Walmart changing tune about overnight RV camping

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Through the years, Walmart has welcomed hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of RVers for a free night’s stay in its store parking lots across North America. The company doesn’t just look the other way at these “squatters,” it actually states right on its website that such stays are permitted, as long as it’s okay with store managers and doesn’t violate local ordinances. “Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers,” the Walmart website notes.

It’s been this way since the mid-1980s, when Walmart founder Sam Walton was still around, and a fan of the practice.

But that’s changing. More stores are banning overnight stays than ever before. In 2010, about 78% of Walmart stores allowed overnight RV parking. Now, it’s close to 58%, according to Jim O’Briant, who runs Overnight RV Parking, a website that tracks more than 14,000 free RV parking locations in the United States and Canada for its RVer members.

This comes at a time when RV sales are skyrocketing, and spaces in RV parks are filling up, with few new parks under construction. Walmart has become an overnight safety valve for an increasing number of RV travelers.

One by one, however, Walmart stores that once allowed overnight stays have erected “No Parking” signs because of abuse. Too many times, RVers have leaked sewer tank waste onto parking lots or intentionally dumped it into storm drains. Others have dripped motor oil, left bags of trash, ruined asphalt with their leveling jacks, or pulled out lounge chairs and grills as if the parking lot were a campground.

RV park owners have lobbied their city councils to ban stays at the stores, as it’s bad for their businesses. Cities that have enacted such laws have often endured considerable bashing on social media, sometimes forcing them to reverse their decisions.

O’Briant believes that more Walmart stores are restricting the practice because people are increasingly using the parking lots to camp out for extended times.

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Patrick Nielsen
11 days ago

It’s unfortunate … but not completely surprising. We own a large motor home – and certainly didn’t purchase it so that we can “camp cheap” in Walmart parking lots. However, we end up overnighting in a Walmart parking lot once or twice a year. We’re careful to plan our arrival so that we pull in around dusk … and then pull out by 8..ish the next morning. We’re also good about making sure we shop at the store we’re staying in.

Our preference is to stay at “real” campgrounds – however, we live in Michigan, and are often leaving for somewhere warm in early January, We try to limit our driving to 300 (…ish) miles per day – which means our first night on the road is virtually always somewhere in the “cold zone”. During that time of the year – the vast majority of campgrounds in the “cold zone” are shut down. We’re then thankful that Walmart has provided a easy alternative for those nights that “real” campgrounds aren’t a readily available option.

Cheryl Lumley
22 days ago

I believe it is more about city ordinances than abusive RV’s.

carl newton
22 days ago

we stayed in walmart parking lot in Gillette Wy for one night last spring.. call the store and asked.. the said NO PROBLEM.. we set up in the far corner and did have a couple chairs out as a local friend came over to visit. we don’t have slides and not stabilizers down..Have seen some that overstay for sure.. some place have 20 or more in parking lot at times. Sad to see this go but they have to run a business. the people that are abusing this don’t go on forums like here,, they are not that smart..

Hank
24 days ago

You abuse it, you lose it!

Jim
22 days ago
Reply to  Hank

Its realy ironic that he does not realize he is the problem.

Roy
25 days ago

In my experience, truck drivers are compounding the problem. I’ve personally witnessed dumping litter boxes in the parking lot!

Bob P
24 days ago
Reply to  Roy

In 8 years of driving truck I’ve only known of 7 Walmart’s that allowed big truck parking, one is where I live in Manchester,TN.

Patricia
6 months ago

In California ..in the Bay Area there are so many homeless living in trashed trailers that Walmart said no more

Eric B
6 months ago

“Others have dripped motor oil, left bags of trash, ruined asphalt with their leveling jacks, or pulled out lounge chairs and grills as if the parking lot were a campground.”

In twenty years of traveling through all 49 states and using Walmart for overnight parking, I have NEVER seen ‘lounge chairs and grills’ being using outside an RV.

ALLEN CUNNINGHAM
6 months ago
Reply to  Eric B

i have seen grills , lounge chairs , slides out , awnings out , in arizona and texas

Bob P
24 days ago

In our motorhome (2002 Mountain Aire) we have to have the bedroom slide out in order to use the bedroom, otherwise you have to climb over the bed plus we don’t have access to the dresser drawers at the foot of the bed.

