- 1 Free RV parking on the street
- 2 Stop, Consume and Ask
- 3 Apps to find free RV parking
There are three main ways to find free RV parking when I get to a new city. Through my phone, through mega store parking lots and by just parking in the street. Each city is different, so more likely than not you will be rotating between these three strategies when you arrive in a new place.
Here is the process by which I decide which method is best for each city I arrive in.
- Step 1: Get to know the city first. Before you get there, if you have time, find out what people are saying about each neighborhood online. You don’t have to find caravaning articles per se. Instead, try to get a mental map of the layout of the city. Where is downtown? where is Main Street? Where is the major freeways in the city.
- Step 2: Once you get there, try to assess how big or busy the streets are. This is where you’ll figure out whether it’s better to park in a parking lot or in a residential area.
- Step 3: Check your go-to application, maybe there is an opportunity to camp at someone’s house through boondockerswelcome.com or maybe there is a Walmart in the area that is extremely friendly to RVers.
- Step 4: If you find a free parking spot that could be considered as part of someone’s vicinity or property, ask them if you can stay the night.
- Step 5: Camp for the night for free.
Free RV parking on the street
finding free RV parking on the street in a new city can be a daunting challenge. You don’t know how the locals, law enforcement or nearby residents will react, but there is a sure fire way to find an acceptable spot without asking for any permission and risking friction with the neighbors.
Method 1: Finding the hippie neighborhood
Some neighborhoods are notorious for embracing free things and there is definitely strength in numbers. Many of the neighborhoods they have made their own, have a great culture. In addition to finding free RV parking, you’ll find cheap places to shop, artsy places to visit and great authentic places to eat.
Los Angeles has Venice, San Francisco has Hippie Hill and Austin has South Congress Avenue. Every major city has one neighborhood known for having a lenient law enforcement policy and these neighborhoods are typically okay with campers freeloading a night or two (and sometimes a month) in a free parking spot on the street.
Method 2: Cruise and find others
Local RVers and campers know the best places to park in each city. While cruising large avenues, you are sure to find at least one with many motorhomes parked along the way. These streets are typically a little away from residential areas, with not much happening around. That’s why it’s tolerated and even encouraged as a street for large vehicles to park for the night.
These places can be central but can also be in the outskirts. If you’re unsure about the safety in the city, it’s better not to risk it and use another method for finding a free parking spot. However in most cities this way is fine and will save you a lot of money and will land in cozy locations.
Method 3: Find the Food trucks
Food trucks are like the local experts of Free RV parking. They know the closest central place to park overnight. Next time you grab a taco ask them where they park and you’ll get an answer worth its letters in gold. If you find a food truck on the road that is not active, you can park behind it with a solid heart. These food truck operators are business owners and they wouldn’t put their restaurants in danger night after night.
Method 4: The residential option
Parking in a residential area is an art. You want to use this option when you don’t feel safe parking your rig in the outskirts and empty parts of town. You want to be close enough to people where you feel safe, but not so close that they feel you intruding. It’s always better to ask when you get there, but sometimes you will arrive too late in the night and perhaps won’t have the opportunity to do so.
You must use a little tact to pick the neighborhood. Don’t just stop at the first spot you see. Find a neighborhood that is not too expensive but not so cheap or better yet try to match the neighborhood to your RV so that you stand out as little as possible.
How to pick the house you will park in front of
- Houses with thick bushes and a lot of vegetation
- Houses that are not very close to the street with a large front yard
- Houses that have a motorhome in the driveway
- parking spots that don’t face the front of the house, but rather the side of it. corner houses are ideal.
- Streets that are well lit and have a traffic light at the intersection. (The reason is that these houses see a lot of car traffic and privacy isn’t something that they are used to having a lot of)
- Spots in front of apartment buildings. Apartment residents tend to feel less entitled to the parking spots in front of their houses because they share that space with the other residents. On the other hand houses often consider the parking spot in front of their house as part of their “turf”.
Stop, Consume and Ask
There are so many places where you can potentially park for the night, the secret is to practice good etiquette and ask if it’s ok with the manager or owner of the property. It’s just the right thing to do. You’ll find that people will rarely refuse you, and if they do, there are so many willing parties willing to let you park there for free.
Here is a list of places where you have a good chance at spending the night in peace:
- Walmart parking lots
- Costco parking lots
- Home Depot parking lots
- Lowe’s parking lots
- Truck stops
- Rest Areas
- All you can eat restaurants
- Beach parking lots
Apps to find free RV parking
Nowadays there are a lot of apps, websites and programs to find some free parking for your RV. What theses apps do really well is use the community to find and rate these different spots. So you constantly know what other RVers have experienced in that location. The most important factor in those ratings is recency, As we’ve probably all experienced before, things change and a location that was a really good spot a couple of years ago could become unwelcoming to motorcoaches really quickly.
This website is a free resource if you use it on a desktop or laptop, the app however is paid, and will cost you a one time fee. So it might be a good idea to purchase it once you’ve used the website and rated it for yourself.
The hotels and campsites section of the website don’t offer you anything you wouldn’t be able to find through another source. It’s the driver section however that will enable you to tap into the community. You will find ratings and experiences for different superstore parking lots, casinos, truck stops, rest areas and more. It can also tell you certain places outside RV parks where you can dock. This area of the service has become so popular over the last year, that a lot of people use this app exclusively to map out their route and destinations.
Boondockers welcome is a for-us-by-us type of website, made for RVers to host and campout at each other’s places. Kind of like an Airbnb where old campers are willing to give you a piece of property for you to spend the night on.
You’re likely to be asked to have dinner by your hosts. The app features some of the friendliest people in the country. If you don’t mind sharing your experiences with like minded individuals, then you should put the boondockerswelcome icon right on your home screen next to the messages icon because you’ll find yourself using it a lot.
This app allows you to access a map where people share the free RV parking spots that have worked for them on the road, similar to a parking log used by thousands of people on the road. So when you arrive in a new town, you’ll have users who have been there before recommending you park at spot X or Y and not at Z or T. Before using the website however you have to purchase the service for a yearly subscription fee of around $25.
The Walmart overnight parking locator app is a great way to quickly find a Walmart for the night. Although it’s probably the quickest way to find and map your way to the store, it’s not as comprehensive as allstays’ app which give you many more options right off the bat. If you’re looking to do as little research as possible upon entering a city, using this app and finding a Walmart is probably the best first approach to take in finding free overnight parking.
There it is, my personal guide to finding free RV parking for the night in new cities. If you know or use certain methods that are not mentioned, feel free to share it with us in the comment section below!