Can I Camp in a Walmart Parking Lot?

While planning my camping trips this past summer, I was surprised to find that some Walmarts do not allow RVs to park overnight.

I did find out with a few phone calls and an app, that there are some Walmarts that still allow boondocking. The reassuring answer to my question is yes, some Walmarts still welcome RVs overnight.

When you go boondocking at Walmart, it’s a given that there will be no hook-ups for sewer, electric, and water. Boondocking at Walmart is a common practice for a lot of us. Walmart holds a special place in many RVers’ hearts because often RVs are allowed to spend the night in a Walmart parking lot if a campground was full or just to keep costs down on the way to a destination. Walmart hasn’t charged for this privilege, but we RVers often bought supplies at Walmart as a way of saying thank you.

Some Walmart Stores Are Changing Their Policies

There are reports by some campers that they were told they could not park overnight in their RV. Enthusiasts are concerned whether this might become a nationwide policy. If so, travel would become more expensive trying to reach a destination. Reservations required at lots of campgrounds may make the trip even harder to go on. The prices of campgrounds in lots of places have risen from the standard $20 per night to $40 or $50 dollars a night. Walmart helped to cut those costs for campers. This will affect destination campers more than any other group. Destination campers are not interested in the trip along the way. Their goal is to reach their destination, for example, an RV park near a beach. Walmart helped to do this at lower costs.

Why Is Walmart Refusing to Allow Campers to Overnight in Their Parking Lots?

Campers aren’t the only ones using RVs. Homeless people have started using RVs and have taken to staying in Walmart parking lots for indefinite periods of time, panhandling during the day, and leaving trash for employees to clean up. That Walmart is then forced to close their parking lots to RVs in an attempt to avoid the homeless problem.

City Ordinances Against Vehicles in Parking Lots Overnight

One of the recent problems with parking overnight at some Walmarts is that the city in which they are located has passed an ordinance against overnight parking in parking lots. So even if the Walmart store you’re planning on staying at gives you permission, a police officer might give you a ticket or make you leave in the middle of the night. Sadly it is becoming necessary to find out whether a town has this law if you’re planning on boondocking at a Walmart. The old practice of pulling into a Walmart and walking in to request permission to boondock is becoming a thing of the past. Pre-planning is now needed for an overnight at Walmart. One possible solution is to see if there is a Walmart just outside of city limits.

Is Crime a Problem in Walmart Parking Lots?

Walmart is being sued for injuries suffered during a crime. People who are being injured in crimes are holding Walmart responsible and are suing because they believe the store hasn’t done enough to prevent crimes. One reason given is the reduction of staff. Due to the increasing number of lawsuits, some Walmarts are closing their lots to RVs. This isn’t because they believe RVers are responsible for the crimes, but because if an RVer simply falls in the parking lot, there can be a lawsuit. Allowing RVers to overnight in the parking lot means a possible incident of crime with the RVer becoming a victim and suing Walmart.

With the question of crime against RVers. More and more incidents of crime are being reported in Walmart parking lots. In fact, one law enforcement officer even stated he would never take his family in a camper to spend the night in a Walmart parking lot. Like anything else, a little caution and common sense can go a long way, however.

Can You Camp Safely in a Walmart Parking Lot?

Luckily, campers can find out online if an area is high crime before they choose which Walmarts to park at. Before planning which Walmart to stay at, find out first if it is located in a high-crime area. Although some websites charge for this information, you can find it for free at http://www.city-data.com where you only need to enter the city and state and the site will pull up several details about the city. You will need to scroll down a bit to find the statistics on crime in the area where you are thinking about boondocking. You will find a chart breaking down which crimes took place and how many incidents of those crimes were reported. This is good information to have before parking in a strange town overnight with your family. Using common sense will also help prevent avoid an unsafe incident. If the stores in the area have bars on the windows, you might not want to stay the night in that neighborhood. Don’t assume that because a Walmart is located in a rural area that it’s a low-crime area. I live in a rural area and there has been purse snatching, stabbings, and an attempted kidnapping at our local Walmart.

There is some question as to whether Walmart employees are permitted by the company to assist victims of crime. For example, a new employee assisted a woman being assaulted in a Walmart parking lot. For his good deed, Walmart fired him. (Walmart later offered him his job back.)

If someone attempts to rob you or otherwise commit a crime, Walmart employees may or may not be allowed to assist you under threat of losing their jobs. Campers who are boondocking at Walmart, therefore, might be on their own if they become the target of a crime. Add to this that most RVs are parked at the end of the parking lot away from the store itself, there is an even greater need to choose Walmarts in low-crime areas.

Some Walmarts Still Welcome RVers

Walmart has previously been welcoming to campers needing a place to park for the night. In fact, they even published a national roadmap book, detailing the roadways in each state, the location of every Walmart, as well as campgrounds and state parks. If you don’t have one of these, you can use the Allstays Camp & RV app to see which Walmarts allow overnight parking. Here is the following link for which Walmarts don’t allow camping at Walmart: https://www.allstays.com/c/wal-mart-locations.htm. There is also a PDF format on the site for those who cannot use the app. There is a small charge for the PDF information of $4.97. The information is often from other campers who input the information based on their experience. I would still call ahead to make sure the information is up to date.

Camper Courtesy While Staying Overnight at Walmart

If a Walmart is willing to allow RVs to stay overnight, here are some things that a lot of campers say they do while staying at the Walmart to show their thanks:

  • Buy any supplies you need at Walmart. (The point is driven home to the manager if you start shopping right after asking his permission to overnight.)
  • Let the manager know what time you’re leaving the next morning.
  • Clean up your trash.
  • Clean up after pets if you have any.
  • If outdoors, keep all pets on a leash.
  • Don’t run the generator all night.
  • Don’t open the slides which could interfere with others trying to park near you.
  • Don’t sit out in the parking lot in lawn chairs, etc.
  • Don’t use the outdoor kitchen.
  • Avoid playing loud music.
  • Ask the manager where he prefers the RV be parked.
  • Thank the manager the next morning before you leave.
  • Don’t lie out and sunbathe. . .Okay, just a bit of humor here, but the above tips suggested by experienced boondockers can go a long ways toward a particular Walmart being willing to allow RVers to overnight in the future.

Overnight Alternatives to Walmart

If you can’t find a Walmart to overnight at, don’t panic. Try this list of suggestions for possible overnight stays:

  • Flying J Truck Stops
  • Camping World
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Kmart, factory outlet stores & shopping centers
  • Highway rest areas
  • Fraternal lodges
  • Cabelas

Walmart boondocking is here to stay for at least a while. Walmart is having to deal with the homeless problem as well as lawsuits, and city ordinances. A small part of the problem may be RVers who overnight at Walmart without showing respect and common courtesy. If you’re going on a camping trip and plan to overnight at a Walmart, it is best to call ahead and confirm that the store still accepts RVs overnighting. Campers must also be alert to safety in a Walmart parking lot, especially in large cities. Don’t forget to check out the website listed in this article for crime information on the city that you’re planning to go to.

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