FREE Places To Park RVs, Vans and Cars When Traveling

Most folks will be parking at RV parks and campgrounds, but today they have become overcrowded. 

Other FREE places to park include:
  • Rest Areas
  • Truck Stops
  • Truck Weigh Stations
  • Gas Stations
  • Walmart
  • Kmart
  • Sam’s Club
  • Home Depot
  • Lowe’s
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Brass Pros Shops (also own Cabela’s)
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Casinoes (Also check out CasinoCamping.com
  • Warehouse districts are great. Some people feel comfortable around truckers. To find google warehouse spaces.
  • State, City or Community Parks (Look for signs that say 24 parking)
  • National Parks
  • City, County or Regional Campgrounds
  • BLM.gov (It’s everywhere but mostly on the west coast). Camp on BLM land with groups of 20 or more people to be safe especially if you are a solo female traveler. 
  • You can do “Driveway or Mooch Surfing” (also “Couch Surfing” — staying on someone’s couch) in a family’ member, friend or someone’s driveway as long as it is approved by city/county, Homeowner’s Association (HOA) and neighbors. Cars and van dwellers can do this easier than larger RVs.
  • Medical Offices Complexes
  • Hospitals
  • Strip malls in big cities. Strip malls or shopping malls that are opened 24 hours, but they might have security guards and will probably kick you out. 
  • If you live in a car, van, or even RV, you can go on Craigslist and run an ad that you will pay $100 a month (or less) to park in someone’s driveway or on their land. Tell them you will only show up at dark and leave during the daytime. 
Where Not To Stealth Camping
 
  • Respect “No parking signs.”
  • Do not park on private property. Somebody is always looking.
  • Avoid residential neighborhoods.

What You Need To Know About Parking An RV at Walmart

The app “Allstays” will list Walmarts that allow RVers to stay overnight. Because of the homeless situation, some car and van dwellers and RVers are actually living in Walmart parking lots.
 
Parking at Walmart is a “Right of Passage” for RVers. Walmart parking is called “Lot Docking.” It might be noisy on Friday and Saturday night. 
 
Many RVers have stayed at a Walmart at one time or another especially when:
  • They are traveling continuously and it will be easier to get back on the freeway. 
  • When they don’t reach their RV parks or campgrounds before dark. No one wants to try to go to an RV park or campground after dark especially when they are miles off the highway. You never know what might be lurking around if you try to hook up after dark (snakes, alligators, strangers, etc.)
  • When they run out of funds for the month and need to park somewhere for FREE. 
Many truckers have already stopped parking at some of the Walmarts. Walmart is redefining their space. Some Walmarts are no longer allowing RV parking so look at signs then talk to managers or call managers ahead of time. Over 50% are still allowing it but still obtain permission. 
 
They might have local ordinances and many are being passed not to allow parking at Walmart for RVers. The tow signs are the ones with ordinances. The further you go out in the country, the less they would have passed these ordinances.
 
Because boondocking on WalMart’s parking lot is a hot issue in many towns, following the below simple rules, which will help keep these places open to travelers who want a good night’s sleep before moving on.
 
Disregarding them, especially making your area look like you’ve moved in for a lengthy stay, is what gets local RV park owners up in arms. They see RVs in a Walmart or other parking lots as revenues they should have had. 
 
Below are Do’s and Don’t of Walmart Parking
 
Do’s:
  • Purchase items from Walmart.
  • Pick up after yourself.
  • Pick up after pets. 
  • Do park far away from each other.
Don’t:
  • Don’t stay for more than one night.
  • When you stay overnight don’t take advantage so be kind to neighbors and don’t run your generator.
  • Don’t set up camp or have a party.
  • Don’t pull out your slides.
  • Don’t pull out your awnings.
  • Don’t put down hydraulic jacks.
  • Don’t park crazy. 
  • Don’t pee in a bottle and leave it.
There was an alcoholic family member that ended up killed by the police after camping out in a Walmart parking lot and getting into an altercation. 
 
What You Need To Know About State Parks
 
You pay $225 for a New Mexico State Park pass for an entire year. It is a hot state so in the winter it will be in teens. However, you can get 7 good months of nice weather. You can stay for 14 days at one site then leave for 6 days then come back to that same site. Some of the sites are right next door to each other.
 

You can pay $4.00 a day for electric, $8 per day for full hookups (sewer, water, electric, trash, showers, etc.). Out of 30 state park campgrounds in New Mexico, 25 have FREE showers. Nevada also has state park passes.

Boondocking 101
 
“Boondocking” means camping in your RV with no hookups. You can boondock as long as your on-board resources hold out. Boondocking is also called “Dry Camping” and “Disperse Camping.” 
 
There is basic equipment for dry camping (without hookups) and adding a few optional items can extend your boondocking stays. 
 
How To Look for a Spot?
 
