February 14th, 2008

When you're on the road and need a place to rest, commercial parking lots like Walmart and other non-traditional campgrounds can offer a convenient, albeit temporary, haven for dry campers. However, it's essential to remember that these spots are not your typical campgrounds. To maintain a positive relationship with these businesses and fellow travelers, adhering to some fundamental overnight etiquette is crucial.

Know the Local Laws and Store Policies

Before you even pull into the parking lot, it's crucial to know the local laws and store policies regarding overnight parking. Many Walmart locations, for example, welcome dry campers, but this varies by location and local laws. Always check in with the store manager or security personnel before settling in for the night.

Park in Designated Areas

Some parking lots have areas specifically for RVs and campers. Try to park there if possible. If there are no designated areas, choose a spot that's far away from the store entrance to minimize your impact on the business and its customers.

Keep a Low Profile

The key to a successful overnight stay is to go unnoticed. Set up after dusk and leave early in the morning. Avoid setting up outdoor furniture, grills, or awnings. The goal is to be as discreet as possible.

Limit Your Stay

Remember, these are not campgrounds designed for extended stays. It's generally acceptable to spend a night, but setting up shop for multiple days is frowned upon. If you need to extend your stay, consult with the store management and always move on if asked.

Be Neighborly

Just as you would at a traditional campground, try to be a good neighbor. Keep your area clean, and avoid running generators or playing loud music late at night. If the lot is crowded, park in a way that maximizes space for everyone.

Patronize the Business

One of the unspoken agreements of using a commercial parking lot for an overnight stay is that you will patronize the business. It's a small gesture to buy some supplies or groceries from the store as a way of saying thank you.

Clean Up Before You Leave

Take all of your trash with you or dispose of it in appropriate receptacles. Leave your parking space as clean as you found it, if not cleaner.

Safety Considerations

Finally, always prioritize your safety and that of others around you. Make sure to lock all doors and windows before you go to bed, and keep valuable items out of sight. Be aware of your surroundings, and if something doesn't feel right, don't hesitate to move on to a different location.

By adhering to these guidelines for overnight etiquette, dry campers can enjoy a good night's rest while also being respectful guests. As the saying goes, "Leave no trace and no hard feelings," ensuring that these unofficial "campgrounds" remain welcoming places for road-weary travelers.

Happy Camping!

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