There is long standing rumor, that the founder of Walmart, the late Sam Walton, was an avid RVer, and in this spirit, he permitted overnight parking at his stores. While on the weekends we prefer to go camping, on the weekdays we prefer to sleep at Walmart’s while we are actively traveling across the country. They are literally everywhere, well lit, monitored by security cameras, patrolled by security guards, usually open 24 hours, and stocked with almost anything you could ever want or need. We have a process when choosing a Walmart in which to spend the night. First, we have an app where people leave reviews about their experiences sleeping in the parking lot of any given Walmart. This tells us 2 things: If the Walmart allows overnight guests, and how their stay was. We also leave reviews on our experiences, in order to pay it forward. We also try to avoid Walmart’s located in cities, as they are usually loud, sometimes in sketchy neighborhoods, and often do not permit overnight guests. We also try to arrive no later the 8:00 pm, so we have plenty of time to find another Walmart if things don’t work out. We also prefer to stay at Walmart’s that are open 24 hours. Not only in case we get the midnight munchies, but if there is an issue, there is someone available to resolve it. Once we find a candidate, we drive around the parking lot to make sure it is safe, clean, and relatively quiet. We also take notice if there are RV’s, tractor trailers, and other vans already parked in the lot, which is usually a good sign that we are going to get a YES!
Some people like to call Walmart to ask for permission to park for the night, but I prefer to go into the store and ask in person. Sometimes the reviews are mixed or there are no reviews regarding overnight parking at a specific Walmart. If the manager ends up being on the fence about permitting you to park for the night, the following may result in a more favorable outcome. Many nights by the time we reach a Walmart to sleep for the night, we have just finished traveling 6+ hours on the back roads of America, and we definitely look the part. Take a moment to freshen up before going in. Comb your hair. Take a swig of Listerine. Splash some cool water on your face. Wear clean presentable clothes that are not all creased, and smell like you have lived in them for a week. Make sure you have had a shower sometime in the past 3 days! I like to wear business casual attire, and really put my best foot forward. If you are traveling as a couple, it is best to have the female go in to ask for permission to park for the night for a few reasons. Right or wrong, society typically views females as less threatening than males. In addition, the vast majority of the time I am speaking to the customer service manager who is also a woman. There is certain comradery between women, and all you ladies know it. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Nothing is worse than getting a NO after you have traveled all day, are extremely exhausted and ready for bed.
When entering the Walmart, I go in to the customer service desk and ask for the manager. I do so because the manager is one who is the most familiar with Walmart policies on overnight guests at their specific location. When the manager arrives, the first thing I do is ask for the manager’s name and title. In case I am questioned by someone during the night, I can say I spoke with “Tina, The Customer Service Manager”, and she said I could park in this location. Also, once I know the managers name and title, I can hold him or her accountable for their responses with their supervisor if it conflicts with Walmart policy. I then introduce myself to the manager, make eye contact, and smile. This also makes the manager feel comfortable with my presence in the parking lot, so she doesn’t think I am going to leave a mess, or create a disruption. When asking for permission to stay in the parking lot, I say the following to the manager: “I understand that Walmart allows overnight guests in their parking lots at this location. I have a small camper van, I wanted to ask where should I park for the night?” This shows the manager the following: I am aware that Walmart allows overnight parking at their location, I have a small vehicle I am parking, and I am showing consideration to Walmart’s other customers by asking where I should park. I DON’T say “Can I park in your parking lot for the night to sleep?”. Some managers might not know Walmart’s policy on overnight guests parking, and will say no because their afraid of getting in trouble. Other managers might not want their parking lot to be full of Class A RV’s and tractor trailers, so their other customers have limited parking options. 95% of the time they just tell me where in the parking lot to go. Occasionally, they will walk outside ask me to point out my van, and then point out where they want me to park. Some people don’t ask permission, but asking permission allows me a more restful night sleep. By doing so, we have yet to get the dreaded knock on the van at 3 am telling us to move along.
After doing the above, what do you do if the manager still says you cannot spend the night? I like to first ask “Is this a Walmart policy, or this a local ordinance”. If it is a local ordinance, then there is little you can do. You can call the police department to confirm such an ordinance exists. One time when I was in Kentucky, the manager said there was a local ordinance prohibiting overnight parking, and just that moment a cop happened to be walking by. I asked the cop about local overnight parking restrictions in front of the manager, and the cop stated no such local ordinances existed. Needless to say the manager decided to let me spend the night. Now, If the manager said you cannot park for the night because Walmart does not allow it. You have a few options. I first start off by pointing out the other RV’s and Tractor Trailers currently parked in their parking lot for the night. If that does not convince them to let me spend the night, then I always have the app up on my phone showing others reviews of parking at that location. I then begin to read each of the reviews off to the manager one at time. Walmart managers are extremely busy, and talking to you about the history of people who parked in their parking lots is not high on their priority list. This is the moment were they will eventually give in and let you park, or say no means no! Whatever their final answer is, always be polite, calm, respectful, and then move on to the next Walmart. Getting a NO for the first time was devastating for me. I felt judged, and I was greatly offended. Try not to take it personally as it makes the whole experience more daunting. I get a YES 95% of the time now, so that 5% means less and less to me.
Now, you have permission from the manager, and a provided a parking spot for the night. Please remember the following: You are there as a guest to sleep for the night. You are not there to set up camp. The following are some things you should absolutely NOT do when parking in a Walmart parking lot: Don’t erect lounge chairs outside and sunbathe, don’t fly kites or flags, don’t blast music or play musical instruments and don’t set up a BBQ grill or start a bonfire. The above might seem like common sense, but you would be surprised what we have seen others do in a Walmart parking lots. The most common request we hear from Walmart managers when we ask to stay is not to not leave garbage in the parking lot. Most Walmart’s have large trash cans near each of cart corrals located through entire parking lot. There is no excuse to be a slob or disruptive! Your unacceptable behavior ruins it for the rest of us, and gives us all a bad a reputation. Once again remember, you are a guest on Walmart property. You can be asked to leave, or be ticketed and removed by the local police.
What you should do when sleeping in a Walmart parking lot is to go into Walmart, buy a snack, rent a Netflix, and have a quiet night’s sleep!