Road trips are a classic form of adventure. One of my favorite vacations growing up was our family road trip to Montana, probably because my yellow lab, Chica, was allowed to come along. I may have thrown a tantrum to get her included, but when it comes to your pets, you do what you gotta do!
Back then my parents had a giant station wagon — you know, the type with the wood panel design and the rear-facing seat in back. Plenty of space to haul three kids, a pile of luggage, and a 90-pound dog. Fast forward to the present day and I found myself seeking an adventure vehicle for a road trip with my kids, Cool Whip and Hercules. Enter Hawaii, our rental campervan!
We had heaps of fun on our adventure, and I learned a lot about traveling and living in a small space. Hopefully the following information will help you prepare for the best pet friendly ad-van-ture possible!
A good road trip is about more than the destination, so you definitely need the appropriate vehicle for your journey. Campervans are a great alternative if you’re not up for tent camping and and can do without the bells and whistles of a full-blown RV.
Most campervans are bigger than your average vehicle with space for gear and room to sleep, while still being maneuverable and easy to park. And the bonus? Many rental companies seem to understand that a vacation is not fun if you can’t take your pets along, so there are quite a few pet friendly options!
Verify and clarify. As with any rental, each company has different policies and fees. Call to verify any information you find online and clarify the rules regarding your furry companion. The company I rented from had no restrictions on size or breed, but pets were not allowed during July, August, and September. While this seasonal restriction is meant to protect pets from hot vehicles, it could alter plans if you’re planning to travel during summer vacation.
Questions for your campervan rental company:
- Are pets allowed in the van?
- Are there fees associated with bringing along a pet?
- Is there a pet weight limit or a breed restriction?
- How many pets are allowed in the van?
- Are there any additional rules associated with pets?
You’ve asked the questions and found a van with policies that accommodate your pet, but where will your pet fit in the van?
Many campervans have a back seat that converts to a bed, so your pets may be able to ride just like they do in your regular vehicle. There are seat belts available to use with a safety harness, and there is space on the floor where most kennels would fit. When in doubt, ask the rental company – they may have additional suggestions.
Hawaii was a great adventure van for us, but the back seat was a little narrow for CW and Herc to share during extended travel. Luckily, the seatbelts were accessible in the bed configuration, so I was able to keep the dogs secure without worrying that they’d slip off the seat. Also, if your dog has a valid driver’s license and can reach the pedals, the driver’s seat is a potential option. Just kidding — Herc likes to scout for squirrels while CW and I nap!
Pack what you’d normally take for a trip with your pets: food, water, bowls, leashes, harnesses, treats, and toys. Then add in any additional weather or terrain requirements: warm layers, raincoats, paw protection, outdoor beds, and towels for dirty paws.
Pack plenty of cleaning supplies: paper towels, cleaning wipes, fabric freshener, etc. It’s Murphy’s Law that if your dog gets sick in the vehicle it will be when you’re in the middle of nowhere with no access to running water or a washing machine. Trust me on this one! And pick up some dry shampoo for pets. No one wants to be stuck with a smelly dog, especially in a small space. Dry shampoo can help keep that stink at bay when baths are not an option.
Finally, the outdoor beds and a yoga mat were some of the best items I packed. A small space can get dirty quickly, so clean dogs equal a clean(er) van! The beds provided comfy seating to supervising my cooking, and the yoga mat made a handy doormat to wipe paws and keep dirt out of the van. Yoga mats are easy to clean and roll up nicely for storage, plus they’re also helpful for finding your zen after any less-than-stellar moments.
Review the list of gear that comes with your van rental before you start packing. Some things you normally take may already be included. This van came with camp chairs, bedding (fitted sheet, comforter, and 2 pillows), and basic kitchenware (propane stove, 2 pots, 1 pan, 3 dining sets, and several other miscellaneous utensils). I brought another pillow and a few blankets so CW and Herc had familiar items to calm them at bedtime.
Gear storage is where you’ll want to get creative. Plastic storage containers are great for keeping gear secure, organized, and easy to move around. In the evening you can easily move the containers to the front seats for more sleeping space. I like 15-quart sized containers; they hold a decent amount of supplies without getting too bulky.
Our van had two built-in storage boxes, space underneath the bed, and a shelving unit in the kitchen area for stowing gear. But keep an eye out for food thieves lurking in the background. They’ll patiently wait for you to forget about that plate of fresh pancakes on the counter!
With those tips, all that’s left to do now is get out there and enjoy making your pawsome memories!
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