There are times when your travels have brought you to cities and towns that are still far away from your destination. In such times, you have no choice but to park your RV and camp overnight. Perhaps you just want to experience camping on school grounds, truck stops, and gas stations. Camping overnight at Walmart and Costco is also enticing, given the fact that you have the opportunity to replenish some supplies there. Whatever the reason may be, you need to know which places allow parking overnight.
1. Truck Stops: Your Go-to Overnight Parking
Truck stops are commercial facilities that provide facilities for refueling, resting/parking, and food services to motorists. They often cater to the needs of truck drivers who drive long distances and are often in need of places to park and rest. In recent years, RV owners have started to choose truck stops as the go-to place when looking for a place to park overnight.
Truck stops are everywhere, from interstate roads to state highways. They are the most convenient places to park your RV overnight. Although originally meant for truck drivers, truck stops offer their services and facilities to all kinds of motorists. It’s just that RVs and Trucks are the most common vehicles to park there.
Truck stops offer a wide range of amenities for motorists. They offer services such as shower rooms, wi-fi, 24-hour restaurants, refueling stations, potable water stations, laundry areas, and even barbershops. Although these services come with a price, having them close to where you are parking your RV is very convenient.
Truck stops like Pilot Flying J and Love’s, usually have designated parking spaces for RVs that are free. The designated area is usually marked by yellow cones. They give spaces for free to RVs because they are smaller than trucks and also to entice more RV owners to visit the facility.
They are convenient choices for RV owners due to their proximity to busy roads. RV owners will not have a problem looking for truck stops as they are located near national roads and highways. By the time dawn breaks, RV owners can quickly get back on the road.
Truck stops are often filled with many drivers that they have actually created truck culture. By choosing to park overnight at truck stops, you get to meet other people such as truck drivers and other motorists before getting back on the road. You also get to learn about the culture that was developed at these stops.
Now, there are some disadvantages when it comes to choosing truck stops as your overnight parking.
Some truck drivers hate RVs that park at truck stops. They probably believe that truck stops are only meant for trucks and so they hate it when RV owners park in truck-designated spaces. There are instances of RVs getting vandalized by truck owners. Other reprehensible actions done to RVs include punctured tires and stolen window wipers.
Due to the crowdedness of truck stops, RV owners who hate noise should probably avoid parking overnight at truck stops. Truck drivers chat throughout the night and even sing in the middle of the night. Although some RV owners have adjusted and are always bringing earphones and other sound muffling apparatus to block out the noise, regardless, you should be aware that truck stops are not the place for you to sleep peacefully.
Because truck stops are the most convenient choice for both truckers and RV owners, overcrowding is a big issue. Usually, the RV sections get full first, and therefore staff of the truck stops will often direct the newcomer RV owners to park in truck sections. This is where conflict arises.
There are some rules that you need to follow while staying in truckstops so that you and your fellow RVers will have a peaceful stay in the area.
Avoid Parking at the Back. If possible, try to park in front of the truck stop and not at the back. Trucks park at the back as they are often dealing with time constraints. Truckers are often the first to leave early in the morning due to their tight schedules. They will not be happy if they cannot exit the truck stop immediately.
Know Where to Park in the Truck Section. If the RV section is full, most likely, you will be parking in the truck section. Always look for the cab area in the truck section because these are the areas that are not highly demanded by truck owners. By doing so, you get to avoid a nasty confrontation with angry truck owners.
Do Not Use Slides. Truck drivers have limited visibility due to the massive size of the truck. When it’s nighttime, visibility is so low that trucks often do not see RV slides. By not using your slides, you avoid an unexpected collision with trucks. Although, you may use slides if it’s over a grassy area.
Do Not Shower or Do Laundry While Refueling. Truck drivers are constrained by time. The time clicks, even if they are just refueling and filling up on potable water. Do not shower or do the laundry while refueling or refilling water as truck drivers hate waiting in line.
Avoid the Showers and Laundry Area During Rush Hour. If possible, do your business in the mid-afternoon and not during the evening. The evening is considered the rush hour for truck drivers as this is when they actually get time off from work.
2. Gas Stations: A Viable Option for Overnight Parking
Gas Stations are also viable options for you to park your RV overnight. Gas stations are always located beside the road, so accessibility is not an issue. Gas Stations are also a good option for you to stay overnight because they offer services like refueling, showers, laundry, and even food marts/convenience stores.
Some gas stations may not allow RV owners to park overnight, while some may only prohibit RV owners that camping in the gas stations. Just to be sure, you might want to ask for the permission of the gas station management or, at the very least, notify them of your plan to park overnight. There are also travel apps like RVparky that provide you a list of places, like gas stations, that allow RV parking overnight.
Although not as many amenities as compared to truck stops, gas stations are still an excellent option to park your RV overnight. Gas stations often have fast-food restaurants, potable water stations, shower services, RV dumping services, and of course, gas refueling stations. Gas stations also have marts or convenience stores where you might find essentials such as towels, tissues, toilet papers, and plastic bags.
