Readers tell us: When RVing, how often do you stay in a Walmart parking lot?

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By Emily Woodbury

Are you sick of us (and others) talking about parking overnight at Walmart yet? We mention it a lot, for many reasons, but the main one being (I think) that we assumed more of you might stay in Walmart lots more than you actually do.

It was interesting to learn the results of last Tuesday’s poll. We asked you: When RVing, how often do you stay in a Walmart parking lot?

Now, people may stay in a Walmart parking lot overnight for several different reasons. First, it’s free; second, it’s convenient. Now, even if you’re “rolling in the dough,” so to speak, and prefer to stay in high-end luxury RV resorts, you can’t deny that both of those things sound pretty nice every once in a while. Here’s an article from the NY Times where Chuck Woodbury (our editor) was quoted about this a few years ago.

Anyway, long story short, not as many of you park overnight at Walmarts than we initially thought (or that we would’ve guessed). Here are the numbers: 55 percent of you have never stayed overnight at Walmart. Wow! Just under a third of you answered that you stay at Walmart very rarely, and 4 percent of you stay at one about once a month. Another 4 percent of you stay a few times a month, and 3 percent of you probably stay once a week. Only 2 percent of you stay a few times a week. So, that means 55 percent of you never stay at a Walmart, but a combined 13 percent stay at least once a month.

Please leave a comment and say why you like, or don’t like, staying at Walmart. And, if you’re comfortable with it, will you share with us why you stay there?

##RVDT1294

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Richard Hubert
6 months ago

We stay in Walmart parking lots – sometimes – because:
(1) Convenience – If it’s along our route and we are trying to cover some ground this makes sense,
(2) Grocery Shopping – it’s right there!
(3) Redbox Videos – Machines are usually right there!
(4) Fuel often available right there as well
(5) Have found a number of Walmarts with 24/7 security patrols.
(6) No cost

However – I do the following before picking the Walmart to stop at:
(a) Find Walmarts on Google Maps and Allstays.
(b) Read reviews on Allstays. Reader comments very useful as they will say if overnights are allowed, how level the lot is, truck traffic, local traffic noise, etc.
(c) If OK reviews will then look at Google maps satellite and street views. Trying to judge lot ingress / egress, as well areas on the lot in which we might park. Prefer to find a remote corner of the lot that edges up to a birm, or field or grassy area. If we can find that we will then be able to park alongside that and at least put our large drivers side slide out. Makes it more comfortable for us and we are not putting any projection out on the parking lot side.

Upon arrival:
1> Check in at Customer Service desk for OK
2> Make sure TOAD is locked up and secure. Ck bike locking cables
3> Settle in our Motorhome. Close all blinds, lock doors, make dinner and settle down to a good movie. At that point could be anywhere.

Upon Departure:
* Return any Redbox movies
* Do some grocery shopping
* Clean up any trash around the RV. As with Boondocking, we want to leave the area cleaner than when we arrived – its the least we can do. Only takes a few minutes, and we want to show some appreciation. After all – we do not want to lose this valuable convenience for us.

We greatly appreciate Walmart for allowing us to stay. And some of our Walmart stays have been nicer than some RV parks we have stayed at.

Also note – Other businesses allow overnighting as well. For example – Stayed in a Lowes in Destin, FL after asking management. Then the night shift used their forklift to clear an area in the corner of their lot of pallets holding bags of landscaping dirt, and then they helped guide our parking there!!! Yeah Lowes!!! But Cracker Barrel, Home Depot, Cabelas, etc will also allow it if asked and local laws allow.

Finally – send an email note of appreciation to the store manager after we leave letting him/her know that we appreciated their permission, the use of their lot for a night, and that we have also shopped at their store.

Dave J
6 months ago

Stop overnight in Walmart lots when traveling from SD to AZ. It’s usually around 10 PM when we come off of the road and around 0600 when we roll out again. Can’t think of any RV parks open at those hours.

Charlie
6 months ago

In our travels all too often we’ve seen the economic devastation Walmart Inc.s business plan has wrought on the medium to small towns of this country. We will NEVER stop at or buy from Walmart’s many manifestations. For those who choose to buy the many Chinese imports Walmart sells because they are “cheaper” keep in mind you get what you pay for. Poor quality dry goods and low grade foods.

Richard Hubert
6 months ago
Reply to  Charlie

Sorry – totally disagree. We have traveled through many small towns all around the US, and most never had any decent stores to begin with. Walmart comes into an area and offers good pricing and a selection of merchandise that local merchants NEVER were able to offer to their small customer base.

But Walmart does not replace local businesses in many other areas. What we have found that small towns often offer are local restaurants, museums, and local attractions. Sometimes we get to an area because of the ability to overnight at Walmart, and then we can eat out at one of the local restaurants and visit local attractions that we might otherwise have missed.

Local business can also specialize in things which Walmart would never displace such as local crafts, brewerys, winerys, etc.. But I would never think that I would find very much selection, or decent pricing for common commodities such as food or gas in a small town. The economics of it do not allow for it.

I greatly appreciate Walmart – and many other big box stores (such as Home Depot, Lowes, Cabelas, etc) for the same reasons. Rather than bringing devastation to an area they become a draw for travelers such as ourselves and for many other locals from a much wider area.

Sam Sprott
6 months ago

Convenience is our #1 reason for using Walmart. We call ahead for approval, arrive around dusk, do not have to unhook the toad and are on the road the next morning. We go in and find a management team member to express our appreciation and then buy needed items. We are aware of our surroundings and react accordingly.
Walmart’s allowance of our overnight stays is very much appreciated. We park where we are told, return our shopping carts no matter the distance and leave no sign of our having been there.
Thank you, Walmart!

