Everyone loves camping in a gorgeous national park or first-class RV resort. A great campsite is a big part of an excellent RV vacation. When you are on the road traveling from one place to another, sometimes you just need a spot to park for the night. So we made a list of the Best Places to Find Free Overnight RV Parking.
While there is always the option to stay at a campground for a night along the way, it is often not worth the cost to pay for a night of camping when you only plan to stop for a few hours. In addition, you will have to deal with checking in and backing in your rig, which often takes more time.
If you book a campground in advance, you lose the flexibility of slowing down or speeding up, which can cause stress during your travels. While many people choose to pay for one night of camping in a campground when en route to their destination, other folks enjoy saving some cash with a free parking spot or campsite for the night.
Staying in a parking lot overnight is no one’s idea of a great campsite, but sometimes when you are traveling from one place to another, it doesn’t make sense to pay full price for a campsite. Camping for free on the go also gives you greater flexibility if plans change or if you are delayed along the way. If you are simply looking for a place to sleep for a few hours or one night, camping friendly parking lots or free campsites are a good solution.
It takes some research to find excellent free campsites. To help you save a few dollars, we are sharing our favorite places to RV camp for one night while traveling.
1. Cracker Barrel
There are plenty of parking lots across the United States that are welcoming to campers if you know where to look. Many businesses will allow you to park overnight as long as you are fully contained in your rig. Being fully contained means that you have your own facilities, such as a bathroom, on board. It also means that you need to plan to stay inside of your rig for the most part during your overnight stay. Our favorite nationwide chain that is camper friendly is Cracker Barrel.
There are several features of Cracker Barrel that make it a great place to stop for the night. First, Cracker Barrels are typically located directly off interstate highways, making them a convenient stop for folks passing through an area. We have never had to drive more than a mile to reach a Cracker Barrel along the interstate. Usually, it is less than half a mile!
Second, Cracker Barrel has large parking spots just for RVs. Large parking spots make it easy to get in and out of the parking lot. Parking your rig is usually pretty painless and straightforward as well. Also, most locations are open as late as 10:00 p.m., which makes them perfect for late-night travelers.
Because Cracker Barrel stores stay open late and open early each morning, there is almost always an employee or two in the area. The parking lots are also well lit, which adds to the feeling of safety and security.
The best part about parking overnight at Cracker Barrel when you are traveling is being able to get a hot meal at a reasonable price. You can quickly stop for dinner before settling in for the night or grab breakfast the next morning (they usually open at 6 a.m.) before you head out to your next stop.
Since you are in a parking lot and not a campground, you will need to be mindful of things like putting our your slide if you have one or putting down your stabilizers. We have found most Cracker Barrel locations to be okay with slides and stabilizers as long as you ask in advance, and the space is available.
If you can do so, be sure to support the location with your business during your stay. Consider purchasing a meal or buy a souvenir for a family member or friend in the country store. Showing your appreciation for the service will ensure that these companies continue to allow camping, which benefits all of us.
It is easy to locate Cracker Barrel locations nationwide. You can search for locations by the city on their website or use your GPS/navigation app to search for Cracker Barrel locations along the highway based on where you would like to stop for the night.
It is essential that you check with the restaurant staff before setting up your camper for the night, out of courtesy, and to ensure that camping is allowed. Once you have found a location nearby, give the restaurant a call and ask if they allow overnight camping. We have never been turned down by a Cracker Barrel, but I have heard that some locations do not allow camping. Also, depending on the location and the time of day, all of their overnight spots may be full, especially if you arrive later in the evening.
Once you arrive, go in and introduce yourself to let the management know who you are and that you are staying for the night. If you have not called in advance, you can certainly ask to stay when you arrive. We like to plan ahead, but it is okay to wait until you arrive to determine if you can stay for the night.
Walmart is a popular overnight stop for RV travelers throughout the country. Like Cracker Barrel, you will be camping in the parking lot of the store. While not ideal, a parking lot is a good spot to get a few hours of sleep during a long road trip.
Many Walmarts are open 24 hours a day, which means that their parking lots are well lit, and other people are usually around. As with any camping spot, if you feel uneasy about the location for any reason, it is best to move along. Also, we recommend taking care of any business, such as meeting the management and purchasing needed items, before settling in for the night.
The best part about Walmart is that they have locations everywhere. No matter where you are traveling in the United States, there is likely to be a Walmart along your way. The abundance of locations makes it easy to find a place to stop for the night.
Depending on where you are in the country, overnight camping spots at Walmart can fill quickly with other RV travelers. Many locations in Texas can fill up as early as 5:00 p.m.!