Parking lots at gas Stations are far less crowded than truck stops will ever be. If you want a quiet sleep overnight inside your RV, a gas station is better than a truck stop. You also do not have to worry about truck drivers, as they cannot park in gas stations due to their enormous sizes.
Similar to truck stops, gas stations are close to roads and highways. In fact, gas stations are literally located beside the road. So you can quickly drive off in the morning and resume your travel.
Gas stations are never meant to earn income by renting parking lots to travelers. So if you ever get permission from the management to parking in the gas station’s parking lot, chances are you will not be charged any parking fee.
Parking lots in gas stations often do not have the security as truck stops. Part of the reason for the lack of security is that the area is not that crowded. Robbers and thieves may take advantage of the lack of crowd and attack your RV.
Gas stations are often well-lit as they specifically cater to the needs of vehicles that desire to refuel. However, the parking lot of gas stations get less attention from the management since they are just incidental services that they offer. As such, gas station parking lots are often not that well-lit compared to the parking areas in truck stops.
3. Walmarts: Well-Known Overnight Parking
Walmarts are also known to be popular choices for RV owners to park their RV overnight for free. Walmarts are known to be open 24/7, so parking overnight is a good option, especially if you need extra supplies. You can just buy them at the Walmart Store, especially essentials like food, water, tissue paper, toilet paper, towels, sheets of cloth, clothes, and even some hardware.
However, in recent years many Walmart managers have prohibited RVs from parking overnight due to several reasons. First off, there are municipal laws passed that forbid parking RVs overnight in certain areas. But the most significant factor why Walmart managers now do not allow RVs to park overnight is due to the reprehensible actions of some RV owners. There was even one time when an RV owner just dumped his RV water tanks in the parking lot!
Just to be sure, RV owners now use travel apps such as RVparky and Allstays to determine beforehand if the nearest Walmart allows RV parking overnight. Nobody wants to experience a knock on the door in the middle of the night. So to avoid being inconvenienced by the situation brought about by irresponsible RV owners, plan ahead and make sure the Walmart Store allows RV parking overnight.
Walmarts are not intended for overnight parking, so the amenities may not be as good as what gas stations and truck stops offer. Still, by parking overnight at Walmart, you can have a free parking area near a shopping center. You can buy essentials such as food, water, and other stuff you might want to restock like toilet papers. If you can park near the Walmart mall itself, especially near the garden center, you may even be able to tap into the wi-fi.
IT is free and convenient to park at a Walmart, which is perhaps the best benefit of choosing Walmarts as the place for you to park overnight. As long as you are allowed to park overnight, then you will not be paying any parking fees. If you do not know where the truck stops are, just find the nearest Walmart and check if they allow RV parking overnight.
Walmarts are quiet as compared to truck stops and gas stations. Unless you get to be neighbors with that one RV owner who runs his generator in the middle of the night, you will find Walmarts as an excellent place to park overnight. Also, no noisy truck drivers will be bothering you all night.
The following are some of the disadvantages of staying in a Walmart overnight:
Not All Walmarts Allow RV Parking Overnight. Due to the actions of some RV owners, some Walmart managers have now started to turn away RV owners who want to park overnight. So before you get to park in a particular Walmart, you would have to ask for permission first.
Messy Neighbors. Only in Walmarts have RV owners complained of other RVs. In Walmarts, some RV owners were heard to be littering on the parking lot, camping for a number of days, dumping sewage water on the parking lot, partying in their RV, and even engaging in fistfights with other RV owners. These are the reasons why Walmart managers now refuse to tolerate RV parking overnight.
4. Costco: Another Great Retail Overnight Parking Option
Like Walmart, Costco is also a commercial establishment that allows overnight parking for RVs. More Costcos allow RV Parking overnight than Walmart. The reputation of RV owners is yet to be ruined with regard to Costco. There are lesser Costco managers that complain about RV owners being all over the place.
As for the benefits and disadvantages, Costco is about the same as Walmart. They are both commercial establishments that happen to have free parking lots during the night. Both offer the same services, such as food, water, supplies, and a well-lit parking area. With Costco, however, you get less hassle from getting permission from the managers as they are more inclined to allow RV owners to park overnight.
5. Casinos That Allow RV Parking Overnight
It may come as a surprise, but Casinos actually allow RV Parking overnight. Some are for free while others are not, but nevertheless, Casinos may actually be an option for you if you are looking for a place to park overnight. Some now even have parking spaces intended for RVs only.
The following are some of the well-known casinos where RV overnight parking is offered:
Red Earth Casino. Red Earth Casino in Palm Springs, California, is a casino that allows free RV parking overnight. It is located along Highway 86, which makes it an ideal stop-over place to park overnight.
They offer services like multiple free RV dumping stations, potable water refills, and low fuel prices. The parking size is also spacious, making it an ideal place to park overnight.
Chaer-AE Heights Casino. It is another casino known to allow free RV parking overnight. It is located near Eureka, California, on Highway 101. The combination of restaurant services, fresh potable water refill, and beautiful bay area view makes it a pleasant surprise for RV owners who want to park overnight.
