Step one. Check our guide to get the general idea of whether parking is allowed at the desire Wal-Mart or area. We say general idea because this changes all the time. Rapidly. It may be because of local ordinances, temporary construction or past abuse but we change Wal-Mart listings one way or the other to the number of about 25 stores a month.
Step two. If you are on the road and planning way ahead of time, you may want to call the Wal-Mart to ask about the policy. We provide the phone numbersin our listings. There is a Wal-Mart Rand McNally atlas that you can buy that lists Wal-Mart stores but all of our editions have not included phone numbers. So that is not very helpful.
Step three. Upon arrival, go into the store and ask a manager or the customer service desk if it's okay to sleep in your RV for the night. You need to get permission and it is the right thing to do. Don't assume it's okay even if our listings say it's okay. Don't assume it is okay if your neighbor said he did it last year. Don't assume it's okay if there are other RV's in the lot. They may be shopping, napping or who knows what. They may be waiting for a police officer to knock on their door at 2am. Some stores will take down your information and only allow those to stay there. We've heard of some RVs getting evicted at Wal-Marts while others are allowed to stay.
Step four. Park where the store recommended you to park. They may say “far away from the entrance” or “on the north side along that row of trees.” They usually like RVs to stay out of the way of customers, deliveries, lot sweepers and so on. They also probabably want it to look like a Wal-Mart and not a RV dealership from the entrance.
Step five. Park like you on the side of the highway ready to move on. You should ALWAYS be able to turn your key and drive away. Never put anything outside that makes it look like you are camping. No awnings, chairs, grills, tables, trash, levelers, jacks, slide-outs deployed, pop-ups popped, trailers unhitched, dumping tanks, and so on.
In many places, this is actually the definition of the law that allows you to park in a parking lot or at a rest area. You are sleeping only and always able to drive away…immediately.
There is also a grey area surrounding this step. What about roof antennas and slide-outs? Is that parking or camping? We tend to rule against slide-outs in parking lots. This means you definitely can't just drive away. You are also probably taking up more than one parking space. Sometimes you need jacks to run your slide-outs and you definitely shouldn't use these as they may damage the parking lot surface. Roof antennas usually can be cranked down in about ten seconds and they leave no damage. But they don't look very good. The best thing is to crank it up after dark and then down before you go to sleep so it's not so visible as in daylight hours.
Last step is to get up and leave early in the morning, preferably before 7:30 am and with nothing left behind. Many bans on parking come from locals seeing a campground in the parking lot on their morning drive to work. This privilege is intended for one night stays on long highway journeys. Some Wal-Marts allow for one or two nights max. Abuse is from the folks who live there as tourists or visitors.
It is important to be respectful, get permission and follow these guidelines. Although I don't agree with many of Wal-Marts business practices, I will shop there if I park there. It does help if you can patronize the store. Even better if you thank the manager for the stay with a cart of merchandise. We are losing our privileges rapidly due to abuse and complaints from locals. Many complaints come from nearby RV Parks that are losing business. That is another story.