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Old 03-04-2016, 10:37 AM   #1
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Courtesy Parking..Really?

I have read a bit about courtesy parking where you can park in a Walmart parking lot or on a residential street for a night if you cannot get into a campground. We are newbies and can't believe this is possible!! But if it is true it takes some worry out of the need to always have a reservation and it allows one to just pick up and go when the spirit moves you! Anyone done this before? How does it work?

Also, any tips on how to get into a popular park that does not accept reservations? Thanks all!!
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:50 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by debbietaylor View Post
I have read a bit about courtesy parking where you can park in a Walmart parking lot or on a residential street for a night if you cannot get into a campground. We are newbies and can't believe this is possible!! But if it is true it takes some worry out of the need to always have a reservation and it allows one to just pick up and go when the spirit moves you! Anyone done this before? How does it work?

Also, any tips on how to get into a popular park that does not accept reservations? Thanks all!!
Most Walmart's allow overnight stay in their lots...residential streets are typically regulated by local laws...some are fine, others are not. There are also several places you can camp free, such as BLM and Forest Service areas. There are threads on the Forum on how to find these...

As for popular parks, I could tell you how we do it, but then everyone would know our secret! (but if you promise not to share....I will tell you our secret...) First, we try to call the park ahead of time and get some input on when they fill up/time of day/seasonal traffic, etc. Typically, you need to get into a popular park by mid morning at the latest, to find a spot; that can mean finding a place to stay the night before close to the park of choice, if your destination is far away. Sunday to mid-week arrival is also typically better. Summer is unpredictable, especially around holidays like the 4th of July! And, location of your park is pretty important....California parks, especially by the beach, are pretty full year around... Hope that helps some...
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:52 AM   #3
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Members of the W.B.C.C.I. can enjoy courtesy parking at other members homes that offer it. I have used it once and the folks were very nice. We offer it at or place, but as of now no one has stayed here yet.
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:54 AM   #4
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Walmart parking lot, yes (but talk to the store manager to confirm you're welcome). Parking on a street over night is usually a no-no that will likely lead to a wakeup call in the middle of the night by a local police officer asking you to move along. A lot of municipalities have bylaws preventing overnight camping on their streets.

I avoid popular parks, so I don't have any tips for you there.
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Old 03-04-2016, 11:02 AM   #5
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Debbie - the SEARCH function on this forum is weak - except if you go down and select GOOGLE search - which limits the search TO the forum... Then you can just type in "Courtesy parking" or "Walmart Parking" or whatever.

Basic outline: SOME Walmarts do allow overnight parking - others post that they do not, and in some localities there are restrictions against RV's parking in any shopping center. There are several apps for cell phone - I use Allstays - that list virtually all of the campgrounds in the USA along with WalMarts, etc.
It's always best to phone ahead and ask. Recently I was in NC to visit Out of Doors Mart - and I found that a local WalMart would only allow it BEHIND the store. I had a pleasant night with only 4 big rigs for company. If you see other trailers parked there, generally it's OK for you to park. Keep your awning in, your stabilizers up, and don't barbecue a whole hog in the parking lot. Leave the place cleaner than you found it.

Many Cracker Barrels have reserved parking for RV's behind the store - unfortunately much of the time, cars will park there. It is considered polite to have breakfast AT the restaurant before departing.

Fraternal Organizations & Churches - The MOOSE club international has parking at some of their locations - some even include water and at least 20 amp. Members only - so JOIN, it's inexpensive. I wouldn't be surprised if the Elks and Eagles do the same thing. The organizations are often 80 year olds, though some of us younger old people are joining and moving it forward a bit. Many churches will allow you to park overnight - again always good to ask ahead of time. In my early days I forgot how many churches also have Wednesday services or pot luck dinners, etc. I'd parked just to take a comfort stop and fix a fresh thermos of coffee and the parking lot started to fill up. I immediately went outside and apologized and told them I'd be off in 5 minutes - then I noticed that THIS church had a lot of people carrying small wicker baskets, and I heard the sounds of rattlesnakes coming from them. I was outta there in 2 minutes!

Paula
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Old 03-04-2016, 11:21 AM   #6
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Debbie - the SEARCH function on this forum is weak - except if you go down and select GOOGLE search - which limits the search TO the forum... Then you can just type in "Courtesy parking" or "Walmart Parking" or whatever.

Basic outline: SOME Walmarts do allow overnight parking - others post that they do not, and in some localities there are restrictions against RV's parking in any shopping center. There are several apps for cell phone - I use Allstays - that list virtually all of the campgrounds in the USA along with WalMarts, etc.
It's always best to phone ahead and ask. Recently I was in NC to visit Out of Doors Mart - and I found that a local WalMart would only allow it BEHIND the store. I had a pleasant night with only 4 big rigs for company. If you see other trailers parked there, generally it's OK for you to park. Keep your awning in, your stabilizers up, and don't barbecue a whole hog in the parking lot. Leave the place cleaner than you found it.

Many Cracker Barrels have reserved parking for RV's behind the store - unfortunately much of the time, cars will park there. It is considered polite to have breakfast AT the restaurant before departing.

Fraternal Organizations & Churches - The MOOSE club international has parking at some of their locations - some even include water and at least 20 amp. Members only - so JOIN, it's inexpensive. I wouldn't be surprised if the Elks and Eagles do the same thing. The organizations are often 80 year olds, though some of us younger old people are joining and moving it forward a bit. Many churches will allow you to park overnight - again always good to ask ahead of time. In my early days I forgot how many churches also have Wednesday services or pot luck dinners, etc. I'd parked just to take a comfort stop and fix a fresh thermos of coffee and the parking lot started to fill up. I immediately went outside and apologized and told them I'd be off in 5 minutes - then I noticed that THIS church had a lot of people carrying small wicker baskets, and I heard the sounds of rattlesnakes coming from them. I was outta there in 2 minutes!