Tom
24 days ago
Reply to  Bob P

I figure if you have a big motorhome you can afford to stay in a pay rv park. Kind of gripes me to see expensive Rv’s in my Walmart parking lot.

Bruce Monte
21 days ago
Reply to  Bob P

Then you use a campground.

Rob
7 months ago

As most campers across Canada we read all the horror stories about Walmart camping, although we have never used parking lots for camping we believe this should only be used as intended just for over night stays only. If for some reason you need a longer stay you should contact the store manager and explain. To all the people out there that abuse good hearted companies by overstaying their welcome give all of us a bad name. So before you cheap people abuse boondocking think again and pay for camping at one of our wonderful camp grounds in Canada and the USA. I would like to thank all campers out there that respect others, do right and have fun camping around our beautiful countries.

John
7 months ago

Unlike most it seems, we have had very good luck staying at Walmart over the past 4 months during the pandemic.  We do not stop in highly dense cities so most of our stops are out in the middle of the country and not in big cities.  The smaller town Walmart are mostly very accommodating and we have stayed about 1 time every week or so.  If the parking lot says no overnight parking, then we go somewhere else but that has only happened a couple of times.  We do buy all our groceries if we can at Walmart. I am sure if we traveled the crowded cities on the East and West coast we would run into considerable issues.  Small town USA Walmart I believe are still alive & well (for now).  

Mike Johnson
7 months ago

My wife and I have had decent luck staying in Flying J or Love’s for an overnight stay. They usually have a small restaurant of some sort for a late supper or early breakfast as well.

Tom edelman
8 months ago

There was a time many moons ago that some WMS would Actually leave pastries at RV seps that stayed the night. Those days of common sense RV campers died off and Most campers today turned into RV grinches.

Julia Elliott
7 months ago
Reply to  Tom edelman

Well said Tom.

David Tatlitug
8 months ago

People are pigs. It’s that simple and as always a choice few ruin things for the rest of us weary drivers who will now be driving while to tired. States haven’t made it easy either by posting no overnight parking signs in their rest areas and by taking water and dump stations out for all travelers. Millions of people now travel by RV or while pulling trailers. Many people if not for their home in tow would not have a home at all. The richest country in the world could care less about it’s poor and makes it harder for them to survive. In Florida we even have laws that forbid feeding the the poor as if they were pigeons.

Douglas Powell
8 months ago
Reply to  David Tatlitug

This is a political issue and IF we keep giving favored nation status to those that opress and control us it will only get worse. Once upon a time a man with big ears did a flip chart on TV to describe GNP and NAFTA and described how it was IMPERATIVE that we keep manufacturing in our country as a way to keep the environment safe and people employed. However the same party that is in control now pushed it through. We need to bring back jobs and get people back to work. YOUR VOTE COUNTS! So please study the issues, look to history and see who has voted in a way that has effected your safety from riotous protests, your retirement savings, your civil rights, and your privacy. This election will be pivotal in the history of AMERICA

Monty
8 months ago
Reply to  Douglas Powell

I think it’s more important to BE American than to BUY American. BEING American means exercising the liberty of choice in purchasing goods and services.

Mike Schwab
7 months ago
Reply to  Monty

Due to the low prices of Chinese junk, there is often no alternative products on the shelves.

Marsha Breen
8 months ago
Reply to  Douglas Powell

Yes, vote Republican in November!

David Leach
7 months ago
Reply to  Marsha Breen

20,000 lies later, just what are you thinking???

Jim
22 days ago
Reply to  David Leach

After Jan 6 there should be no argument, although there really wasn’t one before that that made any sense

Carlleen
8 months ago

It is awful to see abuse of this wonderful amenity.
But my husband (who is disabled with a major heart disease and had multiple very dangerous operations), and I wanted to travel and see the US before it is to late.
We get all his medications and 99.0% of our supplies from walmart.
We have relied on Walmart.
We are not free loaders and alot of other people are not either.

