A Guide to Car-Camping – in Walmart Parking Lots

As any experienced road tripper, climber, or long-term traveler can attest, one of the biggest issues with life on the road is finding a place to rest every night. Between tight budgets, uncertain routes, and evenings spent driving at ungodly hours, there is often a need to find a makeshift place to catch a few hours of sleep.

One of the tried and true traditions of my climbing trips and cross-country excursions is the practice of spending a night (or two) in a Walmart parking lot. I was extremely reluctant and nervous my first time, during which I hardly achieved a few moments of rest. However, after nothing but positive experiences, the sight of a glowing Walmart sign on the side of a highway has become a welcoming landmark.

While Walmart founder Sam Walton has allegedly been quoted in feeling strongly that all travelers should reverie his stores as a destination for safe rest and refuge, there has been a lot of debate surrounding the practice of overnight camping in the parking lots. While I have never been approached during my brief stays, I have heard plenty of stories of people being asked to leave, or told they couldn’t stay.

So, should you spend the night in a Walmart parking lot? I’d say sure, but first, educate yourself on the do’s and don’ts of overnighting at one of these fine American institutions (ha). A Guide to Car Camping – in Walmart Parking Lots

What You Should Do:

Depending on your attitude, calling ahead to inquire about a specific location’s overnight policies is the safest course of action. However, if you’ve pulled into a random store in the middle of the night, desperate for sleep – you will likely be fine. Always be discrete. While large campers and RVs are sitting ducks in the parking lot pond, sedans and smaller vehicles have the advantage of blending in fairly well.

A few crucial elements of discretion include parking away from store entrances where shoppers should have priority, keeping your ‘space’ clean, and leaving as early as possible in the morning. Additionally, you should make an effort to give patronage to the place that is giving you a safe place to sleep – buy something. If you just grab a protein shake and cheese stick in the morning, fine. Need to stock up on some camping supplies? Even better – you’ll make the entire car-camping community look good.

Just because Walmarts are generally a secure place to stop for the night doesn’t mean that every location stands equal when it comes to safety. Always be aware of the surrounding neighborhood – a sketchy area equates to a sketchy Walmart parking lot. Be smart. Always keep your keys within reach. I prefer to keep the driver’s seat open and easy accessible, in case there is a need to make a quick getaway.

What You Shouldn’t Do:

carcampingatwalmart A Guide to Car Camping – in Walmart Parking Lots

*Note: Niko wasn’t actually in a Walmart parking lot in this photo, no worries.

Basically, don’t be that guy. If you roll up to a Walmart at 11 PM, pop open the hatchback, and set up a few chairs around your parking spot while throwing back a few beers – don’t be surprised when you get the boot. Anyone traveling in a non-car rig is should never set-up camp in any conspicuous manner. If security or management approaches you, don’t be disrespectful. It is a privilege to have access to staying overnight, and travelers must remain understanding that some locations have had bad experiences with long-term or disruptive ‘campers.’

Don’t leave a mess. You should be practicing this in all aspects of your adventures, but littering free accommodations is especially offensive. Nothing leaves a bad taste in a manager’s mouth than rude overnighters.

Despite the usually relaxed overnight regulations at most locations, there are some stores that are actively against travelers shacking up in their parking lots. Check out this listing of Walmarts that do not allow overnight stays.

Niko says: “I’ve been crashing in Walmart parking lots ever since I was able to drive — it’s a “simple comfort” for dirtbags. On long nights, you know that just down the road there’s a parking lot where you can grab some munchies, clean up in the 24-hour bathrooms, and shut your eyes for a couple hours. I always crack a window in my car to get some fresh air, and like to stop in the store to grab breakfast before heading out – think of the cost of your milk and cereal as a camping fee.”

If you aren’t bothered by the unavoidable florescent lighting and likelihood of waking up in a sea of cars from Walmart’s morning floods of blue collar customers, pulling into one of their many parking lots provides a great venue for catching some rest before embarking on your next day of adventuring.

Have you ever spent the night in a Walmart parking lot?
Got good any experiences to share? Any bad experiences?
Sound off in the comments and contribute to the conversation!

 

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve thought about it several times, although never spent the night. The walmart near my house is rather skeevy, so they all seem that way to me now. But maybe I’ll just have to start. :)

    • says

      I’ve definitely decided against staying at particular Walmarts, but honestly, some of them are really nice – and totally beat crashin’ at a truck stop for the evening.

    • Ryan says

      I am homless, jobless and have been starting at a wallmart since 4th july.have no were to go..just recently have been harassed by there stupid security dueches, saying that I cant be there, I explained my situation started that om from cross the country stranded with a lawsuit pending, they gave absolutely no sypathy to me nor did they care ay all..’s.what should I do have tried getting a job but florida is a fluke for jobs plus I have a dog that I have had for over 4 years… All I really want is to go home top oregon, I can be homeless there, and have for many months at a time!!!! Input is needed!!! Thanx for reading! Ryan

      • says

        Ryan, it sounds like you’re in quite a unique situation. I’ll definitely admit that I’m not surprised Walmart gave you the boot – I would never suggest permanently setting up camp there; this article is more for the purpose of a quick overnight stay when your options are thin.

