exasperate the whole Walmart parking controversy.
Jim has spoken to dozens of Walmart managers around the country and says many times, RVers are their own worst enemy. Managers have shared stories of BBQ parties, extended stays, and have even witnessed RVers dumping their tanks in storm drains. (By the way, that is illegal). It's no wonder we're seeing more RV unfriendly Walmart parking lots.
Most Walmarts Still Allow Overnight RV parking
Walmart as a company still, as policy, welcomes overnight RV parking.
On their website, it says Walmart “values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers.”
So there's that; as of today, it's permitted for RVers to overnight in well more than half of their parking lots. The Escapees RV Club urges RVers to follow the Good Neighbor Policy when overnighting at Walmart or business parking lots like Cracker Barrel restaurants, Cabellas, and others that normally welcome RVers.
Among the suggestions:
- Ask the store manager’s permission
- Park towards the back of the lot away from the store entrances or where directed by a store manager
- Only spend one night
- Treat your space as a parking spot and not a campsite, e.g. don't set out lawn chairs, awnings or grills
- Leave the site better than you found it.
- Purchase gas, food, or supplies as a form of thank you, when feasible.
With so many campgrounds now being filled to capacity because of the huge influx of new RVers, the hope is that they will not be quite as concerned about a dozen or so RVers spending the night for free in the local Walmart as they were back in the days when RV sales were not so hot.
To keep more of those “No Overnight Parking” signs from going up, it's going to be up to RVers.
Otherwise, the trend will continue and the number of RV unfriendly Walmart parking lots will continue to grow.
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