Best Practices for RV Lotdocking at Walmart
Have you ever heard of lotdocking? Walmart camping is really popular, and has numerous benefits. It’s convenient, almost all of them offer overnight parking for RVs, and it makes it easy to restock your groceries. In this post and video we share how to camp in a parking lot, some tips and basic etiquette for easy, free overnight parking!
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RV Lotdocking at Walmart
What is Lotdocking?
Lotdocking is spending the night in the parking lot of a business. In this example we’re discussing Walmart, but there’s Cabela’s, Cracker Barrel, some Camping Worlds, some casinos, and potentially other places that may allow lotdocking as well. Not all businesses allow this practice, and not all locations of certain business that may allow it elsewhere will let you stay at a specific location. Sometimes this is due to bad experiences the business has had in the past, but it can also be due to city, county, or other applicable ordinances and laws. So we’ll give you some tips on how to be a respectful lotdocker so you and others can continue to reap the benefits of lotdocking!
Our History with Lotdocking
Before our most recent stay overnight at Walmart, we hadn’t done this in about 10 years. We did this a lot more in our old small travel trailer when it was just the two of us before kids and it was super convenient. We could just travel basically all hours of the day and could then just call ahead to a Walmart or other places that’ll let you lotdock. But for us we’ve pretty much exclusively used Walmart. We haven’t done that as much in our current rig because lotdocking really isn’t quite as nice and we’ve really enjoyed boondocking especially with our solar setup. But with the long travel day we knew lotdocking would be convenient!
Benefits of Lotdocking
There are numerous benefits to lotdocking which is why it’s so popular! These can include the following:
Lotdocking Is Free
We would say this is probably one of the biggest benefits. Lotdocking is free and won’t cost you anything to stay the night. If you want to buy something from the business, that could be a related cost, but your spot to simply stay will be cost free! We’d definitely prefer to spend our camping money at a nicer campground when we’re actually planning to stay a while and enjoy the amenities and explore the location. Paying to stay overnight when you arrive late and leave first thing in the morning just seems like a waste to us if it can be avoided.
Lotdocking is Very Convenient
Most of the time Walmarts are really close to a major road and near your travel route so it’s incredibly convenient to simply pull off the road and into the parking lot. Often times when we’ve gone boondocking or have just tried to find a free spot while we’re driving from point a to point b, we’ve sometimes driven 10 to 15 or more miles off the interstate to go find a quiet place to stay. Lotdocking is typically is way more convenient than that.
You Can Be Spontaneous About Where To Stop
With lotdocking you can really be spontaneous because along the interstate there are Walmarts practically everywhere, at least every so often. It gives you more flexibility to drive as late as you want, and in the past we would go until we started getting tired. Then we’d look on Google Maps and see where a Walmart was within a reasonable distance. We’d call and see if we could stay there and then we’d stop. If the answer does happen to be no, the next potential location is probably not that much further away.
Access To The Business
At Walmart, you can stock up at groceries right there! If we find ourselves needing to restock or just need a few items, we can easily do so. Depending on the type of business you are lotdocking at if it’s not Walmart, you might be able to buy groceries or other goods you need or grab dinner or a drink.
At Walmart you’re in a lighted lot so even if you get there after dark you can see where to go. We haven’t had to worry about whether it’s safe place to come or if we could see what we’re doing to safely park and setup. And if it’s a Walmart super center it’s open all night long. At the Walmart we stayed we could see some cameras over on various light poles which made us feel good. Of course if for any reason you are in a location where you don’t feel safe, listen to your instincts and leave if need be.
Drawbacks of Lotdocking
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a few cons of overnighting in a parking lot. Though we personally think the pros outweigh the cons, you’ll want to be aware of the following and decide if it’s still a good deal for you personally.
Lotdocking Is Noisy
The number one thing is probably noise. It’s noisy and busy in Walmart parking lots and the surrounding towns in which they’re located. We’d hear people driving past frequently coming and going and on the adjacent roads as well. Trucks also use Walmarts to overnight and you may hear their engines idling. You might want to bring some earplugs if that bothers you, but it’s typically been ok overnight and we don’t ever remember having such a noisy night that we couldn’t sleep.
