Finding free places to overnight in your RV

There's a real battle going on out there in the RV world and it pits some powerful interests against those who resent paying for services they don't need and only want to take advantage of the generous offers of places like Wal-Mart, Cabella's Cracker Barrel and other businesses that not only allow but welcome brief overnight stays by traveling RVers.

But for more than a decade now, campground owners and their national association have quietly been working behind the scenes to convince local governments to enact anti-RV ordinances that ban overnight camping in anything but a campground.

As a result, thousands of places around North America have passed such ordinances. And more do so every day.

rvunfriendlyplaces

There used to be a website called rvunfriendly.com. It vanished from the net, sometime in late 2011 or early 2012. But this is the map they had that shows places with RV unfriendly laws

 

Now before I go any further, I need to point out something. I am NOT anti-campground. Neither is Campskunk or Jim Hammill or any of the other writers on this blog. I use campgrounds all the time. Jennifer and I will be in one in Cape Cod next week. We have reservations over the summer at others in Ontario, Nebraska, Oregon and will likely make more. Most of the time, our experiences have been great. But it is no secret to the RVing public that many campgrounds need a lot of work. I've written about this before and I will continue to do so, believing exposure is the best way to force them to clean up or go away.

What so many of us object to are discriminatory laws and local ordinances that prohibit traveling RVers from overnighting in places like rest areas, Wal-Mart parking lots and other places. I'm not talking about setting up camp, putting out the chairs, starting a campfire. I'm talking about spending a few hours sleeping overnight before hitting the road again as we are on our way somewhere. Often, we're on our way to a campground where we'll stay for several days. Overnight Parking is not camping, it's parking.

Lots of places welcome us. Wal-mart company policy, for example, is to allow overnight RV parking. Sam Walton, the founder, was an RVer. But astutely, we realized that the RVers who overnighted in his lot bought groceries and supplies from his store.

But corporate policy is trumped when a local ordinance bans overnight parking.

As we've dug into this, we've encountered some pretty powerful players aligned against free RV overnighting and behind the anti-RV laws. The biggest is the  3,000-member National Association of RV Campgrounds (ARVC). Here's a 2011 blog report from a site that at one point reported on a database of such places, even posting the accompanying map up above.

“One of the stated missions of ARVC is to influence legislators to institute and/or enforce parking bans in public places where RV’s are otherwise welcome.  ARVC actively urges and assists members to pressure their towns to prohibit parking at public places so that RV’ers have no choice but to stay at a nearby … campground. Such parking bans extend to temporary streetside parking in some cities and towns.  Not only has this has resulted in the denial of the right of private property owners to determine who shall have the use and enjoyment of their property but it has eroded our basic freedom to choose!”

Prodded by Jim Hammill, I was going to try and develop a listing here on Roadtreking.com of all such RV unfriendly places that prohibited overnight camping.

Turns out, I don't have to reinvent the wheel on this.

There already is a resource that to help you find free or very low-cost places to stay while traveling in your RV. It's called OvernightRVParking.com and it's a labor of love for a guy named Jim O'Briant, of  Gilroy, CA, who started the site in 2008. As of today, it has a database of nearly 13,800 places around North America that can be searched, listing places that allow and prohibit overnight RV parking.

Campskunk, whose recent post here on anti-RV laws in Ontario started this whole controversy on our blog, has been a user of OvernightRVParking.com for years.

Plug in a city and you'll get a map listing where you can or where you can't overnight free or for a very low fee. O'Briant himself tries to verify every report and there are easy ways for subscribers to add to the information. He also has individual state and province pdf files that members can download to their computers if they don't have Internet service on the road. He doesn't recommend printing them out as some are over 100 pages long.

The website is tablet and mobile device friendly, and they also have free iOS and Android apps that make it easier to use on small screens.

The site is a subscription service – $24.95 a year.

I had a great conversation with O'Briant and he has made a nice offer to readers of this blog. If you use this link and decide to subscribe to his service, he will extend your membership from 12 months to 15 months. That works out to a pretty nice discount.

O'Briant is no stranger to the overnight parking ban we've been writing about here recently.

“As of about 5 years ago, the ARVC website had a page discussing their ‘model legislation' (i.e., pre-written laws that RV Park owners could take to their local city councils) and about all the support that ARVC would give to local campground owners who were working to get these laws passed in their communities,” he told me in an email. “After this became public knowledge, that part of their website disappeared (or perhaps it moved to a ‘members only' accessible area of their site).”

On the ARVC site now is this description of what it 0ffers its members:

Powerful legislative and regulatory advocacy programs that protect your business interests. We monitor state and national policy issues that affect our industry and take action on your behalf. These efforts ensure that all of our members have a powerful voice and strong representation on the issues that matter.”

Other big names have been linked to the controversial anti-RV parking bans based on their support of ARVC.