        I think the best bet for you is to locate a RV or tent campground, and strike a deal with the management there – offer to pitch in and do some work around the property in exchange for a free stay! You may have to contact a few different places to get someone to agree to the bargain, but it may be your best option.

        Good luck with everything!

      • PapaJ says

        Brother when you have lemons create lemonaide! If you cant get a job I have an easy start up business that will generate about $1500 monthly. First bum about bucks, then buy a 24 pack of bottled water at the walmart! Youll make $19 bucks a case profit. Floridians buy water consistantly. You should be able to sell over 2 cases a day. I estimate $50 bucks profit daily. Work hard, say your prayers, save and u will be home in no time buddy. Good luck god bless!

        • Janice says

          That’s actually a great idea. Where do you go to sell them? I like that idea. Maybe I could do that but I have no idea where to go to sell them. FYI, I am not homeless but I am jobless and not by choice. Thanks for your input PapaJ.

          • Apada says

            Janice, I worked in a dollar store in Florida, and we had a guy who did something similar to this water idea. One man would come in and buy up glow sticks. He would then go to the beaches and sell them for, say, $1.50, in the evening hours, which people gladly purchased for their kids. Water seems like it would be so much more lucrative than glow sticks. I’d be careful though – wouldn’t want you to get in trouble for “operating a business without a license.” (Rolls eyes).

    • says

      I have stayed in Walmart parking lots many times. Usually I do so because I want to save money and time on a hotel. Time because when you check into a hotel, you always stay longer than if you just park somewhere for the night. Before parking at a Walmart, I always check out the neighborhood. Most are in nice suburban locations, so no problem. Then I look for signs prohibiting overnight parking, and I look to see who else is there. Often there are other cars that are obviously parked there for the night. Then I look for an isolated space where the glare from the lights isn’t too bad.

      Now here is my trick. I get my car ready for the night by moving all the stuff from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat, and then I go into the store. Almost always I buy something. Then when I get back to my car, I get into the passenger side. To someone who is monitoring me, it looks more normal than just parking for the night. I have a shade in the windshield and keep the windows rolled completely up.

      I have never been disturbed at a Walmart, or at a highway rest area, with one exception. It is illegal to sleep in your car at a rest area in Maine. A state trooper came up behind me once. I told him that I didn’t think it would be safe for me to keep driving, and he said I could stay the night. (He asked some questions first to determine if I had been drinking and driving, which I of course hadn’t.)

      When parking for the night at a rest area, always go to the trucks side. It is just safer over there.

      • Marianne says

        Please don’t park a car in a truck parking spot. There are not enough for the big rigs as it is and it is very frustrating when you think you can get the last spot available only to find a car parked in it.

      • says

        I agree with Marianne. Truck drivers are required to park for a 10-hour reset, and there’s not enough parking out there for them already. It makes it worse when 4-wheelers take up spots designated for truckers. Please park in the “car” section.

    • says

      Sneek in late, out early, jump from Walmart to Walmart lived there two years only had one issue and they only said no over night parking so i drove 4 MILES to the next Walmart been there 4 months off and on. you must look for Walmart’s with free wifi. They are inviting you to hang out. A wise man will make a million dollars with there free wifi. LONGMONT CO ON NORTH MAIN HAS FREE WIFI THE OTHER WALMART HAD PROBLEMS AND RAN EVERYBODY OFF.

    • Robert says

      Why would you say you sadly worked there in high school. Its not like you would start out working at a six figure occupation. Getting your first job at walmart should not be something to be ungrateful about., show some gratitude.

      • Rick says

        Walmart is the lowest paying employer in the US. They screw over employees and American businesses. They are owed zero gratification.

        • Zeb says

          Any place that gives you a job and trains you deserves your respect. If you don’t want it let someone else who needs the job know there is something available.

  2. says

    This is awesome. I just got off a 4 day climbing road trip to bishop and can definitely attest to the fact that if you have a small footprint, the footprint on your behind will be small.

  3. says

    Ok, this is seriously the funniest thing I’ve ever read! Is this common back East??? I camped in a million random places on my bike trip (behind grocery stores, behind gas stations, in people’s front yards, etc) but I have literally NEVER car camped in a WalMart and didn’t know that was a “thing”!

    • says

      The first time Niko made me sleep in a Walmart parking lot I thought he was NUTS – but it’s totally common. I’d be way more sketched out about sleeping behind a gas station!

  4. thealpine says

    I disagree that you should patronage if you sleep there. You should NEVER spend your money at Wal Mart. EVER.

    • says

      I definitely agree with you that Walmart generally SUCKS as an institution, but I still think that if you’re going to use their space, you owe them at least the <$5.00 it costs to buy a cheese stick and bottle of chocolate milk.

      I'm all for not shopping at Walmart, but if I didn't, I'd stay at a rest stop instead – seems fair. Thanks for your input! :)

      • Jimbo says

        Staying at rest stops might be more frustrating than doing so at Walmarts. There are internet lists of states not allowing overnight parking in rest stops/areas. I-90 at Chamberlain, SD (on the Missouri R.) has ca. 500 parking spaces, but no overnighting. 3 hours max. All of SD and ND are the same. I stopped at a Superamerica gas station/convenience store in WY on I-90 asking where I could camp, and they said it was standard practice to allow RVs there. It pays to ask, you might be pleasantly surprised more often than not.

