Planning a trip with your dog?
Is Vacation With Your Dog Really Vacation?
I didn’t know until a fall getaway. I had never been on a trip with a pet. When it came time for my boyfriend and I to plan our annual road trip – two years ago we went to Yosemite and last year we did Arizona, New Mexico and Utah – with a pandemic puppy now living with us, we quickly realized we wanted Millie, our 11 month old Goldendoodle, to come.
In the weeks leading up to our trip that took us to five national parks – Capitol Reef, Arches, Rocky Mountain, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Grand Canyon – in a rental campervan, I did tons of research. for where to stay, what to do and see, including finding dog parks and other dog friendly spaces.
Two days before we left for our six-day, five-night hike, I shared my concerns with John. Were we doing the right thing by taking Millie with us? Would she like to be in the van most of the time? would she behave? Would there be enough for her to see and do?
Finally, we decided it was too late to change our plans. We just had to live with it. We ended up having a great time and making the most beautiful memories. If you’re planning to hit the road in 2022, especially for the first time with a pet, here are some things we learned about traveling with a dog along the way.
Do your research to find the RV company that works for you. We used Cabana, which I first heard about in a Times article earlier this year. It accepts animals (paying). What about the big sale? He had unlimited mileage. This was important to us because we knew we would drive a long way (we drove almost 2,500 miles), and we found that most other companies only allowed a set number of miles per day and then billed by. mile thereafter.
Find dog parks or other places your dog can stretch their legs along your route. Depending on your dog’s energy level and needs, you’ll want to stop the car every two hours or so. I wrote down a dog park or two each day of the trip so we never had to worry. Still, despite my extensive research, we were pleasantly surprised by a small, fenced-in area at a rest stop in southwest Utah where we let Millie run. We stopped at several rest areas along the way when we were ready for a break, but absolutely loved a dog park in Moab where Millie covered her legs in red dirt and a large park in Montrose, Colorado, with lots of trees and little trails for Millie to explore.
Look for dog-friendly places near your destination or destinations. Our plan was to make this a national park tour, but national parks aren’t too dog-friendly. (They are allowed but access varies. We found Black Canyon National Park to be very welcoming.) This meant looking for dog parks or state parks, which usually allow dogs, nearby. (I’ve found that Rocky Mountain does a great job of advertising places close to dogs on their website, nps.gov.)
Before you go, practice driving your dog, especially if he is not used to it. Millie is in a car most of the time, although I was still worried she would get motion sickness during the trip. Fortunately, she never did despite the winding and mountainous roads. We think the habit of being in a car has helped her a lot.
Buy some items for your dog that will make his life on the road easier. One of the first things we bought as we approached the start of the trip was a cheap dog bed. We knew it would probably get dirty (he did) and we were okay with throwing it out when we got home. We also bought a cushion so that she could lie outside the van once we were in a campground, a 20ft leash so that she could have some freedom to explore and thick bone marrow to chew for long periods of time in the van.
Bring the comforts of home with you too. I packed Millie’s things so much it looked like we were moving. We brought the dog bed, blankets, a stuffed animal, and some chew sticks and balls. Because I was so worried about her behavior, I might have overdone it, but she seemed to like having options. Millie especially liked a rope toy, which kept her busy in the van and we played around the campgrounds together before we settled in.
Overpack if you can. If you have extra space in your vehicle, overpacking can make all the difference. We knew we would be camping in semi-remote areas and we had days with long trips, so we made sure to bring a few extra things. That’s what helped us: towels for when we were covered in dirt, more than enough allergy pills, extra blanket for the bed, and tons of snacks. We also packed more water jugs than we needed. For Millie, we also had napkins, lots of treats, and an abundance of food. We always had a small amount of water and food available for him in the van while we were driving, and every time we stopped somewhere we brought him a collapsible water bowl.
Look for the apps to download ahead of time, as you may lose the service. In Moab, Utah, John and I met Morgan Phillips and Amber Calvo, who do photography for Cabana, and they told us about iOverlander, an app they use to find places to park their van. away from people so their two dogs can run (Millie isn’t trusted enough for that yet). We downloaded the app and towards the end of our trip when we were in crisis we used it for the first time. iOverlander had many recommendations – submitted by users of the app – on remote places to park and for overnight parking on the street in cities.
Make a back-up plan for everything, especially if you are going somewhere with bad weather. I had long notes before the trip, but there were a few cases where I didn’t have a backup plan. We ended up with a little setback on our first night in Colorado when snow caused a freeway to close, preventing us from accessing our campsite. We ended up scrambling to find a place to spend the night. After initially failing to find a place to park the van for the night, we tried a nearby campground, hotel, and street parking. We ended up settling for the night in a large parking lot in Golden, Colo. That served a mall, Holiday Inn Express, and Home Depot.
Finally, have realistic expectations. It could be your vehicle, your plans, your travel companion or your pet. Millie never walked more than two miles at a time so we knew tough hikes wouldn’t be an option. Because we had an ambitious itinerary, we also knew we never had too much time in one place. Still, we made time for a local cafe in Torrey, dinner in a food truck under string lights in Moab, stopped to marvel at the yellow trees in Telluride, and played in the snow at the Grand. Canyon.
So, are we going to travel with Millie again? Two days after the start of this trip, we have already started planning the next one.
Millie looks out the back of the Cabana pickup truck on a snowy morning in Grand Canyon National Park.