“Good Sam was barraged with questions about it, as they were also accused of promoting these laws,” said O'Briant. “Their official reply was that they don't do it. But Good Sam is (or at that time was) the largest financial supporter of ARVC.”

Another prominent RV industry name involved in the association's efforts is KOA. The corporate organization seems to have taken a hands-off stance on the anti-RV parking laws but individual KOA owners have and still hold leadership roles in the group.

I signed up for OvernightRVParking.com (I paid full price, by the way) and plan to use it Friday and Saturday night as we head to Cape Cod. We'll be in a campground Sunday-Thursday. I'll also use it on the way back.

Meantime, share under comments here your experiences with RV unfriendly towns. Let's make sure we don't spend a dime in any of them.

When we're boondocking or looking for free overnight parking, Jennifer and I also like to use two other great resources:

Harvest Hosts is a unique membership service that lets RVers camp overnight FOR FREE at lovely outdoor venues such as wineries, breweries, museums, farms, orchards, and creameries. You can get 10% off Harvest Hosts annual membership ($49) using the discount code: HHFriends

All Stays Pro is the other major go-to site Jennifer and I use for finding places to stay that really stand out, especially out of the way boondocking spots and free places to stay. Many RVers are familiar with the AllStays app. It is awesome. But since Jennifer and I discovered AllStays Pro, the browser-based subscription site, we rely on it almost exclusively in our RV travels.

Using the link below you can save 10% off your All Stays Pro annual subscription ($29.95) using the discount code: rvpodcast – CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP

There are

89 comments

  1. William Browne

    From the maop above, it is interesting where the no overnight staying bans are and also those are the same areas that have a shortage of campground sites, especially if one does not have a reservation.

    I stayed in a town in Montana that had a small city park. The back street of the park (dirt st,) allowed overnight and even had electicity. Also on a post was a small metal box to leave a donation. Great idea and I left a donation.

    When I overnight at a place ( WalMart, Cabelas, Truck Stops, etc,) I always buy something, food, gas, etc. , and leave the area clean and have picked up stuff left behind by others. That is what we should do.

    • Suzy

      Most Montanas have a brain and know people have traveled along ways between places and don’t bar them from parking at Wal-marts etc. Local one here put up signs last year saying no overnight parking but I noticed they were taken down. Many folks are coming from BC and Alberta to fill their uhauls and campers with supplies at Wal-marts so be rude to them and they will not go to Wal-Marts. All campers park at the far end and keep the area clean.

  2. Sue

    We have a 1998 Winnebago Itasca very good condition looks good. Some campgrounds have discriminated against us staying at their campground because our unit is too old. Anything over 10 years is consider out of date. Some of these campgrounds should take a look at what they are offering, which is not much. So far we have been very lucky at Walmart, rest areas and truck stops.

    • RamingtonStall

      Given the fact that payments can go on for 20 years, those campgrounds are idiots. We have a 2004 GulfStream BT Cruiser BT5211 (21 feet long) which loves to boondock or to camp in National Parks with our Old guy Nat Park Pass. (1/2 price).

      • CFarmer

        Try a 1977 Dodge Mobile Traveler I’m refurbishing for a reality road show based on my Filipina fiancee. They’ll have a stroke. Especially when it’s re-painted with Hello Kitty decorations…

  3. Cathy R

    We need to raise awareness about how much money we spend in a RV friendly community. If we can’t stop, we won’t shop.

  4. Caleb

    I agree with your discussion of the RV unfriendly laws and the unfriendly attitude of ARVC. Personally I boycott such areas by simply rolling on. I would never give business to a campground known to push for such parking bans.

    When I travel longer stretches and simply need a rest for a few hours, I would never bother with a campground just for a few hours. My rig is fully self contained. Why would I?

    That said, you forgot to mention that there is a group of ‘RVers’ that is our own worst enemy because of their abuse of such free parking. Who specifically make a sport out of ‘camping’ as long as possible at friendly places such as Walmart and similar. Discusssing on Facebook groups and similar how to use/abuse it the most. Eventually, I unfortunately believe such behavior will make even Walmart rethink their current policy. Plus, they are giving ARVC plenty of fuel for their fight. Making it a “clean up the town” argument, rather than a “make ARVC members more revenue”. The former being more relevant to town councils.

    I see such RVing fools across the country. The people that “park” for a long time at rest areas and Walmart while putting out their slides (taking up extra space) or jacks, stay for several days, start grilling, put out lawnchairs, or such similar. I have even twice seen large motorhomes at truck stops with their slides out. In one case with slides out on both sides, which made it take up no less than 3 of the large parking spots. Making truckers want RVs banned too.

    These friendly parking priviledges should be used to get a few hours rest and sleep. Nothing more. If we want to maintain free areas to park for the night, we (the RVing community) must stop such behaviors, or the abusers will eventually get all of us banned everywhere but in official campgrounds.

