Lot-Docking vs Boondocking

If you’ve been RVing for more than a day you’ve probably heard of boondocking. But in case you haven’t, I won’t make you Google it. Boondocking is when you’re traveling and stay overnight somewhere you don’t have to pay. Typical spots are Walmart, BLM land, Cabelas, Sam’s Club, Cracker Barrel, etc. There are websites and Facebook groups dedicated to boondocking locations if you want more ideas. The way I see it is if you’re only going to stop somewhere for 10 hours or so, why pay a $50 daily rate at an RV park? So, for those budget minded RVers on the go, boondocking is usually the overnight method of choice while traveling.

Choosing a boondocking location

There’s a lot of things to consider when choosing where to boondock.

  • Are we allowed to stay there? The places I mentioned above are usually safe bets. But you really should call ahead just to be safe, and always ask a manger when you arrive to double check. Some cities have ordinances against overnight parking.
  • How close is the location to our travel route? We don’t want to drive twenty miles off the highway.
  • Can we physically get our 41′ fifth wheel into the parking lot? Google maps is invaluable for this one. If there’s semis in the parking lot, you can probably fit.
  • Are you able to rest there? We recently started staying at more Cabelas instead of Walmarts, more on this later. Sleeping is why you stop there, make sure you’re actually able to sleep there.
  • Do you want to shop or eat there? Sure it’s a no brainer, but I’d be remiss if I left it out. Staying at a Cracker Barrel means you don’t have to cook breakfast before you get back on the road. And staying at Walmart means you don’t have to unhook to go shopping.

Other things to consider when planning on boondocking

  • Is your food accessible? When our slides are in we can’t access most of our kitchen. So our paper plates, plastic cutlery, and finger foods are all in the cupboard we can get in.
  • Are your clothing and towels accessible when the slides are in? If not, pull out what you want and place it somewhere you can get to it. For us it’s the dryer. The bedroom slide obstructs the closet half with our clothes, instead of the stacked washer/dryer side. So clothes go in the dryer where we can get to them.
  • Make sure you have enough water. You don’t want to be showering in a Walmart parking lot and run out of water.
  • Please don’t put out your slides unless necessary. Also don’t set up camp chairs, tables, fire pits, etc. Looking like you’re setting up shop is a quick way to burn a manager’s good graces. Please be courteous so that other Rvers after you will still be able to stay there.

Why we like Cabelas

We’ve been traveling full time for a year now, and we’ve always boondocked at Walmarts, until last month. It’s usually because they’re at regular intervals along any major road in America, so they make planning stops easy. However, we’ve noticed some problems for us with staying there. Primarily, it’s the noise and traffic. Since they’re open 24/7 there’s a constant flow of traffic all night, that’s not good for sleeping. Also, there’s always the battle of trying to find one of the coveted curb side spots where you can be as far from the traffic as possible, better get there early.

Cabelas has been the complete opposite for us. We’ve only stayed at two so far, but it was the same both times. They were quite, easy to get into to, and had dedicated RV parking slots. Well, quite except for for another boondocker at the first location. But I’m not blaming Cabelas for him, that can happen anywhere. Also, the type of traffic between the two stores is night and day different. There hasn’t been one person blasting their rap and bass at Cabelas, no one racing through the parking lot at 50mph, and no driving in circles looking for a spot we can fit in. Oh, did I mention that it’s freakin Cabelas!?

How better to spend an evening than browsing hunting gear, guns, world class taxidermy, and the bargain cave? I’ve found SO many screaming deals in the bargain cave, I always give it a walk though. Yesterday I saw a Champion 2000w inverter generator for $300 off. So yeah, we really enjoy staying there instead.

We really lucked out last night with some fantastic neighbors. We were walking our dogs and theirs wanted to play, so we got to talking and met Janice and Steve. They’re also full time RVers. Well, not really though. That’s because they split their time between their RV and boat sailing the Caribbean. After a bit they suggested we move the conversation over to the Twin Peaks next door for the half price appetizers and dollar beers happy hour. We’d never been to one, but hey, they seemed like nice people.

Well dinner was a blast. They bought giant appetizer platters for us to all share, and paid for them. They wouldn’t hear of us helping. On top of that, they had some really awesome stories. We’ve kicked around the idea of moving to boat at some point, they rekindled that flame into a bonfire. They run a blog called http://www.landandseanomads.com. They’ve filled in their state map, and now they’re going to all of the national parks. We felt like we were looking at our future selves we hope to become. We’ve certainly never met cool people like them boondocking anywhere else.

I’m sure we won’t always stay at Cabelas in the future, sadly there just aren’t enough of them. But when we get the chance, you bet we’ll pick them over anywhere else.


10 thoughts on “Lot-Docking vs Boondocking

  1. Richard Oliveria says:

    We like to call this “Dry Camping” and “Boondocking” when out in the forest or desert or someplace where there are very few people.


  2. Mave says:

    We stay at casinos when we can. We always check in at the registration if there is a hotel attached and register as RV parking. Some even have security for the rvs such as in Tulalip. WA.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jennifer says:

    We’re in the beginning stages of planning our trip from Iowa to Yellowstone next summer. I’ll definitely be adding Walmart / Cabela’s to my route for overnight stays. I was worried about the etiquette of boondocking in their lots but you’ve spelled it out nicely. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sue says:

    Thanks for the great article on boondocking. We stayed at a WalMart and did hear our share of loud music and cars in the middle of the night. We’ll add Cabelas to our list and will check out your friend’s blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hebard's Travels says:

      We really appreciate Walmart letting us stay but often it becomes loud at night. Most people who don’t RV don’t get that we’re sleeping. Since Cabela’s is closed at night there is less risk of it happening. Thank you! We hope you enjoy it, we did!


    • Hebard's Travels says:

      We’ve never felt unsafe. But then again we have two large dogs, and I was in the army for 8 years. We dont worry about much with concern to safety. I’d argue that a parking lot usa safe than BLM land in the middle of nowhere. Which one will cops respond to faster?


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