Where should you park? You are exhausted. You have been driving all day and still have many hours of driving before you reach the RV park that is your destination. Normally, you would stay at a campground, but the last two you passed were completely full. Plus, at this late hour, it seems frivolous to spend the money on a park you won’t even be at but for a few hours.
When you pull into the nearest Wal-Mart parking lot, however, there is a surprising sign. “No Overnight Parking”.
Sometimes, when you are traveling, you want to avoid the expense of staying in a park. For example, if you don’t plan to use any of the amenities, or you just want a safe place to get a few hours of sleep before moving closer to your destination. Unfortunately, that is no longer always an option.
Anti-RV Parking Policies
Throughout the U.S., there seems to be a concerted effort to reduce the number of locations that allow free overnight RV parking. Historically, a tired traveler could easily find a free place to rest overnight at a variety of places, such as the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, Cabela’s, Cracker Barrel, or at a rest stop.
This is no longer guaranteed when ordinances in some cities forbid overnight parking. These changes seem to be primarily for the benefit of the owners of RV parks and campgrounds to ensure that theirs are the only options available to those driving campers or motorhomes, thus increasing their profit.
Conspiracy or Fact
This may sound like a wild “conspiracy theory”. When it can easily be observed and then proven, it becomes merely a “conspiracy” and a fact.
According to the ARVC membership page for RV park and campground owners,
The National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) is the only national association exclusively representing the interests of RV parks and campgrounds in the U.S. We work hard to protect the interests of our 3,000+ members, and our strength in numbers nationwide places us in a unique position that enables us to develop powerful partnerships and a strong portfolio of member benefits.”
This organization offers to “monitor state and national policy issues that affect RV parks and campgrounds and take action to protect your interests.” Remember, this an exclusive offer for RV park and campground owners. It has been fairly successful, as you can see from the “RV Unfriendly” map above.
Finding Alternatives to Overnighting in a Campground
In this situation, ignorance is not “bliss”. The last thing you want in the middle of the night is to be awakened by a police officer asking you—hopefully politely—to move along.
Thankfully, there are ways to find adequate and accommodating places to stay overnight. Websites, such as OvernightRVParking.com and AllStays.com make it easy to find an oasis in the middle of a potentially hostile territory.
Overnight RV Parking
For a small yearly service charge, OvernightRVParking.com provides a list of over 12,000 locations through North America. By searching their database, you can determine if the area you want to stay prohibits or allows you to park your RV overnight freely or for a small fee.
AllStays.com is a free website. To make it more user friendly on the go, it has a variety of smartphone applications for camping and RVing, or for truck and travel. Along with the paid campgrounds, it pinpoints travel stations, rest areas, and the locations for Wal-Marts, as well as sporting goods stores and casinos that allow overnight RV parking.
By clicking on a site, you can find the specifics for that particular place. For example, is the nearest Wal-Mart an “ask to park” or “free to park”? By knowing ahead of time, you can avoid embarrassing blunders.
All is not yet lost. Remember that you too have a voice. You can “vote with your dollars” by choosing to only spend money in areas known to be RV friendly. Discovering which areas those are is easy with a bit of research. Please share this with any friends or family members who are or will be on the road in their RV. It may save them some time, some embarrassment, or even a ticket. Be safe!