If you’ve been on Youtube lately, you’ve probably seen those videos of kids doing crazy things to get kicked out of Walmart. And I will admit that I was also asked to leave Walmart once, although to my credit, I wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. It’s not my fault I look perpetually twelve… that security guard didn’t know I was the adult in charge trying to stop the crazy behavior of a group of sleep-deprived summer campers.
Anyway, we can all agree that Walmart offers more than just great deals. Small-towners get their kicks at Walmart, and everyone probably has at least one interesting Walmart story. If you haven’t had a Walmart adventure yet, may I suggest Walmart camping? Here’s how and why.
What Walmart Camping is Not
Camping at Walmart does not involve building a cozy fort out of paper towels and hunkering down with a bottle of pop and a half-price beanbag chair. However, you can also see this sort of thing being done on Youtube.
Actually, Walmart camping is more mature than that. It really does involve real camping, and it really is legal. At least, it’s legal if you do it right.
So, What is Walmart Camping?
Walmart camping is sleeping in a trailer or a car in a Walmart parking lot overnight. Depending on your travel style, you probably think that’s super horrible or super awesome. I guess it depends on how you do it.
Believe it or not, I have done this before. My family was camping in an RV when I was a kid and we could not find an open camp site for one of the nights of our vacation. We slept in the RV in a Walmart parking lot, and it was just fine. Not our first choice, but we survived.
These days, this is actually a trend! Why not? After all, hotels are expensive, and sometimes there’s nowhere else to camp. If you’re driving cross-country without a plan, this sure beats going 70 miles per hour on the freeway when you really need some sleep to make good driving choices.
What’s OK, and What’s Not
Being homeless forever in a Walmart parking lot is not OK. There’s part of me that would really like to live in a big van and just sort of drift around. Sadly, my husband has nixed this. So much for being a “real” digital nomad. If you did want to camp in Walmart parking lots long-term, you’d have to move around a lot. You will not be allowed to squat in a single parking lot.
It’s also not OK to camp in parking lots that do not allow camping. Some Walmarts are OK with camping, and some are not. There are websites that list which Walmarts allow parking lot camping, so it’s probably a good plan to look up the listings before you set out on your trip. There will often be a sign posted to tell you if you cannot camp. And if you are asked to leave, then you should leave, unless camping in jail sounds like fun to you.
As long as you’re not doing anything too crazy, it’s definitely OK to stay overnight in a camp-approved Walmart parking lot. You can hang out in your car. You can go shopping at Walmart and grab some food. You can use the bathrooms in Walmart. It’s no KOA, but you’ll have all the facilities you need! Just don’t try to shower in the sink…
How to Be a Good Walmart Camper
It’s pretty cool that Walmart actually allows parking lot camping! But they won’t keep allowing this if the privilege is abused. If you’re going to camp at Walmart, be respectful!
First, don’t be obnoxious. Obviously, you can’t light a fire and roast s’mores. You also shouldn’t make a lot of noise or run around the lot. It’s probably a bad idea to set out your lawn chairs and drink a beer, too.
When you’re done camping, clean up after yourself. Make sure the area looks better than it did when you got there!
Also, park in the right place. If you have an RV or a trailer, stick to the designated RV spots. This is nice to everyone else, and it’s also better for you. After all, it gives you a lot more space.
Things to Think About
Walmart camping is awesome in a lot of ways. It’s free, it’s pretty safe, and it’s close to restrooms and snacks. However, there are a few drawbacks, as well.
First of all, there are obviously no hook-ups. You won’t get any water or sewer in a Walmart parking lot. Secondly, there is the risk that you will be asked to leave. Even if some guy on a forum managed to stay the night at a particular Walmart, that doesn’t guarantee that it’s actually allowed.
Finally, it’s not the best place to sleep. Depending on where you are, you might be bothered by noises from the road, headlights shining into your window, and early-morning shoppers making a racket. Still, you can get those same annoying experiences at plenty of real campsites.
I think I’ll camp at Walmart again someday, if I ever have the chance! It sounds like an interesting experience, and it would make a great story for dinner conversation. What do you think? Is this trend ridiculous, or it is totally awesome? Have you done it, or would you try? Let us know in the comments!