Van life with a dog is awesome. If you follow me on Instagram, you know our dog, Charlie . He’s a border collie/mini-Australian shepherd mix who is crazy smart, a little neurotic (thanks to his breed ), and has an unbelievable amount of energy. He has also spent much of his life on the road traveling over 50,000 miles with us in our Sprinter Van and has been from southern California all the way to upstate New York.I get a lot of emails asking me about van life with a dog…like, what do you do when you have to leave your dog in the car? Or how do we find places to go that are dog-friendly?Living in a van with pets is completely doable, and I truly believe van life dogs have the BEST life. They spend the majority of their time running outside, meeting tons of other dogs, and getting the occasional scrap of food that falls from your camp stove.That being said, there are definitely some considerations to ensure your dog or other pet is as happy as you are. I also know people who do van life with a cat, so if you’re a cat person, know that you can bring your cat along for the ride too.

Carry Their Vaccination Records In The VanYou might be surprised to find out that some campgrounds require vaccination records from anyone bringing a dog in. While that’s never happened to me out West, it happened at more than one campground in New York where dispersed, free camping tends to be more limited. So keep a copy handy on your phone or somewhere in the van so you have them just in case. It’s also good in case you run into any medical issues with your dog and need to see a veterinarian while you are traveling.

Give Them Somewhere Comfortable To Lay
You want your dog to be comfortable on those long drives. If they spend their time on the floor, it’s nice to give them something cushioned to lay on. Bring a dog bed, a yoga mat, a blanket, or even a foam Thermarest sleeping pad that you can fold in half. These foam pads are also handy for colder backpacking trips when you want to give your pup some insulation from the ground. When we’re on the road, Charlie usually hangs out in his dog bed between the two front seats.

Choose Food That Is Available Everywhere
Charlie goes through one big bag of dog food about every month. That means we have to restock our dog food supply pretty frequently on the road. It’s hard on dog’s tummies to switch up their food all the time, so you want to make sure that your dog’s food is readily available at major food or pet stores, so you can easily find it when you head into a town. Fortunately, stores like Petco and Petsmart carry some pretty good dog food brands these days, and they are everywhere. If your dog is on something special that you can’t get at a bigger pet store, go to the dog food brand’s website and see if they have a way to search for retailers in your current location.

Keep Them On A Regular Eating Schedule
Van life can be hard on a dog’s eating schedule. Our dog Charlie doesn’t like to eat while the van is moving, so it’s important for us to give him time to eat in the morning before we start driving…otherwise, his whole schedule gets messed up for the day. Every dog is different, but pay attention to their eating habits and try to stick to a routine so they don’t go hungry or end up eating dinner at midnight and making you get up to let them go to the bathroom. We also like to leave a water bowl out for him 24/7. We’ve found that these collapsible dog bowls are great for driving and the water doesn’t spill, even on rough roads.

Find Dog-Friendly Places & Activities
Van life with a dog requires you to consider your dog as you plan your itinerary and day to day activities. As pet owners, we learn to prioritize places where our animal is welcome. After a while, you’ll learn to plan your van life travels around your ability to do stuff with your pet. Maybe this means avoiding really hot places in peak summer or choosing to bypass National Parks and hiking on other types of public lands instead that allow dogs on trails.Before you head out to find some epic spot you heard about, check dog regulations first. The last thing you want is to drive far out of your way to find out the place you want to be isn’t that dog-friendly, like the Enchantments in Washington or much of the Wasatch in Salt Lake City. This also goes for visiting National Parks, some of which are on the dog-friendlier side – be sure to check out our guide to the Most Dog-Friendly National Parks. A little upfront research can save a headache later on.If you’re looking for a place to grab a bite to eat, check if they have a dog-friendly patio first. And if not, grab take-out and find an awesome place to set up a picnic for both you AND your dog to enjoy!