Would you take a road trip and leave one of your family members at home? Of course not! Even Chevy Chase took Aunt Edna along in National Lampoon’s Vacation! Then why don’t you consider traveling with your pet when you go RVing? Are you afraid of the extra work, expense, or hassle that might be entailed to travel with Fido or Fluffy?
Well, let me take your worries away by introducing you to … Sully.
Just look at that face! There’s no way in the world I could leave him at home while I go exploring the back roads of America. And I’m sure you feel the same way about your own pets. Sully’s my sidekick, my wingman, my FAMILY. Therefore, where I go, he goes.
And it’s not as difficult as you might believe to travel with a dog, a cat, a bird, or even a goat. (Yes, I’ve seen campers who cruise the country with their sweet goats in tow.) In fact, I’ve found it to be fairly easy to adjust to driving with a “Canine On Board.”
Benefits for you and your pet
Sully’s adapted very quickly to the traveling lifestyle. Who wouldn’t when you get to enjoy all these moments:
- Rolling in fields of bluebonnets
- Hiking through national forests
- Swimming in mountain lakes
- Comforting small children
- Playing in one of the world’s largest sandboxes at White Sands National Monument
- Listening to music at a city park
- Hiking mountain trails
- Visiting some of the most iconic attractions along Route 66
- Playing in Battery Park in Charleston
- Watching alligators in a swamp (not too close, mind you!)
- Admiring King Kong’s antics in Branson
- Hanging out with our national heroes at The Alamo
- Walking the streets of Nashville after dark
- And his favorite so far – running up and down the beaches of North Carolina
We both see our travel as a blessing. I get to photograph the most amazing places and meet outstanding people, while Sully gets to experience so much more than most pups who sit at home waiting for their “people” to return from work. I get companionship and love from spending time with woman’s best friend, and he gets to play ball a LOT more! I get more exercise, because my dog needs it, as well. To sum it up, I made it a goal to give Sully the most enjoyable life I could, and really, in the end I benefit as much as he does.
You both can be comfortable
My Golden Retriever really seems to enjoy our new lifestyle – each day is a new adventure, and virtually every day is different. He is comfortable in our motorhome, as there is room for his bed on the floor. He is allowed on my bed, as well (yes, he’s a bit spoiled, but why not?). And I have to admit that one whole cabinet is dedicated to his treats. What more could a dog want?
Actually, I purchased the RV because of Sully. Twenty years ago, I spent a year traveling the country and living in a tent. Recently, when the travel bug hit me again I realized two things: (1) my older back didn’t want to sleep on the ground anymore, and (2) I would need a vehicle where Sully could be out of the heat when I was photographing in places where he was not allowed, like national parks, indoor events, etc. My solution? An RV made perfect sense.
I did pick a larger vehicle than I would have purchased had I been traveling alone, however. I wanted to make sure that he would be comfortable on rainy days spent indoors and while traveling from one location to another. But after living in and working from our motorhome for three months before we hit the road, I realized that the space was quite comfortable for me, as well! Maybe you should try out a couple of different floorplans by renting an RV first?
Discipline is key
A fear of many travelers is having “a runner.” You know the type: they hop out the door at the first opportunity. Sully has tried it…once. He got “retrained” immediately. I’d like to say we had a lengthy discussion about the pitfalls of dashing out the door before I’ve given the okay. But in reality the word “NO!” worked very well. We practice “STAY” and “SIT” on occasion, but he’s usually very good about keeping me happy…after all, I dole out the dog food in our household! 🙂
Do you have a “barker?” Many dog owners have found playing a radio or television while they are out distracts their pets’ attention, as well as closing window blinds or curtains. Do some testing by driving away, then sneaking back on foot to see if Fido is yapping while you’re gone.
If, however, you have an incessant barking problem, you might need to stick with boondocking out on your own. I don’t know many campers who venture out in nature just to listen to barking dogs – you definitely won’t have happy neighbors!