      • Leslie says

        There is nothing wrong with buying things at Wal-Mart. They give lots of unskilled people WORK!!! Without those jobs there would be more people on assistance programs! Wise up people…Wal-Mart is not supposed to be a job you stay in for the rest of your life…it is supposed to be a place to gain experience, work while going to school, supplement your income, etc. It is not supposed to earn a person “a living wage”! It was never meant to support households of people!

        Sheesh! The entitled attitude in this country is disgusting.

        • GreenFin says

          Yeah I here you about opportunity to work. America affords us that. They have the opportunity to employ the cheapest labor possible. I also have the opportunity to not support them and freely tell people why. That said, it just would not feel right staying in their parking lot without purchasing something.

          • decade_hobo_roots says

            I worked for Walmart after a year of hell, quit right before the shock of getting a raise that included a raise the taxing bracket, NOT able to get food stamps…i made too much? later to find out a lot of people including single parents with multiple children, cant get assistance because of the same reason. trust me i know how much they pay and so does alot of other people.the management gets scrutinized every time they have a management meeting, then the lower people here about it as we know….etc etc.
            i quit on a good day, honest i walked in to that management office and said i quit, management asking , what happened. i said the horror stories i here from your employes there families not getting taking care of, but there working insane hrs… have respect for your country????????? look around toots the foreigners move in to apt buildings like cockroaches , buy suv’s then wait in line for the free dental clinic bitching about how cold it is out side and how these Americans are so in humane for making them do that to get there teeth cleaned for free??? trust me i was first in line believing that if this country free then they should be too..and what does anyone say go in this country have you written a letter to the president or the supreme quart and get a honest reply? you pay taxes so that cops can kill people and or children getting killed on the front lines or even worse live to tell the horror stories and re live it every day in there dreams every night,,all because of a belief in which they fought for .. have respect for humanity ppl, golden rule goes both ways… speak out!!

        • Apada says

          Love the judgments and presumptions. Our country has no room for the truly disabled, have limitations in some form, or the elderly. These people still need jobs that are 1) willing to hire them in spite of their limitations, and 2) pay a wage on which they can at least survive.

          The only people who say what you have said are people who have not known or been any of the aforementioned people.

  5. Tommy says

    I’ve often stayed in WalMart parking lots. A good place to get q few winks on a long trip. I spend my money there, too. Can’t beat the value. Thanks for letting others know about this simple way to get some much needed sleep.

  6. says

    Sounded interesting but that list u posted of place that won’t let u, it was basically every Wal-Mart in CA. Is it different out of this fine, if overcrowded & expensive, state?

    • Zeb says

      Yeah, I have been staying at Walmarts in Perris, Hemet, San Jacinto, and Moreno Valley, California. These are listed as allowing overnight parking. I stayed at Hemet for almost three weeks (and I bought something every night). The last night at Hemet I had a knock at my window and it was a security guard (different company than the one that had been guarding the store). He said if I didn’t leave in 30 minutes he would call the police. I went to the Walmart in San Jacinto and found an actual parking lot that was intended for overnight stays. Unfortunately, the security guard there told me that, unless I was in a situation where I was absolutely stranded (meaning the car wouldn’t move), I could not stay there. I went to a few other places on the lists and they are all getting to the point that they no longer allow overnight parking, except for employees.

      • Apada says

        This is (sadly) true. Since Walmarts are now apparently privately owned or franchised, Mr. Walton’s generosity is optional…and dwindling. The suggestion I’ve gotten is to go to the website that tells you which Walmarts are allowing overnight parking and which aren’t. (I apologize for not knowing the site.) When you locate one, CALL and ask before you drive there.

        Often you will find that the rules have changed since the website was updated. I called one whose manager said they are told to automatically say no to overnight RV parking (small parking lot.) He then asked what size RV I was in. I said it was a Corolla. His pause was hilarious. His reply was, “A COROLLA?! Well, this is a 24-hour Walmart so everyone would just think you were a shopper! Just park closer to the doors so when the cars thin out as the night wears on, you won’t be way out in the lot, unsafe. Let me know when you get here and where you will be parked – just in case someone comes in to tell me there’s a dead person in a Corolla outside.” VERY cool manager.

  7. Felicia says

    I’m actually staying at one as we speak (or type rather) LOL. Although I’m not familiar with this area, so I’m a little nervous. This location is quite busy. See I’m about to drive cross country, so to save money for my trip I stayed a few nights at one close to where I use to live, and it was perfect . It is up on a hill. . So no other traffic besides Walmart customers. I didn’t even leave early cuz noone bothered me. I parked all by myself at the far end of the oarking lot. It’s quiet enough that I get sleep, but I felt sa here fe as well with mostly only employees there in the middle of the night. it’s 1 am

  8. Felicia says

    continued … Here now at this new location, and the place is hoppin. Although it’s a huge parking lot ( duh) so I am far away from the store itself. It just isn’t as cozy as my usual Walmart. Also I’ve read a few blogs, and some of them are overdone, you don’t have to go to extremes sleeping outside or in your car. Do what feels safe and comfortable, and use common sense just like anything else. Oh and sorry for the typos, on my phone and hard to correct. Screen and keyboard very small ;(

  9. Felicia says

    Oh and Jack, I’m originally from Socal and it makes total sense California would be in the lead of banning overnight stays, although I was homeless many years ago, and actually the first time I learned this was out there. A lot of SoCal areas were very vocal about it. Lots of my friends had motorhomes , and were so glad to have that resource. Also back then Target was cool with it , and lots of Churches will offer it.