    Idaho, BTW, have some very sensible laws on stopping/parking at their great rest areas. Many have free dump stations, and the rule is max 8 hours stop on Interstate rest areas and max 16 hours on other state highways. Allowing an 8 hour stop (not camping) seems perfect.

  5. Daniel Martin

    I have a 96 F250 with a small pop up cab over camper. I stayed in a couple of camp grounds on my last road trip through Alaska. I saved a lot of money by asking for a tent spot vs the RV lot. Most of the places, the tent spots were way nicer than the RV lot. One place, the RV park was just a big gravel pad with electrical and water hook ups. The tent spots were wooded, and were just a short walk from the showers, etc. 10 bucks a night vs 30.

  6. Gail Kapusnick

    Maybe a great addition to OvernightRVParking.com would be places NOT to go, in addition to all the places to go. Maybe a little “no” marker on the maps for towns with anti-rv ordinances. It would truly be a one-stop-shopping site then. I know the listings for Walmarts and such in those towns are noted if they have such an ordinance but would be nice to know towns where I might get harassed just for stopping for dinner as some folks have. Maybe the person who had the rvunfriendly site could contribute their database so the initial workload would be less. I’d love to see it. I’m all about spending my $$ where I’m wanted and avoiding where I’m not.

  7. Michael John Griffin

    Thanks for the article and for sharing this site. Do you know how many of the listings are Walmart versus new overnight options we may not be well aware of? There seem to be over 4,000 Walmart stores alone in the US. I’d like to know how many other options there are that aren’t commonly known.

  8. Interesting article. One word makes the article confusing though.

    The common usage of the term “campground,” at least in the U.S., is a section of PUBLIB land developed into campsites, sometimes, but not always, with a common restroom and shower building, picnic tables, fire rings, some with electric hook-ups and some without. In the U.S. these are administered by the National Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, or the National Wildlife Service.

    A privately owned place to camp is called an “RV park.” I have never heard of a private camping area referred to as a “campground,” although occasionally one hears “private campground.”

    I assume “campground” meaning a privately owned property renting campsites is correct in Canada, as it is used that way in some of the comments you have received.

    I thought you might like to know this if you are writing for a wider audience than Canada. Sue

    • JD McLaughlin

      Sue,
      Personally, when I hear “RV Park” I think of just that; a bunch of gravel spots for RVs with no spots for tents. I live in the U.S. and have been to all states but two and that’s pretty much how it is everywhere here…from New England to the SW and from Florida to Alaska.
      RV parks have short and long-term residents using ONLY RVs while campgrounds are host to all forms of camping. State and Natl Parks are called “…State Parks” or “…Natl Parks” but we all know they have camping. Many privately-owned campgrounds will be called “Their Name Campground” or “Their Name Resort.”
      If anything, I’d say that the term “RV Park” is the only term that is somewhat synonymous to privately-owned camping while the term “campgrounds” are definitely widely and commonly used for both private AND “govt-run” facilities.

    • Me

      There are privately owned businesses that refer to themselves as “campgrounds”. I think the term is relative to just being a name for their business and not tied to being private or not. At least most of the places we visit they are called campgrounds, rv parks, camp parks, etc.

  9. Tony

    Carlisle, PA has unfortunately banned parking from the local Wal-Mart. If you park there overnight, you will have a ticket on your windshield in the morning. I don’t understand, if the parking lots are on private property, why do the businesses allow the town to bully them?

  10. I have so often been disappointed with private campgrounds. It’s irritating to pull into a site and fine you can’t open your awning because your neighbor is so close. Or your picnic table is on top of their sewer connection. There are many wonderful parks but it seems like for every one of those there are 5 that are disaster.

    I find it amazing that Val would like to censor a reporter, or any of us for that matter. Val, are you a park owner, and where is your park?

  11. Susan Adame

    Thanks for great article. I am a regular user of Rvovernightparking and stay at Walmart and similar places
    on or way to our campsites. I think that as a group that we could put pressure on Good Sam and their sites. We need to hit them financially to make them stop their tactics of influence. First I would write them to say that I will not be renewing not membership due to their support bans of overnight parking. I would also tell them that I intend to specifically avoid all Good SAMs camps. Then an email to campsites that are Good Sam camps telling them that I will not be staying at their camp because specifically of their involvement in SAMs influence in anti parking ordinances. If the park owners thought they were loosing reservations due to their alliance with Good Sam they may put pressure on Good Sam to change. If enough of us did this we could put pressure on some counter forces. Anyone care to join me? United we could be powerful!

      • Fred

        Only site on the internet is travelRV. They support RVERS especially on issues like this and issues like quality campgrounds and RV manufacturering. On the internet every Saturday morning. Roadtrek and Jim Hamill are very pro RVers. Some of his dealers are not.

