Wednesday, November 30, 2022


RV “Walsmarting”


Dear RV Shrink:
rvshrinkWe are going to take our first major road trip with our new travel trailer. We bought it just for weekend camping but decided this summer we would go to Alaska. I read a lot of online RV forums, so I am aware of how many people use Walmart as overnight stops while traveling.

While planning our route from Ohio, I scheduled several Walmart stops during the first week of the trip while we are making time and doing big miles. I never realized how this part of the planning was going to freak out my wife. It seems so foreign to her. She had never heard of such a thing. She said, “If you call that camping, then count me out.”

How do I convince her that this is standard operating procedure in RV circles? —Walsmarting in Wooster

Dear Walsmarting:
In the future, try not to get so far ahead of your wife in the world of RV education. As you discover the little nuances of the RV lifestyle, while cruising forums, mention them to your wife so she is not suddenly bombarded with new ideas the day you shove off.

I can see where she is coming from. In her mind she is picturing all the picturesque campsites she has seen in the magazines. She has put herself in a comfortable chair next to a glass smooth lake, drinking a glass of wine, watching the sky turn crimson at sunset. Now you tell her she is going to be next to the grass-lined retention pond on the tarmac at Walmart. You need to ease her into these changes.

Explain to her that this is not going to be the Walmart Alaska tour. It is just a safe and convenient occasional stopover that Walmart considers another customer service. It also gives you both the opportunity to browse the stores and pick up items you might have forgotten, rent a RedBox movie, get a good night’s sleep, and best of all, “It’s FREE!”

She will be much more comfortable with the idea when you arrive and find several other RV’s already there taking up the best spots.

She will certainly get her fill of beautiful campsites where you are headed. On the return trip, she will be a full-fledged member of the RV fraternity, suggesting convenient Walmart stops on your route home to Ohio. —Keep Smilin’, RV Shrink


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6 years ago

While I know you can overnight at Wal-Mart, we prefer Cracker Barrel. Always ask but never had an issue. And the coffee is on at 6:30. Plus CB’s are usually closer to the hi-way. But personal choice so camp on!! ?

6 years ago

We have stayed at several Walmart’s over the years. Always have asked permission and never been denied. We do put out a slide which is necessary to sleep or use the bathroom but we park so the slide is over green space. A very good way to make some time when traveling to a far destimation.

Matt Colie
6 years ago

The situation is much simpler than most people are willing to admit.
Are we Cheap? Not really.
Are we rational? You Bet!!
When was the last time you bought a meal because it was pretty and then left without touching it??
You say that is different. Yes, it is because you could pack the meal up and take it along. Most campground owners would not like it if you did something similar.

If you (as we) travel self-contained, you don’t need or want a “campground”, all you really want is a flat place. Quiet is nice, but then again, we did pay for a campground in PA only to listen to JakeBrakes and trains ALL Night long.

Then there is the convenience for resupply that makes Walmart a killer stop. I can’t tell you how many times we have used the flat spot after re-provisioning. Now, If any campground offered a service like that, it would be new game time.

Alaskan Bella
6 years ago

I live in Alaska (Anchorage) currently. I highly recommend some campgrounds that are close by, if your wife is still adamant about not parking overnight at Walmart. (First, I would recommend Cabellas over Walmart for free options. They also let you use their parking lot and they have turned their water retaining draining area into a nice walking area with a boardwalk. Not to mention it is next door to Starbucks and Target.) If you have base access, Black Spruce is a beautiful campground with full hookups (w/e/s). Eagle River is a beautiful campground, but is dry camping. And 15 miles south of Anchorage is Bird Creek Campground. These will run $15-$30/night. Good luck!

Sandy & Bob Amory
6 years ago

You might want to subscribe ($) to … This is a database of users locating free and cheap overnight parking sites. Includes Cracker Barrell, interstate rest areas, and other places you can stop overnight. If you update a site or add a new one you get more time added to your subscription. We find it very useful and a handy reference.

Ed Price
6 years ago

Among those RV’ers who avail themselves of the courtesy Wal-Mart allows us, it is considered very rude to “camp” in a Wal-Mart. WM allows you to park, not camp, in their PARKING lots. You should not deploy the BBQ grill, run out the awning or slides, perform maintenance, extend the jacks (which can damage thin asphalt) or do anything else that is beyond the appearance of a parked vehicle. Also, although WM corporate policy is to allow overnight parking for RV’s, this is subject to the permission of each WM manager. You will encounter many WM’s that are posted NOP (No Overnight Parking). This happens for several reasons; previous campers may have severely abused the privilege and turned the lot into a hobo camp, the municipality may have an ordnance against RV ONP even in merchant’s parking lots, or even that WM does not own the lot and thus can’t give you legal permission. Generally, you should call ahead or stop inside at Customer Service to verify permission to ONP at each WM. If they can’t or won’t give you permission, then just gracefully check the next WM. You will find that many WM’s near popular tourist attractions (like nearly the whole California coastline) do not allow ONP. I suggest you join the Walmartrving Yahoo group, where you can discuss WM ONP, plus download a database of all WM locations and their friendliness to ONP.

6 years ago

“Gee sweetie, I’m really going to miss you on this wonderful trip of a lifetime but I’ll send you some postcards.”

6 years ago

Do more homework, plan less. We’ve been on the road for 10 years, we don’t stay in RV parks except on occasion to wash out our tanks etc., and have only stayed in a Walmart once. One curse i see is that you are over planning, and those plans become too rigid. I can’t think of anyplace less appealing than the blacktop of a Walmart. I’m with your wife on this one.

6 years ago

It’s not necessarily cheaper. If you are running a generator to keep things powered, it will cost you. In some cases you could be in a campground with full hookups for the same cost. Joining a half price discount club like Happy Camper or Passport America could be a benefit and each will cost you less than $50 per year. Before joining, both sites will allow you to see the member campgrounds and the restrictions for the discount (many are one night only and the discount is often not good for weekends and holidays). Still, if you get off the interstates, you will have a pretty decent amount of places to choose from. I also prefer Sam’s Club parking lots (membership) over Wal-Marts.

6 years ago

Just don’t let her read the whole “reptilian world under Wal-mart” post. Haha!

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