By Chuck Woodbury
It’s only a matter of time, in my opinion, before Walmart pulls the plug on free overnight stays in its parking lots. Many stores already do so, and more post “no parking” signs every week. Sometimes they’re enforced, sometimes not. Or sometimes they’re enforced one day and not the next.
For RVers, Walmart has been a godsend at times, providing a place to grab some sleep then move on, and for free. The RVers who stay may be on a tight budget and “free” is a lot better than paying $40 to $50 for a plot of land in an RV park for eight hours. Others stay because nearby campgrounds are packed, the result of the RV industry dumping nearly a half million new RVs onto the landscape each year with no new campsites.
I believe that something will happen soon that will prompt Walmart’s lawyers to say “enough is enough.” It may be a terrible accident in a parking lot, perhaps resulting in a huge lawsuit. Or it could be that parking lots get so jammed with RVs that regular customers will be inconvenienced. And when that happens, where will RVers stay who can’t find a nearby campground? Will it be Target, Sam’s Club, Cabela’s, Costco, rest areas, truck stops? I’m sure it will be all of those and more.
But that will not last either. These places will get overrun.
Here is a letter I found posted on RVillage.com, that got me thinking about this.
“Heading south from Canada to Yuma we always stay at Walmarts with a set of stores we visit routinely at about 250 mile intervals. One of these stores is at Blackfoot, Idaho, or at least it was until this year. Big signs all over the parking lot said “No trailer or RV parking overnight.” I checked with customer service and was told that it was since the eclipse. I called Pocatello, the next Wally south, and they said come on by. But when we got there we saw the same signs. Management said they don’t enforce so we spent the night okay, but still. . .
“After that we were in Washington and Utah, and again, identical signs. We ignored them and stayed over with no problems along with 15 or so neighbours.
“Anyone else seen similar signs cropping up?”
We stay at Walmart’s whenever we travel. It is our overnight stop of choice. We always go in and announce ourselves and shop for whatever we may need. We also buy sandwiches or salads at the Subway’s inside the stores. We park well away from the store entrances. We NEVER leave any evidence that we were there. We have never stayed more than overnight. Please everyone respect the Walmart properties so that RVers can continue this practice.
We just traveled from WI to AZ and only found 2 Wal-Mart’s that would let us stay. Many had city ordinances no over night rv. We were really bummed. Not easy shifting gears n trying to find some place to stay. Had bought the famous Wal-Mart book so we knew where they were, that may as well go in the garbage.
The Walmarts in North Adams, MA does not allow RV parking, but told us about a place near by we could use. There was only one truck so my wife and I decided to find another place behind a hotel. There were small construction vehicles parked there with plenty of room. Turned out to be the place the local firestation employees parked. No problem.
One thing I don’t like about staying at Walmarts, is that the Walton’s make a $million/minute and put their employees on public assistance. They shut down stores to keep unions out.
No one forces anyone to shop there. I love freedom. I love low prices. I love capitalism. I love no-cost parking. I love ‘Murica. Unions? Love them too. When they love all of the above, as well.
Save the scare tactics Chuck,Wal Mart likes the business and stores are making record profits,while other stores fall by the wayside,rv parking and apple pie go hand and hand ol buddy.
I believe WalMart is the most expensive camping in the country. But the things you spend money on you take with you as opposed to the unused pool and hot tub and ball diamond, etc.
Whitehorse is both a destination but also a major stopping point in a trip to Alaska. I have stayed in Whitehorse but not at the Walmart. The RV parks have fairly small sites and are expensive which is the motivation for those passing through to take the free Walmart lot – also during high season it can be impossible to get a spot in a RV park. I suspect that the high Walmart use here may be more of a one off across NA. When I use a Walmart I always ask to stay, I stay only one day, I usually end up buying something and I never leave anything behind. Nor do I set up chairs or any lawn “stuff”. While I rarely use Walmart, when I need one I need one, and believe courtesy is my best strategy to keep the privilege.
I think the reason for the signs stating no overnight parking for RVs is the lawyers have them put up to cover their selves if anything happens to you while you are parking there then it is all your responsibility and not Walmarts. We have not had any problems parking in those Walmarts.
Signs without enforcement are worse than no signs at all from a liability standpoint. Attractive nuisance and all that. Ask any lawyer. As for me, I’ll keep asking the proprietors and following the Golden Rule. Got me this far.
We are currently in Tallahassee, FL. At guess where, WAL-MART.
Our parking is also not necessarily free. My wife spent $270 dollars on groceries, and prescriptions last night. We are very thankful that they let us stay. And we do it every coupe of weeks. Our rule is, as always, “leave it as you found it” That includes whatever the dog leaves behind.
