It appears that fuel prices are on the rise again and that means for RVers who were planning on putting some mileage this summer, pennies will have to be pinched.
The extra $20 t0 $50 that would normally be spent at a campground can be saved by skipping a few campgrounds while enroute to your destination.
Depending on the length of your journey, spending every other night at a truck stop can save you a hundred to several hundred dollars. We usually average $300 a week on nightly campground visits while enroute to our destination. By spending every other night at a truck stop, we only spend around $100 a week.
Most truck stops and travel centers are catering to RVers, especially those with “big rigs”. Flying Js, Pilots, TAs and Loves can be found throughout the Lower 48 and Canada. A quick visit to their websites can reveal all their locations along your planned route.
A nice thing about truck stops is that many now have dump stations and water, in addition to fuel, propane and other items. Before you park for the night, you can get fueled up and be ready to leave the next day.
However, there are a few things you should remember about overnighting at truck stops. RVers have rules or guidelines when overnighting or “parking” at businesses and these rules should be regarded even at a truck stop.
First of all, stop and ask if it is okay to overnight. Ask someone at the fuel desk and ask them if there is a particular area designated for RVs. If there isn’t and you find yourself among the semi trucks, don’t get in their way. Find a parking spot on the end or toward the back. If you see other RVers, try to park by them. “Skipping” parking spots makes no difference at a busy truck stop. You’ll only find yourself surrounded by semi trucks in the morning! So if you find another RVer, park beside them.
In the photo above (taken at a Flying J in Virginia), we arrived a little after 5 PM and found another RV family already parked for the night in the truck lot (notice the motorhome behind us). We backed our rig in beside them. Later that evening, we found ourselves surrounded by other RVers.
It is very important that while at a truck stop (especially if you are parked with the semi trucks) that you stay within your lines. If you have trouble backing your rig or have trouble staying in your lines, find a pull-thrus if you can. But if you find a truck stop with a double pull-thru, make sure you pull all the way forward so that someone can park behind you.
Another thing to remember is to be courteous and try to get in your spot as quickly as possible without holding up the traffic flow.
An overnight guideline that most RVers have (especially for retail parking lots) is to not run their generator. However, this is often overlooked in large truck stops where trucks often run all night. Just be mindful of your neighbors if you choose to run your generator for more than a few minutes.
Of course, if you are overnighting in a truck stop (or any retail parking lot), you should not put your slides out. That is a major overnight sin! If your RV layout blocks a closet or another area you need access to, make sure you re-locate those items to easy access areas prior to overnighting. And by no means should you put down your awning or set up camp (lawn chairs, rugs, etc…) while overnight parking. You are not camping, you are parking.
While you are there, please patronize the truck stop. Buy fuel or shop in their store. Grab a bite to eat from their restaurant. We have found some of the best pizzas around can be found at truck stops! You don’t have to spend a great deal (remember you are there to save money), but if you aren’t at least buying fuel, buy something. A bag of chips or some hot dog buns – anything to show your gratitude.
If you have a frequent fueler card with the truck stop, be sure to use it. Not only will it help lower you fuel bill, but usually other purchases will help earn you points and freebies.
There are some safety issues about overnighting. Turn on your door light and your scare lights. Make sure all you RV doors, outside compartments and tow vehicle doors are locked. Never, ever just open the door to someone who knocks on it! Open a window near the door and speak to them through the window until you know what is going on. If you are overnighting at a truck stop, do not go wandering around a night. If you must walk your pet, do it near your RV. Semi trucks come and go at all hours in a truck stop. Tired drivers may not see you in the shadows!
Overnight parking at truck stops is a great way to save money (and time if you are too tired to look for or drive to a campground). Just be mindful of others, patronize the truck stop and stay safe!
Please Note: Overnight parking at retail settings such as Walmart is a little more involved (as they aren’t designed for RV or semi truck parking like truck stops) and overnighting at rest areas is even more restricted in some areas. If you decide to overnight park anywhere, always seek permission, follow signs and obey the RVers “official” overnight rules.