Safety and Security Tips for Traveling in your RV

Traveling into the great unknown can be a lot of fun. Discovering new places adds excitement to an RV trip. Yet many people worry about RV safety. RV security is an important factor to consider and there are things you can do to increase the security of your RV, no matter where you are traveling.

RVing has become one of the most popular ways to travel. But a successful and safe RV trip takes preparation and planning to make it a good experience. Whether you are new to RVing or not, these tips can help ensure that your trip will be problem-free.

Embarking on an RV adventure brings the promise of freedom and exploration but ensuring safety as you travel in your RV is critical. In this article I delve into the realm of RV security providing key safety measures to safeguard your RV while you travel.

Cracker Barrel in Goodyear, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be aware of your surroundings: A critical crime-prevention tool

This rule of thumb sounds obvious but it can be easy to forget. Whether you’re parked at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel or boondocking in a national forest, always be aware of what’s around you. When you stop somewhere, get out and take a look around before you commit to staying. We’ve stopped in places where we just didn’t feel safe. Rather than try to talk ourselves into it, we’ve moved on.

We’ve also learned that those uncomfortable feelings are a matter of perspective. We’re more cautious when we’re in the backcountry in areas that are unfamiliar to us. Use your best judgment and only stay in places where you are comfortable.

Leave temptation behind: Keep valuables hidden

Though it may seem obvious, you should never leave valuables in plain sight and unattended. Laptops, smartphones, cameras, and other personal belongings should be stored when they are not in use.

This one seems pretty obvious. To eliminate temptation put all your things away prior to leaving your site. This could include camping chairs, cooking equipment, and/or firewood. Don’t make it easy for them!

Don’t litter your site with valuables. Put away tablets, cell phones, and extra gadgets. Pull the blinds after dark in your rig. Don’t be a lone ranger; camp near other people. Get a safe. Each of these simple steps will keep robbers at bay.

Camping with your dog © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set up your campsite with security in mind

From the moment you park your RV, you should start thinking about security. For instance, most RVers reverse into their parking spot but this means that your rig is more accessible.

Also, take a good look at your surroundings and follow your gut feeling. If something about the spot can become a security risk, you’re better off finding a space that feels safer.

If you’re bringing your furry friends with you, you’ll also need to think about their well-being. Therefore, you’ll need to follow RV pet safety best-practices like sweeping for choking hazards and making sure you’re far from a busy road.

Lock it down: The importance of robust door and window locks

One of the first lines of defense for your RV is secure entry points. Invest in quality door and window locks to thwart potential intruders. Consider upgrading to smart locks that provide added convenience and control through mobile apps ensuring you can monitor and secure your RV even when you’re away exploring.

One of the easiest ways to deter thieves is to simply lock your doors anytime you leave, no matter how long you’re going to be gone.  Also, make sure to close and lock exterior storage compartments.

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Illuminate and deter: Motion sensor lights for enhanced security

Enhance your RV’s security by strategically placing motion sensor lights around your vehicle. These lights not only illuminate the surroundings at night but also serve as a deterrent to potential intruders. The sudden burst of light can startle and discourage unwanted visitors adding an extra layer of protection to your home on wheels.

Eyes everywhere: The benefits of a security camera system

In the digital age, technology offers advanced solutions for RV security. Consider installing a security camera system to keep a watchful eye on your RV. Modern systems provide real-time monitoring accessible from your smartphone giving you peace of mind and the ability to act promptly in case of any suspicious activity.

Conceal and protect: Disguising your RV with camouflage measures

Make your RV less enticing to potential thieves by adopting camouflage measures. This could include discreet branding, covering valuable items, or even using window coverings to conceal the interior. The goal is to avoid drawing unnecessary attention, reducing the risk of burglary when your RV is parked.

Camping at Lady Bird Johnson Park near Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

GPS tracking for recovery: Protecting your investment with GPS technology

In the unfortunate event that your RV is stolen, having a GPS tracking system can be a game-changer. These devices allow you to track the location of your RV in real-time aiding law enforcement in recovering your property quickly. It’s a worthwhile investment for both security and peace of mind.

Community vigilance: Utilizing the power of RV communities

The RV community is vast and supportive. Leverage this by staying connected with fellow travelers. Join online forums, share your location with trusted friends, and participate in local RV groups. In the world of RVing, a collective eye is often the best security measure with fellow enthusiasts looking out for each other’s well-being.

Camping at Palo Casino RV Resort, Palo, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Emergency preparedness: Security beyond theft

Security extends beyond theft prevention. Equip your RV with emergency preparedness items including a first-aid kit, fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors. Being ready for unexpected situations helps to ensure the safety and well-being of you and your fellow travelers.

Have a way to protect yourself

Whether you’re at an RV park or out in the wilderness, there may come a time when you need to protect yourself. This can mean protection from another person, or from a wild animal like a bear or mountain lion.

There is no shortage of choices when it comes to self-defense from firearms to pepper/bear sprays to blunt objects. Pick the method that you feel most comfortable with. Then, practice using it. Whatever you choose, it’s important that you know how to use it before you ever need to (and hopefully, you won’t).

