VIDEO: Top 13 Tips for WALMART Overnight Parking

Posted In: Boondocking, Overnight Parking, Video

No one buys an RV with the goal of sleeping in Walmart parking lots.

You probably won’t find the word “Walmart” listed in a single scrap of RV industry literature.

I’ve never picked up a glossy RV brochure and thumbed through beautiful photographs of asphalt.

But the fact remains: overnight parking at Walmart is an important part of the RV ownership experience. There are times when it just makes sense.

OUR FIRST TIME
Like many experiences in life, you’ll never forget your first. (Does that sound dirty?)

Our first Walmart overnight parking experience happened in Casper, Wyoming.

Our first Walmart overnight parking experience happened in Casper, Wyoming.

Our first Walmart overnight parking experience happened in Casper, Wyoming. It was July 2007, and we had embarked on our maiden summer “walkabout” with our Airstream travel trailer. Although we’d owned our Airstream for a few weeks, we’d only stayed overnight in proper full hookup campgrounds.

We were headed towards (where else?) Yellowstone. It was getting late in the afternoon, but we were pulling one of those rare full days of driving that we now tend to avoid. We had already endured a long day of challenging towing. I had hopes of driving further north from Casper to Sheridan. We didn’t really intend for Walmart to be our final stop of the day. We simply needed supplies.

As we arrived in Casper, a fierce wind was whipping across the southern Wyoming plain. Storm clouds were gathering on the horizon. If you’ve ever been to the Western United States, you know how quickly severe weather can arise.

Upon parking at Walmart, we opened one of our ceiling fan covers to ventilate the toasty warm interior of our rig. Mistake! With a sickening crack, a stiff wind arose that snapped off the entire ceiling cover. It flew from the roof of our Airstream and shattered in plastic pieces on the asphalt below.

As a result of the broken fan cover, we were faced with the prospect of a large open hole in our roof. Meanwhile, darkening skies threatened a heavy downpour.

What to do?

I wasn’t keen on driving further north with a hole in our roof. So we decided to stay the night at Walmart, ride out the storm, and repair the damage in the morning.

Our temporary overnight solution: one mixing bowl, and a lot of gaffer’s tape.

In an act of camping resourcefulness, we used gaffer’s tape to attach a large mixing bowl to the ceiling of our Airstream.

Kristy went back inside Walmart and purchased a cheap plastic mixing bowl. We used gaffer’s tape to affix the bowl to our ceiling. The solution looked rather ridiculous, but it promised to catch whatever rain might pass through our roof.

Thankfully, the storm blew past Casper without dumping too much rain. Our bowl patch job was not put through a rigorous test.

Kristy taped a large mixing bowl over the hole in our ceiling.

Kristy taped a large mixing bowl over the hole in our ceiling.

As for the Walmart? Although I slept with one eye open, our night in the parking lot was uneventful. There were a few other RV campers in our vicinity, and at least one guy sleeping in his car. I remember feeling a little weird about the fact we were parked and not planning to leave anytime soon.

We arose the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to repair the roof. Sadly, we couldn’t find a proper RV fan cover in Casper. So we went to Home Depot and bought a residential cover instead. For the next few weeks, we toured America with that thing duct taped to the top of our rig.

You never know when you might need gaffer's tape. Or a mixing bowl. For a massive hole in your ceiling.

You never know when you might need gaffer’s tape. Or a mixing bowl. For a massive hole in your ceiling.

In the years that have passed since that first summer walkabout, we’ve stopped in many Walmarts. For the most part, they have been welcoming and hospitable places to park.

We occasionally hear stories of crime in Walmart parking lots. But so far, we haven’t seen anything of the sort. Our negative experiences have been few and far between.

Our general approach is to scout out the neighborhood a bit on our way. If we get an unsafe vibe, we simply move on to the next town. It’s best to avoid trouble by carefully choosing your stops.

As America’s leading retailer, Walmart is always a controversial topic.

In this space, I’m not addressing Walmart as an employer or corporate citizen.

As a place to park your RV for free, it is unrivaled.

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