The Wal-Mart Parking Lot
Mention Wal-Mart on any of the online RV boards, and you will inevitably spark a lively discussion. One of the busiest of these forums is Open Roads on RV.net. Log in anytime, and someone will have a comment pro or con about Wal-Mart. You will find advice on which Wal-Marts allow overnight stays and advice on those that don't.
Most of this discussion arises because for years Wal-Mart has been a favorite place to stop overnight or to catch some needed sleep before hitting the road. Wal-Mart has been an ideal place for boondocking. RVers found secure, level places to park, with a place to restock supplies. Although they did not encourage RVers to use their parking lots for overnight stays, Wal-Mart generally did not discourage it either. This is understandable. Why take the chance of offending some of your best customers?
There is a potential for RV owners to abuse the privilege, however. There are stories of RVers who pulled into parking lots and stayed for days or weeks. Rather than paying the nightly fees at an RV park, they made the parking lot their headquarters.
What does the term boondocking mean?
Boondocking is one of the terms RVers use to mean they are camping without any hookups. Other terms with the same meaning are “dry camping” and “primitive camping.”
This type of abuse has prompted some stores, and many communities, to ban overnight stays in these areas. Before you pull in and park, check with the store manager to see if it is okay. If it is late and the store is closed, you might want to chance it, but be prepared for a knock on the door in the middle of the night. If it is a security guard or the local police asking you to move on, don't put up a fuss; you don't have a leg to stand on.
Other places that can provide a place to set up camp for a few hours (or longer in some cases) for free include:
City parks and beaches
Friends' and relatives' driveways
Unoccupied office buildings
None of these places is a given. You may feel uneasy in terms of safety, or you may have a security guard knocking on your door asking you to leave. If you do not feel the place you have stopped is safe, leave as soon as you can. If you are sleepy and feel that driving any farther is dangerous, you should stop, but be sure to check that doors and windows are closed and locked.