It’s Not Scenic
Another drawback is pretty obvious: it’s not terribly scenic. When comparing a parking lot to a beautiful state park campground, a scenic boondocking location, or a well-maintained RV resort, there’s really no comparison.
There are No Hookups
There are generally no hookups, though we have heard there may be a few at places like select Camping Worlds. Definitely don’t plan on hookups though so without that you’ll have a few less conveniences and will need to make sure that your RV can last the night without them. Some people say it’s ok to run your generator, but we personally don’t and even if you do you will want to use it sparingly and shut if off for quiet hours.
Tips and Etiquette For Lotdocking
That brings us into tips for how to lotdock, best practices, and etiquette. As we mentioned above, you’ll want to ensure you follow good lotdocking etiquette to help ensure that these businesses and locations continue to allow lotdocking in the future!
Our number one tip is always call ahead. Not every place allows overnight parking, and so you want to make sure that they do before you get there. You could always go inside once you arrive and ask, but then of course you run the risk of not being able to stay and your plans are shot. Some places will have signs in the parking lot that say no overnighting, and often it either has to do with local ordinances or they’ve just had bad experiences in the past. So again, we want to do everything we can to be good guests and make sure that the places that do allow it continue to allow it.
Ask Where To Park & Go There
Also make sure you ask where to park. Sometimes they have specific spots for you to go. At our most recent Walmart stay they just said to make sure to be out by the perimeter of the lot so we went about as far away from the store as we could get along the edge. The biggest thing is to not be in the way. Find out how you can most unobtrusively park and not block anything. Leave the closer and most convenient areas for people coming to patronize the business.
Consider How You Setup Your RV
There are several things that I think most people can agree on regarding how you set up your RV in the parking lot. You want to stay hitched up. After all you’re not staying for more than a night to sleep and shouldn’t be using this as a destination for leaving your rig and going out and exploring. In our case we also leave the levelers up because you can damage the pavement with them because it’s a heavy rig. Make sure not to leave any damage in any way.
This next part is a little bit controversial. We think it’s perfectly fine to put your slides out, especially if you’re up against a curb. We put the majority of our slides out overhanging the curb. They’re definitely out of the way. And the one on the other side is still within the parking area that we park in so we’re definitely not blocking anything. The main thing is make your RV usable. If you’re in a Walmart parking lot and you can’t use half your RV it just doesn’t make any sense. Some people feel differently than we do, but things that we’ve read online as far as what people have been told when they ask Walmart seems like they’re okay with it as long as you are not in the way.
Don’t Treat It As A Camping Experience
Again, treat it just as a place to park overnight. Don’t get your grill out, put out your rug, or lounge outside in your chairs. Don’t hang out by your propane fire pit… Like we said, you’re going to be spending your time inside your rig or shopping at the business if you’re here and aren’t in an RV park.
Consider Buying Something From The Business
It’s good practice to go in and buy something as well if you need it just to kind of say thanks. We enjoyed running in and getting some ice cream for dessert this last time!
Head Out In the Morning
Our last tip is in the morning to wrap up and start heading out. You don’t have to be up and out at the crack of dawn, but you shouldn’t plan on staying the majority of the day. Besides, the sooner you hit the road again the sooner you’ll get to your actual destination where you can enjoy the real camping experience!
We still think that boondocking on quick overnights is probably the best thing for us because of our solar, but we really do have to say that lotdocking is very very convenient and it may come in handy for us again in the future. Definitely give it a try sometime for yourselves. We hope this gave you some helpful tips for having a successful lotdocking experience!
Ready To Plan Your Own Lotdocking Stay?
If you’re ready to plan your own lotdocking stay, download the free Lotdocking Checklist, with all the best practices and etiquette tips on one easy to reference page. You can print it out, or save it to your phone for when you’re out heading to your place to lotdock! It even has a link to this blog post so you can get all the details on the go!
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If you’d like to read about our RV and other RV adventures, then check out some of our other posts :
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- 11 Easy RV Office Workspace & RV Desk Ideas To Work From The Road
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