Savvy RVers know the game, and they call it “Wallydocking.”
The ubiquitous Walmart parking lot is good for a free overnight on the road, and I have to admit to a pleasant experience at one 24-hour Walmart.
We were driving south on I-95 in north Florida, bound for my mom’s house in New Smyrna Beach, when we were hit by a torrential downpour so bad that we couldn’t go any farther, even though we were only about 40 miles from our destination.
We pulled off the highway and made a beeline for Faver-Dykes State Park, just off I-95. Smart choice, I thought. Well, the park road was awash in mud and puddles — and we couldn’t turn around with our travel trailer until about a mile into the park!
By the time we got back to I-95, I was exhausted. It was still raining cats and dogs.
We got off at the next exit, Palm Coast, and saw the Walmart, so we pulled up along a parking-lot fence and slept through the storm, which continued most of the night.
The next morning, we were awakened by songbirds on a bright and cheery Florida morning. Looking out the window, an idyllic pond surrounded by palms was harboring dozens of birds.
Out of coffee, I walked over at 6 a.m. and loaded up on java and other supplies, and therein lies the Walmart advantage — and it’s the reason most Walmart stores let you park overnight.
“Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers,” reads a company policy statement. “Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store lots as we are able.”
Local laws or store policies make it illegal to camp overnight at some Walmarts. Bookmark this link to the official list of No-Park Walmarts in Florida. You’ll find it handy on the road.
I’ve met campers who spend weeks at a time hopping from Walmart to Walmart, and while it’s not the natural Florida experience we are bullish about here at Florida Rambler, it’s something to consider if you’re in a jam.
Florida’s DOT no longer allows overnight camping at rest areas along interstates and Florida’s Turnpike, although it’s unlikely security officers would interrupt a catnap.
When you arrive at a Walmart, it’s a good idea to go into the store and let a manager know you are there.
And by all means, follow a few common-sense rules, lest you ruin a good thing:
- Don’t overstay your welcome. One or two nights is probably OK.
- Don’t roll out your awnings or set up the grill in the parking lot.
- Avoid using hydraulic jacks on soft asphalt surfaces.
- Lock your RV securely. There’s no promise that store security will keep an eye on you.
- Make sure you clean up after yourself.
There are no hookups, so you are boondocking, which means you have to rely on your own power, water and gas. No picnic tables. No grills. You are simply in a parking lot, and hopefully they’ll have a nice landscaped pond like we were able to enjoy.
Inside the store, every Walmart has an RV section with many of the necessities, including biodegradable TP.
On that note, I think I’ll just slip away into the sunset. 🙂
Disclosure: This is NOT a paid advertisement for Walmart, just useful information for RVers. Florida Rambler receives no compensation from Walmart for this article.
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 12 years ago.