  • Go to Freecampsites.net
  • Google Earth (Zoom in to look at the spot)
  • US Public Lands App (Then look for U.S. Public Land for Boondocking)
Two Types of Boondocking
  • One type is parking in more out-of-the-way places, usually for several days or even an extended period of time. Public lands offer many opportunities for boondocking.
  • The other type of boondocking is often referred to as “blacktop boondocking.” That is when you camp overnight on a Walmart or shopping center parking lot or in a truck stop. Some call it “dry camping” since you are not in the “boonies.” 
RVers choose to spend the night on parking lots because of convenience. They don’t have to drive miles off the highway to a campground. Other RVers boondock because of budget reasons.
 
Many can’t see paying $20 or more a night to stay in an RV park or campground when they are traveling from point A to point B and won’t be using the amenities the park has to offer. 
 
Whichever type of boondocker you are, these guidelines will help you (and your neighbors) have a better experience.
 
Blacktop Boondocking
 
  • Get permission from the manager.
  • Purchase dinner, fuel or other items as a thank you.
  • Park away from other vehicles, along the sides of the parking lot. In a truck stop, if there is no designated area for RVs, park off to the side or to the back away from truckers. Truckers will appreciate you not taking their spaces, plus it will be less noisy for you.
  • Do not get chairs and barbeque out, nor put out your awning. Avoid using your slideouts if possible too.
  • Stay only one night.
  • Pick up any trash you have generated.
  • Escapees.com RV Club provides “Boondocking Etiquette Cards.” You can download and then leave on an individual’s windshield who is not following these guidelines and jeopardizing the rights of other RV travelers as well.
Boondocking in the “Boonies”
 
When we think of regular boondocking, we think more of camping in wilderness areas, often on public lands. Campgrounds in public lands generally do not provide hookups. The USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also allow camping outside their designated campgrounds. 
 
Serious boondockers modify their RVs so they can take advantage of free camping in pretty places. Solar panels and an inverter keep batteries charged. A catalytic or ceramic heater is more efficient than the regular RV heater and doesn’t draw down the battery. 
 
Boondockers may have a Blue Boy®, a portable waste holding tank, so they can take blackwater into a dump. They carry water jugs to haul water to their fresh water tanks. 
 
Boondockers learn how to conserve both power and water so they can extend their stays and may even use solar ovens for cooking and heat water with the sun.
 
Most campers are here for a wilderness experience. They enjoy the peace and quiet. Following these guidelines will help all enjoy their stay as well as protect the environment:
  • Park in previously used areas. Do not create a new road or parking spot or run over vegetation.
  • Park away from other RVs so each can enjoy the peace and quiet. If you do have a generator you plan to run, park far away from other RVs and limit your use to an hour or so in the morning and another in early evening. Generator noise carries and is not part of the wilderness experience.
  • Respect quiet hours. Do not run generators or play TVs or radios loudly after 10 p.m. or before 7 a.m. (RVers Quiet Hours). Some areas may have different quiet hours so check with the agency.
  • In some areas dumping grey water on the ground is permissible. Always check with the agency first. Dumping black water on the ground is NEVER PERMITTED.
  • Leave the area cleaner than you found it. Dispose of trash in a trash container after you leave.
  • Read and follow the agency’s rules regarding fires, collecting firewood, and quiet hours. Respect time limits, which are typically 14 days.
RV groups meeting on public lands should choose an area large enough to accommodate their group without damaging the environment and should respect the rights of nearby campers that are not part of the group. 
 
They should also educate their members, who may never have boondocked before, on ways to extend their battery power without constantly running their generators and on ways to conserve water.
 
For many RVers, boondocking is the true RV experience. The ability to camp without hookups is one of the advantages of RV ownership. You can camp free of charge and use the systems that were designed to be self-contained. 
 
Using courtesy and common sense can make your boondocking experience, whether on black top or in the wilderness, a good one for you and other RVers.
 
Websites for Boondocking include: 
  • Boondocking.org
  • BoondockersWelcome.com (You can join them for less than $40 a year. Some have land and full hookups or you stay in front of someone’s home. If you have a place for RVs to park, then you should become a host).
Key areas for Boondocking include:
Do’s and Don’t of Boondocking
 
Look at their websites for rules. Every region might have different rules. They might not enforce it.
 
Dos – 4 Rules:
  • Know rules, areas and time limits.
  • Obey “No Trespassing Signs”; respect the land; there are hunters, hikers, RVers, etc. so stay on road, don’t mess up vegetation, leave no trace, don’t chop down trees; leave only footprints, etc.
  • Pack in what you pack out. Don’t leave your mess for someone else to clean up.
  • Go out and have fun and explore. To help find your RV in parks or while boondocking, many RVers choose to put a flag on their RVs.
Don’t 3 Rules:
  • Don’t ever block a dirt road. Try to point your vehicle toward the exit and try to reach your site early.
  • Do not dump gray water. Most gray water is 20 to 30 gallons and it will be going in ONE SPOT. Don’t dump it while boondocking. It will change the eco system. It’s illegal and not good for the environment.
  • Don’t rely on cell signal. If staying in touch. Get a personal locator. There is Inreach, Spot. etc. Have a paper map to maneuver out further when boondocking because your GPS might not work. Print it out ahead of time.
When you shower you use a quarter of a tank so take “bird baths” or “sponge baths” when boondocking. If you run your generator for 3 hours a day, you should be able to work on a computer for 8 hours. You need at least a 200-watt solar system to start.  
 