Camping in Dixie National Forest, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Never post your current location on social media

I totally get that you want to share your cool adventures and amazing places you are at. But, be cautious about giving your exact location and time.

If you want to post a photo of your RV at your campsite or in a certain location, refrain from posting the campground name and town you’re currently located. In other words, keep your social media shares vague. Wait until after you leave the area to share those beautiful views online.

Here are some helpful resources on increasing the security and safety of your RV:

Effective security requires a layered approach. There is no single security measure that is guaranteed to deter and prevent crime. However, by implementing the layered approach outlined above, you can feel confident that you have a good plan in place to deter and prevent crime.

As you embark on your RV journey, remember that security is a crucial aspect of traveling. Implementing these measures can safeguard your home on wheels, allowing you to explore with confidence. By combining technology, community support, and smart practices, you’ll fortify your RV against potential risks ensuring a secure and enjoyable adventure on the open road.

Safe travels!

Worth Pondering…

The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.

—Okakura Kazuko

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

Walmart Goes Camping

Walmart adding mini-stores to campgrounds

Walmart is known for its mammoth superstores that sell everything from groceries to treadmills. For thousands of RV travelers, though, its stores are appealing for a different reason: Spacious parking lots where people can relax and stay overnight for free.

The company has allowed overnight parking for RVers in many of its 4,700 US lots going back to the days of founder Sam Walton in the mid-twentieth century. Even RV enthusiasts Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni Thomas, have been known to stay at Walmart.

End of the Commons General Store, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But parking at Walmart is getting harder to find. In 2010, about 78 percent of Walmart stores allowed overnight RV parking. Now, it’s close to 58 percent, according to Jim O’Briant who runs OvernightRVParking.com, a website that tracks more than 14,000 free RV parking locations in the United States and Canada.

This presents a problem for scores of self-proclaimed nomads just looking for a place to settle after dark. RVers looking for a place to park overnight for one night will need to find other places.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walmart is now taking camping to a whole new level. The mega-retailer recently announced (July 28, 2022) a partnership with Getaway, a health and wellness hospitality company to build small retail stores that will offer supplies to visitors spending time in nature. The companies say the partnership’s goal is to help consumers “live better by aiming to make traveling to nature even easier and convenient.”

Founded in 2015, Getaway, a network of modern cabin retreats said in a news release that it has averaged “above 84 percent occupancy over the year across Outposts” and recently announced nine new Outposts will open amounting to 28 total locations before the end of 2022.

Denham Springs, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the release, Getaway offers guests Wi-Fi-free stays in nature at its campsite-styled Outposts which are located less than a two-hour drive from major cities across the country. Getaway builds collections of tiny cabins, called Outposts. More “glamping” than camping, Getaway cabins have kitchens, toilets, and queen-size beds.

The new alliance which designates Walmart as Getaway’s first official retail partner will introduce innovative offerings for guests starting this fall at The General Store by Walmart.

Yoder Popcorn, Shipshewana, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A mini-retail experience at select Getaway Outposts, The General Store by Walmart will include seasonal products sourced from Walmart and curated by the outdoor experts at Getaway. Items may include hiking gear, leisure activities, and equipment including FujiFilm cameras, Lodge Cast Iron Skillets, Pendleton Outdoor Blankets, and Burt’s Bees lip balms to name a few. The everyday items will be available at the Outpost saving guests from having to travel off the property if they forgot an item at home.

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the time of check-in for the next six months, guests will also receive Welcome Kits which will include ingredients to make the ultimate camping treat: s’mores.

The General Store will also feature quality goods from small businesses within the community furthering Getaway and Walmart’s commitment to supporting local communities, the retailer said. The items on sale at the General Store will also be available on Walmart.com via a dedicated Getaway shopping page for travelers to shop in advance of their visit.

Le Petite Gourmet Shop, La Grande, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The General Store by Walmart will make its debut later this month at Getaway Hill Country, in Wimberly, Texas with additional locations to open by the end of the year. Wimberly is 37 miles southeast of Austin.

Meanwhile, there are plans to open four more General Store locations through the end of the year. The planned locations include: 

  • Getaway Machimoodus in Moodus, Connecticut
  • Getaway Big Bear in Running Springs, California
  • Getaway Western Catskills in Roscoe, New York
  • Getaway Ozark Highlands in Osceola, Missouri
Rockport, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 “At Getaway, our mission is to help people disconnect and spend time in nature,” said Carlos Becil, chief experience officer of Getaway. “In partnering with Walmart, we are able to amplify our efforts to a larger audience and provide our guests with more free time, helping them prepare for their stays and enjoy the comforts of nature once they arrive.”

In addition, Getaway guests who visit any Outpost during the next year will also receive a complimentary trial of Walmart’s membership program, Walmart+.

Peanut Patch, Yuma, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If this latest retailing venture is successful, WallyWorld may well export the mini-stores idea to campgrounds where you and I might actually stay.

Worth Pondering…

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

—Anne Lamott