Mel Kraft
6 months ago

First I enjoy the polls you do, they can be very informative. Having said that the poll on how often you stay at Walmart needs to be expanded a little. First are you full time and if so how many times a year. If you are traveling for holidays how often during the holidays do you stay at Walmart. In our case usually only on long holidays of a month or more do we stay in Walmart type of parking lots. Our trip to Alaska in 2018 we were gone for 2 months and we stayed at Walmart maybe 7-10 days. So that would be about 2-3 nights per week over the holiday but a much smaller number if averaged over a year. Plus we stayed in a lot of other spots such as Grocery stores, Canadian Tire, Costco and side of the road. Some times it’s hard to answer the poll and could be different depending how you average out the stays.

TravelingMan
6 months ago

I can see this as relatively accurate. Most lots have very few to none. Maybe in a popular tourist area. But not generally so in big cities (primarily because of City ordinances).

The sad thing is that of the 2% or less currently using this avenue, there are an even smaller percentage that are bound and bent on ruining it for the rest of us.

Please do your part to help keep this a viable and reliant overnight resource.

cee
6 months ago

The poll numbers really surprise me because I see RV’s at our Walmart and and other Walmart’s year round. In the summer they appear to be travelers – campers. In the winter most of the RV’s don’t look road-worthy so I think they must be homeless. They pick up after themselves so Walmart allows them to stay. I look at it as part of our local Walmart’s community service; homelessness is a sad difficult issue for all.

I stay at Walmart if I am just moving through, there for the night and gone in the morning. Who wants to spend $40 – $50 just to sleep 1 night and leave in the morning? I was asked for money once at a Walmart in AZ. I’ve never felt threatened or fearful spending the night in their parking lots and appreciate the privilege.

Bob p
6 months ago

We generally travel from south central TN to central FL in the fall and return in the spring. Since we travel 250-300 miles per day it takes 2 1/2 days to drive. Going south we will stop at Walmart for the night and go shopping for the things we may have forgotten or need, returning we stop at Walmart to shop for a special treat or this time a couple of light bulbs I discovered were out. If a campground is close by we will sometimes stay there, but most Walmart’s are fairly close to the interstate whereas a campground may be several miles away down a narrow county road, therefore as an overnight stop Walmart gets our vote. Another thing about the campground is if they do not have pull through sites I don’t want to breakdown my motorhome/toad to back into a site, that’s the number one reason, we also use Cracker Barrel’s hospitality.

Bob Weinfurt
6 months ago

Just one time, out of necessity 4 years ago in SC. Of course we bought some food and supplies. We felt safe with the lighting and other RVs and trucks nearby. Actually, we prefer a service area or scenic view parking lot being near other RVers.

dave
6 months ago

We are slow East to West and West to East travelers. We normally do about 300 miles a day. Our schedule is 2 nights in Wally world and then 3 in a regular park.
Never have had a problem ( beggars and such), but have had more and more people in cars sleeping next to us. One guy actually got out of his pick-up truck bed, washed up and then donned his Walmart vest and went to work.

Thomas
6 months ago

10 years ago I’d stay at Wal-Mart during our trips south. Rv parks aren’t open during winter so no sense in seeking one out. Then it got to be a beggars haven. You couldn’t walk into or out of the store without getting asked for money. Even had people knock on the Rv door begging ( mostly for “gas money”). I didn’t feel comfortable anymore. Now we mostly stay in truck stops. I hate the noise and try to respect the truckers and find a spot so not to impede their movements. It’s usually just 2 nights out to get south enough. For camping.

John Koenig
6 months ago

Wow, this question made me stop and think. Over the years, I’ve overnighted LOTS of times in a Walmart lot. For the life of me, I can NOT remember the last time I did so though. It’s got to be a year or more. Last September, I spent about five weeks in the area of Rapid City, SD (in a commercial campground). In the same parking lot as the local Walmart, there’s a Golden Corral Steak Buffet restaurant which I ate at numerous times. I saw the same run down RV (with chairs out no less!) several times; it NEVER moved for at least a week. I was tempted to say something to the owner but did not (these days, you never know what kind of nut job you might find). There WERE signs banning overnight parking but, apparently said policy / law was not strictly enforced. I don’t know if Walmart or other party complained to said RV owner or, if police got involved. The RV owner could have simply moved on his own but, I WAS happy that said RV finally DID move on. Walmart knows that RVers spend LOTS of money in their stores so, Walmart gets a return for their “understanding” re RV parking. I have appreciated being able to do the occasional overnight stop in a Walmart lot and, have ALWAYS spent money in the store when I have overnighted (thank God for 24 hour Walmarts). Slob RVers are going to be just that, slobs. Sadly, these slobs can ruin things for RVs who are not slobs. I for one hope that Walmart continues its’ policy of allowing RVers to stay overnight in most of their locations. To Walmart corporate: THANK YOU for your consideration!

Pat
6 months ago
Reply to  John Koenig

Well said

Donald N Wright
6 months ago

Often I have wondered why Walmart does not build a small overnight campground behind their stores, charging a minimal amount for bathroom facilities.

Marty chambers
6 months ago

I live near a Walmart and I see RVs parked there all the time. I have never seen any bad behavior by the RVers. They park away from the store, stay the one night, and never trash the parking lot.

I have been impressed.

Jane
6 months ago

Only stay at Walmarts as a last resort. Mostly plan my travel time to be in a campground by 4 pm as I dont like setting up in dark. But if weather or long traffic delays occur and finding a campground in immediate area not an option then it is Walmarts.
Never feel totally safe or comfortable staying overnight in a parking lot.
And because of the trash left behind by others somehow reflects poorly in the rest of us who are respectful