When the leaves start to fall and the air gets frosty, most RVers think about heading for warmer climates, and we’re no different! Like everyone else, we’re looking for lots of sunshine and comfortable temperatures, but we also want to make sure our dogs are happy. That means finding places where it’s easy to walk them, and there are nearby activities where they’re welcome.
With seven winters under our belts in the Meridian, we’ve had the opportunity to experience a few places, and these are five of our favorites:
Port St. Joe, Florida
Port St. Joe is perfect for visitors looking to avoid the hustle and bustle, and still enjoy some amenities. Known for it’s white beaches, gentle surf, and strikingly clear water, the city looks out on St. Joseph Bay, where Cape San Blas, a 17-mile long barrier peninsula extends out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Dog-friendly beaches stretch for miles, and kayak, canoe, paddle board, or bike rentals allow you to easily explore the breathtaking scenery. The paved Loggerhead Bike Trail runs the length of the Cape and is great for walking, jogging, or biking. There are several private RV parks to choose from in Port St. Joe and along Florida’s forgotten coast, and St. Joseph Peninsula State Park also has RV spaces with water and electric hook ups.
Winter weather in Austin can be iffy compared to some of our other favorite destinations, but the pet friendliness of this city completely makes up for any cold snaps or clouds you might encounter! Dogs are welcome almost everywhere in Austin, from outdoor seating areas at restaurants, to the botanical garden, and 350-acre Zilker Park!
If you love to walk or bike, the Butler Hike and Bike Trail is a gravel-covered, 10-mile loop around Ladybird Lake, and connects Zilker Park to the Rainey Street Historic District. Plan ahead to score a spot at Pecan Grove RV Park, where you’ll be walking distance to all the downtown attractions, or choose from several private parks within a few miles. For a more natural setting, consider McKinney Falls State Park’s RV sites with water and electric hook ups.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada
At almost a million and a half pet-friendly acres, you could spend an entire winter at Lake Mead National Recreation Area and barely have time to scratch the surface! If you and your dog love hiking, enjoy the great outdoors, and find the desert beautiful – this could be the perfect spot for you!
The park features a fantastic selection of developed hiking trails. There is a 31-mile, paved River Mountains Loop Trail for bikers and walkers, or you can make your own route by selecting a wash and seeing where it leads. For a bit of civilization, the historic town of Boulder City is close at hand, and the Las Vegas Strip is a 40 minute drive. RV facilities here range the gamut, from boondocking, to campgrounds run by the park service, to a private RV park – there’s something to meet everyone’s needs.
Can dogs really be delighted with a winter stay in Phoenix? You bet they can … if you stay in one of the regional parks outside the city! Maricopa County operates 11 parks around Phoenix, eight of which have developed, semi-developed, or primitive camping available. Rather than staying in one of the many “snowbird parks” with little to explore, our dogs enjoy the perfect combination of scenery, hiking, and wide-open spaces. Even better, you have easy access to shopping, restaurants, and all Phoenix and its suburbs have to offer.
We’ve enjoyed McDowell Mountain, which covers nearly 22,000 acres, and is best known for it’s mountain biking and 65 miles of trails, and White Tank, which spreads over nearly 30,000 acres, and has 28 miles of trails to explore. From dry camping to water and electric hook ups, the facilities vary by park, and it’s best to make reservations well in advance of your stay.
Palm Springs, California
It’s hard to beat the weather in southern California, and Ty and Buster have found plenty to do around Palm Springs! Joshua Tree National Park is just over the hill and, while dogs aren’t allowed on the trails, they are welcome to walk the many dirt roads. There are some great hiking trails around the city as well, and an entertaining “walk of fame.” But for the more refined pup, the weekly Thursday evening street market provides an ideal shopping opportunity.
The variety of day trip excursions from Palm Springs will keep everyone entertained, from the massive outlet mall, to the eclectic sculpture garden in Borrego Springs, and the wintery mountaintop resort of Idyllwild. And locating an RV park to suit your taste is no problem – many in the area even have hot spring pools to relax in after a busy day keeping up with your pooch!
Wondering where we are now? Follow our adventures at GoPetFriendly.com!
Rod and I are both accountants, and whatever stereotype that conjures for you is probably not far from the truth. We’re pretty straight-laced, make logical decisions after carefully weighing the pros and cons, and don’t tend to surprise people with wild alterations to our life’s plan. For ten years we ran a business together from our home in Philadelphia, had a vacation cabin a prudent 90 miles from the city, and chased the American dream the same way we saw our friends and family doing it.
We were happy enough, resigned to “make hay while the sun was shining,” all the while banking on the hope that someday we’d have the time and money to check all the boxes on our ever-growing bucket lists. But then we found a stray dog who turned our lives upside down.