  12. Lisa

    Susan, great suggestions. Wonder how many if us could and would send those emails? Course that takes time… It may take boondockers and Roadtrekers uniting to make a difference!

  13. Tim

    With a lot of ordinances passed the public is denied input due to the use of the “Emergency Clause”. This allows local governments to get around any public outrage that might take place. Seems that so many things are emergency’s these days. It may be that many business owners are unaware of these ordinances untill after they are passed. Surely they would not want to give up RV sales dollars if they could help it.
    I think a big part of it is that cities can make revenue from tickets and court costs and this has become a very big profitable business in itself.
    Just a thought.

  14. David

    Also interesting to note is how the gas and oil industry is affecting these bans on parking. Here in PA, I have seen several privately owned campgrounds book up completely with yearly leases. They are all large trailers or 5th wheels in town for the gas industry. Take a look at YouTube on what is going on in North Dakota and Montana. The Wal Mart parking is being severely abused. I certainly do NOT want that to happened here. Yet the problem exists and fuels the no overnighting rules across America.

    I also have to ask, why is State Park usage down. Even National Park usage is reported to have declined in the last 5 years. As Mike has reported (and which has greatly influenced me) the State Parks are incredibly peaceful and reasonably priced. They are my number one choice. I use rest areas and parking lots when enroute only. The KOAs are too amusement park oriented (even though we travel with kids) and the price reflects it. A lot of the privately owned parks are no better than the city projects I grew up in… just with trailers and RVs. I do NOT want to be parked within 10 feet of another RV. I am amazed at how many do. I think it’s unacceptable when “camping”. There are a lot if issues indeed on why we do or do not choose RV parking lots. For an organization to ban free overnight parking to simply bring in revenue, is appalling. I think there are reasons to ban (or limit) overnight parking. And there are reasons to NOT ban it. Hopefully reasonable heads will prevail.

    • James Wold

      State park usage is not down out here in Wyoming. In fact Nebraska and Colorado are also overflowing. We don’t have enough parks for everyone to RV or tent camping.

    • Guy Daley

      Reasonable heads will never prevail as long as lawmakers can be lobbied (bribed). That is our entire system from bottom to top for making laws. Who has the money and is willing to give it to someone that has been elected for their “special purpose” consideration.

      Doesn’t anybody ever wonder where candidates get millions and millions to run their campaigns?

    • Me

      Your post is 3 years old so don’t know if you will see this or not. We have found that many state parks are now getting so pricey, it’s becoming prohibitive to book them. I know that Indiana state parks have raised their rates to the point of being ridiculous for some of the campground spots you get.

  15. Rick Ashworth

    Many of us complain about FMCA. This is something they need to jump on with both feet. Not just to combat the anti-parking thing, but to continually educate the membership. How many of us have been in a Walmart parking lot and seen some 40 foot motorhome with a trailer behind take up 20 – 30 spaces with no attempt to reduce his foot print and then lower his jacks and deploy his slide outs? In the rows where the parking spaces face each other, he pulls in and straddles the line separating the spaces. And I don’t even want to go to the generator issue that runs al night.

    I use the overnight parking thing and it is great. I also always go in and ask permission to park, even when I see several other rigs parked. I have had Walmart managers tell me that they are rethinking their parking policy as they are seeing damage to their parking surface from big rig jacks.

    • Me

      I must admit Rick that we have only stopped a couple of times at Walmart to overnight but we never, ever pull out our slides. After all, we are just there to get some sleep before hitting the road again the next morning. I think that the Walmarts around the country should require those who want to stop to go into the store, tell the manager on duty that you are sleeping overnight, and the manager can tell them that is fine provided they aren’t pulling out slides, taking up prime spots, etc. If that is abused, they should call the local police and have them ask the abusers to pack up and leave.

  16. Sherry Hookr

    I agree with Caleb, there are those RVers who cause problems for the rest of us. We have a Wal Mart in our town and it’s common to see one or two RVs at the far end of the parking lot. But, on one of my shopping trips I noticed a Class C had parked and set up as though they were in a campground; lawn chairs, grill and had the nerve to set up a small pool for their children. Even though it wasn’t large, I doubt they had carried that much water with them. These are the type RVers that communities are trying to keep out and I can’t blame them.
    Campgrounds could help themselves and us too, if they’d set up a couple overnight spots at a reasonable charge.

    • desuhu61

      When the Walmart people notice someone doing that, they need to go out and politely tell them they need to move on. Wouldn’t take but one or two times to get people to stop doing that.

  17. Duane

    A few years ago the state of Maine introduced legislation to only allow RVs to park in RV campgrounds. When the sponsoring member was asked if it included wording requiring all RV campgrounds to stay open year round, the legislation was quickly dropped. The park owners wanted the income when they were open, but didn’t want to be told they had to stay open so the law could be enforced.

