UNWRITTEN Rules for Overnight RV Parking at Cracker Barrel

Parking overnight at Cracker Barrel is a great convenience for RVers looking for a free place to park for the night. However, there are UNWRITTEN rules every RVers should follow.

Most RVers have heard of Wallydocking which is parking overnight in a Walmart parking lot. It’s a form of lot docking that extends to another popular location: Cracker Barrel.

There aren’t nearly as many Cracker Barrels as Walmarts but with 660 locations (as of March 2024) in the United States, there’s often one nearby. And the company has always been welcoming to RVers, allowing people to park overnight for free.

Of course, their hospitality should only be expected to extend so far. There are UNWRITTEN rules that RVers should abide by to ensure Cracker Barrel’s courtesy continues to be extended to us. 

I will outline those rules for you so you can enjoy what I like to call Barreldocking.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not all Cracker Barrels allow overnight RV parking

Before we get into the rules, it’s important to note that not all Cracker Barrels allow free overnight parking. It is at the discretion of the manager whom you can call ahead and ask.

In most cases, the managers are more than happy to oblige. 

However, some state and city regulations do not allow overnight parking. Cracker Barrel, of course, has to abide by these regulations, so in some locales, they can’t permit you to stay in such cases.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to find Cracker Barrel locations

The easiest way to find Cracker Barrel locations is to visit their website’s location finder. You can enter a city, state, or zip code, and the map will display nearby locations. Or, you can browse by state.

There are only five states that do not have Cracker Barrel:

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

The states with the most Cracker Barrels are:

  • Florida (60)
  • Texas (54)
  • Tennessee (51)
  • Georgia (47)
  • North Carolina (41)
  • Kentucky (37)

The cities with the most Cracker Barrels are:

  • San Antonio (5)
  • Knoxville (4)
  • Louisville (4)
  • Nashville (4)
  • Jacksonville (4)

So then, what are those rules?

Parking overnight at Cracker Barrel is meant to be an overnight convenience, not a full-on campground stay. It’s perfect if you just need a place to sleep for the night on the way to your next destination.

Out of respect and gratitude for the company, it’s highly recommended you follow these UNWRITTEN rules.

By the way, this is one article in a series of UNWRITTEN Rules. You should also read:

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 1: Eat something

Ideally, RVers should enjoy a meal at any Cracker Barrel where they park overnight. Whether you have dinner when you pull up or breakfast when you wake up, it’s a great way to thank them for their hospitality.

After all, they’re not really offering their parking lot altruistically. They’re hoping (and perhaps expecting) you’ll eat at their restaurant. And why wouldn’t you?

It’s a win-win for RVers, too. They get a place to stay for only the price of a good meal. And thankfully, Cracker Barrel is reasonably priced and the food is yum delicious.

If you have a tight budget, you don’t have to have an entire meal. You can enjoy a slice of their delicious pies, cobblers, or biscuit beignets. 

If you’re not hungry, though, you have another option to be a patron.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 2: Buy something

In addition to its all-day breakfast and homemade cornbread, Cracker Barrel is known for its Old Country Store. This little shop is packed with fun little souvenirs, toys, clothes, and treats. So, if you don’t wish to eat in the restaurant, you can opt to purchase something from their store instead.

The jump-one-peg games and giant checkerboards are favorites. There’s always the Ye Old Candy Section, too!

RULE # 3: Don’t take prime parking

It’s considered proper boondocking etiquette not to take prime parking if you’re parking overnight at Cracker Barrel. Park off to the side or nearer the back of the lot. You don’t want to park right up front where dinner or breakfast patrons are most likely to park. 

In truth, you want to do this for your own privacy as much as you do it out of respect for the other patrons. You don’t want people peering through your windows as they walk into the restaurant.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 4: Park safely

You don’t want to take prime parking; however, always keep your safety in mind. It’s not, for instance, a good idea to park in dark areas that butt up against a back alley. Find a happy compromise between safety and not taking parking away from patrons that are coming just for a meal.

Cracker Barrel is, of course, not responsible for your safety. So, you need to rely on your own street smarts when choosing a parking space.

Here’s another parking hint: Don’t park next to the dumpsters. You don’t want to block the access for employees or their garbage truck service. And those trucks come VERY early in the morning. Often way before sun up! If you are next to a dumpster, I guarantee you will be awakened by the noise.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 5: Stay one night only

Parking overnight at Cracker Barrel is meant to be a one-night courtesy. You are not meant to stay more than one night. More so, you’re not meant to hang around all morning, either. Once you wake up and have your breakfast, you should clear out.

This brings me to the next UNWRITTEN rule…

RULE # 6: Don’t set up camp

You cannot treat a Cracker Barrel lot like a campground. You should not extend your awning, set out camping chairs or portable grill, or even extend your slides if you can avoid it. 

If your RV requires you to extend a slide to reach the sleeping quarters, try to find an end spot where you won’t overlap into the next parking space and/or only extend it the minimum amount to get through.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 7: No bathing in their bathroom sinks

Some people use public restrooms to sponge bathe or wash their hair in sinks. While this behavior can be considered acceptable at some locations (like some rest stops), you shouldn’t do it in a Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrels are restaurants serving food to patrons who trust that they uphold the highest health standards.

