You are sure to spot us driving down the road in between work camping gigs. We typically give ourselves a week or two to get to the next destination, leaving us plenty of time to see a site or two, take care of any pending RV issues, or wait out bad weather. Unless we are planning to stay in a town for a few days or more to see a particular area or visit friends and family, we dry camp in parking lots. Our overnight stays are simply that, one night stays and without hook-ups. This allows more flexibility in our travel time, saves money, and in many cases serves as a more convenient mode of gathering much needed supplies.
We’ve mentioned Allstays.com a number of times in previous posts but cannot say enough about the website and app. Allstays is our go-to guide for RV travel. Not only does Allstays pinpoint campgrounds around the nation, it also locates overnight stops at businesses like truck stops, big box stores, restaurants, and more! Reviews from previous patrons are encouraged and included with information on the given location. Often times, we’ve used these reviews when determining the best place to park.
In addition to RV parks and campgrounds, Allstays has a few more added bonuses. With bridge heights and road grades clearly labeled, we are able to safely plan our route. Allstays also mentions businesses that dispense propane and dumping facilities. All of this and so many more service listings for an annual fee of about $30! Levi has created a few tutorials detailing the many functions of Allstays and how to use Google Maps in conjunction with Allstays when planning your next journey.
For us, overnight stays meet our our most basic need on the road, a place to rest. We have all of the creature comforts of home within our RV to supplement most wants (including running our generator as needed, in most locations) but still have the option of accessing more just outside our door whether it be a convenient store, restaurant, or small hike to stretch our legs . There are countless overnight parking options, but the following is a list of our preferred choices!
Many, if not all of these locations, could be considered a free stay; however, whenever possible, we will make a purchase or two at the establishment out of courtesy. In fact, we use the Good Neighbor Policy as our code of conduct when staying at a place of business. If a contact number is listed, we will call the location beforehand to assure parking is allowed/available and review any rules/regulations for overnighters.
#1 Truck Stops
Our most frequent one night stays are at truck stops, usually at a Pilot Flying J or Love’s . They are everywhere and conveniently located just off of major routes. Ample parking is almost always available. We are not only able to fill up on gas, but we can grab a snack at the store and, if available, adjoining restaurant(s). If we are lucky, we’ll happen upon a truck stop with extra amenities like an air pump, propane dispenser, dump station, parts supply shop, truck wash, showers, and/or repair station!
We almost always keep our slide outs in, especially sandwiched between big rigs, but there have been some cases where our parking arrangements have been in a dirt lot or at the end of a row and our slide out extends away from parked vehicles. In this case, we will OK it with the manager before extending.
As far as noise and light pollution, these are not a concern. The hum of the diesel trucks idling puts us to sleep; we are pretty tuckered after a day of driving. Plus, we don’t have any reservations about running our generator; the sound adds to the symphony. Closing the shades takes care of any light shining in, but on the flip side, the light serves as a means of security, illuminating our surroundings. Aside from that security measure, travel centers are open around the clock with assistance just steps away.
Our advice on selecting a truck stop: Select a location, but have a couple as back-up options. There were times when we arrived at a truck stop with little or no available parking or the only empty spaces were back-ins. If there were one or two parking spaces available, we’d leave; we’d rather it be used by a truck driver. Back-in parking is a no-go for us since we are towing and unhooking is rather inconvenient for overnight. In other situations, the parking lot was on a slope or the location seemed a bit sketchy and unsafe. We just trudged on down the road to the next stop.
There are a number of big-box stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Bass Pro Shop, and Sam’s Club, to name a few, that allow RVers to park overnight. Walmart has been our preferred stop among other superstores for several reasons. Walmart is our retreat in unfamiliar territory. We can always stock up on supplies ranging from food to RV supplies. There is also the comfort knowing that employees (and sometimes parking lot security guards) are available 24/7.
Not all Walmarts, or for that matter, not all big-box stores, allow overnight parking. On occasion, our requests to stay overnight have been rejected; we moved on. Other times, we were instructed to park in a specific location of the parking lot designated for rigs.
Once parked, we make sure that if the situation presents itself (i.e., nearly deserted parking lot), we are given the green light to stretch out our slides. Depending on the time of arrival, we may venture into Walmart for groceries either at night or the following day.
Noise and light disturbance is likened to that of truck stops, minus several decibels. Traffic in and out of the parking lot is typically minimal in the wee hours of the morning.
#3 Cracker Barrel
Cracker Barrel has been our foodie haven on long trips, more so in the colder months. A nice warm, hearty meal always does the trick after a day battling traffic and sometimes unwelcome weather. After getting verbal approval from the manager, we make our way to the RV/Bus designated parking spaces. Unfortunately, on many of our visits to Cracker Barrels, we have found most of the special parking taken by cars. We assume that patrons select these spaces because they are close to the entrance. In any case, it can be a bit disappointing and frustrating since they are clearly marked. Fortunately for us, at least one space has always been unoccupied and we quickly snag it!
We haven’t had any issues during our overnight stays in Cracker Barrel parking lots. In fact, they are always the quietest stays, but I am always a bit nervous staying in a deserted parking lot.
So far we have stayed overnight in two casinos, one located in Missouri and the other in Minnesota. We did our obligatory check-in with the casino managers to OK the stay before parking. Both casinos offered level parking spaces, and White Oak Casino in Minnesota (pictured above) had three spots with electric hook-ups. We helped ourselves to the free amenity and central air for the rest of the stay.
As recommended by the casino, we partook in some gaming and libations before calling it a night. The parking lots were not too full the nights we parked, and we were free to extend our slide outs and run the generator as needed.
#5 Rest Stops
Rest stops close up our top five overnight parking options. Although these roadside pit stops do not have the conveniences of the above mentioned (stores, restaurants, and entertainment), they do provide a place to stretch our legs, take our dog on a small hike, run the generator without hesitation, and maybe house a dump station.
As mentioned before, we use Allstays to locate overnight parking, in addition to many other camping options. A contact number is usually provided with the location’s information in order to check availability. Rest stops can be trickier. Our method: we locate a nearby rest stop when we are ready to call it a day and drive to it. Once there, we check to see that the pit stop is accessible (void of road construction or road blocks), has signs posted allowing overnight RV/rig parking, and appears safe. If everything checks out, we pull into a space.
Keep in mind that not all states allow overnight parking in rest areas. A quick Google search will tell you if a state allows this or not. If overnight parking is restricted, several hours of rest may be allotted, enough for a quick nap. Due to their remoteness, we usually only stop for a bit to eat during the day. As always, trust your gut with this sort of thing. If the area feels odd or unsafe, move along.
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As always….safe travels and happy trails!