We all love camping at a luxurious RV park or a gorgeous, unspoiled nature campground. But sometimes, after a long day of driving, you need a place to park your rig and grab a few hours of sleep before hitting the road again. Luckily, there are more options than ever for free, convenient overnight RV parking. We’ll explore what you need to know about them and how to find one on your next adventure. Let’s get started!
Can RVers Sleep Overnight Anywhere?
While your RV can go almost anywhere, that doesn’t mean you can sleep wherever you want. At least, you can’t if you’re obeying the law! Many towns and cities have regulations on where RVs or similar vehicles can park overnight, whether or not you’re staying inside.
Some folks may take the risk and try to be as stealthy as possible. However, you may wake up to a hefty ticket or someone towing your rig with you inside! That doesn’t even touch on the potential safety risks of some parking spots. That’s why knowing where you can safely and legally park is vital.
What Are the Benefits Of Overnight RV Parking?
There are two primary advantages of overnight RV parking. The first is cost. Most overnight parking spots are free or cheap. This can benefit your overall travel budget, as you’ll likely only be at the site for a few hours. Saving cash with simple, no-frills overnight parking allows you to reduce overall costs. You can save that money to splurge on even better RV parks at your final destination.
Secondly, it’s often much more convenient. You don’t need to spend time at check-in, navigating the campground to your site, and other hassles. Most overnight parking locations are close to highways and other major roads. You can slip in, get a few hours of rest, and hit the road again without any unnecessary delay.
Pro Tip: Download these Best Boondocking Apps and Websites for Amazing Free Camping.
Rules of Overnight RV Parking
Before you start parking at overnight spots, do note that overnight RV parking is not camping. Generally speaking, when you stay in these places you do not set up camp. This means no slides out (minimal is often acceptable), no jacks or stabilizers down, no awnings out, no grilling outside, no dumping garbage, and no lingering. In order to keep these spaces available for weary travelers, we must all do our part to leave the space as we found it and be respectful.
How Do You Find Overnight RV Parking?
There are many kinds of overnight RV parking spots and options for finding them! There are a variety of boondocking and overnight parking apps designed specifically to help you find free overnight spots quickly and conveniently near you along your route. Here are some of the best and most convenient.
Campendium is a popular website and app tracking all sorts of RV parks and other camping options across the country. Overnight campers will find their best options in Campendium’s “Free Camping.” It allows users to filter to find parking lots, rest areas, and other convenient spots. Campendium is entirely free to use.
OvernightRVParking.com is part of the RoadPass family of services, including RoadTrippers, RVillage, ToGoRV, and Campendium. For approximately $49.99 per year, subscribers can access more than 15,000 RV-friendly overnight parking spots in the US and Canada. This RoadPassPro subscription also provides additional benefits to other affiliated services.
TheDyrt is another easy-to-use camping directory offering numerous options for filtering thousands of campsites nationwide. In addition to finding free overnight parking, you can also sort by various amenities. TheDyrt offers a Pro version for $35.99 annually, providing offline mapping functions, cell service maps, information on BLM land, and the ability to find campgrounds along your road trip route.
AllStays may be best known as a camping directory, but it also includes an excellent app resource; “Overnight Parking Walmart.” It’s available on the Apple App Store for $2.99. The app tracks all the Walmart locations in the United States and Canada and provides information on overnight camping.
The AllStays website also offers a “Drivers” section to reference maps of various big box stores and other locations with free overnight RV parking. You can also browse truck stops and other options. AllStays Pro features thousands more sites, a faster user experience with no ads, and many more search filters. It’s available for roughly $34.95 annually for renewing memberships and between $30.95 and $36.95 for one to five-year memberships.
For a simple, no-cost resource for free overnight RV camping, travelers can also check out Freecampsites.net. Input your destination, and you’ll quickly see all the potential options in your area, along with comments and ratings from fellow campers. While there are no membership fees, the site accepts donations from those who appreciate its help.
Harvest Hosts membership provides overnight RV campers with unique RV parking spots. Membership costs $99 per year. In return, members have access to free camping at hundreds of breweries, wineries, farms, museums, and more. In addition to a place to stay for the night, you may enjoy delightful local food, drink, and experiences, making it more than a parking spot in some lots.
Another affordable membership at $79 annually, Boondockers Welcome connects travelers with more than 3,000 boondocking (or dry camping) sites across the country. These can range from suburban backyards to remote farms or mountaintop escapes. There are options almost everywhere! Plus, since many hosts are travelers, it’s an excellent way to network and meet new people.
What Overnight RV Parking Locations Are Safe?
When selecting an overnight RV parking spot, safety is often at the top of your mind, with good reason. Luckily, many locations offer the safety and security RVers want.
Some Big Box Stores
Big box stores have spacious interiors, but most also have similarly roomy parking lots. This makes them a perfect choice for overnight RV parking. Chain stores that sometimes allow RVers to stay the night in their lots include Walmart, Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, and others. It’s good practice to call ahead or check with a manager before settling down, as some locations don’t allow overnight camping. Ones that do often have perks like 24/7 security, well-lit lots, and large spaces for RVs.
Walmart is by far the most common and popular option, but Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas can often provide a quieter experience and more amenities, like on-site dump stations. We love grabbing one of these spots if we’re driving by one, but the latter two are much fewer and further in between. Walmarts, on the other hand, are in nearly every other town.