Customers don’t want to enter a restroom in between their entree and dessert course to find someone sponge bathing. Cracker Barrel management doesn’t want that either. It’s best to tap into your own water supply if you’re in dire need of a cleaning.

On that same note, don’t take your pet’s potty near the restaurant! Take them away from the restaurant (especially away from the entrance) to do their business and don’t forget your biodegradable doggy poo bags.

(PSST! If you travel with a pet, check out these UNWRITTEN Rules of Camping with a Dog)

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where else can you stay overnight?

Most of us know about parking overnight at Cracker Barrel or Walmart or Harvest Hosts but there are numerous other places where RVers can stop—places right along the highway where pets are welcome and you can find just about anything you need for an overnight stay.

Worth Pondering…

 Folks know Cracker Barrel for comfort foods, the fire place, the rocking chair, and nostalgic candy.

—Jim Taylor

UNWRITTEN Rules for RVers Parking Overnight at Walmart

Parking overnight at Walmart is a well-known trick among RVers but there are unwritten rules you should also know and abide by

You’d be hard-pressed to find an RVer who hasn’t parked overnight at Walmart at least once. It’s a free, convenient, and (usually) safe place to sleep while traveling from one destination to another.

As campers we have parked overnight at Walmart and we’re certainly not the minority. It’s so common that there’s even a name for it in RV terminology: Wallydocking!

We are all very thankful Walmart extends this courtesy to RVers but we have to remember that it’s exactly that: a courtesy! To ensure wallydocking continues to be offered, we need to follow the unwritten rules of parking overnight at Walmart.

So then, what are those rules?

According to their website “Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers.”

Walmart doesn’t ask anything in return for their free parking spaces but there are some unspoken expectations.

Foley, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the way, this is one article in a series of UNWRITTEN Rules. You should also read:

  • UNWRITTEN Rules for Camping with a Dog
  • UNWRITTEN Rules for RV Parking Overnight at Truck Stops (coming soon)
  • UNWRITTEN Rules for Parking Overnight at Cracker Barrel (coming soon)
  • UNWRITTEN Boondocking Etiquette Tips (coming soon)

1. Check each location for overnight parking

Not all Walmarts allow overnight parking! In fact, only about 50 percent of them do. This number has been declining as zoning laws and city ordinances are increasingly banning overnight parking. 

Store managers may also not allow it. According to Walmart’s website “Permission to park is extended by individual store managers based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.”

You can either call management before you arrive. Or, you can use your Allstays app to filter Walmarts that might allow overnight parking. In the app’s review section of individual stores, you can get a better understanding if it’s allowed. 

Goodyear, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Park out-of-the-way (but not too far)

It’s considered bad boondocking etiquette to take prime parking. You don’t want to take parking spots right up front that customers who are going in and out can use.

At the same time, you need to park strategically for safety. Parking near lights and away from back alleys is always recommended. I also recommend keeping your day/night shades closed.

So, basically, this rule is to park SAFELY out-of-the-way.

3. Take up as little space as possible

Try to take up as few parking spaces as possible. For instance, you shouldn’t park perpendicular and take up several spaces when you can just pull through and take up two. 

If your RV requires you to extend a slide to reach the sleeping quarters, try to find an end spot where you won’t overlap into the next parking space and/or only extend it the minimum amount to get through.

Lodi, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Don’t set up camp

It’s very important to note that Walmart allows overnight parking, not camping! You should not extend your awning, set out your favorite camping chairs, or even extend your slides if you can help it.

You certainly don’t want to bust out your grill. Just relax inside your RV and get a good night’s rest before the next leg of your journey.

5. Arrive late and leave early

There isn’t a set arrival and departure time for wallydocking. However, the rule of thumb is to arrive later in the day and leave in the morning. That doesn’t mean you have to arrive at 10 pm and be out at the crack of dawn. It just means you shouldn’t linger unnecessarily.

Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Only stay one night

Speaking of lingering, parking overnight at Walmart is meant to be overnight. As in one night!

Staying a prolonged time is one of the surest ways to hurt all boondockers because Walmart management and the city don’t want to deal with squatters. The more people abuse this courtesy, the more it will become regulated.

So, only stay one night whenever you’re parking overnight at Walmart or any other form of lot docking.

Midway, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Buy something

Last but not least, you should always buy something at Walmart when you stay overnight in their parking lot. It’s a way of paying and saying thank you for a free place to stay overnight. 

Chances are you need to buy something anyway. Since they have so much from groceries to clothes to entertainment, this is probably one of the easiest UNWRITTEN rules to follow! Besides, who doesn’t shop Walmart, anyway?

That covers all the rules for parking overnight at Walmart specifically but I want to leave you with some more tips.

Worth Pondering…

I love Wal-Mart. You can put that down. I love Wal-Mart. My husband and I hang out there.

—Viola Davis