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Walmart Camping

"Did you know that at Walmart camping is allowed?" We didn't know, but the old man at the campground in Florida insisted that WalMart not only allowed RVs and vans to park overnight, but encouraged it. "Free camping," he told us. We didn't wait long to take advantage of this new knowledge.

Somewhere in northern Georgia we pulled into a WalMart, and sure enough, we saw a few RVs off to one side of the parking lot, that looked like they were camping there for the night. We were traveling back to Michigan in our conversion van, and free camping seemed like a good idea to us. We parked, plugged in our 5-inch T.V., and settled in for the night. In the morning we used the bathrooms inside, and bought some orange juice. Nobody bothered us.

The following night we stayed for free again, this time at a "Flying J" truckstop. There were several RVs camping there as well. You'll see Flying J Truckstops all over, and they have actively courted the RV crowd, counting on gas and other sales. We certainly filled our tank there in the morning, and bought some food as well. As long as campers stay out of the way of the truckers, their policy is likely to continue.

Note: Ask permission first. Some Wal-Marts are not allowing camping now due to problems or local regulations.

Apart from WalMart and Flying J camping, other places include BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and National Forest land, where the camping is free unless specifically forbidden (but limited to two weeks in one place). In a jam you can also blend into the crowd for a nap in a hospital parking lot or at any 24-hour supermarket.

There are actually many free campgrounds around the country, even some with showers. In fact, when the old man told us about Walmart and Flying J Truckstops, we were camping for free at Williams landing, east of Tallahassee, on Talquin Lake. They allow you up to 10 days, and there are hot showers, no charge. The Army Core of Engineers operate some free campgrounds as well. For a list of most of the free campgrounds in the country, you can buy a Woodall's directory at an RV dealership.

Note: At Walmart, camping seems to actually be encouraged, except in a few coastal areas where there are just too many RVer's that want to live in a parking lot. And don't roll out the outdoor carpet and put out the lawn furniture like one traveler we heard about (you may ruin it for all of us). Some have told us they stay for a week at a time at a Walmart, going out all day every day to see the sights (and so they don't wear out their welcome). I'm sure Walmart gets a lot of business from people camping like this, but they'll only continue their current policy if they don't have problems. So keep it low-key.

To find out if there is a Walmart in the area you'll be traveling to, go to Walmart.com. Just scroll down to their "store finder" link near the bottom of the page, and search a city. The results will show you the nearest store. Thank you for camping at Walmart!


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