Rod will admit (though not in front of him) that adopting Buster was not a mutual decision. We already had Ty, our Shar-pei, and were not even considering a second dog when Buster showed up on our doorstep. And, to be fair, Buster was not an easy dog. As a year-old German Shepherd pup, he had far too much energy and absolutely no manners! Rod would have been happy to help find him a good home … but I had a deep sense that home needed to be ours. Something inside me said this dog had come to us for a reason, and I wasn’t willing to forfeit whatever future might be had with him as part of the family.
My insistence and Rod’s generosity and desire to see me happy were enough to tip the scale … Buster stayed, and the wheels of change were set in motion. It wasn’t long before we discovered that having an 80-pound dog throws a major wrench in vacation planning! Finding hotels that didn’t charge ridiculous pet fees, and where the dogs weren’t breaking the weight restrictions was a nightmare.
With the frustration mounting, we resolved to build a website to make it easy for everyone to plan trips with their pets. Over the next six months, the database of pet-friendly hotels, campgrounds, beaches, wineries, dog parks, attractions, and service providers grew, and just over a year after we found Buster, we launched GoPetFriendly.com.
Launching the website was a big deal, but still our lives were pretty much the same. The real changes came when Rod suggested that it would be a fraud to tell people how easy it was to travel with their pets if we weren’t doing it ourselves. From there it was only a small hop to the idea of living in an RV, but a gut-wrenching deliberation to actually get there.
We lost a lot of sleep, equally excited and terrified at the prospect of leaving behind what we knew to pursue a different way of life. We had all the same fears and doubts – maybe more – that anyone considering a monumental life change goes through, but something occurred around that time that inspired us to jump.
Tragically, a good friend’s wife passed away of lung cancer in her 50s. She’d never smoked, took good care of herself, and by all rights should have lived for another 30 or 40 years. Instead, she got 26 months from the date of her diagnosis. She and our friend made the absolute most of it – between treatments they traveled a lot, spent time with family and friends, and found joy in the simple things – and we learned two crucial lessons from their experience.
First, we had our health and an amazing opportunity to grab life by the horns. In a moment of brutal honestly, we acknowledged that fear was the only thing holding us in place. Then we had to decide if we wanted our lives dictated by fear. Were we going to let this chance pass and wait for our diagnosis to come before we started really living?
The second shift that occurred was that money suddenly had less power over us. We were working our tails off to squirrel away savings and build retirement accounts … but after watching our friends, we knew that if one of us were seriously ill, we’d trade it all just to be well again. If we’d give it all away for our health – something we already had – how much did the money and possessions we were accumulating really mean to us?
The last realization we needed to grasp is that things rarely turn out as bad as we imagine. When trying to come to a decision, we were picturing worse-case scenarios that weren’t even realistic! If running our businesses from the RV didn’t work out, we imagined ourselves destitute – but we still had our skills and could get jobs! We had to force ourselves to begin to imagine the best-case scenarios as well, and realize that reality would likely be somewhere in between. That future was good enough for us, so we took the plunge – selling our homes and our stuff and moving into our Winnebago.
We’ve been full-timing for more than seven years now, and it’s funny how perception changes. We’re on our second motorhome, and looking back, it’s hard to believe the anguish we put ourselves through in coming to this decision. Our opinions have reversed so much that now we can’t imagine going back to living in a house. But one thing we’ve definitely learned through this process is to never say never.
Still building your confidence to jump in? Feel free to travel vicariously with us at GoPetFriendly.com!
‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, and finding the perfect gift for your traveling dog requires a little digging! You want your special pups to love what you choose, but with packing space at a premium, utility is also important for pets on the go. To make the most of your purchase, you’ll want something that’s useful while also being beautiful and durable.
Years of full-time travel with Ty and Buster have allowed us to road test a lot of pet travel gear, and there are a handful of products that we refuse to travel without. Perhaps one of these will also please your pooch!
1. A Good Walking Harness
Every dog on the go wants to look his best, so why not get your pal a spiffy new walking harness? We love the Freedom No-Pull harness from 2 Hounds Design. At $30, this harness is a gift for you both! The patented control loop on the back of the harness tightens gently around your dog’s chest to discourage pulling, making walks more enjoyable, and the chest strap is lined with Swiss Velvet, so it’s very comfortable for your dog to wear.
There’s also an option to connect the leash at the chest ring for big dogs who sometimes forget their size. Having the leash connected at the chest gives you much more control than you have with a standard harness or collar.
These harnesses also come in a rainbow of colors, so you’ll find the perfect shade to match your pet’s personality.
