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I'm planning a journey through California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. I would hire a camper but I'm not sure if I can station everywhere with it.

Is it possible in those states to park a caravan in a car park/gas station/roadside and spend there one night (not more than one) or the only authorized way to sleep inside a caravan is station inside a fitted camping?

My route doesn't cross any big city (except Las Vegas). Only states parks, scenic routes and deserts.

  • Please see travel.stackexchange.com/questions/24003/… – Gayot Fow Apr 21 '15 at 22:22
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    I assume you know that they aren't called "car parks" in the US. They're "parking lots." – amaranth Apr 21 '15 at 22:57
  • Also be aware that HGVs in the US are known as a "truck", "rig" or "semi" and will be larger than you are accustomed to seeing in Europe or almost anywhere else in the world (except Australia). – Michael Hampton Apr 21 '15 at 23:33
  • FWIW, there's a lot of wide open public lands in the west that, while maybe not 'officially' places to park overnight, are likely something no one would ever notice you doing (there's a lot of nothing out there in some spots) – DA. Apr 22 '15 at 2:59
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Recreational Vehicle

In the US, this sort of vehicle is known as an RV, or recreational vehicle. You are allowed to drive them on a category B licence from the EU, though you may need to be 21 years old. (You will need a BE licence if you want to drive a car or light pickup truck with a trailer attached.) You will also need your International Driving Permit.

It's not usually allowed to park on public streets and highways overnight, though this varies widely by city, and sometimes there are places within a city where RV parking is allowed or prohibited. This is so variable that it's almost impossible to provide a list.

Generally in the US, however, you can always park on private property with the permission of the property owner.

Walmart logo

Walmart stores in the US (a chain of hypermarkets not dissimilar to Hipercor or Carrefour) are widely known for permitting RVs to park overnight, though not every store allows this, based on local conditions. Check with the store manager to ensure that it is OK to park overnight at each store, and if there is a specific location where you should park. Almost always this will be at the far end of the parking lot from the store.

Rest area signage

Also, most Interstate highways (autopistas) have roadside rest areas where you may be able to park. These are usually 50 to 100 km apart, but they can be farther apart on occasion. (For instance they are almost never present in urban areas.) Sometimes they have waste water dump facilities for RVs. I understand that these are rare or nonexistent in your country, so you may want to visit one for the sheer novelty. Watch the signs as you enter a rest area; sometimes RVs park with the lorries, and sometimes with the cars.

But don't park in a "Scenic Overlook" any longer than it takes you to enjoy the scenery.

Pilot Flying J Truck Stops

Most truckstops in the US also have dedicated RV parking and sometimes waste water dumps. They also offer laundry and shower facilities, for when you really need to get the road dust off you and your clothes. You almost always book these services at the truck drivers' fuel desk, though you will usually fuel your RV along with the cars and pay where they do. Some truckstops have dedicated fuel islands for RVs. You can almost always park overnight at a truckstop if you are refueling, and sometimes even if you aren't, but truckstops can be noisy at all hours, making for a difficult sleep. Again, watch the signs as you enter; while RVs sometimes enter at the same entrance as lorries, and sometimes at the same entrance as cars, they almost always park in a different area than either.

Tent camping sign RV camping sign

As you noted, you can also park at campgrounds which have RV sites, though virtually all of these will cost you money. Campgrounds in national parks and forests, and facilities provided by individual states, are almost always cheaper than private campgrounds, but tend to be booked well in advance. For national parks in particular, you also have to pay a separate park admission fee to most parks, so in such a case a private campground may yet be cheaper, unless you wanted to visit that national park anyway.

One unusual such private campground is the Circus Circus RV Park, part of the Circus Circus Casino/Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. If you're heading to Vegas this will be very convenient.

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    A note about rest areas: they're a good place to stop if you need a short break, but almost all of them are posted "no overnight camping", where "overnight" is typically defined as eight hours or longer. – Mark Apr 22 '15 at 1:12
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    @Mark Hm, I think this depends a lot on which state you're in, and of course whether what you're doing is causing a disturbance. If there were truly no overnight stopping in rest areas, there would be a lot of rioting truckers. In places where I've seen this, it's intended for people who are actually pitching tents, hammocks, sleeping bags, etc., which isn't allowed. Literally camping. – Michael Hampton Apr 22 '15 at 1:32
  • Mark brings up a really good point--you're typically not allowed to camp overnight at rest stops. However, I've done it, and never had any issues. @MichaelHampton It's been a while, but I think the wording is essentially 'no overnight parking'. It applies to truckers as well (who are supposed to use truck stops for sleep stays). There are a few states that explicitly allow one night stays, however: frugal-rv-travel.com/rest-stops.html – DA. Apr 22 '15 at 2:52
  • Also, not directly answering the question, but since Circus Circus was brought up, it should be noted that in the US, we have a lot of Native American Casinos spread out across the country and many of them have RV parks that you can stay at cheaply (or even free). KOA is another popular private chain of campgrounds that can be great for quick-in/quick-out one night stays for not too much money. – DA. Apr 22 '15 at 2:58
  • @DA. I picked a rest area somewhat at random, and wound up with this one south of Cedar City, Utah, where the only posted signs prohibit vending, soliciting, and pets on lawns and in restrooms. Nothing about overnight parking, camping or otherwise is visible. And, echoing that other guy's posting, nobody gets rousted in rest areas, unless they've done something silly like pitch a tent. – Michael Hampton Apr 22 '15 at 3:12
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I've crossed the USA from New york to San Francisco in a motorhome a couple of times. I went throgh arizona, vegas, texas...well it was long way! Basically you cannot stop and sleep everywhere and less in a gas station.

We did it but you might be visited by some police officer in the middle of the night asking you why you are there.

What I would suggest is to use the GPS to spot out all the authorised places where to park your vehicle.

Be sure to call at least 2 hours before getting there with the motorhome.

Hope it helps!

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