    • says

      Thank you for all the great feedback Felicia! Glad to hear you’re enjoying your stay at Walmart. :) Each location definitely comes with its own unique atmosphere, that’s for sure. I’ve found the biggest variance to be whether or not it’s sitting on it’s own lot, or shares a parking lot with other shops in a strip mall. Enjoy your travels, and stay safe!

  10. says

    Alright, here’s my biggest question – how far open do you leave the windows while you’re sleeping? It’s probably a silly unimportant question, but the one time I slept in my car, I was too worried to leave them more than a teeny bit open and ended up baking inside the car all night! And as great as this sounds for road trips, there’s just something about the illusion of privacy I have in a closed, covered tent. I’m not sure I could deal with people looking in my windows! Though I’d guess not many people would if you set up late enough and leave early enough :)

    • says

      Hahaha, I’m a privacy fanatic too – so I like to imagine how much space it would take for someone to get their entire hand/wrist into the window space. You can ask Niko, I get neurotic with the opening amount. I also have a sun roof, so cracking that a little bit really helps.

  11. says

    I slept outside a Walmart lot in Topeka, KA a few years ago on my way back to NY from (a break-up in) Breckenridge, CO. I had Couchsurfed on my way west, but had nothing set up for my eastbound trek. After driving all day,a and attempted to check out a Super8, but the lobby smelled awful. I’d remembered reading an article about Walmart camping and decided that was my best bet. It was the end of January, foggy (and therefore insanely bright in the lot), and nearly 1am before I got settled (never leaving the car once I parked). Other than waking up screaming from a dream that there were bad people outside my cars’ windows – it went off without a hitch. I didn’t patronize, however ;)

  12. Craig says

    After hours of research and trying to find an affordable place to stay near a larger capital city, I came across Walmart RV Parking. Def. gonna catch some shut eye in my Jeep there this weekend. This is awesome. Plus no need to bring camping supplies and food = more space!

  13. says

    My boyfriend and I are currently driving cross-country and debating whether or not to stay in a Wal-Mart parking lot in our car in the middle of Nebraska. My parents have a camper and I grew up staying in Wal-Mart parking lots at least once every vacation, on days when we were driving 12 hours. Wal-Mart was always a lifesaver! I think it’s a relatively well-kept secret from the non-camping public.

    Anyway, great post and thank you for the tips! Definitely boosted my confidence about car camping in Wal-Mart.

      • phay says

        I live on the ohio Pa line and the majority of the marts have no issues.
        altho a guy died at one mart sleeping in his car… no one noticed for 4 days… until he started to smell… so THAT one bans parking.
        but other than that.. RVs all over the place.

        Also in doing research the closer to a tourist area… no camping is permitted.

        And not all the apps are acurate. so asking is the best bet.

  14. wolfie says

    I’ve camped in wally world parking lots up and down the east coast. usually sleep in my boat:-) cushions are nice and security usually can’t figure out where the owner of the vehicle is.

  15. Eddie Willers says

    I trekked from Nova Scotia to Veracruz, Mexico in a Chevy Suburban a few years ago – sleeping in the back on an air mattress while parked in Walmart lots all the way. Helluva experience!

  16. ADe says

    Being apart of a band, we’ve done this numerous times to help with out tight budget. I think the most important parts of this article are 1) taking a look at the neighborhoods around the Walmart and 2) making sure to stop in the next morning and at least buy something small as a nice thank you.

    For us it has always been a safe and comfortable place to get some rest after long late night drives.

  17. Tilly says

    I’ve stayed at a few different Walmart locations over the last couple years. Always come after 11pm and out by 7-730. I’ve never had a problem or been asked to leave. It’s quiet and I feel much safer at Walmart than a rest area. I totally recommend you stay at Walmart if your trying to save a few bucks or just need a place to sleep for the night.

    • Robb says

      I had been told by many that Walmart allowed overnight stays. We are new to RVing, and pulled into a Walmart parking lot in Solomon, MO right around 10:00pm. We found a spot in the back corner of the parking lot, and quickly, bedded down for the night. About 3am their parking lot sweeper (I guess) began walking around my coach with a gas powered leaf blower cycling the throttle off and on over and over. After being awakened and looking out the window to see what was up, I saw him walk over to another coach and walk around it several times doing the same thing. He kept doing this for 20 minutes or so, and then got in his sweeper and drove right at us with his lights on high beam and spun circles around us a few times. Then he finally moved on sweeping the parking lot. It is now an hour later and he has once again picked up his leaf blower… This is my first experience, and maybe my last. I don’t know?

      • Mary Miller says

        Hope you didn’t let this idiot run you off, he was an insecure “little person” who was messing with you. If the inidividual had any authority, he would have asked you to leave; he didn’t, so there ya go!

