What Every RVer Needs to Know About Church Parking Lot Etiquette
One of the founding principles of America was the freedom of religion. That’s why you’ll be able to find churches, temples, mosques, and other religious buildings everywhere you travel! If you’ve ever examined these buildings, you probably noticed that they have spacious parking lots that sit empty for the majority of the week. But is church parking legal?
As with every parking question, the answer is: It depends! Overnight parking rules vary from state to state, and some churches are more lenient than others. These buildings are privately owned, so they can decide whether or not overnight parking is acceptable. City/state laws always come first, though.
You should always research the specific laws of the states you’re traveling through so you can tell if church parking is even an option. Although it’s not guaranteed, there are several churches that permit people to sleep in their cars or RVs overnight. We’ll walk you through the process and technicalities of church parking. It can be a handy option if you can’t find a campground for the night!
Tips for church parking
Use online resources to find churches in your area
It’s sometimes difficult to tell whether or not a church will allow you to park overnight. There may be signs or warnings, but most churches don’t use these. Therefore, you might spend a long time driving around and searching for a legal place to sleep.
You can easily find churches along your route, as well as other points of interest, with RV LIFE Trip Wizard. In addition, you can view more details about each location including their address and hours.
Contact the church leaders for permission
Once you find a church where you want to stay, contact a local representative. Most churches have offices or leaders you can contact for information. Call the appropriate person and politely ask for permission to park overnight.
If overnight parking is legal in the city, there’s a decent chance they’ll agree. But you should still be prepared to move on if they refuse! If you get permission, they may provide additional information about where to park and which amenities you can use. Ask plenty of questions so you don’t get in trouble later.
Look for a church within your faith/denomination
For those who are active in a particular religion, you might start by seeking out a church you’re affiliated with. You should be somewhat familiar with the procedures and leadership roles, so you’ll know who to contact.
In addition, they may be more willing to let you stay if you mention that you’re part of the same faith. You could even attend services and further strengthen your case. Church parking makes it easy for you to attend worship services, so many travelers take advantage of this benefit.
Don’t park on weekends
Although many churches welcome visitors, they don’t want too many people clogging up their parking lots during the weekend. Therefore, unless you intend to participate in services, you shouldn’t use church parking lots during the weekend.
Saturday and Sunday are busy times for these buildings, and they usually need all the space they can get. Although weeknight camping may be acceptable, it’s good manners to stay away from churches during days of worship.
Keep the parking lot clean
If you do get the go-ahead to stay overnight, make sure you keep the parking lot clean. Stay inside your vehicle as much as possible, and don’t set up camp chairs, awnings, or grills. Keep your trash to yourself as well!
If you make a mess, you might make the church owners angry. If they stop letting people camp there, it’ll be harder for your fellow travelers to find a safe place to spend the night. Do everyone a favor and clean up after yourself. You’ll leave a good impression on the church owners and reduce litter.
Only stay as long as necessary
Finally, only stay for short periods of time. The general rule is that you should only stay in a church parking lot for one night. If possible, plan to arrive late and leave early so you don’t get in anyone’s way. Just try to call the church leaders before it gets too late!
Benefits of church parking
After reading the tips above, you might wonder if church parking is worth all the effort. Of course, everyone has to set their own limits for what they will and won’t do. But there are some distinct benefits to staying at a church.
For starters, parking at a church is free! They don’t charge parking fees, and you don’t need to worry about street parking hours/regulations. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, this is a great choice. You could always donate to the church, but there’s no requirement to do so.
Church parking is also fairly safe. Churches don’t generally face a lot of crime or vandalism, so you can rest easy if you’re close to one. Many people also feel greater peace of mind if they can camp close to their own church.
Fairly empty at night
These parking lots are generally pretty large, so they can accommodate everyone who wants to attend the services. However, they’re only in use for a few days of the week.
In the meantime, they’re usually empty, so you can pick any parking space you want. This is wonderful for RVers who have big rigs because it can be tricky to find parking spaces that are large enough for your vehicle.
Churches come in all shapes and sizes, but people usually try to make them look nice. If you camp next to a church, you can enjoy the landscaping, as well as some beautiful architecture. Not every church is postcard-worthy, but they usually look somewhat attractive.
Finally, church parking is great because there are lots of options. If one church turns you away, you can always ask someone else. Some towns have dozens of churches, as well as a variety of denominations.
Many people still regard these buildings as sanctuaries or safe places. As long as overnight parking is legal in the area, you should be able to find at least one church that is willing to let you stay.
Alternative overnight parking options
If you decide that church parking isn’t something you’re interested in, no worries! There are plenty of other budget-friendly options you can explore. Several businesses allow RV parking, and you can also explore options on private or public property.
Try some of the following locations if you can’t find a church that will let you park overnight.
- Public parks/campgrounds
- Cracker Barrel
- Home Depot
- Sports arenas
- Truck stops
These locations will vary in size, safety, and amenities, but they’re popular choices for RVers. Just be sure to ask for permission or look up the rules before you set up camp.
Nobody wants to get that late-night knock telling them that they’re parked in an illegal area!
Find more overnight parking options
For help mapping out your route for your next RV getaway, look no further than RV LIFE Trip Wizard. This online planning tool makes it easy to plan an RV-safe route. It can also locate interesting sites along the way, all according to your travel preferences. Get RV LIFE Trip Wizard with its accompanying RV LIFE App, and start planning your adventure today!
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