When traveling for more than a few days in our RV, my wife Sandy and I will often spend a night boondocking: free camping without services, also known as dry camping. In addition to side streets, we’ve stayed in parking lots of big-box stores, churches, movie theatres, fairgrounds, truck stops, sport complexes, public schools, and casinos.
Whenever possible, we ask permission before doing so. Our favourite free camping sites are casinos, which usually have large, well-lit lots and provide 24-hour security patrols. While there, we often take advantage of the reasonably priced buffets and play a few games of chance, which usually means the camping really isn’t “free.”
RV-friendly casinos can be located through a website which lists 363 such facilities in the United States, six in Las Vegas that MAY allow free overnight parking (Arizona Charlies West, Bally’s, Paris, Cannery Casino North, Orleans, and Stratosphere). Always call the Casino before arriving to ensure that they allow, not just parking but sleeping in rigs overnight. Permission to do do seems to vary, perhaps depending on how busy they are? We were particularly interested in Vegas because we had planned to stay there a couple of days on our annual migration from Canada to Arizona in mid-November. Of course, a number of casinos in Vegas have fully-serviced RV sites, but they’re obviously not free. Incidentally, this “casino camper” website also includes guidelines for boondocking, not just in casino lots, but wherever you intend to dry camp. Your efforts to be a good guest by displaying proper etiquette will help ensure that such sites will be available to RVers in the future.
Most big-box stores such as Target and Wal-Mart throughout the country allow overnight parking, but not in Las Vegas, according to management of the several stores I contacted. Company policy rather than a city ordinance forbids RVs from staying overnight in their lots. It’s probably best not to try, unless you don’t mind being woken in the middle of the night by a security guard, asking you to move on.
According to the Las Vegas Metro Police Department, parking on a side street may be allowed for up to three nights, depending on the street location. Near the Strip, it definitely won’t be, but on a residential street further from the action, it might be. The officer I spoke with suggested letting them know the exact location once I had decided where to park to ensure it would be allowed and advisable. As in any big city, some areas are less safe than others for parking overnight. Their “crime mapping” website plots various types of crime in the city, indicating how close your chosen street might be to a high crime area.
Boondocker’s Welcome is a membership club that offers 690 (“and counting”) free overnight parking spaces in the US and Canada. Most members can accommodate RVs — some even have services available. When I searched their website for members in Las Vegas, two were identified, one of which could accommodate our large rig. We took advantage of our membership by staying two nights at DBVEGAS. Not only was it conveniently located near the Strip, but also their large, well-lit site on a concrete pad beside their home included water, power, and sewer as well as TV and Wifi.
Dean and Deb, two of the friendliest folks you would ever want to meet, informed us about things to see and do in Vegas, and even invited us in for an evening meal and a soak in their hot tub. We felt slightly embarrassed by not being able to reciprocate with a free site at our home, but as full timers, we had it with us. Fortunately, we were able to offer some small gifts of gratitude from Canada in exchange for their hospitality.
Since staying at Dean and Deb’s, we’ve reassessed casinos as our favourite location for dry camping. If DBVEGAS is any indication, Boondocker’s Welcome offers RVers the crème de la crème of free overnight parking. We’ll definitely make use of their free sites wherever our travels may take us, but especially on our next visit to Vegas.
Casino friendly campsites: www.casinocamper.com
Crime mapping in Las Vegas: www.crimemapping.com/map/nv/lasvegas
Boondocker’s Welcome: www.boondockerswelcome.com