It’s pretty common knowledge in the US that Walmart parking lots serve as unofficial campgrounds for travelers and van lifers. Or, at least, that’s how it used to be.
But in recent years, there have been some rumblings about Walmart changing their overnight parking policy.
To find out if parking overnight at Walmart is still possible, keep reading!
- 1 Does Walmart Allow Overnight Parking?
- 2 Can You Sleep In Any Walmart Parking Lot?
- 3 Walmart Parking Lot Rules
- 4 Etiquette for Parking Overnight at Walmart (10 Tips)
- 5 How Long Can You Park Your Car At Walmart?
- 6 Can You Park Overnight At Walmart For Free?
- 7 Is It Legal To Sleep In Your Car At Walmart?
- 8 Is It Safe To Sleep In Walmart Parking Lots?
- 9 FAQs
- 10 Conclusion
Does Walmart Allow Overnight Parking?
The short answer is that, according to Walmart’s corporate website, Walmart does still allow overnight parking in 2022.
However, there are some caveats to this, and when you look at the policy in practice, overnight camping rules vary widely from store to store.
Walmart’s only official policy addressing overnight parking states the following:
While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store parking lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.
Now, you might be wondering why Walmart offers overnight parking at their stores in the first place. There are a few different reasons.
First, Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton, was a known RVer in his later years, and the company continues to support communities similar to the ones Walton was a part of. Walmart is also extremely supportive of military families and veterans in part because Sam Walton was a veteran.
The other reason Walmart allows RVers to camp in their parking lots is because travelers often need to stock up on supplies that are readily available at Walmart. So, by allowing these campers to spend 12+ hours on the premises of their stores, Walmart is creating an opportunity for their company to make a little money.
Can You Sleep In Any Walmart Parking Lot?
Here’s where things start to get complicated. Not all Walmarts allow overnight parking, and unfortunately, the number of stores that do seems to be dwindling fast.
It’s always been the case that some Walmart stores allow overnight parking while others don’t. Walmart stores that close during the night have always been less likely to allow overnight parking, while stores that are open 24 hours have generally been more welcoming to travelers.
However, in 2020, many Walmart stores started changing their policies to disallow overnight campers due to an uptick in people abusing the generosity of the policy.
Some of the behaviors that led to more Walmart stores banning overnight parking include visitors camping for extended periods of time, waste accumulation in parking lots, fires and other dangerous hazards being started by campers, and more.
According to drivinvibin.com, about half of all Walmart locations allow overnight parking. Some frequent free campers (or “boondockers” as they’re also called) have noted that Walmart locations in rural, sparsely populated areas are more likely to allow overnight camping, while Walmarts in cities and more densely populated areas are less likely to allow it.
Walmart Parking Lot Rules
Walmart as a corporation does not have any official rules governing the etiquette of sleeping in their parking lots. Overnight camping rules are determined by individual store locations, and as we discussed above, some stores ban the practice completely.
It’s important to remember, though, that Walmart’s official overnight parking policy only cites RVs as allowable for overnight parking. So, technically speaking, cars, vans, trucks, and other non-recreational vehicles are not protected by Walmart’s overnight parking policy.
In lieu of any official rules, we’ll give you a list of tips to follow when parking at Walmart overnight.
Etiquette for Parking Overnight at Walmart (10 Tips)
- Stay discreet – The most important thing to remember when camping overnight in a private business parking lot is to stay discreet. Don’t draw attention to yourself or give the store’s management or security any reason to feel like you shouldn’t be there.
- Do not prepare food outside of your vehicle – Along the lines of staying discreet, hot food prep should be done inside of your RV or van (or not at all if you don’t have a recreational vehicle).
- Do not light fires of any kind – This should probably be a no-brainer, but lighting fires is definitely something to leave off of your to-do list when staying in a Walmart parking lot. You might feel like you’re camping, but leave the campfire out of it. If you light a fire of any kind, you’re certain to get asked to leave or even have the authorities called on you.
- Do not make any noticeable noise – Again, staying discreet is super important. If store management or security feels that you’re being a distraction for other campers or customers by being too loud, then you might be giving them a reason to kick you out.
- Do not consume alcohol or drugs – Not only is this a good rule to remember for general overnight parking etiquette, but it’s also the law in most places. Even if you have no intention of driving, consuming alcohol or drugs in a motor vehicle is grounds for getting a DUI in most states.
- Use a designated restroom – One of the big reasons many Walmart stores have banned overnight parking is due to the improper management of waste by some overnight campers. So, needless to say, keep it in the bathroom. Most Walmart stores that allow overnight parking are open 24 hours anyway, so you’ll have convenient access to a restroom all night.
- Do not idle your engine – This one has a lot to do with being considerate to other campers. While it’s understandable to need to idle your engine sometimes if you’re charging a battery or operating a heater, keeping your engine running for long periods is not only bad for the environment, but it’s also just obnoxious for others who are trying to sleep.