2. An Adjustable Leash
When you’re on the trail, at the beach, or exploring a new city, you may want leashes of different lengths – but what if one leash could adjust to meet all your needs?
The Weekender Adventure Leash from Alcott easily extends from four feet to seven feet, has a super-duty swiveling clip, and a neoprene-padded handle with integrated buckle, so you can safely connect your pup to your chair at the coffee shop, bench at the park, or stool at “yappy hour.”
At $20 it will be the only leash you need, and it comes in five fashionable colors with reflective accents, increasing your pet’s visibility in the dark and helping to keep you both safe.
3. A Convenient Food and Water Travel Bowl
Dinner is one thing no dog wants to miss while he’s traveling, and for $30 the Yummy Bowl from Sleepypod will make it easy to organize your pet’s food and water for your next day trip.
Rather than packing your dog’s water and food in separate containers, the Yummy Bowl conveniently combines the two. The spill-resistant water bowl serves as the base, the second layer holds your dog’s food, and the lid seals everything up nice and tight, and also doubles as a serving dish. Made from food-grade, BPA-free silicone it’s also freezer, microwave, and dishwasher safe for easy clean up.
4. A Treat Bag With Lots of Treats
Training is a wonderful way to build your dog’s confidence and strengthen your relationship, and traveling dogs are especially lucky, because they have so many opportunities to learn new things!
To move the training along more quickly and keep your dog interested, it helps to keep some rewards handy, and we use treat bags with waist straps that buckle on like a belt and can be packed with your dog’s favorite goodies. The price of treat bags range from $15 to $50 dollars, and come in a plethora of styles and colors.
Look for added features in the bag you choose, like a waste bag dispenser, a pocket to hold your phone or your pup’s ball, and a good draw-string closure to keep your pet from helping himself when you’re not watching.
5. Shampoo and Conditioner to Feel Great
Not all pets love baths, but they do like to feel their best, and a high-quality shampoo and conditioner will leave your pup feeling like a million bucks! Choosing products that are free from parabens, sulfates, and harsh chemicals helps protect the dog’s skin and coat, and those with calming scents are especially nice for traveling dogs.
We love Lucy Pet Products’ Purple Rain Shampoo and Leave-in Conditioner, which is made with lavender oil. To make this gift even sweeter, all of Lucy’s products are 100% cruelty-free, and the net profits from their sales goes to support low-cost spay and neuter programs through the Lucy Pet Foundation.
We hope these suggestions help narrow things down for you. And don’t forget … no matter what gift you choose, what your pet loves most of all is spending time with you!
Off-leash areas are increasingly popular amenities at RV parks and campgrounds – in fact, they’re almost necessary for any park claiming to be “pet-friendly.” After a long day of back-seat driving, many pups look forward to a romp in the dog park to burn off some energy, and providing a safe place for them to play is a convenience pet owners truly appreciate.
Any time pets and people are coming together, it’s wise to observe a few rules of etiquette, and we have some tips that will make your dog park experience more fun for everyone.
Ask Before You Enter: While we generally think of dog parks as a place for canine socialization, the off-leash areas in campgrounds and RV parks are a little different. When these spaces are not being utilized by others, owners whose dogs don’t necessarily enjoy the company of other pets might take the opportunity to let their dogs explore off-leash. Before entering the dog park at a campground or RV park, always ask if the pets already there are friendly. If they’re not, move away from the gate so the other person can bring their dog out without a confrontation.
Drop the Leash: Part of the fun of going to the dog park is ditching the leash! But if you’re concerned that your dog won’t come when called and would be difficult to catch, let him drag his leash around the enclosure instead. Holding the leash while he’s inside the dog park could make your dog feel threatened when interacting with other dogs and may lead to a fight.
Mind the Size Differences: Pups of all shapes and sizes are traveling with their families, but mixing large and small dogs in the dog park could lead to problems. Large dogs play rougher, and could see small dogs or puppies as prey. Unless you know all the dogs well, it’s a good rule of thumb to choose doggy playmates that are no more than twice the size of your pup.
Always Pick Up: There is nothing worse than stepping in some other dog’s mess while you’re trying to enjoy time with your dog! And abandoned waste can transmit illnesses to other dogs. Picking up your pet’s waste and disposing of it properly is always the right thing to do.
Take Care With Toys: Some dogs are possessive of their toys and may instigate a fight if another dog tries to join in the play. If your dog is prone to this behavior, leave his toys in the RV, or only take them when there are no other dogs using the park.
Leave the Food and Treats Outside: Some dogs have trouble controlling their impulses around food and treats, so the dog park is not the place to bring these items. Dogs are there to have fun – temping them with tasty snacks and hoping they won’t jump up or try to get them is expecting too much.
Pay Attention: In our constantly connected world, it’s easy to be distracted by your phone while you’re at the dog park with your pup. When other dogs are there, this behavior is not only irresponsible, it could be dangerous. Watching the interactions between dogs is your responsibility as a pet parent. Your top priority at the dog park should be ensuring that play doesn’t escalate into a fight, and that dogs aren’t being harassed by other dogs.
Having off-leash dog parks for our furry travel companions to play is a nice treat when we’re on the road, and we want to be sure everyone has the chance to enjoy them! Do you have any additional suggestions on how to make these spaces safer and more fun for your dog?
If your dog loves dog parks, use our pet-friendly road trip planner to locate them along your route anywhere in the United States!
An eighteenth-century town with large, open spaces and no cars – it sounds perfect for visiting with your pet, right? It is!
Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum, where you and your pet can explore the town’s beautiful setting and learn about life in Virginia’s colonial capital.
Your pup will enjoy seeing horses prance by, visiting the cows in the pasture, and exploring acres of grounds with her favorite person.
Here are a few tips to help you plan your trip to Colonial Williamsburg, so your whole family gets the most from your visit:
1. Arrange pet-friendly accommodations
Within the park, the Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg Lodge, and Williamsburg Woodlands offer a limited number of pet-friendly rooms and are close to attractions. However, there are size restrictions and daily cleaning fees.
Outside the historic area, the town of Williamsburg has several pet-friendly hotels and motels – but the most pet-friendliest accommodations can be found at the nearby campgrounds!
Williamsburg has three private campgrounds: American Heritage RV Park (146 Maxton Lane), Anvil Campground (5243 Morretown Road), and KOA – Williamsburg (4000 Newman Road). All are a short drive to the historic downtown and convenient to nearby attractions.
Williamsburg also has campsites with full hook-ups at Chickahominy Riverfront Park (1350 John Tyler Highway). With miles of trails, this may be the most pet-friendly place to stay of all.
2. Buy tickets in advance
You can enjoy the grounds at Colonial Williamsburg without paying for admission, but tours, access to some buildings, and use of the free shuttle requires you to have a ticket. Pets are not permitted inside buildings or on the shuttle, so it works best if you have a friend and take turns enjoying the building while the other waits with the pets.
You can order tickets online or buy them at the visitor’s center when you arrive, but you’re more likely to ensure your spot in popular events if you make your reservations in advance.
3. Check the weather
Colonial Williamsburg is lovely during Christmas, but shivering on a park bench with your pooch while you’re admiring decorations is only fun for a short time. Picnicking on the village green, strolling down Duke of Gloucester (known as DoG) Street, and lounging on the lawn in front of the Governor’s Palace are all activities best enjoyed on a spring or fall day.
4. Line up your dining options
Just outside the historic area are several restaurants with pet-friendly outside seating areas. Check out the Cheese Shop (410 Duke of Gloucester Street), Seasons Café (110 S Henry Street), Aromas Café (431 Prince George Street), or Pierce’s Bar-B-Que (447 Rochambeau Drive).
If you’d rather have a picnic or are only looking for snacks, stop in at the DuBois Grocer, or McKenzie Apothecary. Even the Visitor Center Cafe has sandwiches and hot food, so you and your pet will have plenty of options.
5. Get out of town
When you’ve thoroughly explored the historic area, Williamsburg has some lovely parks to visit. You can rent a canoe at Waller Mill Park (901 Airport Road), or walk the trails at Chickahominy Riverfront Park.
The second oldest college in the country, William and Mary (116 Jamestown Road) welcomes pets to stroll the grounds.
And of course, you’re only a short trip to Hampton Roads attractions and Virginia Beach, making Williamsburg a great base for exploring the coastal areas of southern Virginia.
6. Find a pet sitter or boarding kennel
When your pup gets pooped, he may enjoy a spa day. St Francis Pet Resort (102 Tewning Road) is a luxury boarding facility that offers dog play groups and spa treatments. And the Pet Resort at Greensprings (2878 Monticello Avenue) offers indoor and outdoor play at its dog day camp.
Some dogs enjoy an afternoon of playtime and pampering. And you can take the opportunity to enjoy the Williamsburg restaurants and activities that are not pet-friendly.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation website has all the information you need to plan your visit. You’ll find links to attractions, information about the town, and can purchase your tickets in advance.
If you’re looking for a vacation destination that combines a love of history and time with your dog, start planning your trip to Colonial Williamsburg today!
When you have the opportunity to combine two things you love – like pets and trains – it’s a special treat! Fortunately, there are train and railroad museums across the country that are happy to have your pet join you for a tour. Be sure to mark these down and plan to stop by on your next road trip!
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site
Address: 2600 Old Route 22, Gallitzin, Pennsylvania 16641
The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the first railroad constructed over the Allegheny Mountains. This inclined plane railroad operated between 1834-1854 and was considered a technological wonder in its day. The park covers 1,249 acres, celebrating the critical role this track played in opening the interior of the United States to trade and settlement.
Leashed pets are permitted in the park, but are not allowed in the buildings or on the beach. Leashes must be no longer than six feet.
Arkansas Railroad Museum
Address: 1700 Port Road, Pine Bluff, Arkansas 71601
See a variety of railroad equipment, locomotives and memorabilia at this museum dedicated to railroads that have operated in Arkansas and East Texas. Well-behaved, leashed pets are allowed on the grounds, but not in the buildings.
Boothbay Railway Village
Address: 586 Wiscasset Road, Boothbay, Maine 04537
Boothbay Railway Village offers many demonstrations and hands-on activities in a reconstructed village setting. With authentic period structures and technologies utilized in Maine from the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s, a highlight is the railroad and steam shop, equipped to fabricate and repair historic steam boilers.
Short train rides are also offered daily to enhance their educational programs. Pets are welcome to join you on the grounds, in the exhibits, and on the train in the open coaches or caboose.
California State Railroad Museum
Address: Corner of Second and I Streets, Sacramento, California 95814
Dogs are not allowed inside the museum buildings, but there are several locomotives outside you’re welcome to explore with your pets.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
Address: 242 Main Street, Cass, West Virginia 24927
Pets are welcome on the grounds of this unique state park, where an 11-mile long heritage railroad and authentic company town are some of the most popular tourist attractions. This is also one of America’s only authentic operating museums of lumber railroading. Pets are not allowed to ride the trains, but there are six cottages where dogs or cats can stay.
Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad
Address: 6140 Bray Road, Flint, Michigan 48505
Enjoy this living history village where period-clothed docents allow you to experience what life was like in a small village in Michigan in the late 1800s. There are 35 historic buildings, a narrow-gauge railroad offering train rides, and a paddle-wheeler taking river cruises. Well-behaved, leashed pets are welcome to accompany you to the village, but are not allowed in the buildings, on the train, or on the boat tours. Leashes must be no longer than six feet.
Illinois Railway Museum
Address: 7000 Olson Road, Union, Illinois 60180
Visit America’s largest railway museum! Leashed pets are allowed throughout the grounds and in the barn buildings, but not in the diner or aboard the trains.
Little River Railroad and Lumber Company
Address: 7747 E. Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Townsend, Tennessee 37882
Preserving the history of the Little River Railroad and Little River Lumber Companies, this site includes a museum with several outdoor exhibits. Well-behaved, leashed pets are welcome on the grounds, and small pets may be carried through the museum.
Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum
Address: 58 Fore Street, Portland, Maine 04101
The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum is dedicated to the preservation and operation of Maine’s two-foot gauge railway equipment. Here you can purchase a train ticket, which includes both a self-guided tour of the museum and a scenic waterfront train ride. Advanced reservations are not required for the leisurely, 35-minute ride along the Eastern Promenade of Casco Bay. The small museum features exhibits, several historic rail cars, activities for children, and a unique gift shop.
Leashed pets are welcome to join you as you tour the grounds and ride the train, but are not allowed inside the buildings.
Monticello Railway Museum
Address: 992 Iron Horse Place, Monticello, IL 61856
Walk through the museum cars and view many pieces of rolling stock at this museum. Visit the gift shop, and on weekends from May through October, train rides are available on Saturdays and Sundays. Pets are welcome and can ride the train as long as they are well-mannered and leashed.
National New York Central Railroad Museum
Address: 721 S. Main Street, Elkhart, Indiana 46516
Providing a chronicle of the history of the New York Central Railroad, view the museum’s impressive collection of rolling stock. Leashed pets are invited to explore the grounds with you, but are not allowed in the buildings.
Railway and Forestry Museum
Address: 850 River Road, Prince George, British Columbia V2L 5S8 Canada
This museum boasts one of the largest vintage rail collections in British Columbia with artifacts dating back to 1899. Leashed, friendly pets are welcome to explore the grounds, but are not permitted inside the buildings.
Sioux City Railroad Museum
Address: 3400 Sioux River Road, Sioux City, Iowa 51109
This complex was originally built in 1917 to service the locomotives and freight cars of the Milwaukee Railroad. The site now consists of 31.5 acres and six buildings, including a six-stall roundhouse and working turntable. Leashed pets are welcome to explore the grounds with you.
Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway Museum
Address: Sheepscot Station, Alna, Maine 04535
Learn about the railway systems and equipment that operated in the Sheepscot Valley. Interpretive displays, an impressive collection of artifacts, and exhibits are educational and entertaining. Leashed pets are welcome on the grounds, but are not permitted to ride the train.
If you find riding old trains more exciting than looking at them, check out our recent blog post on pet-friendly scenic train rides.
Dogs and road trips go together like peanut butter and jelly. There’s nothing quite like feeling the wind in your fur, sniffing all the new scents, and sharing some fantastic new memories along the way.
Now, imagine you’re planning a tour of America, but can only visit one pet-friendly attraction in each state. How would you choose a single destination that welcomes pets and speaks to the unique attributes that state has to offer?
That was our challenge this year and, at the half-way point of this 15,000-mile pet-friendly tour of the country, we’re having even more fun than we expected! It all started back in February in Carmel, CA, when we took Buster and Ty to the spectacular dog beach for a romp in the surf and some sweet California sunshine.
From there, our route took us across the southern United States, to some of the most memorable and magnificent places this country has to offer. We hiked along the south rim at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, watched the sunset at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, and took the boys on their first canoeing adventure on the Buffalo National River in Arkansas!
We played at one of the biggest off-leash dog parks in the country in Tennessee, cruised down the Natchez Trace in Mississippi, and hit another fantastic dog beach in Florida before starting up the east coast.
You can’t help but be immersed in history when visiting places like Magnolia Plantation in South Carolina, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Not only are these stewards preserving our country’s heritage, they’re doing it in the most beautiful ways and making them accessible – even to those of us traveling with pets!
Between the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Central Park in Manhattan, and Boston’s Freedom Trail, we did a fair amount of urban hiking, and enjoyed thoroughly exploring these national treasures before continuing on to New England.
And what better way to immerse yourself in the culture of New England than by visiting Mystic Seaport, a 19th-century seafaring village replicated on the banks of the Mystic River in Connecticut? To see how the other half lived, we took a stroll along the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island and admired the “summer cottages” built between 1850 and 1900 by some of the country’s wealthiest families.
But, man holds no candle to Mother Nature when it comes to creating real beauty, and Acadia National Park in Maine is one place where you and your dog can fully appreciate her talents.
Acadia was stop #25 of 49 on our tour, and there’s still so much to look forward to! From Dog Mountain in Vermont, to Mackinac Island in Michigan, to South Dakota’s Black Hills, the spectacular Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and ending in Portland, Oregon … it’s possible that the best is yet to come!
For more information on all the attractions we’ve visited thus far, and those on our upcoming itinerary, please visit our GoPetFriendly.com blog. We hope you’ll travel along with us vicariously, and perhaps be inspired to get out and make some #pawsomememories of your own!
After more than seven years in the motorhome, Ty and Buster have acclimated to nearly every aspect of full-time travel. They love sniffing all the smells in each new campground, have a ball exploring the town and trails where we walk, and know that when we buckle them into their safety harnesses that we’re off again on a new adventure.
The one thing that we haven’t been able to help them overcome is their fear of other dogs. Ty was attacked at a dog park when he was 6 months old, and has not trusted other dogs since then. Buster found us as a stray when he was about a year old, and has been uncomfortable around other dogs right from the beginning. My hunch is that he spent the first year of his life in someone’s backyard and didn’t learn dog body language in those formative weeks of his puppyhood.
Training has helped the boys learn to tolerate other dogs from a distance, and that distance has declined (slowly) over the years. But this fear is not something that’s easy to overcome, and it can make traveling with our dogs a bit more challenging.
One of our biggest irritations is when an off-leash dog runs up to Ty and Buster, because whether the other dog is friendly or not, he’s terrifying to our dogs. So, in an effort to get the other dog to move away, Ty and Buster will bark and lunge – not because they’re spoiling for a fight, because they don’t want to be forced to interact.
Now, lest you think this is turning into an article bashing off-leash dogs … it’s not. My life’s purpose is to identify and tell others about pet-friendly places, and if those places allow dogs to play off-leash – even better! Dog parks and leash-free beaches are great for pups who love to socialize with their own kind. And, if you’re lucky enough to have one of those dogs who can take advantage of off-leash trails for hiking, I’m truly envious.
Even finding off-leash dogs in places where leashes are required doesn’t get my hackles up, as long as those dogs are well-trained and respond to their owner’s command the first time it is given. The problem arises when dogs – even the friendly ones – are off leash and not under the voice control of their owners.
Seeing a dog charging toward you with the owner running behind calling, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” is not a comfortable feeling for a human being or dog! And for dogs who are trying hard to trust their people to keep them safe from unwanted canine advances, it’s devastating.
What’s worse is that we’ve been told that we shouldn’t have our “aggressive” dogs out in public if they can’t tolerate being approached by other dogs. These people seem to think their dogs are “just being dogs,” and are not concerned how their rude behavior impacts anyone else.
So, what can you do if your dog is fearful like ours? We have a few suggestions:
1. Avoid places where pets are known to gather off-leash, like dog parks and off-leash beaches.
2. Work at desensitizing your dog to the presence of other dogs through training.
3. Carry treats to help distract your dog when other dogs are closer than they’d prefer.
4. You are your dog’s best advocate. Don’t be afraid to ask people to leash their dog while you pass, or decline a request to have another dog meet yours.
5. Remember that your dog’s behavior shouldn’t embarrass you. Reactivity is an especially difficult behavioral challenge to overcome. Some dogs may never be comfortable in the company of other dogs, so celebrate small improvements, and don’t beat yourself up if your dog’s progress is slow.
And, to those people blessed with dogs without these challenges, I know my dog’s behavior is not your problem, but with a little compassion, you could be part of the solution!
Here are some ways we could really use your help:
1. Only let your dog off-leash when in public in designated “leash-free” areas, or if they are under voice control. (This means they are never out of your sight and respond immediately when given a command such as “leave it” or “come.”)
2. If you meet a leashed dog when yours is not leashed, ask your dog to come to you and wait quietly while the other dog passes.
3. Understand that reactive dogs are not aggressive – they just want their space.
4. Keep in mind that the challenges some dogs and their owners face are beyond your imagination. They’re working to overcome those circumstances, and a smile or word of encouragement goes a long way.
If you’d like more information about our pet friendly travels with Ty and Buster, visit us at GoPetFriendly.com.
The dog days of summer have arrived, and in many parts of the country the temperatures are soaring. If you and your pets are looking for a vacation destination where you can beat the heat, we’ve done the paws-on-the-ground research and have a few suggestions!
Anacortes sits in the most northwestern corner of the continental U.S., and is best known for its popular marina and ferry service to the San Juan Islands. Daytime highs in the summer rarely reach the mid-80s, and there is a fantastic selection of RV park options near town and on Whidbey Island to the south.
The list of things to do here is never-ending, with scenic drives, hiking, boating, wildlife watching, interesting shopping, and lively eateries. The ferries to the San Juans are pet friendly, as is Deception Pass State Park, with its spectacular views and 38 miles of trails.
Driving with your pets across the border to Canada isn’t as complicated as you might imagine, and Banff is one of our favorite pet-friendly destinations! High in the Canadian Rockies, temperatures may reach into the 80s on a summer day, but the evenings cool off nicely, and there are plenty of good RV park options in the area.
Situated inside one of Canada’s most popular national parks, primary activities here revolve around enjoying the spectacular scenery and catching glimpses of the abundant wildlife.
Bar Harbor, Maine
On the rugged Atlantic shore, Bar Harbor enjoys glorious weather during the summer, and this is a perfect place to explore the outdoors with your pet! National Parks have a reputation for not being very pet friendly, but that’s not true at Acadia. Dogs are welcome on almost all of the 120 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads in the park and in most of the public areas.
The RV park options are plentiful, with pet friendly campgrounds in the national park and many private options closer to town. If you prefer Mother Nature with a side of civilization, spend your days in the park and your evenings in pet-friendly Bar Harbor!
Famous for having one of the best beaches in the country, Carmel is loaded with pet-friendly inns, high-end shopping, and excellent restaurants – many that welcome pets on the patio. There are several good RV park options nearby, and the breezes off the Pacific keep temperatures lovely all summer.
Dogs are welcome to romp off-leash in the surf and sand on the city’s main beach, as long as they respond to voice commands. If your pup isn’t a social butterfly, enjoy views of the beach from the Scenic Bluff Path, and make your way to Carmel River Beach, where leashed pets are welcome.
This beautiful Victorian town is tucked in the back of a box canyon high in the Rocky Mountains. With its elevation of 8,750 feet, humidity is non-existent here, and jackets at night are comfortable – even during the peak of summer.
There’s a very popular Forest Service campground near Telluride, but we prefer traveling a bit further to Ridgeway State Park, where many sites are located with a view of the lake. While you’re in Telluride, don’t miss the free, pet-friendly gondola. Operating during summer and winter, its pet-friendly cars are marked with a sticker in the front window. Birds, dogs and cats are all welcome to enjoy the views – so long as they’re on a leash or in a carrier.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
You may be surprised to see a location in the southwest make this list, but its elevation of 7,200 feet keeps Santa Fe quite comfortable in the summer. And, if the city gets a little sticky, you can take a drive up to the Santa Fe National Forest, where we found snow at the end of May!
