You - a solo travel? Nah, you’ve never even considered being a solo traveler. You’re one of the many paw-rents who are looking to join the van life phenomenon, but find yourself held back by one important thing - your dog!
As a digital nomad, you’ve probably sat back and imagined van life with all the wonder and inspiration you naturally acquire when starting a new adventure. But then - oof. You start thinking about your fur baby (or fur-babies) and have no idea if that’s something they would be on board with.
We get it, small spaces and traveling can seem difficult enough as a human, let alone as a pet. But, here’s the good news you’ve waited for! A survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) found that 37% of animal owners travel with their pets every year. Not only can nomatic van life be doable with your pet - they’ll probably enjoy it more than if you left them home and worked a typical 9-5 job.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, there are some things you should know before jumping into this lifestyle. We’ve made it easy for ya with a simple guide featuring 11 tips to get ready for K-9 style extended travel. Woohoo, scroll down and take a peek!
Ensure Your Dog is Microchipped and Wearing a Collar 24/7
Safety is always first! Prior to your adventure, ensure your dog is microchipped at your local vet. This prevents the worst case scenario of a lost dog who can’t be identified. Also - ensure your furry friend has his/her collar nice and secure for name and phone number identification.
Train Your Dog with a Van Try-Out
Just like sports, it can be nice to see your dog in action prior to being placed on the van-life team with a try-out! To do this, test out car rides with your dog with varied lengths. It’s important to train them to sit, stay, and come when in and around your car.
Keep Your Van Cool and Comfortable
Most dogs begin to show signs of overheating when the air temperature is between 81 and 85 degrees F! Make sure you have an AC plan in place for warm summers or desert climates. A pet temperature monitor can help you have peace of mind - It will alert you if the temperature or humidity in your van climbs to a hazardous level. Parking in the shade can also help keep interior temps nice and cool!
Plan your Route with Your Pup in Mind
The best way to keep things enjoyable for you and your pet is by leaving the van as much as possible! This minimizes heat-stroke, potty accidents, or van destruction from stress! Here’s the awesome news, there are tons of pet-friendly campsites, national parks, pubs or patios, cafes, and Airbnbs all over the world! All it takes to make this happen is a little bit of research. Depending on where you live, mark spots on your desired trip that are dog-friendly! If you research and prepare with your pup in mind, you both will have a much better time!
Keep the Garbage and Food High and Hidden
When buying and preparing for a long trip ahead, make sure you keep harmful items out of arms (or should we say, legs?) way with proper storage! Dogs love sticking their nose where it shouldn’t be, and you don’t want Home Sweet Van to turn into a garbage-zone. To prevent this, invest in garbage cans and food storage containers with child-locks or pet-safe features. Collapsible water and food bowls for your dog can save space, and sturdy dog food and treat containers are essential for rodents and bugs!
Prepare Sleep Arrangements Ahead of Time
I know a ton of us sleep with our dogs (guilty!) but for those of us who don’t, invest in a dog bed that matches your space and keeps your dog cozy when it’s time to head to bed. When living in such tight quarters, it’s nice when everyone can have a little space that’s theirs.
Pick a Pet-Proof Upholstery
If you don’t currently own a van, It’s best to invest in leather or vinyl upholstery as these fabrics don’t latch on to our dog’s odor and hair. It’s also super easy to wipe down for messy paws or hair that latches onto your seats! Microfibre can be tricky to clean, but don’t worry if this fabric is already in your van. The quickest and most inexpensive way to solve microfibre funk is by investing in a set of seat covers.
Your Van Might Stink - Prepare for the Worst
We all love our dogs, but let’s be real - sometimes they can just smell down-right awful! It’s best to prepare ahead by having a cleaning schedule in place to remove dog hair and dander. Regular brushing of your dog can do wonders! If your dog has been swimming, rub them down with a microfiber towel before letting them back in the van. You can also consider some water-proof mats for the floor if your trip involves dirt or mid!
Let Your Dog Get The Zoomies Out
Dogs need to run and play in order to live stress-free with proper sleep schedules. On average, you should let your dog take a break outdoors every 2 to 4 hours for about 15 to 30 minutes each, and plan on driving no more than 7 hours per day. A long leash (such as a dog or horse lunge leash) can keep your pet nearby - while still letting them get the zoomies out!
Keep Water Available At All Times
A dog water bottle (yep, it’s a thing) can be handy on hikes or long walks! Keeping a fresh bowl of cool water in and outside the van is essential for a hydrated and happy pup.
Install a Roof Vent
Recommended by many veteran nomad travelers, a roof vent provides clean air circulation and warm or cool air! A roof vent can pull cool air in, or push warm air out. If this isn’t possible for you, it’s best to consider a small fan that plugs into your cigarette lighter.
Congrats, Nomad! You’re on your way to a successful van-life trip with your dog. There’s nothing better than experiencing nature, sunsets, and brand new places with your best friend!