Travelling with pets in a van is the ultimate adventure for owners who can’t bear to miss out on cuddles and playtime with their four-legged friend – a road trip without this fluffy companion simply wouldn’t be the same. We feel you.

Van life is doggy (and sometimes even kitty) heaven. They can explore the great outdoors like never before, enjoying all sorts of new and interesting places, people and smells. The brilliant news is that more animal-friendly campsites and caravan parks are popping up across Australia, so you can go camping with pets pretty much anywhere.

But whether you’re a seasoned nomad looking for some furry company or an owner planning the road trip of a lifetime, you need to weigh up a few considerations before bringing a pet along for the ride. Fear not. We’ve put together an animal lover’s guide to van life so that you can make the most of your next adventure – paws and all!

Pet Proofing Your Van

Think About Upholstery And Flooring

If you’re travelling with your pet on board, a van with leather or vinyl upholstery is your best option because they don’t absorb odours and are quick to wipe down. A more wallet-friendly choice is microfibre, which is also simple to clean. And if you’ve found the van of your dreams but it’s upholstered in cloth, just use some blankets or seat covers as a barrier against grime and fur.

As with upholstery, certain flooring types will make your time on the road a whole lot easier. Don’t even entertain the idea of carpet in the lounge area… Rather, wooden floorboards and vinyl are as easy to clean as they are on the eyes.

Decide Between Curtains Or Blinds

When it comes to buying a caravan, campervan or motorhome with pets in mind, curtains and blinds both bring their own benefits and drawbacks. While the former usually attract more pet hair and dirt, just throw them in the wash for an easy clean. Although blinds can break easily if your pet is teething or simply fed up with their blocked-out view, they are otherwise stylish, durable and compact.

Bring The Basics (And The Home Comforts)

Your little darling deserves a few of their favourite things when you travel together, especially if it’s their first time on the road – little touches, like your pet’s much-loved toy, go a long way in soothing them on long car rides and in unfamiliar places.  So while you have to pack the van efficiently, you also need to consider what your pet passenger will need and want throughout the holiday. For smooth sailing, create a checklist of essentials like fur brushes, pet beds, food and water bowls, treats, leashes, poop bags and a pet first aid kit. And if you’re travelling with your feline friend, both a cat carrier and covered litter pan are an absolute must!

Tuck Away The Garbage Bin

Store your garbage bin out of reach from any mischievous paws – place it in a secure cupboard, and make sure it stays there. In fact, you should do this even if you don’t own a pet, as anything that’s not latched shut or bolted down will burst all over the floor as you drive away.

Keep It Cool

Nothing heats up faster than a van sitting in the summer sunshine. With all of its windows, the greenhouse effect is stronger than ever. To protect your pet (and yourself) from discomfort and dehydration, don’t forget to do the following:

Install a vent fan and crack a window open to keep fresh, cool air circulating throughout your vehicle.Attach reflective window coverings to deflect some of the heat being absorbed through their glass. Wrap your pet in a cooling towel to help them bear that Aussie heat. Fill up your pet’s water bowl anytime it runs low, encouraging them to lap it up regularly.

Hitting the Road with your Furry Friend

Planning The Route With Your Pet In Mind

A large part of this planning will revolve around temperature because your pet won’t fare well in extreme heat or cold. Our advice is to visit cooler camping spots in the summer, and warmer destinations in the winter.

Another aspect to bear in mind is the type of experience you’re looking for. Although it’s perfectly understandable to want to enjoy the restaurants, museums and tourist attractions wherever you’re visiting, it’s best to leave your pet with family or friends if the trip is particularly indoor-heavy.

Microchips, Collars And Leashes

Don’t risk a ruined holiday and lasting heartbreak! First things first, never head off before getting your pet microchipped. That way, your chances of finding them are far higher in the worst-case scenario that they go M.I.A. in a distant state.

Once you arrive at a new place, it’s possible that your pet will get spooked by unfamiliar sounds and scents or run off when they encounter a chase-worthy animal. That’s why it’s so important to keep them in a harness or leash with a strong tether (most of the time). And when you feel it’s safe to let them explore solo, make sure that they have an identification tag on their collar so that you can rest easy as they run free.

Exercise, Exercise And More Exercise

Let sleeping dogs lie, and restless dogs frolic – the more you tire them out, the happier and better behaved they will be. As your pooch probably won’t get as much exercise and social interaction on the road as they would at home, make regular stops at dog-friendly walking trails, beaches or parks along the way.

Your campsite should also have nearby spaces where your pup can run, play and socialise as much as they wish. Trust us, this will make van life so much easier.

Grocery Shopping (And Other Times You’ll Have To Leave Your Pet Behind)

Try your best to minimise the moments your pet spends alone in the van, both in frequency and duration. Most of your adventure will likely take place outside of cities and villages but when you do get a dose of civilisation, seek out pet-friendly spots (such as cafe patios and public parks) or leave them with a sitter while you wander around town.

When you have to go inside places they cannot, open the windows for airflow and turn that air conditioning up. If one of you can stay behind to keep your pet company while monitoring the temperature, that’s even better.

Sleeping Arrangements

At the end of the day, your pet will find comfort in curling up on their own bed or snuggling up to their beloved human. Whether you want cuddles all night long or would prefer a break from your owner duties each evening, there’s a van life solution for you: invite them up to your comfy double, put them in a collapsible camping crate or bring their pet bed from home. It’s up to you.

Cleaning Up The Fluff And Mud

The silver lining of living in a smaller space is that it’s quick and easy to clean. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: remember to pack a small broom and dustpan for regular sweeps that remove cat or dog hair, dirt and dust. And if your pet is a shedder, brush them every day. If your dog has been swimming in the muddy creek or crashing through salty waves, rub them down with a microfiber camp towel before letting them back in the van. Then sprinkle baking soda over any fabric and spread it around with a brush to get rid of that pungent wet dog odours. Leave this overnight before vacuuming the next day and your van will smell good as new.

Finding Accommodation that Accepts Animals

While your cat will be content to stay inside most of the time, your dog will want to be part of the action all day every day. So get their tail wagging with as many recreational and outdoor activities as possible! Whether you’re paddle boarding, swimming, hiking or just lying on the beach, your pet can join the party – depending on your location.

No matter how well-behaved or trained they are, cats and dogs aren’t welcome at any National Park in Australia. To be fair, there are a few reasons behind this ban:

Native animals consider our pets to be predators, whose scent can frighten them away from their natural homes. Sadly, this means that many young are abandoned (and there is less wildlife for visitors to spot!). Pet faeces not only carry diseases that harm wildlife but also add nutrients to the soil, in turn encouraging weed growth. If your dog is particularly loud, active or aggressive, it may disrupt the experience of other campers.

Fail to stick by this rule and you’ll risk a hefty fine, likely accompanied by a boot out the door. So if you’re camping with cats and dogs, skip that National Park. But where can you stay?

Regulations differ from place to place so you’ll have to do some research before you hit the gas. The easiest thing to do is call and ask the managers of whichever property you wish to stay at. You’ll also find helpful information on their website. As a rule of thumb, most holiday parks that permit pets require them to be on a leash, quiet and used to human interaction.

For some awesome dog-friendly campsites, check out Australian Dog Lover for recommendations.

Article originally featured on Camplify



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