- Do not litter – Another major reason why many Walmart locations have banned overnight parking is due to the accumulation of trash. To reduce your risk of contributing to the problem, make sure to dispose of all of your trash in a designated receptacle. Or, better yet, pack it out with you and dispose of it somewhere else.
- Give other overnight campers space – Sometimes, Walmart parking lots can be pretty crowded with vans and RVs, but luckily there’s usually plenty of space. Be considerate to others by finding a spot that’s not right next to someone else’s camper.
- Limit your stay – Lastly, it’s best not to camp at Walmart for more than one night. Walmart’s policy is intended to help out RV travelers who need a one-night stopover during a road trip. It’s not intended to serve as a place for anyone to set up camp for a long period of time. So, to avoid contributing to the problem of Walmart tightening up their camping allowances, get your shuteye in and then drive away in the morning.
How Long Can You Park Your Car At Walmart?
Surprisingly, there is no official rule dictating how long you can park in a Walmart parking lot without moving. Like with most elements of Walmart’s overnight parking policy, though, this will all depend on the discretion of the store’s management and/or security.
Of course, if you keep your vehicle parked at Walmart for an extended period of time, there will be an increasing likelihood that you could be approached by management, security detail, or even law enforcement. If a vehicle is abandoned in a Walmart parking lot for an extended period of time, there is also a fairly good chance the vehicle will end up being towed and impounded.
To increase your chances of having a positive experience of camping overnight at Walmart, be sure not to stay for more than one night. Or, at the very least, move your vehicle to a different spot in the lot if you plan on staying longer.
Walmart parking lots are best used like rest stops, serving as a one-night stopover rather than as a place to camp for an extended period of time.
Can You Park Overnight At Walmart For Free?
If you can find a Walmart location that’s more welcoming to overnight campers, then you can rest assured (no pun intended) that you’ll be able to camp there for free. Walmart has never expected overnight parkers to pay for the convenience of using their parking lots as rest areas.
That said, one of the main reasons Walmart has allowed overnight campers for so long is because they assume at least some of those people will end up making a purchase at their store at some point during their stay. So, even if you aren’t paying directly for the convenience of camping, there’s some likelihood that you’ll end up giving some of your money to Walmart.
Is It Legal To Sleep In Your Car At Walmart?
There are no state or federal laws determining whether or not you can park in private business parking lots overnight. Some states have specific laws determining whether you can park in rest areas, though, and you can read more about that here. As of 2022, no US state has resolutely banned sleeping in a vehicle.
However, some towns and cities have individual laws banning sleeping in vehicles, and these laws supersede state and federal laws. So, to find out whether it’s legal to sleep at Walmart, look up the laws regarding vehicle camping in the town or city you’re in.
Generally speaking, because Walmart is a private corporation, their company policy is what dictates whether or not you can sleep overnight in their parking lot.
Is It Safe To Sleep In Walmart Parking Lots?
The safety of sleeping overnight in a Walmart parking lot is extremely variable and unpredictable. But in most cases, sleeping in a locked RV or camper van in a Walmart parking lot is quite safe and secure.
Here are some things that make sleeping at Walmart feel relatively safe:
- Most Walmart parking lots are very well lit
- Some Walmart parking lots have security guards who patrol the lot throughout the night
- If you’re in need of food, medicine, or any other emergency supplies in the middle of the night, you will have quick access to these things if the Walmart you’re sleeping next to stays open 24 hours
To increase your level of safety when sleeping at Walmart, remember these tips:
- Keep your vehicle locked at all times
- Cover your windows with curtains or other blockers to obscure your sleeping area and valuables
- Follow your instincts and don’t park somewhere that feels suspicious or unsafe
What is Walmart’s homeless policy?
Walmart does not have an official policy regarding homeless campers. Their only policy regarding overnight parking refers exclusively to those traveling in RVs.
Has Walmart canceled overnight parking?
Not officially. While many Walmart stores have tightened up their overnight parking policies over the past few years, Walmart’s official corporate policy still allows overnight RV parking when space, local laws, and store management allow it. Overnight parking permissions are location dependent, and many Walmart locations do not allow overnight parking.
What are the alternatives to Walmart overnight parking?
Some common locations that typically allow overnight parking include rest stops, casinos, movie theaters, 24-hour restaurants like Denny’s or Cracker Barrel, and some churches. For an extensive list of overnight parking locations as well as other resources for RVers and boondockers, check out Boondocker’s Bible.
If you’re hoping to spend a night in a Walmart parking lot, take comfort in the fact that the company has not (despite some rumors online) done away with their overnight camping policy. That said, some Walmarts are much stricter than others, so it’s best to look up local laws and check in with Walmart store management to make sure you won’t be asked to leave in the middle of the night.
If you do end up camping at Walmart, make sure to stay discreet and considerate to reduce your chances of being kicked out or making it harder for other campers.