Looking for motorhome parking? Want to find free overnight stopovers or camping spots for motorhomes or campervans in the US? Or looking to stay somewhere that isn’t a campsite? Whether you want free spots, wild parking or businesses which let you stay overnight, here’s how to find motorhome parking near you.
motorhome parking what you need to know first
Whether you’re completely motorhomes new to or you’ve had a van for a while, a question frequently asked is how to find overnight motorhome parking.
Do you want:
- Long-term motorhome parking in a storage yard?
- Free overnight motorhome parking (often known as wild parking or motorhome wild camping)
- Other approved overnight motorhome parking spots
- Daytime motorhome parking?
Of course, what you want is going to greatly affect what you do next and how you find motorhome parking places to meet your needs.
what is the difference between motorhome parking and motorhome camping?
‘Camping’ implies an intention to stay somewhere, usually for at least a couple of days, and often involves getting equipment out of your motorhome or campervan, such as awnings, chairs, BBQs etc.
‘Parking’ is a short-term stop, designed as a rest before you continue your journey. Parking is usually for less than 24 hours and should be viewed much the same way as truckers use parking places for their rest stops.
so where can you legally park a motorhome or campervan overnight in the us
Ok, so campsites aside, where can you legally park overnight with a motorhome or campervan, especially in the US? Can you just park up wherever you like?
Errrr. Of course not.
If you want to stay 100% legal and ensure you are not breaking any laws or local bye-laws, you will need to find a campsite or approved location where the owners of the land are happy for you to stay in your van overnight.
Personally, I find that I sleep best when I’m in a quiet, natural setting. That generally means camping out whenever possible. Not all camp spots are created equally, though.
I’ve had good luck at national and state parks around the country. National and state park camping sites tend to be more spread out and feel more natural than privately operated campsites. That said, during the warmer months, they tend to fill up early—sometimes months in advance, especially on weekends. There are frequently last-minute cancellations, though. So, it’s worth stopping in, if you’re nearby, just in case there’s a vacancy.
National and state parks aside, my favorite camping is dispersed camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, in national forests, or at one of the country’s amazing national monuments.
BLM land in particular is almost always fair game. Not only is there a ton of it all across the continent, you can typically find a place to camp where you won’t see another single soul the entire time.
To me, camping on BLM land is the backpacking of car camping. By that I mean it’s off the grid—you won’t find showers or power hookups here. To that end, however, camping on BLM land is always free. So, what it lack in amenities it makes up for in affordability and peace and quiet.
how to find motorhome parking near you
There are a couple of options we use to find campsites or approved overnight parking places near us (or near where we want to go).
- Hipcamp includes a list of smaller and more private campsites as well as larger and more well-known campgrounds.
- There’s also Harvest Hosts, which is for self-contained RVs only. There’s a fee to join—however, with what you gain access to, the fee could pay for itself in one night. Harvest Hosts hooks you up with a directory of businesses—including farms, ranches, vineyards, restaurants, and more—who are willing to let you to camp on their property for the night. You’re generally expected to buy something from the business ($20 or more is suggested), but you could end up with a very unique experience on the cheap.
- Couchsurfing provides a global network of people who are willing to open their doors to strangers, potentially show them around town, or maybe just offer up a driveway to park in. The site takes pains to verify the identities of surfers and surfees. People can leave reviews for each other, so sketchiness should be pretty minimal.
- Join a club like Brit Stops to get hundreds of approved US motorhome parking places
- Use forums, Facebook groups or websites like this to get recommendations from other people.
Free overnight motorhome parking usIt’s important to remember that not every motorhome parking spot is free. Many have a small charge, but it will almost always be cheaper than a campsite.
Again, there are different types of free overnight parking places. These are:
Walmart has a policy of allowing overnighters at many of its stores, which is great.
While they aren’t glamorous, Walmart parking lots typically have good security and plenty of space to park. Remember to be courteous; don’t stay for more than a night or two and practice the principles of dry camping.
However, it’s important to note that not all Walmarts have this policy. Frequently, it’s on a city-by-city basis. For instance, virtually none of the Walmarts near Denver or Washington, D.C., allow overnighting. It’s worth calling ahead.
While Walmart may be the best-known chain friendly to overnighters, it certainly isn’t the only one. These were other answers.
Most Cracker Barrels are RV-friendly, have designated RV parking spots, and 24/7 surveillance.
Most casinos allow free overnight parking, though some charge a small fee if a big event is happening, like a concert or comedy show. “Be extra diligent about locking your doors"
- Camping World
Camping World RV stores often don’t have a ton of space in their parking lots. However, many of them do allow overnighting.
- Flying J Truck Stops
Flying Js are super RV-friendly and they offer free overnight parking and free RV dump stations, including potable water. You can even fill your propane tanks at most of them—for a fee, of course.
- Costco & Sam’s Club
Both of these big-box stores are very RV-friendly. But, again, just like with casinos, make sure you stay aware of your personal safety.
While not businesses in the traditional sense, church parking is also a spot. But it’s certainly advisable to call ahead and ask permission before posting up in a church parking lot. “If you’re a veteran, a lot of VFWs will allow you to overnight in their lots, too.”
We find these places using one or several of the following methods:
- Motorhome parking apps
Overnight RV Parking by Togo RV is a subscription service where you get access to the largest database of free RV parking locations in the U.S. and Canada. The app—available for both iOS and Android—uses your GPS to find free parking near your location and integrates with various map apps to provide detailed driving directions.
RVParky is available for iOS and Android. It shows you all of your options on a map, including most of the businesses listed above that provide free overnighting, as well as standard RV campgrounds. You can apply filters, including potable water, dump stations, electricity, etc. It even has user reviews, so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Best of all, it’s free.
AllStays features a lot of useful information. Though, it’s only offered for iOS. There’s also Park Advisor, which is available for both iOS and Android.
Last but not least, the Ladies’ Van crew is coming out with an app of their own, called simply The Vanlife App, which is designed to be a one-stop shop for all things van travel, including campsites, facilities, and a way to connect with the local community.
- Word of Mouth/ recommendations from people who have been
- Facebook groups
- Using maps like Google maps to search out likely spots
Tips of urban boondocking:Dos :
- Clear up ALL litter and waste
- Park in residential neighborhoods
- Watch children and pets and don’t let them wander away- wild camping doesn’t mean there is no-one else around
- Be sensible about safety. Lock doors and windows before going to sleep
- Utilize meters and side street parking
- Make loud noise/ play loud music
- Park near schools or playgrounds
- Engage in hygiene after you’ve parked
Final thoughtsUltimately, the best campsites we’ve ever found via word-of-mouth. Talk to your friends who have been to the areas you’re traveling to. Talk to your waiter or bartender and see what they think. Get on forums and see what others have done before you. Your dream spot may not appear in any search results. However, a friend or a friend of a friend may be willing to share their insight. And that kind of community mindshare is one of the best parts of the road trip experience anyway.
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