Since you will be in the regular parking lot, it is crucial to get there before late in the evening to ensure that there is enough space to park your rig. Larger RVs will need to park across several parking spaces, so space may be even more limited or unavailable if you arrive late.
It is important to remember that not all Walmart locations are camping friendly. Many Walmarts have been overwhelmed with RV campers who have failed to follow the policies of the stores. Abuse of the overnight camping policy has led many Walmart stores to say no to overnight campers.
To avoid being disappointed, it is best to call ahead and ask to speak with a manager to see if the store allows overnight camping. We recommend calling the store as soon as you know where you plan to stop, but you can also go inside and ask when you arrive.
Keep in mind that when you are camping in these locations, you are not in a campground. You will need to be self-contained in your rig. That means no sleeping, cooking, or relaxing outside of your RV during your stay. Unlike Cracker Barrel, most WalMarts prefer that you stay within your parking space. You most will not be allowed to put out your slide or put down your stabilizers. If you simply must do this, be sure to clear it with the store manager in advance.
Since these businesses are essentially giving you a free campsite, it is essential to show your gratitude, if at all possible. Walmart is a great place to stock up on your supplies or buy food for your evening meal.
So how do you find a Walmart location near you? You can use the Walmart website or your GPS/map app to find a store along your route.
Costco stores are usually near major highways, making them a convenient choice for an overnight stop. Their parking lots are well-lit and provide a suitable environment for overnight parking. Plus, if you have a Costco membership, you can purchase gas, camping gear, RV supplies, groceries, and even tires at very discounted prices.
While you do not need a Costco membership to park for the night, you will need one to make purchases inside the store or at the gas station.
Most Costco locations allow for overnight RV parking. They usually close around 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and a little later on the weekends, so their parking lots are empty overnight. The manager or security guard will often have an area for overnight RV parking, and it’s typically in a well-lit area in the parking lot.
Like Cracker Barrel and Walmart, some Costco locations do not allow overnight parking. It is up to the store managers and may depend on local ordinances. Since every store has its own policies, it’s always best to call ahead and speak to the manager to see if their particular location allows RVs to park overnight. You should also let them know if you will arrive during business hours or after they have closed.
If the store is still open when you arrive, it’s always a good idea to introduce yourself in person to the manager and security guard if they have one before staying the night.
You can find Costco locations across the United States by visiting their website. You can also use your GPS or Google Maps to find locations near you. Once you have found a good location, go ahead and give the store a call to see if they allow overnight parking.
Most Costco stores will have you park behind the store. This is also where delivery trucks will be arriving, so expect some noise during the night. Like Walmart, you will need to be self-contained in your rig. Refrain from setting up your awning, grilling outside, and other activities that could be a nuisance to store employees or customers.
4. Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops
Some Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s stores will allow you to stay overnight in their parking lots. However, it is important to remember that not all locations are camping friendly. You will need to check with the management in advance to see if overnight camping is allowed. We recommend calling ahead if you know where you plan to stop, or you can go inside and ask when you arrive.
The reason that many of these stores do not allow overnight parking is because they are often near large shopping malls. Many of these locations are unable to allow overnight parking due to mall restrictions.
5. Casino Camping
Another exciting and fun option for free overnight camping is casino camping! Many casinos offer free camping to anyone planning to spend a few hours on the gaming floor. While not for everyone, casino camping can be a fun diversion for those of legal gambling age or anyone looking for entertainment along the way.
The free website casinocamper.com can help you find casinos across the United States that allow free camping. We have found that many casinos will allow you to stay multiple nights, which is great if the casino was your destination or if there are points of interest nearby that you would like to check out.
Again, be sure to check with the casino management first to see if camping is allowed. You can ask about any restrictions or policies that you need to follow as well.
6. Camping World
Some Camping World locations allow overnight camping in their parking lots. However, the number of stores allowing this is going down. Also, some places are only open to people who purchased their RV at a Camping World store.
The best way to find a Camping World for overnight camping is to check their website. Once you find a store along your route, scroll down to the RV Services section to see if they allow overnight parking.
If you find a Camping World that allows camping, there are definitely some perks to camping there. First, there is usually a dump station and water available. You can also stock up on camping gear, which is a nice bonus. Also, you can expect large parking lots suitable for RVs, which makes life easier.
What About Rest Areas or Truck Stops?
While many state highway rest stops and gas stations offer overnight parking, we do not recommend these places for campers. These rest stops are regularly utilized by long-haul truck drivers who rely on free overnight parking spots for their jobs. If all the spaces are full of campers, truck drivers have to find another place to park, which is an inconvenience for them as they do their jobs.
Because of this, many RVers have reported harassment from truck drivers and other issues when camping overnight at these locations. Do it if you must, but if possible, we recommend finding another place to stay for the night.