Paula
Snakes at a church? I'd have beat you out of there. :-)
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Old 03-04-2016, 11:29 AM   #7
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Many county fairgrounds have sites with water and electricity. These are usually available to anyone except when their fair is in progress. Need to call ahead for availability.

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Old 03-04-2016, 12:12 PM   #8
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Getting into a popular park that does not take reservations will be a challenge. Find out if they have overflow parking. We have used this when sites are not available. The usual drill is to show up and tell them you are interested in staying. They direct you to the overflow where you stay the night and get up early to get in line the next day.

I will second the AllStays app for your phone. We were in Idaho once and had planned to try the overnight at the local Walmart. When we got there we found that the Walmart was in town and the lot was cramped and full. We had no plans so got the AllStays to direct us to the local fairgrounds where we found a very nice water/electrical site with nice bathrooms for a very reasonable cost.
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Old 03-04-2016, 12:17 PM   #9
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What everyone else said about non campground parking...

Many public campgrounds have first come, first serve sites, so getting there early to snag one, and then doing your sightseeing, works pretty well.

Call ahead for what and where, and how early you need to be there to have a chance at a site.

The AllStays app will give you a contact phone number for every campground.


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Old 03-04-2016, 12:57 PM   #10
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Given that you are not traveling on a major holiday or trying to get a pristine ocean view site, you can usually find a place to stay. The exceptions are crowded travel areas in the late fall and winter when some parks close making the inventory limited. The punt is often a KOA. It is predictable if not perfect. Lots charge $65 a night which is a bit to swallow. Taking an inexpensive motel seems more cost effective.

But there is a fix. Before you leave for the season, join their rewards program. It's a few bucks, but not horrible. Then ask for an electric and water only site. You dump your tanks on the way out and save $20-$30. At one park, it was the same cost as their tent camp rate. Verify you can dump for free. We have never been told no, but there may be an exception.

Next, get a membership in Passport America. Gives you half price nights with restrictions and you have to learn to play the game. The parks are old, odd, and brand new. You have to open your mind, but if you are willing to spend the night on a city street with one wheel in the gutter tilting the trailer at an odd angle, you'll find most of their parks quite acceptable and some remarkable. What also happens is that you tend to go a bit out of the way. That moves you to parks that do have space and is why they are members of the PA network. It can be a failure in peak travel season, but may work for you. Spend some time looking at their parks on line before you join.

Walmarts are a good stop. We feel a bit guilty as they get a bad reputation for being a homeless draw, but if you arrive late, leave early and maintain a limited footprint, they can work well. Parking near the trucks can be noisy, so take care in picking your spot. The food inventory is not a bad and they have RV stuff not found except at RV specialty stores. We even found low cal chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches in their frozen food section. A nice treat. Local Safeway only carries the fat ones.

The restaurant stops can be fantastic. Having a place to eat at the end of a day is a good break for all. It's not a bad way to start the day either and we really like breakfast at a Cracker Barrel. Folks with long rigs do have issues with paring, so it does not work for all. We are 41' and can easily park in their RV spaces. Have a little sympathy for the car folks who like those big RV spaces to keep the door dings away from their paint. Just go out and move the rig in from the street when a space opens up. Keep the blood pressure low and smile a lot. Yes, smiles are the ticket when the world is a crowded place.

To stay at places where there are no hookups, you need to have a solid 12 volt system and manage your batteries. The tow vehicle will charge during the drive, but understand that the stock shore power converter will boil away the battery fluid if you charge all the time. Put the store/use switch in store after about 2-3 hours on shore power and check the battery fluid level weekly. A small DI water bottle (not drinking water) will last quite a while and a full gallon jug is a bit bulky to carry around. A heavy duty drinking bottle will work, just label it so you don't throw it out by mistake.

And finally, if you can't find a place to stay there are options. Stop at the local police station and ask if they know of a place. Pick a spot and stay dressed so you can move if there is a knock on the door. If you leave early, you might get a good night's rest. There is always the rest stop down the highway. Use the car side. It is quieter and the trucks need all the space available on their side. Just park away from the toilets in the spots that are sub prime. If you feel uncomfortable, leave, slow down or stop. Also use the GOAL concept. Get out and look, especially for overhead hazards.

Good luck on your travels. They will make lots of smiles. Pat
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Old 03-04-2016, 04:39 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by debbietaylor View Post
I have read a bit about courtesy parking where you can park in a Walmart parking lot or on a residential street for a night if you cannot get into a campground. We are newbies and can't believe this is possible!! But if it is true it takes some worry out of the need to always have a reservation and it allows one to just pick up and go when the spirit moves you! Anyone done this before? How does it work?
The most important piece of advice I have for you is that these situations vary regionally and so you have to be careful about advice you get in a nationwide forum like this.

I don't stay overnight anywhere except a campground or someplace where I have a connection -- courtesy parking arranged in advance, a friend's driveway, parking lot of an RV dealer where I just had repairs completed. In my area (Minnesota) the trend is towards disallowing casual "boondocking" -- there's a new law disallowing overnight stays at highway rest stops, and there are "no overnight camping" signs at boat launches, county parks, wildlife management areas, and most other public lands. Laws in municipalities vary.

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Also, any tips on how to get into a popular park that does not accept reservations? Thanks all!!
Call shortly before you plan to arrive and ask for advice. Park staff will usually tell you when they think it will fill up. If your schedule is flexible, arrive early in the week rather than Thursday or Friday.
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Old 03-04-2016, 04:57 PM   #12
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We never make reservations and travel full-time. Our secret is to get there early and do not move on Friday or Saturday.
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