Now, casinos are expected to be noisy because of the number of activities being done inside and outside the casino buildings. It is best to prepare some earphones or ear mufflers to block out some of the noise generated by the casino goers. It is generally not the ideal place to have a relaxing sleep after a long drive.
Casinos are also expected to be crowded because of how popular night gambling is. You may also come across rowdy people who are drunk. Find a secure spot, preferably near the exit so you can leave anytime things get messy.
They are casinos, after all. So you may expect them to offer services such as food and water, but not shower services or laundry services. Although, Casinos like Red Earth Casino offer free RV dumping stations.
6. Schools: They Also Allow RV Parking
School campuses may sometimes be options for you if you are looking for a place to park overnight. Schools have huge parking spots that are vacant throughout the night. However, not all schools allow this.
For now, it is a matter of permission as there are no laws passed that would allow RVs to park overnight at school premises. So before parking at a school parking lot, do secure permission from the school authorities first.
Schools have tight security, so parking inside campus grounds is as safe as one can be. Big universities even have campus police, so you won’t have to worry about your safety.
On school campuses, there are no rush hours for trucks or other RVs. You get to enjoy your time without worrying about others. No need to leave as early as possible.
First off, you would be hassled to secure permission from the school authorities, especially with the bureaucratic structure of schools. You will also have to deal with the problem of amenities, as school grounds are not commercial centers. There will be no restaurants or gas refilling stations for you. You will also be burdened with learning the campus rules and regulations.
7. Rest Area Allow RVs Overnight: Not Camping
Rest Areas or Rest stops are areas that are conveniently located along US highways. These Rest Areas are viable alternatives for RV owners looking for a place to park overnight. They are most likely to be found along interstate highways for motorists to rest. However, most rest areas only allow resting for a short period of time.
If you plan to stay in rest areas overnight, you should know which states allow overnight parking. Accidentally parking overnight at rest areas that are prohibited may cost you some hefty fines. Also, getting forced to drive in the middle of the night will definitely be a hassle.
California is one state that allows overnight parking in rest areas. They give you a maximum of eight hours per 24 hour period. So if you are in California and you want to park overnight in rest areas before leaving at 6 am, you may park at the earliest at 10 pm.
Idaho has a different approach as compared to California. In Idaho, there are designated time limits for Interstate Highways and State Highways. The time limit for any 24 hour period on interstate highways within the jurisdiction of Idaho is 8 hours, while 16 hours shall be the maximum for state highways.
Other states that allow overnight parking at rest stops include Oregon, Minnesota, Ohio, and Washington State. Just be sure to double-check the state policies regarding overnight parking at rest areas.
Camping is strictly prohibited in rest areas, no matter what state you are in. The state considers it camping when you park for more than the allowable time for parking. Violating state rules on overnight parking may cost you hefty fines.
Rest areas are super convenient places to park and sleep overnight. They have freeway entrances and exits, so you quickly drive out early in the morning back into the highways. They also have other amenities such as benches, tables, toilet rooms, and a water supply.
Some disadvantages that you can get with staying in rest areas are the following:
Time Limit. When parking overnight at rest areas, you must be mindful of the time limit so that you do not get fined. This gives you no choice but to leave early in the morning to avoid fines.
Fewer Amenities. Compared to the other options in this list, there are fewer amenities offered by rest areas, just the basic amenities like water, toilet services, and parking space. Rest areas are for convenience and not absolute comfort.
Lesser Security. Rest areas are not as secured compared to truck stops, Walmarts, and even gas stations. Parking overnight in your RV alone might be a risk to your safety.
8. Cracker Barrel: Most Allow RV Parking Overnight
Cracker Barrel is a restaurant that allows RVs to park overnight. Cracker Barrel has surpassed Walmart as the go-to place for RV owners who desire to park overnight in recent years. RV owners prefer Cracker Barrel more than Walmarts because the former does not require any permission from the management at all.
Cracker Barrel has designated parking spaces for RVs in well-lighted areas on the premises. As for amenities, food and water will not be a problem. They also have 24/7 surveillance, which makes security, not an issue.
During breakfast, they offer affordable food, so you do not have to spend more than what your budget allows. They also have gift and trinket stores for you to check. Do buy something from them as a form of simple courtesy.
Cracker Barrels are conveniently located near freeways so you can quickly get back on the road by early morning. Like Walmart and Costco, they are also located all over the US. Even better than Walmart, they refuse to allow semis to park, so there are no diesel fumes and noise in the parking areas.
Whether you just want a convenient place to park overnight or a comfortable place to spend the night, the options discussed in this article are your best options. If you want convenience, gas stations and rest areas are your best option. They are located along the freeways, so you can get back on the road quickly. If you want comfort, truck stops, Walmart, and Costco are the best options as they offer the best amenities you could need. As for peace and quiet places to park overnight, gas stations and schools are the places you should go to.
Regardless, double-check if permission is required for you to avoid getting that dreadful knock in the middle of the night. Always consider safety, comfort, and convenience when looking for places to park overnight. Best to have travel apps ready to guide you like RVparky and Allstays.