But if you have discipline problems with your pets, there’s never a better time than now to work with them. Be consistent and insistent, because you value their safety and a well-mannered dog or cat (or goat, for that matter) makes for a much more pleasant road trip. Your camping neighbors will appreciate your hard work, as well! I’m no dog trainer, but my boy responds very well to training treats and love – give it a shot!
On the road
Many people wonder about the logistics of traveling with a pet, especially a larger dog. I have found that the only concessions I have to make are ones I would have made in a sticks-and-bricks home, as well. Things like taking Sully out to do his business, planning feeding time and keeping him within our boundaries, so as not to invade a neighbor’s space. It occurred to me that my dog was already primed as a traveler!
I have added a couple of travel apps and items to my phone, because I’m traveling with a dog. First and foremost, I have all of Sully’s shot records and veterinary visits digitized and loaded in Dropbox. That way I can access them from anywhere if needed. I also have an app to find nearby vets, as well as one that helps us locate dog parks along the road – a great way for both of us to stretch our legs!
Breaks on travel days work out perfectly, because we try to drive no more than 200 miles a day. Sully gets his “break” and so do I! The only thing my boy doesn’t really enjoy is sitting in a large soft-sided crate while we’re traveling, but it was the best option for keeping him safe within the vehicle. Plus, he usually has a stuffed animal or two with him for company.
I’ve also found that many more businesses and attractions are catering to those of us who travel with our pets. Several places offer temporary kennel sites to give you a worry free adventure while your animal is safely out of the heat. Some even invite you to bring along well-behaved pets on a leash, and many offer water and treats to our four-legged companions. My guess is your dog or cat will probably enjoy your road trips much more than staying at home!
Safety and consideration of others
Once we arrive at our destination, I have a 20’ tie out for Sully while I set up camp. He would usually stick around the campsite, but I don’t want to impose on other campers if he wanders over to another site. When I can sit outside with him, he can be off lead because he will stay right at my feet and he’s pretty good on vocal commands.
Some campers who have dogs that might not stick around quite as well. They have solved their problem with small fencing or an electronic “fence and collar” that has flags telling the dogs where their boundaries are. These devices work great for many breeds, but whatever you do, err on the side of keeping your dog within your campsite. It keeps everyone happy and safe.
Sully is also my alarm system in a campground. He doesn’t bark much, but will let me know if someone or something is approaching our RV. That’s reassuring for this solo female traveler. Why, just this week he informed me of a visit by a wild turkey and some horseback riders trotting by!
The only issue I’ve seen so far that confounds me is some dog owners refuse to clean up after their pets. And honestly, that’s not a pet issue – it’s an owner issue. Please don’t ruin the camping experience for others. Carry a bag in your pocket when you take your pooch for a walk – it’s the responsible thing to do, and it helps to assure pet owners won’t be turned away from campgrounds in the future.
Whatever we do at our campsite is driven by my thought that the RVers around us didn’t ask for a dog to invade their precious vacation time. So Sully becomes invisible to them: no barking, no messes left, no running through their campsite. Unless, of course, they invite him over to their campfire or to play ball…and they always do! (He’s quite the charmer!)
Become a social rock star
The most wonderful result of traveling with this funny, active and lovable guy is how others react to him. He has garnered more pets and hugs since we hit the road than in all the time we were stationary! It seems people adore him, and he obviously enjoys the attention. And he has improved my social skills, becoming the gateway for me to meet many of those who might walk right by if I didn’t have a Golden Retriever on the end of a leash!
If you’re wavering about taking your pet along on an RV trip, don’t give it another thought. Do a little planning, take a test run if you like, and be sure to look at many destinations on Outdoorsy’s Never Idle blog to get you started. The benefits of having that member of your family along will far outweigh any planning and effort you make, and I’d venture to say that your trip will be greatly enhanced and more enjoyable with your best buddy along for the ride!
And be sure to look for Sully and me on the road. He’ll be the one chasing a big red ball.
Lucky for you, Outdoorsy has plenty of pet-friendly RV rentals available for your adventures with your pet!