Do note that not big box stores allow overnight parking. Lowes, Home Depot, Target, and other popular stores typically do not allow overnight parking, and will often have signs in their parking lot warning of consequences.
Pro Tip: We uncovered The Dos and Don’ts of Walmart RV Parking to make your first time easier.
For travelers looking for the most convenient spot for overnight RV parking, it’s hard to beat rest stops. Sitting off highways or other major roads, they’ll minimize the time you spend finding a spot so you can rest. Most include basic amenities like bathrooms and picnic areas, while others offer restaurants, convenience stores, and other services. Many also have overnight security, providing an additional level of safety.
However, in our experience, you can’t always bank on a rest stop. The later in the evening it gets, the more trucks that pull off to use these spaces, too. To be sure to grab a spot, pull off the road before 6-7:00pm. Also, be prepared to be parked between two loud, rumbling semi-trucks.
If you can, try to aim for a Welcome Center Rest Area on a state line. These tend to be larger and a bit further from the highway.
Ever wonder? Can you park overnight at a Park-and-Ride? Find out the ins and outs here.
Many fitness centers are open later or even 24 hours. These are an excellent choice as there are always people coming and going, and there are generally spacious lots with easy access. Plus, gym members can take advantage of bathrooms, showers, and fitness centers.
Casinos love to keep you on the premises as long as possible. It’s how they make their money, after all. One of the perks that many offer to draw in visitors is overnight casino RV parking. Frequently, they also provide electrical hookups. While this is generally free, there may be restrictions or requirements, like signing up for a members card. Casinos can benefit travelers who may arrive at night, as food and other services are open late.
Truck stops are designed for tractor-trailers, the commercial cousin of RVs and campers. So it makes sense that they offer some of the best amenities for overnight RV parking. These often include 24-hour restaurants and convenience stores, bathrooms with truck stop showers, and other perks. In addition, truck stops generally have private security, making them a very safe choice.
Truck stops are one of our least favorite places to overnight park due to the noise and environment. They are not the cleanest of parking lots, as trucks run 24/7 and are always busy. These places are not designed for picnics or rejuvenation, and should really only be used as a last resort. After all, these are spots meant for truckers, and we honestly feel bad taking up a spot. We also feel bad for the truckers who stay in these areas every night, as they are not very restful.
Some travelers may even find a spot to park their RV overnight at a church or religious building. Faith networks can help you connect with like-minded people across the country, and with a polite request, they may allow you to camp overnight. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious institutions are also generally very safe, as they sometimes have additional police attention.
Just be sure to check the satellite imagery before you try pulling in. Churches are sometimes not designed to receive large vehicles, and many of them have low branches or tight turns for their usual passenger-car visitors. We’ve gotten into a couple of tight situations trying to turn into church parking lots before. Also, be cognizant of the day as you could wake up parked in by the congregation attending service.
Cracker Barrel Restaurants
Cracker Barrel overnight parking is another great option. They often have a separate, designated RV parking lot and welcome overnight guests. It is good etiquette to call ahead and verify overnight parking is allowed, and you should also patronize the restaurant before you leave if you can. Besides, who doesn’t want a hot breakfast conveniently located outside their front door?
Tips For Safe Overnight RV Parking
Now that you know where to park your rig for the night, finding a safe and comfortable spot should be a breeze. Here are some tips to make things even more accessible.
You should always know what to expect from an overnight parking spot, and the best way is by reading reviews. These should be relatively accessible from the service you used to find your camping spot, but it can be helpful to check multiple places if you’re unsure. Reviews can provide valuable information about various aspects of the site, both positive and negative.
Know the Local Regulations
A late-night or early-morning wake-up call from the police, private security, an irritated employee, or a neighbor is no one’s idea of a good time. Neither are expensive tickets, tows, or other legal hassles resulting from breaking the rules about overnight parking or RVs. Regulations can vary widely even from one town or neighborhood to another, so ensure you know the situation.
Park In Well-Lit Areas
Bright lights may not be your favorite for sleeping, but they can do wonders to keep any nefarious characters away from your rig overnight. Most crimes affecting RVers are crimes of opportunity, and ensuring your rig is easily seen may discourage anyone from trying anything if they think they’ll be visible. It’ll also make parking and setup much easier if you arrive after dark.
If It Doesn’t Feel Right, Leave
You need to trust your gut. If a spot feels off, there’s no point in hanging around. There’s likely an alternative not too far away. Plus, you won’t get much rest if you’re worried about your safety, defeating some of the purposes of these quick overnight stops.
Pro Tip: We may be biased, but this is Why RV Travel Beats Hotels (Almost) Every Time.
Is Overnight RV Parking a Good Idea?
Many overnight RV parking options aren’t the most luxurious or beautiful. Often, a bit of research is necessary to find the best options. However, they can be a lifesaver. We’ve stayed at countless overnight parking spots that were just the ticket for simple travel nights. With a combination of convenience and affordability, there’s no better way to grab a few hours of rest and head back out on the road.
What are your go-to overnight parking locations? Tell us in the comments!
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Thursday 5th of January 2023
My travels are west of the Rockies and east-westerly on interstate highways. I wait until almost sundown and usually stay overnight at highway rest stops. A Google search tells me how far to the next one and maps shows me the layout to expect on arrival. I feel safe as they are well lighted, and are regularly police patrolled. Never encountered nefarious types that concerned me, and most using the restrooms are very friendly. I bring earplugs for reducing truck and freeway noise if required. It has become standard for me to look first for a highway rest stop.