Boondocking is a Way to
Save a Little Cash While Living and Traveling in Your RV

Occasionally, you may hear boondocking referred to as “dry camping” or “independent parking”. If you're wondering what these terms actually mean, however, you're certainly not alone. There is a quite a bit of confusion - depending with whom you speak.

But, "RV boondocking" IS a way to save some cash while living and traveling in your RV.

And, regardless to whom you speak,

there is a common element...

Self reliance.

Because, ultimately, you are without any (or few) hook-ups of any kind.

Basically, there are two “camps” regarding the definition.


Lets' start with short term boon docking. This is the term many of us refer to as a way to cover quite a few miles in a day.

We can drive late into the evening, pull over in a safe place, camp free for the night and be on our way the next morning. (Click here for RV Living Unlimited's top 15 smart RV boondocking tips and guidelines to help keep you safe.)

Here are three examples:

  • You’re traveling from point A to point B (to a particular destination) but it will be more than a reasonable day’s drive.
  • You have a very limited amount of time for your trip and really need to arrive at point B as soon as possible.
  • -or-

  • There really isn’t anything to see or do that interests you from point A to point B (although you may want to check out these RV trips pages or invest in a few, good travel books to see what you might be missing)

Where can you spend the night?

    It's late, so of course, you can always pull into an RV camp ground or park and pay the next morning.

    Or can you?

    Some parks have limited or no access after hours.

    In addition, most campground offices don't open until 8:00 am. How are you going to pay for those hours you stayed when you plan to be on the road at daybreak? Driving off isn't the ethical thing to do. (Although, we've seen it done.) In the long run, it increases the cost for everyone else.

Is there a park en route?

    RV parks aren’t always easy to find, especially if you’re traveling on some of the smaller, more remote roads or traveling after dark. Would you have spotted this little sign?

Are there any vacancies?

    Many RV parks have no vacancies during their “tourist” season. The last thing most of us want is to be woke up in the middle of the night by an angry RVer who just pulled into the park and up to a site they reserved in advance...only to find YOU in their site. (We’ve heard some ugly stories about this...)

    Do you want to have to hook up for only a few hours of rest?

    Do you really want to pay to just sleep somewhere for a few hours?

    These are some examples when short-term dry camping could make sense for you.

Here are our suggestions for places to stay if short term boondocking appeals to you...

  • Walmart and Sam’s Clubs - probably the best known location for short term boondocking among RVers. Their Atlases even give you the location and amenities/services for each store. However, please be advised that not all Walmart and Sam’s Clubs allow overnight parking. Look for signs in their parking lots.
  • Roadside Rest Areas - many have designated areas for RVs and large trucks. Unless you’re exhausted and just too tired to safely drive any longer, avoid isolated locations.
  • Hotels and Motels - many of the larger ones have plenty of space for you to camp for a few hours. Be sure to park as far away from the entrance so that you aren’t inconveniencing their paying guests.
  • Churches - typically, churches have large paved parking lots. We’ve stayed at a few over the years but always make a donation when we leave.
  • Restaurants - if they are open, ask for permission to park. If they are closed, stop to see what hours they are open and will be expecting high traffic in their parking lot. We always try to eat at a restaurant when we use their space for short-term boondocking.
  • Schools that are on break - this is a great place to stop for a little while, but look for signs that may prohibit parking after certain hours. Typically, school and public property is patrolled in some form or fashion, so you may be visited by a peace officer.
  • Stores - if the store is open when you arrive, ask for permission. If their parking lot is spacious, most have no problem with a short term boondocker. Especially if you’re going to buy a few items from their establishment.
  • Malls - tons and tons of space for parking an RV of any size (except for peak shopping seasons). Be sure to check to see if there is a “No Parking Overnight” sign.
  • RV stores - some stores that specialize in RV parts and accessories have room for you to park. Some even have a few spots with electricity.
  • Casinos - most casinos have plenty of parking spaces and many have RV parks. If you’re staying in their parking lot (not their RV park), there are usually clear signs about parking areas, availability and length of stay allowed. One advantage is that the parking lot is usually well lit and patrolled. There’s plenty of traffic until the wee hours which means you won’t be a sitting target in an isolated area. But, the big plus for us is that there is usually a place where you can grab a bite to eat in the casino at any hour.
  • Truck stops - some allow RVers; some don’t. Even the ones who welcome RVers tend to be a bit noisy because of the roar of the diesel truck engines. This might not be a problem if you have one of the large diesel rigs that can run its generator all night with no problem, but if you’re an RVer with any other type of unit, this could prove to be a rather restless night.

Are you more of an "off the grid" type of camper?

    If you're searching for longer term options and not really interested in pavement and parking lots options that work so well for the one or two night boondocker, follow this link to learn more about Long Term Boondock RVing to get some great ideas that will help you find that perfect secluded spot you're looking for to stay for an extended period of time. 

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Resources you may like for Short Term RV Boondocking:

A few ideas to keep you safe and comfortable...

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