  18. Martha S.

    I’ve resolved to boondock, or stay in national or state parks. No commercial campgrounds for me. That’s part of why I like the Roadtrek.

  19. steve harmon

    Mike, I can’t thank you enough for this wonderful reference, OvernightRVParking.com. Expecting delivery of my Ranger RT (with solar panel, extra batteries and engine genny). Expect to start enjoying my retirement soon, thanks again. Oh, by the way, I did reference, Roadtreking.com when signing up.

  20. I was visiting (attempting to visit?) someone in Hilton Head a couple of days ago, and I was stopped at the Sea Pines gate and told in a very stern voice that I was not allowed in with my RV and had to turn around immediately. I said that my (170) would fit fine in my friend’s driveway and that I was only staying for a few hours and the guard just said “you are not allowed here. leave now”.

  21. Jim

    this is such an important conversation to have.

    My understanding is, in the 1920’s cities WELCOMED “tin can tourists” for the positive economic impact of the city. Granted, then, there were few campgrounds as we know them today.

    Sad to hear city officials do not realize the value of 2-5 (or many more) RV fuel tank fill ups EVERY day can have. Beyond that – respecting PRIVATE property owners rights.

    Most, if not all RV owners I know shop at the Walmart and have other purchases nearby.

  22. Pamela Cureton McArthur

    This past Saturday night, we stopped at the Walmart in Arnold, MO (south of St Louis). The manager apologized that we could not stay when I asked permission, stating the City of Arnold has a no overnight parking ordinance. We went 5 miles north and were warmly welcomed at Sam’s Club in southern St Louis.

  23. C. Mallon

    What about the safety issues? Why can’t we have places to pull over like the truck stops do? After a long day of travelling, my husband needs to rest. We are not “camping”. We are stopping to eat and sleep, yet, local campgrounds provide no areas where you can check in for just this purpose. We JUST did a trip across Canada and Kenora, Ontario is one such unwelcoming place. We ended up driving through it and not even filling our gas tank there. They made NO money off of us, whereby, had they let us stay at their wall–mart, we’d definitely have filled our vehicle AND shopped in the store. C’est la vive…. we tell everyone we know, DON”T STOP IN KENORA… so there ya have it.

    • Lorna Robertson

      The sign at walmart in Kenora says no overnight parking. People park their RV’s in there all through the day. lol the no overnight parking is because there is a campground right over the hill -Anichanabee park. If you just drove through how in the world can you say its an unwelcoming place. Your loss! Very popular tourist spot. Population is 10 times higher in the summer with all the tourists.

  24. Sandy

    We are from Canada and fifth wheel many places, so far as Texas, Florida and many miles between! When I get tired, and we are on the drive to somewhere, we find a place to stop, very simple, it is a safety issue. We are respectful of where we stop, but have parked in Home Depots etc. Basically somewhere we can eat close by and rest for the night. So, regarding the city ordances, most people in the bylaw enforcement work 8-4, so they probably won’t be there. The police, using the ordance are at the very lowest end of enforcement, and have important things to do. If you are nice to the policeman, and tell him you are very tired and believe travelling further would be unsafe and you will be on your way tomorrow, he will have a nice talk and go on his way. If he decides to give you a ticket, don’t pay it, tell the officer you wish to go to court about it. That’s how we do it! Never had a ticket and have only had two conversations with security guards and one with a policeman. Also, if you are nice, they will swing by during the night just to drive by and see everything is ok.

  25. exbioman

    Walmart in Exeter, Pa. (SE Pa.) allows Big Rig and campers on their lot. There’s a KFC at the NE corner. Only once did I see a camper over-nite there. Rigs all the time. And once or twice campers set up for day-time camping. Of course I’m there only 2 or 3 times a week.
    Then Cabello’s in Hamburg, Pa. (North of I-78) Parking, yes. Camping over-nite? Probably. Ask. there’s a Cracker Barrel across the street, and other meal places. It was rumored Bass Pro shops was going to buy Cabello’s. But not that locale? Happy New Year, everyone. (campers, truckers) Happy Camping, Happy, Safe Trails. I used to camp in my Big Trucks.

  26. Pete Hostetter

    I have been a member of overnightrvparking.com for several years. It is one of my favorite websites. We use the site to find places to stay when we are on the move until we get to our destination and do not need the full services of a campground. Would be happy to pay a campground $5-10 a night for a place to boondock without hookups for a night but haven’t found a campground willing to do that.

    When in a municipality which prohibits overnight stays I make a conscious effort to move on without patronizing any merchants in that municipality …. no food or gas or shopping until I get to a more consumer friendly area.