Jill
7 months ago
Reply to  Carlleen

Hi Carlleen, all the best to you and hubby. Yes, travelling and seeing your country is important. Once it is too late, it is too late. God bless, and we wish you wonderful, trouble-free travels!

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  Carlleen

I wish you and your husband the very best. 58 years ago when I joined the USMC and was in boot camp the drill instructors had a favorite phrase used every time a recruit screwed up and did something wrong,” there’s always that 10% that don’t get the word”. It’s the same with RVers, that 10% that ruins it for everyone else.

Mike
8 months ago

I’m a truck driver,I usually park overnight at Walmart, I’ve seen RVs dumping garbage, specially when I travel up my 87 Thruway ,and from what I’ve seen , Canadians dumping into sewage,now I have to park somewhere else

Jacques Paquet
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike

Why during winter and spring there is a lot of garbage at the truck stop out beside the entrance of the highway? Is it Rv’s doing it our truckers? Stop to put the blame on Rv’s!

Julia Elliott
7 months ago
Reply to  Jacques Paquet

As someone earlier said it’s not all – but some… And, earlier, those are “pigs”… Actually worse. The ‘few’ consistently ruin it for the many.

Marsha Breen
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike

I’ve also seen truck drivers pee in bottles or jugs then pour it out onto the concrete at truck stops and gas stations. Don’t blame it all on RV’s.

Tom edelman
8 months ago

Man…he eventually takes advantage of others, places and things. Free will Will be the end of our good life because too many just don’t care about .. much or others these days. God Bless the meek

Ilovedominoes
8 months ago

Bunches of people are coming out in droves to ‘live on wheels/mobile’, and call themselves “nomads” for more “supposed freedom and flexibility”, thanks to social media, especially YouTube and the “Instagram famous super attractive couple”, romanticizing the lifestyle and motivating everyone to go outdoors and live on the road because is such a wonderful lifestyle. Crowds have ruined what used to be empty parks and nice places. Millions of RV sales, means millions of people crowding places, —not counting the ones living in vans and cars.
I have seen videos and articles of crowds and miles of lines of RVs to enter parks. Campgrounds are extremely crowded too. Hiking trails are super crowded, hiking is supposed to be a relaxing experience, but not with crowds of people all over following you. Lastly, It broke my heart to see human feces and trash on hiking trails.

Rich
8 months ago
Reply to  Ilovedominoes

Trails are for everyone to enjoy.

Tom edelman
8 months ago
Reply to  Rich

Hope u carry a shovel and don’t hit another’s waste place.

John
7 months ago
Reply to  Ilovedominoes

We have been on the road since June 1st. More than 90% of the time we have not noticed super crowded trails or campgrounds. Its summer time, and as normal they should be busy. You have to plan ahead and it probably depends on where you are going. We stay in mostly Federal Forest Campgrounds or Army Corps of Engineers if possible. We have also stayed in private campgrounds of our choosing with reservations ahead of time. We use Campendium for suggestions and have found some great places to stay. But there are always the good and the ugly. We focus on the good and most of the ugly is just human nature (the 10%). Don’t tell anyone but F/T Rving is still awesome…sure beats working.

Hank
24 days ago
Reply to  Ilovedominoes

Ilovedominoes. Do you play 42? If not check it out. We love it! And it’s sad about trails. We love to hike trails, but we are quiet as possible so we can see all the wildlife. But here come crowds behind or in front of you that make so much noise you could hear them a mile away! It’s not just for your health, but to see and enjoy nature!

tom
24 days ago
Reply to  Ilovedominoes

Amen to that

Firefighter Tom
8 months ago

In March 2002 we spent a week at Charleston, SC and rode the shuttle boat to Fort Sumter. Wife struck up a conversation with a family of five. They said they, too, travel with an RV. My wife asked where they were staying. “Walmart” was the reply. “Just for tonight?” my wife asked. “No. For the whole week!” We stayed overnight in a Walmart in the past but fully understand why Walmat has changed their policy.

Alice
8 months ago

It’s so sad when the bad actions of a few destroy a good thing for all! We have spent many a night at a WalMart when traveling cross country and make sure we have checked with management first and purchased items from their store!