Plenty of FREE Land To Live On
 
Tired of driving – by the way there are plenty of FREE PUBLIC LAND in the U.S. (Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, California, etc.) to settle down on where you can park your car, van, RV, bus, etc. for FREE, while you build a new life for yourself.
 
The land is called BLM.gov (Bureau of Land Management) land or National Forest land, which is owned by the government, however, you can live on this land for FREE. 
 
A majority of the BLM land is in the west, but there is land in other parts of the country. Check out the website and today because of technology, they have apps to help you find this FREE LAND (See above app section). 
 
You can live there by yourself or park around others who have already chosen this type of lifestyle. There are plenty of caravans and convoys all over the U.S. for women and men to be able to create their ideal communities, especially on this land. Check with Bob Wells on CheapRVLiving.com on these caravans and convoys.
 
Many Snowbirds, people who follow the weather, put solar panels on Vans or RVs and use the good weather to totally power their vehicles, while they live their daily lives and travel around the U.S.. 
 
You should consider leaving cold climates and become a Snowbird and see what it is like to always live in good weather as you travel around the world and see some great sites and meet some great people on the road. 
 

It’s time for us to think as pioneers did back in the day when many people went out west on wagon trains to Oregon, California, etc. to make better lives for themselves. 

Just some of the places to live include:

Quartzsite, AZ: Quartzsite, AZ is the home for RVers. The month of January RVers converges onto the area for 3 BIG RV events which last all month — the Women Rubber Tramp Rendevous (RTR), Rubber Tramp Rendevous for men and women, and a big RV show afterward. The group Escapees.com celebrate a big New Year’s celebration there.

Some of the places might be limited to a 14 day stay, except LaPosa long-term stay in Quartzsite, AR, where there is a fee. However, for that fee of $180 a year (or $40 for two weeks), you can stay from September 15-April 15. After April it gets too hot so many RVers head back home or to higher elevations to stay cool.
 
Yuma, AZ: You can pay $80 for the year in Yuma, AZ. Depending on what area you are in, after 14 days
you might have to move. In the state of Arizona you need to move 25 miles away from that spot after 14 days. 
 
Colorado: In the state of Colorado you need to move every 14 days at least 45 miles away. But after 14 days, you can go back to that SAME CAMPSITE or area.
 
New Mexico: In New Mexico you can pay $225 a year for up to 7 months of nice weather. They have 25 shower facilities on the land so if you live in your car or van, that’s all you need. 
 
Like other BLM or National Forest land, you just need to move around every 14 days in some cases. Some of the spots might be right next to each other.
 
Why, AZ: You can also pay $550 a year to live in a place two (2) hours outside Tucson, AZ called Why, AZ. You can stay in tents, cars, vans, RVs, on buses, etc. on BLM or National Forest land. 
 
You will have access to FREE water, FREE showers, FREE wi-fi, and trash pick up. There is a dumpsite or you can use a portable ‘blue boy,’ to dump your gray and black tank. There are also services that can come out and dump for you.
 
From September to April the temperature can be bearable in Why, AZ. There are no FREE power hookups and temps can get up to 110 degrees so everyone usually has at least 200 watts of solar or they run generators to keep cool. Remember in RVs at least 25 feet long, many do install a second air conditioner.
 
Three Lakes: You can camp for FREE from September to March in three lakes, which is southwest of Disney about 90 minutes. 
 
Too Old To Travel
 
If you get too old to travel, Livington, TX, the home of Escapees.com RV mail forwarding services is offering Assisted Living for RVers. I suspect many of these services will pop up as many car, van, boat dwellers and RVers embrace this minimalist lifestyle.
 
See you on the opened road — SimpleLifeRVing.com with Cathy Harris.  Let’s “Simplify and Go.”
 
Cathy Harris is a #VanDweller living ‘The Good Life.’ Her blog website is www.SimpleLifeRVing.com. She is also an Empowerment and Motivational Speaker, Advice Columnist at DearCathy.com, Non-GMO Health and Wellness Expert, Business and Love Coach and Self-Publishing Expert and the author of 26 non-fiction books at www.AngelsPress.com. Her books cover topics such as family and community empowerment, health, youth and adult entrepreneurship, writing/publishing, workplace discrimination, whistleblowing, government, law enforcement, domestic and international traveling, politics, media, beauty, car buying and selling for women, aging/retirement – just to name a few. She offers seminars, workshops, and consultations at www.CathyHarrisInternational.com