It’s not only retirees on holiday who are responding to the allure of an open road adventure. More and more young people are adopting the lifestyle known as "van life." More than 6 million Instagram posts use the hashtag #vanlife. The rise of the minimalist trend, remote employment, and even COVID-19 have all undoubtedly contributed to the increase in popularity of the nomadic lifestyle.
Since more people now own and rent vans and RVs, the number of people camping in RV parks has risen. Finding vacant boondocking spots or campsites has become increasingly difficult for many RVers, however. It is not easy to find a place to park in popular National Parks, and now reservations and permits are required for specific areas that had not held such requirements before.
Finding Safe Overnight RV Parking
There are plenty of choices for RVers looking to park their rigs for the night. When parking, be cautious to verify the local regulations to ensure that you are within the rules. Nobody enjoys being roused at 3 a.m. by the security guard or police!
During the warmer months, many of the most popular campgrounds and RV parks are fully booked months in advance. Remember that there will be fewer parking places in places that don't charge a small fee, and most won't have amenities like showers, garbage disposal, or electricity.
Always look for a popular spot to park overnight. Even though you'll have to cope with more noise, having more people around will increase the likelihood that no one will try to break into your RV while sleeping there.
While establishing a picturesque camp on a vineyard or ranch in the middle of nowhere is appealing, doing so will place you and your loved ones in a location with no GPS or civilization for miles. The likelihood of receiving assistance in the event of an emergency is low. An RV or self-contained camper is a visible target for potential thieves, so parking it overnight in a high-traffic location is a sure way to keep potential thieves at bay.
Staying beneath the glow of a streetlight or parking lot light will help you feel safer. It's also a good idea to put yourself in a surveillance camera's field of view. Although bright lighting might disrupt sleep, they deter burglars and other criminals. When you're in a well-lit location with CCTV, it's considerably harder for a crook to pull off a heist.
Always check for reviews and tips before pulling into a parking area for the night in your RV by clicking on a website or a smartphone app like Togo RV or your Roadpass account. United States laws and regulations, as well as a sense of the local culture, will be included. A major warning sign would be any safety concern or criminal activity.
With so many people who don't know or understand the RV lifestyle, gathering information is essential before hitting the road. However, as any seasoned RVer will tell you, half the fight is locating a campsite with all the essentials, enough room to stretch out, and beautiful scenery.
You can access more facilities than free RV parking locations when you pay to camp. They often have coin-operated washing machines, a clubhouse with a shower room, and cable television. RV parking spaces at resorts are rather roomy, and some even provide shuttle buses to nearby points of interest.
You may find fantastic overnight RV parking options at certain state or city parks. You could even locate a formal campsite on-site and some basic amenities like water and electricity. Depending on the setup, the minimal cost of these may be justified. Like any other choice, it's wise to phone ahead and make sure it's okay to camp overnight or have an extended stay in a park.
Businesses That Allow Overnight RV Parking
Big Box Store
During nighttime or bad weather, recreational vehicles may be able to find shelter in the parking lots of some retail chains and big-box retailers. Historically, RVers love Walmart and K-mart.
Several supermarkets have recently begun restricting parking for RVs and other large vehicles, however. Although individual shops may have varying rules, state and city laws will take priority. Be mindful of no parking overnight signs if that's what you're after. Refrain from assuming that every big box store has parking.
To find out whom to contact if you want to leave your RV parked overnight at a shop, you can inquire with the management. To properly express gratitude for their generosity, it is customary to make a little purchase at the store.
Keep in mind that these parking lots aren't always located in the most peaceful or secure neighborhoods. Apply common sense, stay alert, and remember it's time to leave if anything seems wrong.
Check out Costco, Sam's Club, Lowe's, Camping World, Home Depot, and Menards, in addition to K-mart and Walmart. Remember to seek permission before visiting any of these spots, and stock up on supplies before heading out. Also be sure to properly clean up your trash and respect their space.
It's easy to find a truck stop in any of the 50 U.S. states and Canada. Roadtrippers traveling in recreational vehicles are welcome at national chain truck stops, not only truckers. As a rule, many of them won't charge you anything to stay overnight. Instead, the proprietors of truck stops want you to come in and buy something.
Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and The Flying J are two RV-friendly truck stop chains. Some of these locations will provide not just places to fill your tank, park for the night, and grab some food, but also places to shops where you can stock up on necessities and find RV dump stations.
You can locate particular trip necessities that you wouldn't find in a typical store if you shop at a business that caters to long-distance truckers. Some truck stops are one-stop shops and may even provide laundry facilities and showers for a fee.
Staying at a casino's parking lot for the night is an option for those traveling with recreational vehicles. Casinos continue to welcome tired travelers, but other shopping complexes have clamped down on overnight parking. Additionally, they provide peace of mind due to their safety. It is common practice for casinos to employ full-time security personnel to monitor parking constantly.
Aside from being one of the few restaurants that allow free overnight for RVs, most Cracker Barrels also provide excellent service and delicious meals. Most Cracker Barrel locations have spacious parking areas accommodating semi-trucks and large vehicles.
Since most don't have parking lots as vast as those at Golden Corral, it is one of the few on the restaurant directory list that is RV-friendly. Golden Corral is a great place to park RVs and big rigs, but you should call ahead to be sure.
Request permission at any 24-hour establishments; if you can't find free parking, try McDonald's, Denny's, IHOP, or Waffle House.
Gyms and health clubs are fantastic places to stop for a stretch and a shower if you're on a lengthy road trip and need a break from your chair. Those who travel near cities sometimes park near gyms to take advantage of a short exercise and shower facilities.
24-Hour Fitness, Anytime Fitness, and Planet Fitness are just a few examples of gyms that provide members with hot showers and exercise facilities for a small or discounted monthly and yearly membership cost. As opposed to offering long-term subscriptions, you may get two or three days of gym access at certain facilities.
While many gyms are located in strip malls, some of their parking lots may be adequate to handle overnight parking. Before you go, it's a good idea to call and find out what's offered and if there are any limits in the area.
Sleeping at a highway rest stop is possible, but only at specific rest stops. You can only park your RV for a while at rest areas in all states. However, many rest spots don't prohibit sleeping in your car, although they are designed for brief rest breaks rather than overnight camping in an RV or a tent.
There is often a 10-hour time restriction on stays at these places. You should get some sleep if you need to and leave first thing in the morning. Tired driving is dangerous, and no one wants you on the road if that's the case.
Overnighting in a city is known as "urban boondocking." This is a lot trickier and may depend on your RV or van model. Finding a home's driveway to park in is your best chance if you plan on staying for an extended period. Parking for one night on the street is possible, but only if you take the necessary precautions to do it legally, safely, and discreetly.
Overnight RV Parking Map
We've populated this map with points of interest from the blog article, but you're welcome to log your own using Proxi!