To be honest when we left Canada on our first trip in 2018 trip with our big 5th wheel trailer we didn’t have a real plan, we didn’t know exactly where we were going, I’d only driven our massive 350 truck once and felt it was too wide for the road, Adam had only driven with the trailer attached once, but we had a pile of maps and a GPS that was newly updated with 3 countries of maps.
That night we ended up in Battle Creek Michigan it was cold, snowy and dark and guess what we found just off the highway....Walmart! Our first night on our big trip and we were going to sleep in a Walmart parking lot. It felt weird and we had heard some really crazy stories! We parked at the back of the parking lot and went inside for a wander. After we bought our wine and pizza for dinner, we found a manager and ask if we could park out there for the night. They just smiled and said of course! We ended up having a great night, enjoy our dinner, watched a movie and even turned on the furnace so we were toasty warm. It was surprisingly quiet through the night and into the morning, no traffic, no cars in the parking lot, no knocks on our door in the middle of the night. It was just that easy to camp out for free, right off the highway making a quick start to our morning. Amazing!
Me at another Walmart, getting ready for a long drive
One Walmart that was in Indiana we had a cool experience. When I woke up in the morning and I taking our travel cups of coffee to the truck, there was a local newspaper on our doorstep!! And someone had hand written on the waterproof bag, have a great day! How amazing is that! Thanks Indiana!!
Morning paper at Walmart in Indiana
Good morning! Have a great day!
Coming down the highway through Missouri on one trip, a guy in a car beside us started waving at us and moving his arm up and down in a wavy motion. I had no idea what he was doing. Adam knew right away something was wrong with big Valhalla’s roof! I quickly put Walmart into the GPS which, luckily one was just ahead in a couple of miles. We parked at the back end of the parking lot and both climbed up on the roof. It was what we were already worried about... spending the winter in the hot Baja sun caused some problems to Valhalla’s old roof and with a week of highway driving caused the roof to peel up and wave around like a giant parachute while we were were trying to drive home. We jumped into Walmart and bought out their Gorilla tape and began taping the front of the roof down before it started raining again. Gorilla tape is amazing, and thankfully our parking lot fix held until we got back to Canada.
Me on Valhalla’s roof trying to Gorilla tape up the roof so we can finish our week and a half drive home...
Another Walmart that we stayed at in Oklahoma, was a windy night. When we got up and out to the truck in the morning our nice clean black truck was covered in a pink dust of clay. Funniest part was there were tons of little tiny cat footprints all over the truck and in the pink clay dust!
The night two of our first trip, we had made it just east of St Louis. We couldn’t find a Walmart that was outside the city, so we joined the big trucks and camped out at a rest stop. And guess what? It was fantastic! Huge parking spaces, super friendly truckers who knew the roads and routes and full of helpful tips. It was another great night camping out for free. But, since the trucks are coming and going at all hours of the day and night you do hear the transport trucks moving all through the night, you get a lot of lights shining in and most trucks don’t turn the engines off so it can get quite noisy.
We have stayed a few other rest stops, but we have stayed at so many Walmart’s. When we are traveling we always have a big ‘to pick up’ list so it’s easy for us to run into the store pick up supplies and groceries. That way when we finally get out to our deserted beach or empty desert we are super prepared and can stay out longer.
At this point were feeling great, two nights into our trip and we’d already crossed off two of the bigger scary places to camp out for no cost!
Next on our list was BLM land. It’s known as Bureau Land Management and its chunks of land that exist in some states where you can camp out with your trailer, van or tent. You can stay for free, for up to two weeks after that they ask you to move at least 20 miles. These areas are of course pack in pack out, meaning whatever you bring in camping with you, you take it all out with you as well...everything...that includes grey water and black water, yes from the bathroom!
Camping out in Arizona on BLM land...check out those mountains, awesome hiking here!
We’ve stayed at some beautiful BLM spots. Many are near mountains, rivers or lakes and great hiking trails. We have a big telescope and camping out in BLM spaces with no lights for miles is ideal for getting a good look at the stars. We have met some fantastic people camping out on BLM land on hikes and out exploring the desert.
The other free place to stay at that we’d been hearing stories about are casinos. We have actually stayed at a few now. These parking lots might be the most quiet and uninterrupted. We always park at the back out of the way and never hear or see another vehicle. So it’s a great choice for a quiet night.
Staying the night at a Casino parking lot
We have also stayed at a Costco. We were just starting our trip and basically had an empty trailer. We needed so many supplies from soap, food, toilet paper to a mattress... everything! We actually called the store before we went in, told them we were in the parking lot and needed to do a lot of stocking up. They had no problem with us camping over for the night and were super happy they could help.
That’s the usual list of places to stay for free that are conveniently right off your travel path. Walmart, truck stops and casinos for a quick stop then off to BLM land to relax a little bit. We have heard of a few restaurants that let you stay over if you eat there, but we haven’t tried any of those. We’ve also heard that other large chain stores like home hardware or Canadian tire will occasionally let RV camp out, again we’ve never camped out there either.
If you’ve camped out at other strange free places, add a comment and let us know, we are always looking for other weird places to check out.