Finding a decent RV park for one night can be a hassle after driving all day. Sometimes the safest and easiest thing to do is overnight in a shopping center parking lot.
Unfortunately there’s a certain level of risk drivers take when doing so. Eventually all RVers learn there are certain times when it’s best to avoid free overnight RV parking and choose a RV park instead.
Are you driving into trouble?
You’ll need to balance your own risk tolerance for parking lot stays. The best time to think about it is before you’re exhausted while behind the wheel. Now is the time to consider when it’s worthwhile to completely avoid free overnight parking on the road.
“I just have a tough time paying $30 and upward for an RV slot with little usage of utilities,” shares RV Life reader Steve in a recent Walmart camping article on RVlife.com. Fellow RVer Mary Jo agrees and says that “We are so tired of all the ‘fancy’ things that we wouldn’t ever use with a ridiculous price, just a good simple place to spend a peaceful night then move on.”
Most RVers can relate to these sentiments. But if you choose parking lot “camping,” there may be a time when you unknowingly drive into a hotbed of crime.
“As a retired law enforcement officer, we have a local Walmart inundated with problems of a criminal nature,” shares reader John Funk. “I’ve seen several Walmart’s with similar type of criminal activity, drugs, vehicle burglaries, vandalism, etc. A Walmart parking lot would be the last place I’d prodigies my family me or mine just for an overnight stay.”
When to avoid free overnight RV parking
Don’t even think about dry camping at a retail store parking lot until you consider these two common sense guidelines:
Skip it when you don’t know the area
If you want to overnight in an unfamiliar retail setting, stop and chat with people already parked there. “Talking to truck drivers is a great way to find out information, such as good or bad areas and rest stops to avoid,” suggests RV Life reader Dawn.
Leave if security cameras and “No Parking” signs are posted
Retail stores invest in security cameras and post “No Parking” signs for a reason. “Walmart parking lots at least in my area aren’t really safe even for non RVers. They’re a place where most people would not want to stay very long,” says an anonymous RV Life reader. If you spot security devices, turn around and find a good RV park.
How to make overnight RV parking cheaper
It’s not hard to save money on one night stands. You’ll always have cost-effective options if you utilize RV trip planning resources like RV Trip Wizard in advance.
“At our age we like to keep daily journeys relative short…so being a member of various travel clubs, it’s usually not too difficult to find something close by our route in the $15-20 range for the night, complete with full hookups and other amenities.” says Michael Grandy.
Join some of the popular camping clubs for RVers that make the most sense for you.
Sure, not all of the member RV parks will be winners. Check what other RVers say about parks along your itinerary and you won’t run out of options when you hit the wall after a long driving day.