RVing isn’t just for adventurous retirees anymore. Lots of millennials are cruising as well, looking for versatile and unique travel experiences. While experienced RVers might know all the ins and outs of where you can park or camp legally, many new RV owners (or renters) hit the highway without knowing the rules of the road (or the campground, or the parking lot). Take a minute before you go to understand the basics of land use laws.
The rules for public land vary depending on which government agency manages the land and the location and use of the land. For example, the rules and regulations for a national park might differ than those of a national forest or a state park. Luckily, most locations have very clear camping and overnight parking rules available on their website or in person, or over the phone with a ranger or officer.
When going to an extremely popular park like Yellowstone or Yosemite, it may be necessary to reserve a spot ahead of time, particularly at popular vacation times. While most know about the big national parks and forests, some less experienced RVers might not be familiar with the thousands of acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Army Corps of Engineers. According to the BLM, up to 99% of their land is free to use for recreational purposes.
As you might suspect, you need permission from the owners to stay on private land. Luckily for vacationers, many companies welcome RVers to stop and stay awhile. Walmart is well-known for allowing dry camping in their parking lots, as permitted by local law.
Many of the casinos that have sprung up around the country allow RVs to park overnight, assuming that the lure of the bright lights will pay off in revenue. In all cases, check with the owner of the land or parking lot or the store manager before calling it a night.
Few people actually camp on residential streets, but some RV owners do park their vehicle on their street between road trips, often causing friction with other residents. In response, homeowners’ associations (HOAs) often ban the parking of RVs on the street—or even in the owner’s driveway. And many cities and towns have ordinances that prohibit long-term parking on public streets; for instance, requiring parked vehicles to be moved within 72 hours.
It’s prudent, therefore, to check with the local police and your HOA before leaving your RV at the curb for an extended length of time. And be a good citizen—don’t be one of those RV owners who moves their rig down the block every couple of days, thumbing their nose at both the law and their neighbors.