  18. briandaniels says

    So I am here at a Wal-Mart in Alabama right now and definitely on hyper alert. It’s really nice but its just hearing everything (door slams, homeless guy searching garbage bins, people laughing clear across the lot) that will probably make this a sleepless night. And for some reason, one of the RV’s just moved to the middle of the lot. It’s amazing what is interesting when there’s nothing else to do and can’t sleep. Anyways, thanks for the read and ideas. I may just drop the rear seats, crawl in the trunk, and take a couple of Tylenol PM to get through it until time to head on to the airport :)

    • Jason says

      I haven’t ever really had that problem…I have always been able to relax whenever I had to use Wal-Mart parking lots. (vacation, and the two times I’ve been temporarily homeless) Then again I am a big guy with a carry permit. If someone tried breaking into my vehicle it would wake me up and Id be able to tell were they are breaking in.

      Someone breaks into your vehicle while your in it that will wake you even if they pick the lock whereas it is possible to sneak into a house undetected. Just get a good knife and sleep with it near your pillow or get a carry permit and you will be able to relax.(as long as its legal)

  19. Incognito says

    Been living in my car due to lack of finances to afford a rental or room and walmart has been a godsend. While traveling learned that not all walmarts or the neighborhood in which they reside are as gracious. Take Colorado many of the affluent neighborhoods that have walmarts forbid overnight stays of any kind. They claim its the neighborhood but either way you’ll want to prepare. Aurora walmarts are cool but there’s some extremely seedy areas in Colorado with extremely seedy walmarts to boot. Stay far away from these types of Walmart parking lots. Especially if like me you are female. All that being said I sure have saved a bunch of Benjamin’s during this personal famine I’m having. Happy car camping.

  20. gNate says

    thanks for your write up. im planning a trip and dont think i can pull the overnight drive but seriously a CHEAP hotel is gross and frankly the same price as a tank of gas. sooo yep im doing it!

  21. Mary says

    I fed a stray cat each morning when I used to stop at the Subway inside our town’s Walmart before I went to school. I brought dry food and paper towels from home and fed him/her off to the side of Walmart. One morning, when I was walking to the side of Walmart to fed the cat, before I went into Walmart to get breakfast and coffee, I was startled to see a huge clump of newspapers moving around. To my surprise, out popped a young man who looked around sheepishly. I got the beck out of there, but later I would see him hanging around at times, just inside the entrance…most likely to get warm and stay dry. It was around that time that the feral cat disappeared. Hymn. It is interesting when you think about it…what lives in a Walmart parking lot. It almost has its own ecosystem.

    • Michelle Lauck says

      That’s an awfully ignorant and prejudiced view of a homeless PERSON. I don’t like that you called them an ‘it’ and implying that they are animals. Many fine folks have found themselves homeless through no fault of their own.

  22. Koko says

    You only crack your windows enough to breathe. If you cover your back and passager windows with navy blue or black towels or small blankets know can see you. I sleept in truck for 3 mos. Prepare and just be ready for anything be sure to have some protection. Be sure to have water, food, some snacks, first aid kit, flashlight,change of clothes, towel, wash cloth, soap, toothpaste,toothbrush, pillows, covers and etc. God Bless.

  23. Isaac says

    I have slept in Walmart parking lots too many times to count. As a general rule, if you’re inside you’re vehicle you should be fine. I have actually laid out straight up on the parking lot ground as well. You can pull it off if you lay behind your car in some way, but you are more likely to get woken up and asked to leave. As I’m typing this I’ve actually set up camp inside the actual store, another option if you’re in a pinch. Just pick an inconspicuous location! Scrub life.

  24. says

    I am camping out at a walmart right now too and just wanted to add that most of the supercenters have McDonalds – which means free wifi. I set up my lap top, have a cup of tea and enjoy a night of catching up in the digital world.

  25. Eva says

    Yes I have slept at Walmarts all across the country. Never had a problem. It’s really good when you’ve been driving all night and don’t really want to pay for a few hours rest at a hotel. As long as you leave early in the morning and don’t attract attention or make a mess it’s fine. Less frequently, if there is no Walmart I’ve slept in hospital parking lots too.

  26. Rai Hull says

    Actually crashing in a Wal-Mart lot atm due to lack of housing. I drove cabs here in Jacksonville, NC and at the old one they dont care as long as you dont do anythinf stupid. Just be careful guys :)

  27. jean says

    My husband and I have stayed at walmart parking lots. You have a bathroom at least and a place for breakfast right there. Window shades are good to have. We also have asked and stayed in McDonald parking lots. Sleeping in the car for a night here and there is ok. Just don’t make a habit of it. A nice shower and comfortable bed every other night is nice. Jean

  28. Dude says

    In most parking lots here in western Washington state you’ll get some people pissed off at you for being there !!!

  29. Steve R. says

    I’m actually in a Walmart parking lot right now getting ready for good night’s rest after a long drive. Thanks for the great read..

    ps: So far so good and it seems like there are a number of other people here doing the same tonight and no one seems to mind.. there’s even a police car that’s patrolling here that makes the stay even more easy.

    At the Walmart here in Laguna Hills, Ca.

    -gnight, Steve

  30. Silent Penguin says

    My son and I are definitely going to give this a try tomorrow night. That list of Wal-Marts that don’t allow overnighters was a big help. If the information is still correct, there’s a Wal-Mart in the town where we were going to stop for night that allows overnighters. If we are sent away, I’ll report back.

