Finding Overnight Parking Options on the Road

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When planning a route from place to place, occasionally you may find yourself in a situation where you need to stop somewhere for just one night. In these situations, you could stay in an RV park, but that can be an expensive and inconvenient option for just one night. Why pay for a site when you’ll likely arrive late and leave early? Luckily there are several other options for easy, convenient, and sometimes even free overnight stays.

Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome

Nealy Overnight Stops Xscapers

These are both paid memberships, but they can easily pay for themselves after a few uses. Harvest Hosts is a network of wineries, breweries, farms, museums, and as of recently, golf clubs. Your membership allows you to stay overnight at any of their locations. Sometimes the hosts are a little off the beaten path, but the extra driving time often rewards you with a beautiful location all to yourself. In 6 years of using Harvest Hosts, we’ve had the place to ourselves the majority of the time. Harvest Hosts suggests that you purchase something from your host as a thank you for allowing you to stay overnight. At a winery or brewery, it’s pretty easy to find something for us to buy, but even at the other locations we’ve always found something small we were happy to purchase.

Boondockers Welcome allows you to park on someone’s private property. The hosts are often RVers themselves who have enough room on their property for an RV. Like Harvest Hosts, sometimes the locations are a little remote, but you are again rewarded with a nice, quiet stay. I’ve had a couple friends report that their hosts even invited them for a home cooked meal.

Big box stores

The most common big-box store known for allowing overnight parking is Wal-Mart, but there are others too. Cabela’s, Cracker Barrel, and Camping World, even Home Depot and Lowe’s, may allow it also, depending on where they are located. When choosing this option, the most important thing to do is verify with a store employee if they allow overnight parking. Don’t rely on an app, don’t rely on a blog article, and don’t just assume it’s okay. Just ask. It’s the easiest and only reliable method to find out if you can park there undisturbed. I’ve heard too many stories of people being shooed off by police or security, sometimes in the middle of the night. Once we’ve had a long day of driving, the last thing I want to worry about is being awakened by a police officer.

Truck Stops

Truck stops can be very convenient as they’re usually located close to the interstate or highway, and easily accessible because they are made for trucks. But they can be very noisy, as most truck drivers will run their diesel engines all night long. Also, some truck stops have designated RV parking, but most do not. If you park with the trucks, you’re taking up a space that a trucker could use. Truck drivers can only legally drive a certain number of hours per day before they need to rest. So, if you pull into a really crowded truck stop and take the last available spot for the night, there’s a good chance you’re going to annoy a truck driver who needs that spot. And the only thing worse than being woken up in the middle of the night by a grumpy cop might be being woken up by an aggravated truck driver. 

While truck stops are a convenient option, they’re best saved for situations when you really have no other options.

Rest Areas

Laws vary from state to state, but some states will allow you to park overnight at a rest area. This is a very convenient option as they are obviously right off the highway or interstate. Like truck stops, they can be noisy with people pulling in and out at all hours of the night.

Some states that allow overnight parking will let you stay all night, but others limit your stay to eight hours. Be sure to check the laws in whatever state you’re traveling for their specific laws.

Casinos

Many casinos offer overnight RV parking. Some of them have actual campgrounds, but many of them will allow you to stay overnight in their parking lot for free. A few of the casinos we stayed at even give us a small credit to do some gambling. But the downside is that casinos can sometimes be loud and have people coming and going at all hours of the night. We once spent a sleepless night at a casino because the speakers aimed right at our RV were blaring Gloria Estefan all night long. Also, if you’re not good a gambling, this may turn out to be an expensive stop.

Other Resources

Nealy Overnight Stops Xscapers

There are a few tools that can help you when you’re looking for an overnight stay, including the Escapees Days End directory and www.overnightrvparking.com.
Campendium also has a way to filter for spots where you can park overnight.

Overnight etiquette

If you’re staying at one of these locations, particularly at the big box stores, there are a few common sense best practices that we should all follow. Don’t set up camp, only stay one night, don’t put your slides out unless absolutely necessary, and be sure the leave the area where you parked as clean as you found it.

Escapees has a helpful set of guidelines for overnight parking in their Escapees Good Neighbor Policy. Ensuring that we all follow these guidelines will make it more likely that we’ll all be able to use these resources in the future.

Jen-Nealy-Author-Bio

Author

Jen Nealy

Jen and her husband Deas have been traveling in their RV since 2013, during which time they estimate they have had at least 1000 happy hours. They travel with their dogs Shorty and Jake, and blog at nealysonwheels.com.

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