The Best Way to Find Free Overnight RV Parking
The very best way we have found to find free overnight RV parking is through a subscription called Overnight Rv Parking. Overnight RV Parking has over 14,000 locations including Cracker Barrels, Walmarts, Costcos, Rest Areas, Grocery Stores, Casinos and on and on the list goes of free places to park overnight. And you can access the info on your computer or your phone!
We save hundreds of dollars a year if not more by parking for free overnight when we are traveling from point A to point B. We figure why pay $50 to show up at a campground after dark and then leave first thing in the morning.
The best way to sign up is to go to their website at OvernightRVParking and sign up online. Then after you are all signed up you can just use your user name and password to download their app onto your phone.
We like Overnight RV Parking so much that we partnered up with them so if you use our links to buy your annual subscription you get three months for free! So for just $29.95 you get a 15 month subscription. That breaks down to just $2.00 a month! And, if you use your subscription just once it will pay for itself!
What About Free Overnight Camping Not in a Parking Lot?
You do have some options for free overnight camping that is not in a parking lot. The first two options are totally free, and there are also a few excellent membership programs that we recommend for frequent travelers.
Bureau of Land Management or United States Forest Service Dispersed Camping Areas
Bureau of Land Management (or BLM) land and Forest Service land managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) are great options for anyone looking for free camping. These areas are typically undeveloped except for a few access roads, but camping along turnouts and in dispersed areas is permitted.
One reason these lands are often better for camping than businesses is that you can have an actual campsite, or at least a turnout, along with some privacy. You can put out your awning, slides, and even grill outside, all for free!
Both of these types of public land are mostly found in the Western United States. However, there is some Forest Service land on the East Coast and in the Midwest. While many of these lands are remote, many areas are close to population centers. You can also find some areas adjacent to interstate highways.
When camping on BLM land, you will not find the picnic tables and restroom facilities that you would expect in state and national parks. Instead, you will find dispersed camping with wide, open spaces.
To find BLM land, check their website. While they do not offer a comprehensive map of the United States, the website does have regional maps available online. You can also reach out to the BLM office nearest your desired overnight location to get more information on the land available for camping. Some states have guidebooks for BLM camping, which you can find either online or at local offices.
Similar to the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service does not have a comprehensive guide for locating these lands. Their website allows you to search by state for forest land in that area. Then, you can check the web page for the specific forest or grassland for camping information.
The good news about camping in either of these areas is that many of them are beautiful locations. You may find that you want to stay for more than one night! If you do decide to stay on, remember that the maximum amount of time you can camp on Forest Service or BLM land is 14 days. Also, be sure to pack out whatever you bring in to keep the lands clean for everyone.
Overnight Camping Membership Programs
Frequent travelers should consider an overnight camping membership program. For a modest membership fee, these programs give you access to free camping in areas that are usually more comfortable than a parking lot. If you plan to stay at a one night stop even once or twice during the year, these memberships will pay for themselves. Here are the two programs we recommend.
Harvest Hosts is a newcomer on the camping scene. They connect RVers with local farms, wineries, museums, and breweries that allow free overnight camping. In exchange, campers can support local businesses and learn about their work.
Harvest Hosts is more than a place to park- it is a way to get more out of your camping adventure. In addition to giving you a place to stay for the night, you can connect with locals and learn more about the area. You also get the satisfaction of knowing you are supporting small, independent businesses. Kids will love exploring the many farms, and adults will enjoy checking out the wines across the country. You can even pick up interesting products such as produce along the way.
There is an annual membership fee of $79 for Harvest Hosts which has over 1000 locations and they add more all the time! You can also add a golf course membership for an additional $20, which allows you to camp overnight at golf courses throughout the country. The golf camping membership also gets you a discount if you decide to play a round of golf during your stay.
If you camp at a Harvest Host location even two times a year, the membership is worth it. We are members and regularly use and love our membership! And, when you use our links you will save 15% on your annual subscription!
Boondockers Welcome is an RV membership club that offers places to stay overnight on private land. Most of the camping areas available through this site are owned by fellow RVers who are happy to host you for a night or two.
There are thousands of camping spots throughout the United States that are available through Boondockers Welcome. With the membership, you can camp at these locations for free. However, guests are encouraged to offer a few dollars or a small gift in exchange for a stay.
Many spots for camping offer hookups such as electricity and water as well, making this a great value.
The annual fee for Boondockers Welcome is $24.95. You can also get a discount if you offer your property on the site for others to use. Boondockers Welcome is a great way to meet locals and learn about the area you are visiting, in addition to getting a free place to stop for the night.
We love our Boondockers Welcome membership because of all the cool people we meet!
We hope you find plenty of free places to park overnight for free and save a bunch of money too!