Ever find yourself feeling worn out on travel day but can’t find a campground to stop at for the night? Looking for a way to make travel days a bit cheaper and offset the cost of fuel? Feel a little silly paying to stay somewhere for just a few hours to catch some zzz’s?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s high time you learned about free overnight RV parking.
That’s right, there is absolutely no reason you need to be paying to camp when you only intend to stop for a few hours to sleep. After all, you have your bed, bathroom, and kitchen with you, so all you really need is a place to park it all. The question is, where do you find a place to park that won’t charge you an arm and a leg, or even have your rig towed away?
Fortunately, there are actually a number of options, and many of them are quite convenient. Below are some of our favorite free overnight parking spots for these situations, as well as some additional information on this type of “sleep and go” camping.
The Usual Stops
Let’s start by discussing the most common stops for overnight parking. These are the stops you can almost always find along your path, and they will almost always allow RVs to park overnight. Generally, these are the only overnight parking spots you need to know about.
- Cracker Barrel
- Rest stops (in some states)
- Hardware chain stores
- Bass Pro shops
- Some truck stops
- Planet Fitness (members only)
- Many casinos
Finding More Options
Of course, there are times when one of the options above isn’t available (or simply won’t cut it). In these cases, you may be wondering how to find other options. If you’re in a town or city, you might have luck simply seeking out a large parking lot and asking the business manager if you can stay.
Otherwise, we recommend checking freecampsites.net—or, if you’re willing to pay for a membership, overnightrvparking.com. Both have enormous databases of free RV parking spots, and many are spots you never would have found or thought of on your own.
Overnight Parking Etiquette
Of course, we all want these free overnight parking options to stay available to us. Therefore, it is crucial that you use your manners every single time you take advantage of one.
Not sure what kinds of rules to follow when parking in a free overnight spot? Try to keep these simple rules of thumb in mind:
- Always ask first — Always ask before staying anywhere overnight. Yes, you might be at a chain that you believe always allows it, but you never know when the rules of one location might differ from the rules of others. Besides, asking is just good manners.
- Skip setting up camp — It can be tempting to put out the awning and lawn chairs when you stop for the night. However, this is definitely frowned upon. Generally speaking, you want to keep to yourself as much as possible, and depending on the situation, it might even be best to keep your slide(s) in.
- Give your host your business — If you park in a business parking lot overnight, it’s good manners to offer them a little bit of business. This might mean eating a meal at Cracker Barrel or doing some shopping at Walmart.
- Don’t overstay your welcome — It’s important that you don’t take parking from valuable customers. Therefore, you will want to get up and on the road the next morning rather than hanging around until the afternoon. Remember that you’re in a parking lot and not a campground.
- Watch your generator usage — Using a generator might make your dry camping experience more comfortable. However, unless you can park far from other rigs and people, it might not be the best idea when staying in a parking lot. Use good judgement on this one. If you’ll be bothering someone, skip the generator.
About the author: Chelsea Gonzales
Chelsea has the amazing opportunity to take part in full-time RV living and traveling with her tiny tribe. She homeschools her five-year-old son as they travel, and takes full advantage of their unique situation by using the entire world as her son’s classroom. A group of total Disney fanatics, Chelsea and her family often find themselves in the Orlando area in order to visit the Disney parks, but they have also visited over 25 of the 50 states with plans to see many more along the way. No matter where her travels take her, Chelsea enjoys riding bikes, gazing at beautiful sunsets, finding new coffee shops, Irish dancing, and sitting around a campfire with her family.
You can join her adventures through her blog, Wonder Wherever We Wander.
Kim O. ~ “The call was answered quickly, the lady was extremely polite and courteous. You called back within a few minutes to let me know that the auto company would be back with in 45 min. They showed up in less than 20 minutes. We have been very happy with the results. Thank you!”
Becky Redford said:
You’ll also want to check The Days End Directory ($10/year to Escapees RV Club members) for free and low cost parking and RV camping options. The travel planning feature shows listings along your route to help you plan your stops in advance. It’s updated frequently from reports by other travelers.
Awesome! Thank you for your input!
Chelsea Gonzales’ etiquette suggestions are excellent. You might consider including the good Neighbor Policy promulgated by Escapees and signed on to by almost every major RV organization and many manufacturers as well. This comes in a format suitable for posting on a window and is not threatening. If we all adhere to it we can protect our opportunity to use these places from local laws and from companies banning overnight parking because of misbehavior.
You might even consider adding Coach-Net’s name to the list of RV organizations supporting this statement.
Thank you for your insight into lowering camping costs. Will be checking out the ideas.
Unfortunately we have seen more and more Walmart Super Centers no longer allowing overnight parking in the past year. Sadly a few “bad apples” have ruined this for the rest of us. I have asked store managers why the change and majority said they were tired of the mess some RVers have left some even emptied their grey water before leaving!