  27. Pnw Van Campers

    What needs to be addressed is that scores of homeless (or not homeless) addicts stay at Walmart’s for months on end, some all year. There’s aggressive panhandling or shoppers vehicles being scoped out or stolen from. Not to mention trash, needles or the lack or hygiene. It’s just not safe. That’s why many municipalities don’t want overnight camping in Walmart parking lots. Usually asking the mgr directly (at a banned Walmart) results in favorable permission for an overnight stay.

  28. Magnus Atheos

    Interesting how when I compare the RV unfriendly map to a political map of the US it appears the states that vote Democrat are the most RV unfriendly. Just an observation.

  29. Susan Wheeler Vogt

    The Walmarts in North Dakota had to ban RVs because of the oil boom. They had 10 or 20 people living in RVS in the parking lot. They had trouble with drinking, drugs, fighting, and the trash. Some of the stores had to have a guard to escort the employees to their cars after work. Now I don’t think they allow any overnight parking in any of the lots in ND. It isn’t just the Walmarts, most places with large parking lots in ND have banned overnight stays. Just thought people would like to know why it is so hard to find a place in ND.

    • Me

      That’s very sad that this happened. Perhaps the employers of those who worked during the oil boom should have been notified of their employees’ behavior and they could have intervened. There is a huge difference in “living” in a parking lot, and stopping for groceries and a few hours sleep because the driver doesn’t want to have an accident on the interstate because they are too tired to drive any further.

      • Steve

        How are those employers responsible for what their employees do on their own time? If the employers were directing people to live in those parking lots, that would be one thing. But if these folks chose to move in–that is not the responsibility of the employer.

  30. Key00

    We only use free overnight camping in rare situations. Normally I’d much rather stay in a campground for overnights – safer, quieter, better atmosphere. When I do overnight away from campgrounds I prefer Cracker Barrel. Good dinner and breakfast along the way.

  31. desuhu61

    We have only stayed at a Walmart once (actually a Sam’s) in Grand Island, NB. And we were up early, shopped in Sams (we have a business membership) and pulled out. But I resent people trying to stop others from doing this if you’re traveling to somewhere and you don’t put out your awnings, set up lawn chairs, etc. If the campgrounds would offer a special price to just pull, plug in and overnight for a nominal fee, say $20, it would encourage more people to stay at campgrounds, especially if they’re not a destination campground.

  32. Steve

    This is a very one-sided article. What you fail to recognize is that, in some areas, the reason for overnight parking bans is RVers themselves. WE need to police our own better.

    I live in a ski resort town. In the 70s and 80s, resort parking lots became completely unavailable to actual SKIERs, as so many RVers staked out a permanent claim at the base of the mountain. They had no water or septic, no way to remove garbage, etc., and consequently they completely trashed the area. Even today, in the national forests around our area, the USFS ends up hauling out TONS of debris every spring from the folks who set up illegal camp sites in the forest.

    Many of these so-called discriminatory laws were NOT generated by owners of campgrounds, but by local folks who were fed up with the trashing of our public spaces by people who had no respect for the property of others.

    • Me

      Steve, if those practices were happening then why didn’t the local law enforcement ticket those people and/or make them leave? I understand that there are always abusers that make a bad name for everyone else, but to allow an abuser to continue with abusing a situation is wrong. Complaining about it afterwards doesn’t teach that person that their trashing a place where they are camping illegally isn’t going to be tolerated. It only teaches them that they can get away with that bad behavior and someone else gets to clean up their mess.

      • Steve

        Without appropriate laws in place prohibiting overnight camping, under what laws would local law enforcement ticket those people? How can they “make them leave” if there is no law prohibiting overnight parking? And……who pays for the additional law enforcement folks needed to police private parking lots? What objective measure allows local law enforcement to say one camper can stay, but another is “trashing a place”?

        Laws cannot be selectively enforced, so the choice is to either allow ALL overnight parking or not allow it at all.

        Passing those laws is the way local communities STOP “complaining about it afterwards”.

        Just last month, during a countywide fire ban, some squatters on the national forest left a campfire unattended. The resulting wildfire only burned about 85 acres, but it forced the evacuation of about 500 homes for a week or so. It also came within 2 miles of the actual town. Who pays for “local law enforcement” to patrol hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest to make sure that no one is an “abuser”?

  33. Athena Keller

    Here’s my pet peve as a full timer. One the rates at camp grounds is getting beyond redicoulus. And just recently we moved to Pagosa Springs Co for work Happy Camper RV park charges 450 a month plus if your in a temp spot because nothing else is available at the end of the month all temp spots electric is one bill that is divided amongst the temp spot residents. Which can be 200 a month some times. Then the rv must be 10 or less years old. Seriously who is going to buy a new rv at the price they are every 10 years. And pet policies they are in your private residential property (rv), they are leashed and you keep up the poop what or how is the problem. Being a full timer is not as easy as it use to be.