Angela Arrendale
8 months ago
Reply to  Alice

I’ve often wonder why dont they charge 25.00 a night. Like a machine you can pull up to put in your 25.00 get a ticket to show you paid. I wldnt mind paying it. We usually drive at night while it’s much cooler and less traffic. I definitely wldnt mind paying 25.00.

Mike Schwab
7 months ago

Put up a 50A RV outlet with a credit / debit / gift card pay at meter. Tesla and other electric cars include the adapter and can fully charge in 8 hours (or get a 1 hour 20% top off) then an RV can park overnight. The pedestals are available and looking for a meter. There are pay as you go meters but they are designed for one user.

J anne
6 months ago

I spend a lot at walmarts S I travel. I sprnd one night at a walmart. I stay there because I do not need amenities and it is hard on my budget to pay 25 dollars a night to park only to sleep a d shop. I tend to spend more at the walmart and then we both get something. It also gives me a safe place for a few hours to sleep . I have no trouble with a one night only restriction. The win win for me a d walmart allows me to spend a little lot more time on the road with flex ability. My vehicle is z small conversion van so I do no damage or take up much space. Thank you walmart.

Skip
8 months ago

We have found a brief stay at Walmart to be invaluable. When traveling at night you will find it impossible to get into a campground after 6-8pm unless you already have reservations. Often we want to put on as many miles as possible to get to our destination but when you hit that “I hit the wall and I really should stop driving soon” good luck trying to get into a campground. Walmart has been that perfect go to rest stop. We always buy most of our trips needs during that stopover, and we are always appreciative and respectful of our Walmart host! I hope things do not change!!!

steve
8 months ago

I worked for WalMart, here is why. Times have changed, it use to be majority of overnight’ers were nice clean RV’er family’s and retired types in clean RV’s stopping an shopping .

Not any more, now its majority Mad Max , Mansion family, druggie vans and barely driving oil leaking, back water dripping drug dealing crystal meth zombie caravans who take over the parking lot and dump massive amounts of trash all over the place .

Most of them don’t shop , they shop lift !

American has changed radically for the worst.

If I owned WalMart I would require some sort of WalMart RV membership.

Perhaps a parking permit – pass, perhaps a very very cheap WalMart RV parking membership that requires a current registration , insurance, current license and a visual exterior inspection for leaking fluids with a time stamp upon entering if You enter and do not come inside and check in then You are violation subject to towing and / or police response.

Alvin
8 months ago
Reply to  steve

Steve you raise a good solution. Why not some mandated type of permit? You pay a monthly/annual fee with perhaps the money rasied being donated to a local charity.

Many RV parks, “judge” who will be allowed on their property, why not Walmart.

Or better yet. Why can’t Walmart get into the RV Resort business? Many of them have, or could have, the space. They sell every other consummer product imaginable, so why not get serious and go full on into the RV Park biz?

It would be a goldmine and most definitively solve so many of the problems currently plaguing them, as they bless we RV’ers with a much needed service.

Don Driever
8 months ago
Reply to  Alvin

Alvin I too think Steve raised a good point. However I doubt that it will do what is intended completely. Yes there are travelers such as Skip above and I too have been in that situation of wanting to put the miles behind me mode. I stayed at a Walmart one time and never again. I won’t go into the multitude of reasons at this time. I have always been able to find an inexpensive or free alternative stop for the night instead of Walmart. My opinion of the people who use Walmart is as Steve pointed out or the are just to cheap to pay their way as they should. If you can afford to own an RV, then you should have included as part of the expense of that ownership the ability or willingness to pay to park that rig every day that you use it.

rvgrandma
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Driever

Even if you own an RV does not mean you want to spend $50 or more for a few hours in an RV park when you don’t need the hook-ups. RVs are self contained for reasons, one of which means you don’t need to have hook-ups every night.

