Answered: Is Parking Overnight at Walmart Safe?

Lakeside view at a Walmart in South Carolina, didn’t have my Casita for this trip.

I travel alone and have been on the road nearly five years now. During that time, I have overnighted at Walmarts, truck stops, rest areas, and Cracker Barrels all over the country.

I personally have never had an incident in the dozens of times I’ve done it, and I’ve stayed at Walmarts from Atlanta to tiny country towns you’ve never heard of. Some of these locations have been in highly developed commercial areas, some in residential neighborhoods, and some have been surrounded by cows and corn fields. I even overnighted at a Walmart in South Carolina once that offered lakeside parking (score!).

But.

I’m friends with a couple who experienced harassment when overnighting at a Walmart in Nevada. They were awoken late at night when a man started knocking on their RV and talking loudly. He didn’t try to break in but was disruptive for quite a while. It was in a small town, and my friends learned later that the individual had problems and was likely under the influence.

I’ve occasionally heard similar stories of harassment from people online, although never about anyone being directly attacked or having their RV broken into. But I also know many, many more RVers who’ve overnighted at Walmarts or other businesses and like me, never had a problem.

So what’s the takeaway? There IS a slight risk that something could happen at a Walmart. But it’s important to remember that there’s also a slight risk that something could happen in a campground or when parked at a friend’s house too. A lot of fear stems from the unknown, so it’s natural that people (and especially solo women) feel more fear when overnighting in an unknown neighborhood in an unknown town… instead of a campground which we expect to be safe.

And yes, I’m not immune to this. But in a way that’s a good thing. That heightened awareness that comes from not knowing keeps you sharp and thinking clearly.

I assess a location when I arrive, and if it looks or feels off, I don’t stay. I park under a light, within view of a camera whenever possible. If there are other RVs or semis in the lot, I park in the same area as them. I put valuables in my tow vehicle out of sight and close the blinds on my trailer. And of course I lock the doors. I avoid walking around outside after dark, and check before exiting my RV. Common sense is really your best defense. My friends still overnight at Walmarts, and so will I.

You’ll just have to weigh that slight risk with the benefit of having a free place to stop in the middle of a long haul, and decide if it’s worth it to you.

Related Links:

Want to know more about safety when solo RVing? I’ve written a related article about boondocking safety, and one about ways to manage fear around RVing. And lastly, my e-book Solo Full-time RVing On A Budget has a whole chapter devoted to safety issues for single RVers. Happy reading!

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15 Responses to Answered: Is Parking Overnight at Walmart Safe?

  1. Dawn in MI August 21, 2017 at 6:38 am #

    As you said, you should take the same care wherever you stay. Danger isn’t just lurking in parking lots and rest stops. Traveling solo or with other people, you should always keep your radar up. I do that even if I’m just walking the dog in the neighborhood. You just never know.

    • Becky August 22, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

      Yep Dawn, although it’s a fine line to walk. Some people take it too far the other direction and are fearful wherever they go and I don’t want to promote that either.

  2. Keri August 21, 2017 at 7:05 am #

    We have overnighted in Wal-Mart parking lots numerous times over the years and have never had any problems. Following the rules and keeping alert is key. In an empty, rural Kansas, Wal-Mart parking lot, we had parked and settled in for the night, when we were awoken by LOUD country music. Without turning on lights, we peeked through a curtain, expecting to see a couple of drunk cowboys in a pickup truck. Imagine our surprise to see an Amish buggy and horse parked next to our rig, blaring music. We had a good laugh and went back to sleep.

    • Becky August 22, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

      Funny story Keri! I had the night security at a Walmart once knock on my door in the evening to tell me he’d keep an eye on my rig, was very sweet of him.

  3. Dave August 21, 2017 at 9:57 am #

    We have stayed at Walmarts, Cracker Barrels and Rest Areas too. The thing about Walmarts is they have night security…the couple should have pressed their emergency alarm on their vehicle (assuming it wasn’t a real old one) and that would have cured the situation real quick and brought the night security over to take care of this guy.
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    • Becky August 22, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

      I believe they did Dave which is how they learned that the community knew him as the local drunk.

  4. Regis August 21, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    Some Walmarts will have signs saying “no overnight parking”. I’ve heard this is for your protection not because they are being mean.

    • Michael August 21, 2017 at 7:03 pm #

      That’s because the town has laws against parking overnight anywhere but in RV parks etc. Walmart will allow overnight parking anywhere the cities allow it. If a town won’t allow me overnighting in their town I leave. I don’t spend money and I don’t come back.

    • Becky August 22, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

      Michael has it right, some cities and towns have ordinances against overnight parking that supersedes Walmart’s corporate policy of allowing it. You see this most often in tourist areas like the coast of California and down in Florida… places with nice weather and a desirable location.

  5. Linda Sand August 21, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

    We once pulled into a campground that didn’t fee right so we left immediately. We’ve never done that in a Walmart lot even when I was traveling solo.

    • Becky August 22, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

      I pulled into a rest stop once that felt off and moved on. Better to be safe than sorry!

  6. Kristine September 2, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    Never had a problem and its just me and 2 dogs, 1 bigger and I carry pepper spray…never an issue.

    • Becky September 2, 2017 at 5:52 pm #

      Glad to hear it Kristine.

  7. Sharon Gulezian September 7, 2017 at 9:32 pm #

    I won’t park over night in rest area’s and most have signs no overnight parking. I have parked in Walmart. I usually go in, ask for the manager and he says ok. He has me park near his employees, lights and cameras. They work 24 hrs. I have been to two Walmarts the security person came over and told me I had to leave. I was far over away from the store but they didn’t care so I left. The Bass Pro Shop in Manchester was the worst. It was only 9 at night, I was so tired, I parked and took a nap. A man yelling and banging on my windows telling me was going to call the police on me. I said I am a senior woman, traveling from Fl and I was just resting. He then said well move over there and I will let you stay just this one time. I pulled over but didn’t feel good about all this so I left. Never will stop at Brass Pro Shop again. My favorite are the truck stops. I park in two spots under the lights near the store and restrooms. I never had a problem. I also love the Cracker Barrell. Parked at many. Go in and ask the manager. They always say you are welcome. They have rv parking in the back of the restaurant. I go in before dusk and do not go out until morning when its light. I play it safe.

    • Becky September 10, 2017 at 6:15 pm #

      Not all states allow rest stop overnighting, but some do (usually up to eight hours) and I’ve done it a handful of times without issue.

      Yes, Cracker Barrels are nice!

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