    • Me

      What about all the private campgrounds that are catering to those “seasonal” folks? I don’t want to camp for a long weekend or for a week at a time where I feel like I’m squatting in the neighborhood. Some of these people use these campgrounds as their residences (I’m not talking about full-time RVers), and their campsites look like crap with all the junk they’ve got piled around.

  34. MoJo

    too bad someone can’t find someone with money that can start it’s own coalition against ARVC maybe RVOP? Does anyone know if Warren Buffet has an RV? and or have a petition of some sort where RV parks need to have a special section for just overnighters at a much reduced rate for only $5-$7. After all how much electricity and water can one use in a few hours, instead of forcing us to pay for all those fancy things that we’d never use. Of course we are fond of boondocking and are grateful for what you have done here. Passing this on to all our RV friends

    • Me

      Try Oprah. She has far reaching audience and I know that she had gone camping a couple of times with her friend Gayle as they have filmed it and shown it on TV.

      • MoJo

        I was being facetious, Oprah camped in Yellowstone I believe it was, for her ‘show’ and to promote camping in Nat’l parks. She’s not into Rving or camping.
        I’m sure she stays at 5 star resorts and hotels when she vacations.

        • Me

          Well no one can tell that you are being “facetious” unless you indicate that in your post. After all, voice inflection doesn’t exist in written words and I don’t know you from Adam. And I agree that she probably stays at 5 star resorts when she travels, wouldn’t you if you had her money? But, that being said, she can appreciate how many people do enjoy camping.

    • Jerry Kessler

      As far as Warren Buffet is concerned, no, he does not RV officially. After having a long conversation with him where he eagerly inquired about my full timing adventures, he asked if he could live vicariously through me and my RV travel blog. It was quite thought provoking when the worlds richest man (he was at that particular moment) tells you he envies you. I always knew I was on to something special starting full timing at age 40 but that discussion certainly confirmed it. I have had similar conversations with multiple movers and shakers of the world where they were fascinated with the stories I had to tell. My profession brought me in constant contact with them with lots of time built in (while we were together) to have those conversations while they were relaxed and just being themselves. I digressed from the topic above and I apologize for that.

  35. kate

    Very interesting story since I am planning on doing some RVing in my near future. In my opinion these bans have been set up because of people taking advantage of a good thing and destroying the area. Leaving messes and defecating in places that are not normal. I know, I know, but there are just some people that don’t appreciate a good thing. I never could understand people in general taking advantage of a good thing and destroying it. I can’t even use the restroom at McDonald’s without buying something. I know call it guilt or common sense to be thankful they had these services available when in need. So, I for one will not take it personally because someone had to ruin it for the good people who would actually appreciate a sleep over at the rest stop, or local Walmart. But very interesting article.

  36. Jennie Stilton

    Rapid City, South Dakota has a city ordinance against camping in non camping areas like wal mart parking lots for a reason. It is not to pick on RVers. This is a tourist heavy city that cannot cope with the sheer number of tourists camping in places that are not set up for campers. We also have to deal with the yearly influx of bikers every August. We aren’t picking on you, we just can’t cope with thousands of people camping in parking lots and roadsides.

    • Me

      There is a difference between “camping” and stopping for a few hours to pick up groceries and get a few hours sleep. I agree that those that stay and use the parking lots to camp, especially during biker week, are abusing that. But, if we are driving on a long trip and need to stop because my husband is getting sleepy, then that shouldn’t be a problem as long as we are parked away from a prime car parking area or parking lot that doesn’t accommodate a large rig. And BTW, if you are having trouble dealing with all the bikers, then maybe your city should stop hosting the Sturgis event. That should take care of your problem and help your economy tank from the lost revenue those bikers and RVers bring to your town.

      • Steve

        So how exactly do you suggest local authorities differentiate between “camping” and “stopping for a few hours”? Selective law enforcement?

        And BTW, the snide comments about Sturgis are totally inappropriate. I found Rapid City and the Black Hills area to be VERY welcoming to RVers who camp LEGALLY.

        • Me

          Seriously? You can’t tell the difference between an RV parked for an hour or two to pick up groceries and someone spending the night with slides out and chairs set up? And my comment about Sturgis isn’t being snide, but the poster said “We also have to deal with the yearly influx of bikers every August.” If they don’t like the influx of bikers, then they need to not host that event at Sturgis. I stand by my opinion, just as you are allowed yours.

          • Steve

            Parking for an hour or two to pick up groceries is NOT overnight camping–I have never seen any laws against RVs parking in a parking lot while you are shopping in the store. But there is a HUGE difference between parking “for an hour or two to pick up groceries” and overnight parking. If you are picking up groceries, you are not sleeping in your vehicle. So….seriously? You can’t tell the difference between parking to pick up groceries and parking to SLEEP?