We always call ahead to see if overnight parking is OK. We have found most to be alright with it. The one we are currently in has an additional lot that they asked us to park in. There is only one other MH here at present.
We have started seeing a growing of number of Walmart stores with signs saying over night rvers must leave by 8:00 AM. That seems like a reasonable request for an overnight stay, and we probably shouldn’t be arriving before dark.
I saw a run down 5th wheel in my local Walmart parking lot. It stayed 2 nights and when it left, a full buggy of trash remained behind. That will be another reason free camping stops.
I would pitch the trash myself if I saw that. I have done it where the one leaving it would see me cleaning their place. I’m sure a bit of guilt settled in so they may think a little before doing it again.
We are representative of many “young” Baby Boomers with a primary residence plus a retirement home in a Del Webb village in Florida, a vacation resort membership in Mexico & a camper.
We would absolutely love to become “8 months per year Full Timers” selling out the primary home & only returning to Florida December to March (we spend all of January every year in Mexico).
Envisioned is spending 2 weeks to a month in various campgrounds in Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota as well as beach living on the West Coast & Texas.
The problem for us is the absolute lack of places to stay during the summer months especially Friday to Sundays. We despise “resort” type sardine can campgrounds with children over running the place.
2nd problem is the inferior quality of Motorhomes being produced in a price range below $300k.
Anticipate making the decision in early 2019, leaning more toward a better built luxury 5th wheel.
Buy a high end used rig. Look into Thousand Trails.
Walmart in Bangor ME has free electric hookups and its a dedicated area for ~8 vehicles. Many of the Canadian shoppers stay there while doing their duty-free shopping/person annually or twice per year. They bring lots of family to maximize the goodies haul and avoid taxes, esp during Vet Day w/e sales and outlet shopping.
Free parking at wal mart, I don’t think so. I never leave without spending money, be it a roto chicken and potato salad for dinner or donut for breakfast. I remember one time my free parking was around $120 for one night. We use Wal mart because when we leave Wi for AZ it’s winter and campgrounds are closed for the season. After we get to warm enough places we use campgrounds for the water and electric
I appreciate the “free parking” at Walmart … and consider it a mutually beneficial arrangement! The inconvenience of having to arrive at an RV park early, as well as the fact that we don’t tow anything behind our ’96 Prevost, which requires a “hard” surface to overnight park … makes WM a very convenient facility for us. In addition, I welcome the opportunity to reciprocate by buying, almost exclusively, every item we want or need from them! Alternatives for us are rest stops, truck stops, etc. Fortunately, our rig is equipped for at least a 2 week dry-camp capability … for two … before needing water replenishing and tank servicing … which is available at many refueling facilities for about $5!
On a recent trip from Florida to Alaska, I had good luck staying overnight at Walmart’s and only saw the privilege abused at the Walmart in Whitehorse. Many overnighters, like myself, shop at the Walmart, so it represents a good amount of revenue for them, thus I’d think they would be relectant to prohibit and enforce it across all locations. I hope one “bad apple” does not spoil it for everybody else as it is a very handy option to have especially when one is traveling across the country.
Chuck, you probably would have a lot more influence on Walmart top management than would a “mere” RVer like me. Perhaps, if you made the request on behalf of your readers, they would consider making a company business decision to set aside a few spaces in their parking lots with electricity. They could easily collect a small fee, e.g. $5 per night, for overnighters. How about it? Thank you.
Cabela’s on the south side of Denver has “no overnight parking” signs but I asked inside if they knew of a place to park and a manager who asked “You won’t cause any trouble will you?” said it would be okay. He also said if the Lone Tree Police come by just to say I had a manager’s approval. We were gone by 8 AM and had a great sleep with no disturbance. As well, stayed in WalMart in Blackfoot, ID and it was one of the levellest and quietest we stayed in. In Pocatello, we parked over by the big garbage bins but be sure to stay away from where the semis back in or their complaints could cause a camping shut down there too.
Across America there are numerous shopping malls that are shuttered as well as some factory type businesses. They all have huge parking lots. Shopping malls, in particular, are usually adjacent to major road accesses. It would be interesting to have the owners of these lots to convert there parking areas into revenue producing temporary transient parking facilities. In Ohio, there are already rest stops that for a small fee provide electric hookup for that overnight stay. Perhaps someone in the RV industry could spearhead this effort?
I work part time at Walmart. It would be dumb for Walmart too stop overnight parking at Walmart. If brings in money for Walmart when people park overnight with there campers.
And these are usually the off-peak shoppers, too!
Sadly, Walmart is not building new stores to add campsites. No one else is either. I have never stayed at a Walmart and do not plan on it but who knows what the future will bring?