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RVers are always looking for free overnight parking to save a few bucks. There are thousands of options, but you’ll have to do some homework to find them.
Always ask permission at any location. Sometimes chain restaurants are owned by franchisees who set their own policies. And sometimes a local ordinance bars a store from living up to what is normally a chain policy to allow RV parking overnight.
Whenever you park overnight, be courteous, quiet and clean. Quiet means no generators, no parties and no music. Take as little space as possible—no awnings, pop-outs or barbecue grills. Park where you’re supposed to. And no dumping tanks (do we even need to say this?) or leaving trash behind. Avoid using jacks, which could damage parking lot surfaces.
Here are some tips.
Can you park overnight at a truck stop? Usually.
Should you? That’s a decision you have to make.
Flying J, Travel Centers of America and Love’s typically allow RV overnight parking. The simple truth, however, is that truckers don’t like having to deal with RVs taking spaces they believe are theirs. In fairness, they’re trying to make a living, and in most cases, you’re trying to take a vacation. Priorities, if you know what we mean.
At a truck stop, you may have to deal with idling diesels, especially in winter. If the stories are to be believed, you also may get parked in by truckers upset with your presence.
Use your head. First, ask at the counter if you’re welcome and where you should park. You may be directed to the truck area, an RV area or car spaces. Forgo facilities such as the showers that are intended only for professional drivers.
Return the favor: Buy your fuel there if you overnight and supplies you may need, and use the restaurant if you need breakfast before hitting the road.
Quite a few businesses allow RVs overnight. Among them are Camping World, which caters to RVers, and Walmart/Sam’s Clubs, which will be glad to sell you whatever you need for your journey. Some restaurant chains that target travelers, such as Cracker Barrel, also allow RVs overnight.
Casinos with huge lots typically say yes to RVs. They get RVers all the time, and casinos are always glad to take your money (and usually do). Casinos have proliferated, so find out about one you may be planning to visit or merely park at.
Some sports stadiums allow parking when there’s no game, but they may charge a fee and they may not allow overnight stays. Visit their websites or call to find out.
Again, if you are allowed to stay overnight, return the kindness by patronizing the establishment. If the only gambling you do is driving on less than a quarter tank of fuel, consider dining at a casino. They’re open 24 hours; the food is usually pretty good and, for the amount a buffet offers, inexpensive.
RV overnight policies vary by locale, and by state. You may be able to find RV-friendly parks online by checking municipal rules for various locations along the route you map, and by visiting the municipality’s website.
State parks may charge a fee, but some have facilities for dumping tanks or topping up with water.
This varies by state, and usually by highway within the state. In Ohio, for instance, RV overnighting is allowed at stops on the turnpike but not at stops along other highways.
At rest stops, you’ll be parking just for the sleep and the toilets. Some, however, do have facilities for emptying tanks, and for refilling your water tank.
Consider these two books. They’re previewed on Amazon. The Wright guide is especially helpful in finding cheap or free overnight camping or parking. Both list seasons and hours of operation, approximate fees, pull-through availability, amenities and the number of sites that include them, directions, phone, website and reservation details.
“The Wright Guide to Free and Low-Cost Campgrounds” by Don and Joyce Wright. $25-$35. Listed state by state are campgrounds that cost less than $20 per night $12 or less in earlier editions). The guide includes regulations for overnighting at rest stops. The book is updated periodically.
“RV Camping in Corps of Engineers Parks,” Roundabout Publications. $15-$20. Only campgrounds that accept RVs are listed, and there are more than 600 in 34 states, many with lakes. Camp prices vary, but many are inexpensive.
Overnightrvparking.com. For $24.95 a year, you can consult this site, which says it lists 14,144 free overnighty parking locations for RVs.
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