Walmart is the largest retailer in the world and also the largest unofficial chain of campgrounds in the world although no hookups.
We travel from Canada to the Mexican border every year and Walmart is one of our first options for an overnight stop, not only because it is free but also we can stock up on groceries and anything else we may need along the way.
Walmart always has a huge parking lot so it is easily navigated and a spot is always waiting. Some Walmart have posted signs discouraging overnight camping, but it has been our experience that sometimes this is to discourage campers from staying for extended periods.
When we are on the road it ticks us of when we need to pay $30 and up to park for a few hours sleep. RV parks and campgrounds would do well to have a dry camping area where you can stop for the night for under $20, especially when they are located close to a freeway or main highway.
The cost of staying in an RV park is on the rise and if you do not have a membership in a camping club the price for a spot for the night can be as high as $60 to $70 or more depending on the location and amenities of the park. As we discovered a couple of years ago when we had traveled too late into the night and were too tired to search for a free spot to stop.
told asked my wife (Lynda) to watch for any kind of RV park or camping sign and we will stop at the first one we see……….. mistake. We saw an RV park sign on the freeway, we pulled off and headed for the park. It was too late to check in, the sign said register in the morning so we slept for a few hours .
I went to the office the next morning in the pouring rain if I remember correctly, and paid $65…..wow. The worst of it was after we drove out and passed through the underpass to hit the on ramp to the freeway there was a brand new Walmart not 1/2 a mile away.
Remember to update your GPS soft were. The new Walmart would have been in the system had we upgraded for $20.
It seems there is a movement by some municipalities, cities and counties to discourage overnight parking in Walmarts along with other free stops. Some areas have gone so far as to pass laws and city ordinances prohibiting overnight stops.The RV parks and campgrounds in the area have lobbied to have these laws passed.
In my opinion, this is counter productive to the areas that have passed these laws. When we are traveling and we come across a Walmart that prohibits overnight parking we continue driving until we find a place we can stop for free or less that $20.
I believe that most retired RVers would do the same, probably leaving the entire area. In the end the RV/campgrounds, the county, city, municipality etc. has lost any revenue they may have enjoyed for the present and future. RVers are creatures of habit and if we find a good spot to spend the night we may use it year after year.
I am sure that I am completely correct in stating that the majority of RVers that spend the night at Walmart, more often that not, shop in the store. The revenue is no doubt spread through the area in the form of wages, building fees etc. Check out this site for Walmarts that prohibit overnight parking www.walmartatlas.com/no–park–walmarts.
A light at the End of The Tunnel
This trend may be reversing, I recently read an article about a small city in Mission,B.C. Canada that has reversed a law prohibiting overnight parking at the local Walmart.
Mission City council had discovered that RVers were passing by their Walmart and spending the night and their money at a Walmart in the next town 20 minutes down the road.
I am sure this is more rule than exception and areas that do not allow overnight parking in Walmart or other parking lots are losing revenue.
There are many internet websites that offer guides to free camping, the one I find the easiest to navigate is www.freecampsites.net and it is completely free. It lists free campsites as well as ones with minimal fees.
It is not that as RVers/ campers we should not support RV/camping parks, but there is something wrong when the cost of a nights camping is approaching the price of a motel. It is especially irritating when most RV parks do not have a dry camping area where you may stop for the night at a cheaper rate.
I would love to hear your feedback on this article. If you agree or not please pass this along to other campers/Rvers. It is my hope that we can help the lawmakers and RV parks take notice of our thoughts.
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