            As for your comments about Sturgis–perhaps you have never lived in a tourist area? I live in an area with a year-round population of about 1800, but there are enough beds in town to sleep about 37,000 people. During Christmas and Spring Break, almost every single one of those beds will be filled. Our infrastructure is built for a small town–for example, there are only 3 roads (and only 2 that do not have stop signs every block), and we only have 2 grocery stores (one would be considered a small, regular chain grocery store in any city location, and one would be considered more of a small specialty market in another area). During those weeks when the town is full, we really do DEAL with the situation. I have had it take me 45 minutes to drive the mile or so across town at those times of year.

            “Dealing with” those situations is an accurate description. It doesn’t mean we want them to go away, but it DOES cause problems. “Dealing with” a cold is never pleasant, but it doesn’t mean you want to commit suicide to avoid it.

            What happened in your childhood to make you so bitter?………

  37. rcaddict.us

    Good information but the stupid send voicemail bar on the side of the page that scrolled with the page made it very hard to read. It’s cutting off the last words and you can’t get rid of it or move it. Mobile devices have enough issues with out something like that crowding a good article.

  38. Steve

    It’s funny…..the way I was raised, if someone offered you something for free, that was a gift that you appreciated. If someone did NOT offer you something for free, you did not demand it, and bad mouth them for NOT giving you something for free.

    It’s the classic “glass half empty vs. glass half full” thing–why so much time and so many resources devoted to whining about places where overnighting is not allowed, rather than promoting the places where it IS allowed? Why all this concentration on RV UNfriendly places, instead of positive concentration on RV FRIENDLY places?

    You are not entitled to anything for free. If you want to provide “free” overnight parking, feel free to buy your own piece of land and allow it–and just wait to see how much it COSTS you to maintain that “free” parking. You have no right to demand anything from anyone on property that is not yours.

  39. Fred

    At a Roadtrek Rally once, the subject came upon where you can stay and not stay. The answer was you can stay in any public parking area, town, state, and federal, that DOES NOT have a sign that not allows overnight parking. On a trip to western Massachusetts we stayed one night in a down town public parking area and another night, behind a hotel in an area the local firemen stayed. No problem.

  40. Michael Baier

    I stayed at a little town just west of Sioux Falls, SD Over the 4th of July this last summer. They had a small city campground with about 15 spots. All the main campgrounds of any size were filled up months in advance in or near Sioux Falls. This little campground was first come first serve and had water and electric hookup for $15.00 a night which included passes to the city pool right next door. All week long people were coming in very late (10-11pm) after driving long distances. They would sleep and be up and back on the road fairly early. It was nice they were able to find a spot and not have to park at a Walmart. My point being. Most people will pay for a real campsite if its not to expensive and use Walmarts and other parking lots in a no other choice scenario. As a new RV camper myself. I can say this without hesitation. There just arn’t enough campsites to go around. Especially during the holiday weeks. I called 2.5 months in advance for the 4th of July. Everyone was booked solid.

  41. Gregg Remedes

    I am really disgusted with businesses that use the law to try to make profit !! I believe that if they are not good enough to make a profit on there own, maybe they should throw in the towel. (not try to screw everyone else) I know many RVers and am one myself. What I don’t get is the safety involved in NOT letting a traveler rest for the night. are RV parks so greedy that they don’t care about your SAFETY??? Where I live in Los Angeles County (in a RV Park) they still allow RVers to spend the night at Walmart and other out of the way locations. There are cities that have banned RVs to spend the night in residential areas, due to the homeless trashing there cities. It’s my opinion that RVers should be given the same safety considerations as interstate truckers when it comes to rest -vs- driving. It’s actually a law for the truckers that they have to rest after so many hours of driving (kind of like pilots). So with that in mind, If you have a class “A” drivers or / and commercial drivers license wouldn’t you also have to stop and rest? In any case it shares the same principles, SAFETY. You are right about places like Walmart, That is smart business. I have also stayed overnight at different Indian casinos and Nevada Casinos usually in the back of their parking lots, of course My RV just won’t fit in those little parking garages. Only the wide open lots .I have also spent the night at rest stops in California along the I-5 (when I can find one that is not full). without any issues. this was an informative article, I can only hope the people pushing for these negative issues get bit in the A__. What happens when they in place the ban, you have been driving for hours (beyond safe) and when you finally find a park it is reservations only (most National Parks) or full ? are you supposed to continue driving till you kill someone when you fall asleep at the wheel ? and Good Sam, I had them for a year then dropped them when they couldn’t / wouldn’t help me with a claim because it was on a Sunday. They provided me with NO emergency service or help in any way. The only reason I am a member is to get discounts at Camping World. Not what I was really wanting to read to start my weekend but it happens. Good article.