You’re on a road trip, the sky is darkening, and you’re thinking about where to spend the night. The question pops into your mind:
Can you park at Walmart overnight?
You can generally park overnight at Walmart. Walmart’s lots are often a convenient and relatively safe option for a night’s rest, and I’ve parked overnight in Walmart parking lots for several overnight stays. However, while Walmart’s corporate policy is generally welcoming to overnight campers, individual store policies and local laws can vary. I always call store management beforehand and ask local ordinances.
However, safety is key when staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot. For more on safety precautions, make sure to check out our article: Is it safe to sleep in your car? Let’s go into detail about sleeping in your car overnight at Walmart, how to stay safe, and how to show your gratitude. There are also tips on asking for permission to park at a Walmart, and some alternative locations if there isn’t a Walmart close by.
Why Do Some Walmarts Prohibit Overnight Parking?
While many Walmarts welcome overnight parkers, some prohibit it due to local laws or safety concerns. For example, in cities with high crime rates, Walmart may restrict overnight parking to protect customers and property. Local ordinances may ban overnight parking altogether. The legality of sleeping in your car varies by jurisdiction. For a deeper dive, check out: Is it illegal to sleep in your car?
Which Walmarts Allow Overnight Parking?
When planning your road trip, knowing which Walmarts are more likely to welcome overnight guests is crucial. During my time traveling across the U.S., I have noticed that Walmart stores can be categorized into three main groups:
- High Probability – Rural Areas: Walmarts in rural locations are your best bet, with most allowing overnight parking. I’ve never come across a Walmart in the middle of nowhere that hasn’t let me stay overnight. These stores often have expansive parking lots that can accommodate multiple RVs and countless cars. The local laws in rural areas are generally more lenient, making it easier to secure a spot for the night.
- Moderate Probability – Suburban Areas: In suburban settings, the likelihood of overnight parking drops a bit. These Walmarts have medium-sized parking lots and may have more restrictions due to community guidelines or zoning laws. I always consult with store management to get the green light for overnight parking.
- Low Probability – Urban Areas: Your chances for overnight stays are even slimmer in urban Walmarts. These stores often have smaller lots and are subject to stricter local ordinances prohibiting overnight parking. The few urban Walmarts I’ve stayed in are always crowded with people walking around all night, so we never spend much time in them. Sometimes, these lots may also have security measures like gates or guards that restrict access after hours.
Do I Need To Ask For Permission to Park at a Walmart?
Before you make yourself comfortable for the night in a Walmart parking lot, it’s essential to ask for permission. While most Walmarts I’ve come across have allowed overnight parking, not every Walmart does. Store policies can differ due to local laws or management decisions. Failing to ask Walmart for permission could result in a rude awakening by security or even law enforcement.
If you’re unsure how to ask for permission, here’s a sample script to guide you: “Hi, I’m on a road trip and was wondering if it would be okay to park overnight in your lot?” Simple as that, there’s no reason to overcomplicate things. That script has always worked for me, and you always get a yes or no answer from them. And if the Walmart has specific areas for overnight parking, they will tell you then.
Check out the other places you can park overnight:
- Can You Park At Costco Overnight?
- Can You Park Overnight At A Hospital?
- What Stores Allow Overnight Parking?
- Can You Sleep In Your Car At a Rest Stop?
Best Practices for Your Overnight Walmart Stays
Whether you’re a seasoned road-tripper or a first-timer, knowing the do’s and don’ts can make your experience at Walmart smoother and more enjoyable.
- Etiquette: Aim to park in the far corners of the lot away from store entrances. Keep your area clean—dispose of trash properly—and maintain a low noise level to respect other patrons. Believe it or not, I’ve seen someone start a campfire in the middle of the Walmart parking lot. Don’t do that.
- Where Is the Best Place to Park Your Car Overnight?: Choose spots that are well-lit for safety but not directly under a light to avoid glare. We have pretty thick window coverings to block out all light, but if you don’t, parking directly under the light will keep you up at night. You should also avoid parking in spots designated for employees or near loading zones.
- Do You Have to Crack a Window When Sleeping in Your Car?: Cracking a window can provide ventilation but may compromise security. A gap of just 1-2 inches is usually sufficient for airflow without being an invitation to intruders.
- Can I Leave My Car Running While I Sleep in It?: It’s generally not advisable due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, and it’s illegal in some states. Always check local laws.
For more comprehensive advice on car camping, check out our Car Camping Advice Category.
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Tips for a Safe and Comfortable Night in Your Car
Ensuring a safe and comfortable night in your car goes beyond finding a well-lit parking lot. Here are a few things I do to ensure a comfortable overnight stay in my car:
- Safety Measures: Lock all doors and roll up windows to at least 90% to maintain security. Stash valuables like laptops and cameras in the trunk or under seats to deter theft.
- Comfort: Invest in a quality neck pillow and a lightweight, thermal-insulated blanket to enhance sleep quality. If you’re traveling in a car, a 4-inch foam mattress topper gives me the back support needed for uninterrupted sleep.
- Essentials: Always have a multi-function flashlight that also serves as an emergency beacon. A compact first-aid kit should include band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers. I also keep at least one gallon of bottled water for hydration and basic hygiene.
While you can’t shower in the parking lot unless you’re in your RV with a full fresh tank, staying clean is essential to staying comfortable. To learn about maintaining hygiene during your travels, our article on places to shower on the road is a must-read.
How Can I Show My Gratitude To Walmart?
After a restful night in a Walmart parking lot, it’s courteous and beneficial to show your gratitude. Doing so encourages the store to continue allowing travelers like you to park overnight. The simplest way to say thanks is by shopping at the store. Even as little as $10 can make a difference. Additionally, a positive review online can help other road-trippers find a welcoming stop.
I love overnight stops at Walmart because it allows us to fill up the fridge in the RV before heading to our next spot. I’m all about efficiency when I’m on the road, so killing two birds with one stone is always nice.
Alternatives to Walmart for Overnight Parking
If Walmart isn’t an option or you’re looking for variety, there are other places to consider for overnight parking. Rest stops often allow up to 8-hour stays and are equipped with basic amenities. Hospitals generally have 24/7 security, making them a secure option. Costco allows overnight parking in some locations with a membership. Campgrounds offer amenities and can range from $10-$50 per night.
Check out our comprehensive article on the best places to sleep in your car for more alternatives. Or, if you’re willing to spend a little money, check out our article on finding cheap accommodations on road trips.
Wrapping It Up: Can You Park At Walmart Overnight?
So, can you park overnight at Walmart? Most of the time, the answer is yes. However, it’s crucial to check individual store policies and local laws. Walmart lots are often convenient and relatively safe, but alternatives like rest stops, hospitals, Costco, and campgrounds are also viable options. Always remember to consult with store management and consider safety precautions for a secure and comfortable stay.