We’ve never had any inclination or desire to “camp” overnight in a Walmart or any other commercial campground. We feel the same about stopping overnight in rest areas. We’re uncomfortable with even the idea of it.
There are a lot of people who do, however. Some of them put in long hours on the road and, when its time to stop, pull in to an available parking lot and spend the night. Some even go so far as to extend their slides, set up their lawn chairs and pull out the barbecue.
We stayed once for a few hours in a rest area in the Texas panhandle in the mid-eighties. It was our first trip towing a camper, a small Play-Mor travel trailer, and we had put in a fairly long drive, stopping well after dark. With only two weeks vacation we wanted to spend as much time as possible where we were going to be exploring and as little time as needed to get there.
Thirty plus years later, I can still remember how hard it was to get any sleep. The rest area, of course, was right on Interstate 40, with its traffic noise. On top of that were the trucks that pulled in and parked for the night, most of them, it seemed, with their diesel engines left idling through the night. The parking area was well lit all night long, compounding the difficulty in getting to sleep.
We were back on the road heading toward New Mexico by dawn.
A 2016 RV Life Magazine article, Is Walmart Camping Dangerous for RVers, by Rene Agredano, says, “Every day thousands of RVers across America go ‘Walmart Camping.’” Agredono then goes on to talk about crime around Walmarts and Walmart Supercenters, citing Charles Fishman, author of The Walmart Effect.
In Time magazine’s Low Prices, High Crime: Inside Walmart’s Plan to Crack Down on Shoplifting, Fishman says that through the 1990s and 2000s, 80% of Walmart’s crime was happening in the parking lots. Today, with increased surveillance cameras and better light, crime has moved mostly into store isles. “At night, they’re the only place that’s open, and where Walmart is the dominant retailer, they’re pulling in visitors from all over. They can easily generate more traffic than the whole town. By pure numbers, the crime is going to be where the people are.”
Most commenters on the RV Life article who used Walmart for camping indicated that they had never had experienced or seen any problems and that they would continue to do it. Only one stated any actual problems he encountered, catching someone slashing tires on his 5th wheel – and he wasn’t even stopping overnight.
- A retired police chief commented, from his experience in four different jurisdictions, that 85% of crime at Walmart is shoplifting offenses and that there are increased incidents of vehicle burglaries during the Christmas shopping season. Other than that, though, Walmarts are not “typically any more crime prone than other large retailers.”
- Another commenter said that a police officer in Cleveland suggested they find another location as the crime rate where they were was pretty bad.
- A retired police records administrator took exception to the RV Life article’s implications on crime at Walmart.
- One family stayed 5 nights at their local Walmart because of fires blocking them from returning home.
- Another commenter said he had stayed in a few campgrounds where he didn’t feel safe – run-down with too many long-term residents in broken-down campers, glad to move on the next morning and would have felt MUCH safer in a Walmart parking lot.
- One local Walmart was mentioned as no longer allowing overnight parking because of homeless people in vans, ratty motorhomes, pickups with campershells, etc. “The trash these people left was terrible.”
On their Walmart Locator site, Walmart says:
While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.
There is a new 2017 edition of Walmart Locator.
Being retired, we usually limit our travel days to 4 to 6 hours actual travel time. That leaves a lot of time left in the day that we do not want to spend sitting in a Walmart parking lot. We usually find a state park, Corps of Engineers park, forest service campground or private campground.
We do utilize Walmart a lot in our travels. In fact, it is probably the #1 single item I search for on our GPS.
We use them for restroom and exercise breaks. We park far out in the lot, get a good stretch walk on our way in to use the restroom and then take a walk around the circumference of the store. We may walk just one time around, but usually it’s twice and sometimes even three times.
Sometimes we even buy something.
More on RV “Camping” at Walmart
There’s even a video: