Free overnight parking for RVS
A lot of people ask us how we could possibly afford a year on the road. Not having debt and saving up helps, but so does being resourceful when it comes to life on the road. Not staying at campgrounds every single night certainly helps to keep the budget low.
Here are some of the places where you can find free overnight RV parking across Canada and the USA. It’s important to remember that for the most part, when you park for free, you’re dry camping: no water, no electricity, and usually, no sewer access, except at the truck stops. If you’re comfortable with those slight discomforts, read on.
Park your RV for free at Walmart
Several Walmarts across both Canada and the US allow overnight parking for RVs. It’s great marketing on their part—RVers carry their food with them, and we buy groceries often because our fridges are small. Staying overnight at a Walmart parking lot means we often buy groceries there, too. Before this trip, we never used to shop at Walmart; during the trip, we shopped there frequently.
It’s important to check individual store policies before parking for the night—in some jurisdictions, overnight parking is not allowed due to by-laws, and in most large cities, Walmarts do not allow overnight parking.
Free overnight RV parking at Cracker Barrel
Almost all Cracker Barrels in the US allow overnight parking for RVs. It’s usually pretty quiet, and if you feel like some deep fried food, they’ve got some delicious stuff. The stores sell some cute things, but they usually overwhelm me a little. They’re pretty packed with stuff, and my mild claustrophobia kicks into high gear in these spaces.
Park your RV for free at Truck Stops
Most truck stops allow overnight parking. These work well when you need to dump the tanks and get gas—you can fill up, empty the pooper, and get some zzz’s, all in the same convenient stop. We only slept at Flying J’s, but apparently Luv’s truck stops are also an option. Oh, and if you’re tired of showering in the tiny RV shower, you can pay $12 or so and take and use one of the truck stop’s showers. We only did this one time, and it was worth every penny. There are caveats to using a truck stop’s facilities—stay tuned for a blog post on the topic.
Free RV Parking at Cabella’s
In the US, the outdoor store Cabella’s is a friendly option for RVers. Most locations allow you to park overnight, and some even have a free dump station.
BLMs: free or very cheap RV parking
Several states in the USA have BLMs—government-owned lands where you are welcome to park for up to 14 days. Some o them are free; others charge a small amount. You can find out more information about BLMs here, but it’s important to check each state’s info as well.
Train System Parking Lots
In some large cities, you’re allowed to park vehicles for up to 8 hours on the train system’s parking lot. As there was no posted regulations about sleeping in your vehicle, we did park the RV after taking the train and then stay in the vehicle ’till the next morning in a couple of cities. Check the regulations for each city you visit.
The places we boondocked most frequently were Walmarts, Cracker Barrels, and BLMs, but we also overnighted in other spots. Here are some of them:
In the parking lot of a public garden
When we were passing through Marathon, Texas, we wanted to check these gorgeous gardens. It was getting late by the time we were done, and we were tired. It was winter and there weren’t a lot of people around, so we just parked the vehicle for the night in the gardens parking lot and left the next day.
In friends’ and family driveways
When we were visiting family and friends, if their driveway was big enough, we parked for the night there, and it worked out really well. We got to visit and have fun, but we still had our own space for sleeping.
Lots of options for free overnight RV parking
We stayed at a lot of places for free during our year-long RV tour, and doing so helped us save money. We also parked at some inexpensive places, like at the beach on Padre Island in Texas (I believe it was $12 to park for 2 days). We also camped at some state and provincial parks, which are generally cheaper than private campgrounds). And finally, once in a while, we did pay a bit more to stay at nicer private campgrounds, and for the most part, it was worth it.
Stay tuned for a post about our favourite campgrounds.