  31. says

    My husband and I started full time RV’ing on Feb 1st from California. No jobs, no income, no retirement. Working as we go. We’ve stayed at WalMarts, 99% of the time. We’ve stopped at WalMarts in California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama. OH! And New Mexico. One thing we do, is if there is a security officer patroling, we ask where can we park.
    One security officer, in New Mexico, said she’d keep an eye on our motorhome while we went into the town. We’ve never had a problem. In fact, in Mississippi, one security officer told us we’d be more comfortable at the WalMart on the other side of town, as the one we were at, was a bit sketchy. Never a problem.

  32. Michael says

    This a great idea! I am going on a low budget road trip up north in a few weeks and will definitely try wal-mart camping.

  33. jack says

    I was wondering if sleeping over at a 24 hour fitness would be good. I belong to one that has a huge parking area, that is shared by a defunct night club. Any thoughts???

    • Joelc says

      You’re good there. The gyms usually do not have after hours staff, so no one will be watching. If staff or the police do approach, show them your membership card and go inside. Actually, these type of gyms are pretty cheap per month and offer the needed sink and shower for extended periods away from a motel room.

  34. Mark says

    I stay at the Walmart in norwich ct at least one weekend out of the month. I usually park away from everyone and I don’t make a mess.

    It’s a surprisingly great spot to pick up chicks. They really seem to dig the “really cool idea” about camping In The parking lot.

    Some of the girls even volunteer to do special favors for me like ash some of my clothes and they even fetch my eats for me.

    I recommend that you try it too

    See you under the lights

  35. sunshine says

    Ive been homeless now for over a month in Coral Springs(Margate), Florida. I simply approached the Rent-a-cop in the SUV with the lights the patrols the parking lot and told him my intentions. He lets me know where to park every evening based on the flow of traffic and checks on me throughout the night. This entire situation has been a blessing.

  36. Byron says

    I was just asked to leave :(
    I had been staying at Walmart Pkg Lots since Oct – but today a policeman and Walmart mgr asked me to leave- I told them I heard it was Walmart’s policy to let people stay in their cars but the Walmart Mgr said it had never been. bummer

  37. Whirlwind says

    I found this by accident one night…after traveling a distance to visit a friend, it turned out they weren’t home. Oh well. I found a Walmart, did some shopping, and then tore into my munchies in the parking lot. That’s when I noticed “them”.

    In one vehicle was a Frito-Lay man. There was a business man, still in his suit. There were hippies with dogs. There were a couple of cars with their back seats cram-packed with household odds and ends. So I figured – what the hey?

    I backed into a spot, threw a blanket up on the front seats of my minivan to block light/peepers, and made myself a bed in the back. There was the ordinary noise of traffic, of course. The lil Walmart security bug whizzed by once an hour or so. Once I fell asleep, it was a good sleep.

    I woke up the next morning feeling rested, not as energized if I had slept in my own bed…but rested. I walked into the store, took a sponge bath in the sink (making sure to clean up after myself), brushed my teeth, and then went back out to the van to change my clothes. Tada!

    I’ve done it again since then, in another town. There are big trucks parked in a “sleeping” section of the parking lot. Park between them for added security. The cops came by twice, but didn’t ask any questions. I made sure to drop the money I saved on a motel room in the Walmart, buying myself goodies that I could then afford! :D

  38. Ryan says

    Thanks for all the tips on here. I’m going on a road trip from Boston to Cleveland and back next week and I plan to stay a night or 2 at a walmart. I have a honda element so this helps to be inconspicuous in. Good luck everybody in your travels!

  39. heydroolli! says

    Hey! great page! I am right now camping ina walmart. 2nd or third time in northern california walmarts…seems a lot more tense(security with blinky lights doing rounds) than what I’m used to, which is the southeast, and south generally. ive had great experiences in florida where thered be open rv campers and other car campers where we’d have coffee in the morning together. I was worried about the security in a couple of walmarts here that I ended up feeling better about the security, such as one in oakland and one in humbolt county. seems there was some illegal drug activity that was unomfortable but the blinking security vehicle seemed to get it to disperse. right now we are being super discreet in the bback of my minivan and are hoping the secuity wont bother us. its not a 24 hr one but we r tired and slept in a non 24 hr one a few times already and its been ok. right now we r in san leandro ca. any advice for car camping in northern cali …humbolt county and bay area would be greatly appreciated…we have been really low on funds and get tired of spending so much time finding places to car camp withoout being bothered(in access to nature spots)

  40. Decompressed says

    I’m homeless and was referred to the WM in Garfield, NJ by police in another town; a ShopRite manager in a third town confirmed that truckers sleep there. Although it’s a big 24-hour WM in a mall with McD’s and Applebee’s, and although it appears on none of the no-overnight lists I’ve seen online, there are small blue signs along the far side of the lot saying, “No overnite or truck parking.” The semis park lengthwise right in front of the signs; the area is separated from the rest of the lot by a concrete median, and the first night I was there, two cars traveling together pulled into that area hauling RVs. So perhaps the signs mean, “We won’t officially encourage this, but if you’re going to park overnight, do it here. At least one guy slept in his 4-wheel drive truck in addition to three semis and a truck cab besides the RVs and me in an old car.

  41. David says

    Became homeless on Oct 31 due to a scheme
    hatched by another tenant (!) and a real-estate agent
    (don’t ask for a full explanation– you’ll never get one).

    Drove around for two hours looking for a potential place to park.

