Have we not all dreamed of taking an RV, traveling across the country and seeing the sights without a worry? Unfortunately, RVs are not inconspicuous mechanical creatures and bring a host of problems when they arrive en masse, not the least of which includes an overall reduction of already scarce parking spaces. In an effort to stave off incoming RVs, cities are enacting RV bans on public streets, thus bringing about a new set of frustrations for users. Where will I park? Is this location safe? What if I am trespassing or if I am asked to leave? Where can I get free overnight RV parking?
Related: Choosing the Right RV for You
However, with a little research, there are inventive options on where to park your RV during your trip. This list of RV-friendly parking locations can expand on what you may have previously imagined as being safe and sound for your vehicle. While some of these sites provide connections for water and electricity, you may have to resort to dry camping on other sites.
Generally, smaller towns will welcome RVs on public parking spaces, since RV travelers are a boon to the local economy. Go to a visitor’s center, police station or a chamber of commerce and ask about places where you can park your vehicle at no charge. In most cases, you should be able to stay in one place for one night.
When you see a lighted sign next to an interstate announcing Flying J, TA/Petro or Pilot travel centers, you may think these are places where only trucks can stop. The fact is that these business also welcome RVs and even encourage them to stay for the night for free. Aside from fuel and food, these places have showers, laundry facilities and internet access (including wi-fi) at reasonable prices. Truck stops also provide dump stations for any blackwater you may have collected. However, noise from passing trucks may make for a tough night’s sleep.
Surprisingly, many chain establishments allow RVs to park in their lots as a means to increase business. Wal-Mart is one of the most well-known establishments that allows this, with an atlas now available listing locations of Wal-Marts that either allow or prohibit RV parking. Camping World is another business that allows free RV parking for travelers, offering repair services if you need them. A number of casinos are also open to RV overnight stays. Even restaurants such as Golden Corral and Cracker Barrell offer overnight parking when available. Many other large retailers allow RVs to stay for the night, though that could depend on local laws. Some of these lots have the added benefit of 24-hour patrolling to keep travelers safe.
Rest Areas and Turnouts
Staying at a rest area is among the easiest and most tempting places to stay for the night. However, the availability of overnight parking at rest areas varies from state to state. Rest areas will have clearly posted information on whether it is allowed or not. Review this list of states that allow and regulate parking at these spots. As a rule of thumb, if you see a truck parked there for an extended period of time, then you should be able to park there with no qualms. Take advantage of dump stations that are provided at most rest stops. Also be on the lookout for areas along the road where you may be able to park your RV for the night.
If you are savvy in off-road adventure, consider looking for remote areas to dry camp. Unlike the above options, which are usually bountiful and convenient, “boondocking” requires extensive preparation and patience. You will need exact knowledge of where you will stay, including GPS coordinates, and local conditions. Sometimes you may find that the site you picked is already taken, to which you will either have to share it or move on to an alternate site. Be sure that the site is in public land, lest you are treated to a rude surprise by the owner of what turns out to be private property.
Of course, it is important to be courteous to other travelers and respectful to the communities and businesses you visit. Much of the regulations imposed on RVs are the result of abusive practices by travelers that degrade the quality of life for those who house their vehicles. Please park responsibly so that these locations remain available and free for future travelers. Even though these establishments offer free RV parking, it’s always wise to patronize them as a means of showing your appreciation. When the morning comes, clean up after yourself and leave your area in pristine condition so that other RVers can stop there in the future and benefit from an attractive and safe parking spot. Make use of these ideas on where to park your RV for free during your journey so that you can take your dream trip without spending too much.