Marsha Breen
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Driever

We’ve stopped 2 times in 10 years at a Walmart. Once was traveling back from Pennsylvania where we purchased a new rig, back to Indianapolis. We were supposed to leave the dealership at 12 noon to drive home and because of an A/C problem, we didn’t get away until 6 p.m. Too far to drive all the way home. Not everyone takes advantage of this stop. Besides, with some of the clientele that shop at Walmart, I’m not keen on staying in one of their parking lots unless it appears that particular Walmart looks to be in a good part of town.

Paulette DeCastro
8 months ago
Reply to  steve

Yes that’s a fantastic idea
We are once in awhile needing to stop for a rest but I still feel guilty doing so
In Canada I do see this at our Walmart being used more then ever because of Covid.
Now I am seeing Casino parking lots used ours in our city will allow you to stay but no Hydro.
The Casinos loved in the past that you were in thier vicinity and would Gamble
I even seen that these Gamblers would bring thier Rig stay over nite instead of paying for a room.
Our Casino is closed because of Covid and now our Walmart is bombarded with road travelers are here to stay.🙄😤
What are ya gonna do?

Julia Elliott
7 months ago

Ok+ hit the like ‘button’ accidently. Now won’t allow cancel – back out.. good comment Paullette.

bill k
8 months ago
Reply to  steve

My good friend is a Wal Mart store manager. One morning he came to work and counted 14 RVs in his lot. I asked, why not devise a way to charge for an overnight stay? His response: “Well of course corporate has thought of that. But as soon as Wal Mart charges to stay, they open themselves up to liability issues, law suits. Not worth it. Eventually RV parking will go away.”

Dan
8 months ago
Reply to  bill k

Cannot argue with that. You know darn good and well that if anyone has considered a way to make money, it would be Walmart. I, too, worked at Walmart briefly to keep busy while while waiting for my wife to retire. There was constant conversation about Walmart selling cars, insurance, even their own financial institution (banking), There is no doubt they had the means to pursue anything they might choose, so if they wanted to be in the RV park business they would have done it. Unfortunately, that was a few years ago when people still maintained some respect for each other, and it was not normal to see people leave trash behind, homeless “campers”, used needles everywhere, etc. Dont be surprised if Walmart and others just plain ban overnite parking at all facilities.

Jpige52
8 months ago
Reply to  steve

Sounds like a great idea!

Will
8 months ago
Reply to  steve

The Walmart experiences are going away people. The sooner you adapt the better. You may not want to pay $50 for a site but that comes with Rv ownership. Do you expect to get free fuel and repairs? Cost of ownership folks. The owners of private campgrounds have invested their money and lives into their businesses and why not support them. Many offer different levels of services at various prices. Try supporting the ENTIRE rv world. If you don’t then don’t complain when these campgrounds have to close down.

Marsha Breen
8 months ago
Reply to  Will

I think many good RV’ers also buy their groceries and stuff at Walmart when they stop there for the night. Why should they want to pay additional money out of their pocket? Not sure why you compare that to “free fuel and repairs”? If you’re driving down the road and it’s getting late, you might be in an area that you are unaware of where private campgrounds might be located. Also, many of these private campgrounds cater to the seasonal campers who get very territorial of their campground and see those of us needing to stay 1 night at a time as being intruders.

Norm
8 months ago
Reply to  Will

I’ve been in a couple rv parks where they should shut down, and their rates weren’t that high.

J anne
6 months ago
Reply to  Will

For my use private campgrounds are way too expensive as I do not need anything but a small space to sleep. I do not hook up to water or sewer dont really need electric. Many private campgrounds with help of Kobe, work hard to get parking at walmarts outlawed
What they dont realize I’d that will not get them my business. It just takes away from wal.arts business. I would never pay for pri ate to sleep 8 hours. They are too expensive for my purposes
I stay in mostly federal parks .. it cost less and bulk I am in nature not s playground of pools and games and services I will never use
So their efforts to ban me seem mean spirited and make me even more unlikely to stay. they are great for big rigs. Families etc but not for a small very nice conversion van.

Diane McClain
8 months ago
Reply to  steve

YUP–this would be a great plan….we use WM Parking Lots for “OVENIGHT” parking and appreciate being able to do so. As several have said–it takes only a few to ruin it for millions! 🙂

Julia Elliott
7 months ago
Reply to  steve

Great!