    The one local truck stop we have didn’t look like a good place:
    Lots and lots and lots of big trucks,
    but no cars or pickups in sight,
    and very spotty lighting with a sinister glare —
    as if it was intended to discourage “the little guy” from hanging around.

    Finally decided to try the outer reaches of the lot in front of walmart,
    which is part of a large open shopping center.
    Other stores include a separate walmart supermarket, Home Depot,
    Staples, Payless Shoes, Pet Smart, TJ Maxx , and Best Buy.
    Separate structures house a few other businesses,
    including a Chuck E. Cheese and a Wendy’s.

    Other than an erratic lot-sweeper,
    and a few occasional ‘visitors’ who seemed to go slower
    when passing my vehicle than at any other point in their travels,
    there wasn’t much to detract from the location.

    Have parked in slightly different spots in the same part of the lot
    for 4 consecutive nights so far.

    There is another area that seems attractive because
    it is considerably less visible from the street and darker,
    but I’m afraid it could also be colder,
    plus it’s near where a lot of trucks go in and out at all hours,
    increasing the potential for disturbing noise.
    I have so far resisted the temptation to try it.

    My vehicle is a slightly beat-up full-size regular-cab pickup
    with a colour-matched fiberglass camper shell.
    No money is available to change anything about its appearance.

    When commenting, keep in mind that I’m staying in my “home town”;
    I have a part-time job and I’m looking for more work here,
    and have no intention of leaving.

  42. Paul says

    Yeah,, I lost my partner, the house, the business, the music studio, my Dad, my sister, a shitty part-time slave job at Homo Depot where 19 years olds make more than 60 somethings, my dignity, everything …… play a violin cause nothing really matters to me.

    So, I packed up and drove over 5,000 miles throughout the West and southwest and stayed at lots of Walmarts and rest stops. I was asked to leave one Walmart (don’ remember where) because this particular Walmart “leased” the parking lot, so I was told at 2:30 in the morning, and asked to leave by a security woman.

    After coming back to my shitty little hometown after 4 weeks I camped out at what is known as Ghetto Walmart in Maplewood, MO (a large store that’s always crowded, dirty, and has a hugh filthy parking lot). I parked in the noisy parking lot EVERY DAY for a month until a security man buy decided to drive by my car and tell me Walmart only has a two-day parking rule. BTW, hospitals and large motels are good place to camp too, as long as you’re discrete.

    Lesson, if you’re homeless, stagger your camping nights at Walmart. Also, I believe they have to be 24 hour Walmarts for overnight camping … no bonfires or marshmellows allowed. Anyone want to rent out the back of my van?

  43. says

    Hey, I just started on my own nomadic adventure of art. Ive slept in the ole Walmart parking lot a bunch, and its definitely easier the more I do it. I guess not caring what other people think, in general, helps in life and even makes some things funny as heck! i.e the look on employees faces when they see you brushing teeth/shaving in the bathroom. Which I always clean up well. Also, theres an “Walmart Overnight Parking Locator” app I have that shows where the Walmarts are and divide them between yellow and red signifying if they’re cool with it or not. This is a really cool blog. And you’re pretty.

  44. John says

    I work out of town a lot. I sleep in Walmart parking lots to save my self the huge cost of hotels every night.
    This is what I do…..I’m only 5’8 so I drop the back seat down and sleep in the trunk. I have taken the seal out that seals the trunk lid to the rest of the car. It stays much cooling then trying to sleep in the front sear. I usually try to park around the other over nighters….if you’ve been doing this awhile there easy to spot.
    ….Bathrooms….the best are parks! 9 times out of ten there’s hardly anyone there in the mornings…. Second option is Lowes….they always have great bathrooms with free WiFi to boot! If all else fails find a nice grocery store.
    I’ve had run ins before with punk kids in the middle of the night that’s why the trunk is such a better option. No one will ever know your there.

  45. Liz says

    Going to a festival in Yuma az soon. Going to try staying at one of the locations that wasn’t on the list of restrictions you posted. Nervous because the whole area is a target for border violence but the campgrounds all start closing around 10pm and we won’t make it in til early morning due to work scheduling issues. Good thing is it will only be a couple hours for a quick rest and some breakfast!

  46. Ken says

    I stayed at Wal-Mart in Venice Florida for one week. The police told me it was Ok so I tried it since I had no where else to go. I have to admit, it was a shitty night sleep since they have leaf blowers running some nights and a street sweeper going through the parking lot on other nights. Florida is one of the worst states to find a place to park and sleep in your car.

  47. Al says

    I’m late to the party…. but….. how do we show appreciation to the security guard? Buying something is great for the store, but a lot of these security guards at Walmart take looking after the overnighters seriously and make us feel much more comfortable…. I always say thank you…. anyone ever bought a security guard a soda or coffee or given them a little tip? Just curious…..

  48. Tony says

    My girlfriend and I travel up and down the coast street performing and walmarts have been our number one sleep spot. Never had a problem till we overstayed our welcome at a largo fl walmart. Discreet as we were, somebody must have caught on and we got the boot! There were probably four other sleepers in cars and vans right around us that didn’t get in trouble so I’m guessing a walmart employee tattled. Pretty lame.

