Introduction: How to VanLife With a Dog

Just because you're going on a road trip doesn't mean you have to leave your pet behind! Bringing your dog into the vanlife can be easier, and cheaper than one would expect. Follow these simple steps to give your pet the adventure of a lifetime!

Step 1: Prep for Your Pet

Before you hit the road, make sure your pet is current on all necessary vaccinations.

Make sure your dog is accustomed to riding along! Be sure to take some shorter trips or practice loops around the block so your pup gets used to car rides. You don't want to be driving all day with a dog that gets anxious or carsick!

These are going to vary depending on the dog. Here are some key elements not to miss:

  • Food and water:
  • Food and water bowls
  • Long and short leash
  • Dog collar
  • Doggie bags
  • Fur brush
  • Toys
  • Treats

Step 2: Keep It Cool

Can you leave your dog in the car ALL day?

No! No one likes a hotdog so proceed with caution. It is not wise to leave your pet in a van for an extended period of time, especially in hot weather. That said, there are many steps you can take to make your van more comfortable for shorter stays.

Test your setup

It's important to understand how your van responds to the whether when left alone. An easy way to do this is to park your van outside for an hour or two and check on it every 15 minutes to get an idea of how quickly it heats. Do this in the shade, sun, and humidity. As you get more used to how your van heats up, you will soon be able to confidently approximate how long, and in what whether you can leave your dog in the van.

Keep it breezy

Install a vent fan in your ceiling, this can run off solar or battery power. Keep your windows cracked so when the fan is on your van will have a nice, cool breeze running though.

Block the sun
Invest in a sunshade for the windows to help mitigate that greenhouse effect.

Leave some water
Leaving a water bowl on the floor of your van is a great way to ensure your pet can stay hydrated while they wait for your return.

Mark your territory

Leave a note on your dashboard with your name, dog's name, and emergency contact number. That way if a concerned citizen comes along, they can call or text you instead of breaking a window.

Step 3: Enjoy Dog Friendly Adventures

If you want to keep your dog happy and healthy, bring them along on your adventures! There are so many places you can take your dog, here's a few ideas:

  • Hiking and running trails
  • Parks
  • Beaches
  • Splash pads
  • Canoes
  • Boats
  • Outdoor shopping
  • Outdoor restaurants
  • Hardware stores
  • Baseball games
  • Ice cream stands

Just don't forget the leash!

Step 4: Find a Great Pet Sitter

What if you do want to spend the whole day exploring a city without your pet? There are plenty of easy and affordable options for pet sitters. Here are some favorites:

Friends and family

This one might sound like a cop-out, but if you have friends or family in the area they would love to watch your pet for a few hours! It gives them an excuse to help you out and it'll keep you out of their house!

Doggie Day Camp

There are a number of Petsmart stores that offer Doggie Day Camp from open to close. Unlike most boarding services, they don’t need to evaluate your dog prior to arrival. Just walk in with copies of your vet records and your dog can be boarded immediately!

Protip: Petsmart doesn’t track your dog from location to location, so you’re signing up for a new service at every city. This mean each time you visit a new Petsmart location you can take advantage of their customer half-off promo! Day Camp goes from $18 to $9 at every visit.

If you can't find a Petsmart in your area, check out This is basically an Airbnb for dogs. You can find people who will board your dog for a day or several, read reviews, and look at pictures of their setup if they have any. It's very affordable and your dog will get some one-on-one care!

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