  49. Shane says

    Im in my car right now at a walmart in glen springs Colorado. I planned on stsying in aspen but i ran out of money , just money for gas to get to boulder Co. Im from Pa an did a road trip to bring my Dads ashes back where he belongs in Co . Im on a low budget an my car needs to get rests for these long drives . I feel safe a walmart especially when there is a van with a family doing the same thing . Its a good choice when its a necessity. Thanks guys

    Happy road tripping

  50. Katie Cleaves says

    This is a great article. I wanted to share a little information with everyone. This past week I traveled from Columbia SC to Las Vegas Nevada. I was in a 26 foot Uhaul towing a car. I stayed at a walmat in Vicksburg MS and they were really friendly and showed me where to park. The next night I stayed at a WalMart in Dallas also no Problems. Now I am home in Las Vegas and I know from experience that every Walmart in Vegas allowes people to stay the night. They do this because the casinos will not let you sleep in their parking lot. Even the police will direct you to the nearest WalMart to camp in. I hope this helps.

  51. Pamela says

    Great site!
    Love that you have done your research and encourage others to do the same!

    While I have not car-camped at a WM, I have RV friends who have. My son car-camped for two months or so back in the early 2000s after returning home from his active duty military tours. I gathered some good info from him and wanted to pass a really good tip along to my fellow Travelers.

    Here’s the tip:
    Some kind of Security Camera is your friend. It does not have to be costly or always on but putting a formal notice that you have a Security Camera on-board your car, truck, trailer, RV, will put off most of the thug-types from picking You as their target. Why? Because most have prior rap sheets and the last thing they want is to be on-camera causing trouble again! A friend drilled a hole in the bottom of his van and he puts a very tiny micro-cam down thru it. If he hears something odd, he turns it on and he has a 360 view of things from the bottom of his van. Sound odd? Well, you can tell if someone is right at your van or not. You can tell a lot by the shoes and pants a person wears too. Most Security personnel wear some kind of uniform or oxford-style shoes or at least are groomed somewhat officially. Thugs and peepers are not, so it does give you a quick thumbs up to be extra alert or not. Most cameras run on batteries or a USB so a 12v cig-lighter socket convertor is fine to use for only when needed. Long USB and 12V cords are easy to find most anywhere these days. Thanks to WM’s lights you don’t need to even have an extra light source to use them, images will still show up! And, when your cam is not in place within the drilled hole, simply use a bottle cork and plug the hole while traveling :) Well, there ya have it. An easy security cam set-up that offers a 360 bottom view. Yes, some would say that there are better options but few offer that 360 range without costing an arm and a leg. Uh, and NEVER wear PJs to bed! Sweats or shorts and a tank are always better…it is hard to say you are ~just resting~ for a little while when you are dressed in PJs for the night!
    Anyway, hope this little tip helps someone WM Camp safer and helps your budget to advance your wanderlust adventures! Safe road-trip travels and WM Camping to everyone.

    Extra note about this:
    ALWAYS post by your Driver’s Door that you have a Security Cam running! In many areas of the country it is the law…privacy issues if you do not warn others about having one.
    Personal Disclaimer Disclosure: I am a former Police 911 Communications Dispatcher. So, if it is LEGAL do it. If not, find somewhere else it is LEGAL. ALWAYS ASK, the devil is always hidden in the details :)

  52. says

    Some call this BoonDocking” or even Stealth Camping Have not done this yet, but who knows in the future???. We are avid campers and are converting our mini van into a van-camper tired of taking down rain sopped tents…. Cudos to you for your blog! Too bad America is not like it used to be way back when you could camp just about anywhere….Of course one could always try. Nothing like an adventure or challenge!! I am tempted to try it at at Rest Area Stops because some have security to keep things safe…. Have fun with your travels!!!
    Marianne R. B. Webster :
    I am at kasieque at hotmail.com

  53. Andrew says

    I was just in Chat with some friends climbing at Foster Falls and stayed at the Crashpad as well, awesome place, cheap and met really cool people! I’m getting ready for a road trip from Orlando to Yellowstone (S. Montana) and def staying here again on the way, hopefully get good weather to boulder!

  54. Christheexplorer says

    On the road 2 months now southbound from NY. MAJOR thanks to all walmart persons and fellow travellers who ‘follow the rules’ and keep this going safely.

    Theres really no new info to add – only a reminder to
    1.) buy something small before u crash, not in the morning ,
    2.) if your intentions are to sleep there then do that, dont chill and get others to notice ,
    3.) have a respective and thankful attitude no matter what happens to you personally – keep this a low-key option for all people smart enough to research it.

    I actually crashed in a louisiana WM for 5 days straight while stranded thanks to bank transfers and holidays. I stuck to the code and had not 1 issue :)

Trackbacks

  1. […] We’re also spending a day climbing at Rocktown, one of Georgia’s best crags – but honestly, what I’m most excited for this trip is finally getting the chance to stay at The Crash Pad in Chattanooga. This hostel caught my attention when it was a mere concept and a patch of neglected land; it now proudly stands as one of the most innovative and inviting hubs for adventurers visiting Tennessee. I won second place in their Ultimate Adventure contest a few months ago, and after multiple failed attempts at booking my two free nights (seriously, these folks are killin’ it; they’re always booked solid), I finally snagged myself a private room! It’s going to be way snazzy, and certainly beats the hell out of camping in a Walmart parking lot. […]

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