The area has a nice selection of RV parks, from full-service resorts to camping in the national forest, and you’ll find plenty to do with your pets. If you like urban hiking, this is a great place to enjoy the hip hangouts in The Railyard, the beautiful, shady Plaza, and the many galleries on Canyon Road.
I hope these ideas help you make a dash for cooler locales with your best travel buddy. If you’d like more information about our pet-friendly travels with Ty and Buster, visit us at GoPetFriendly.com.
A question we get a lot from people planning pet-friendly vacations is, “What are the requirements when driving across the border to Canada with a pet?” Navigating the regulations and insuring a safe journey for your pets can be intimidating until you’ve done it a few times. But with these tips your Canadian adventure can be worry-free.
No quarantine period is required when traveling into Canada with your pets, but you must have a current rabies certificate for each dog and cat (older than 3 months) that is crossing the border with you.
The rabies vaccination certificates must be written in either English or French and be signed by a licensed veterinarian. The certificates must include identifying information, such as the breed, color, and weight of your pet. Finally, the form must state that your pet is vaccinated against rabies, indicate the date the vaccination took place, the trade name and the serial number of the licensed vaccine, and specify the duration of immunity. If no duration is stated, the certificate will only be considered valid for one year from the date of vaccination.
Assuming your pet is in good health, there is no need to get a health certificate prior to your travels. However, if you have an older pet or one that has a medical condition and may not appear well on visual inspection, it’s a good idea to have a health certificate stating that he or she does not have a contagious illness.
When returning to the United States, you’ll also need to have these documents with you. However, unvaccinated puppies and kittens are not allowed across the border into the U.S., and young pets who’ve just had their first rabies vaccination must wait 30 days from the date of that vaccination to enter the U.S. Any exceptions to this regulation must be pre-approved by the Centers for Disease Control.
While agents may not ask to see your documentation every time, it’s not wise to take that chance. Both governments make it very clear that they can and will refuse entry to any animal that does not meet their requirements.
Food and Treats
Pet owners traveling from the U.S. to Canada are allowed to bring up to 44 pounds of pet food as long as all of the following requirements are met:
- The product must be of United States origin and be sealed in its original packaging.
- Both the product and the pet must be in the possession of the traveler at the time of entry from the U.S.
- The imported product must be fed only to the animal that accompanied the traveler into Canada.
The biggest obstacle in traveling to Canada relates to the breed-specific laws that have been enacted there. Pit bulls, and any mixes thereof, are banned from the entire province of Ontario as well as the city of Montreal. These laws allow authorities to seize and euthanize any dog deemed to be a “pit-bull” type, based on an officer’s visual inspection.
Though it’s extreme, it is important that you understand these statutes, because there are no exceptions for tourists traveling with their pets. If you have a pit bull, pit mix, or a dog that could possibly be mistaken for a pit bull, avoiding Ontario and Montreal is the safest choice.
For more tips and ideas for traveling with your pets, visit us at GoPetFriendly.com.
Traveling with our pets means taking their needs into consideration in every aspect of our planning – including what we’d do in an emergency. We’ve all seen the nightmare photos of an RV on fire, and we know that preparation is the key to ensuring everyone gets out of that situation safely. So, now it is time to review your family’s emergency RV evacuation plan!
The first step is to identify all possible exits. The National Fire Protection Association requires that RVs have emergency escape windows, and everyone who travels with you should be made aware of their locations and how to they operate. It’s a good idea to open these exits on a regular basis to be sure that everything is in working condition.
Next you’ll want to consider the practical aspects of getting yourself and your pets out of each exit. Every family and RV combination is unique, so your plan needs to be customized to fit your circumstances.
Important considerations when formulating your escape plan:
- Getting everybody out of the RV quickly and in an orderly fashion is your top priority. Time is your biggest enemy in a fire – an RV can fill with smoke in as little as one minute.
- Escape plans need to address each individual in the RV – accommodations may be required for children, elderly family members, and pets.
- Escape plans for the front and rear of the RV are necessary.
- Practice your plan and make sure each person understands their duties when it comes to assisting others.
- Designate a meeting place outside where everybody will meet immediately after exiting the RV.
- When everybody is safely out of the RV call 911 for help.
Based on these considerations, below is what we’ve decided is the best way to get out of our Itasca Meridian in a hurry.
If we had access to the entry door of our motorhome:
If a fire started in the back of the motor home and we had access to the entry door beside the passenger seat, we’d simply grab our pre-packed “go bag,” the dogs’ leashes, which are also kept by the door, and get out.
If we did not have access to the entry door of our motorhome:
If, for some reason, our entry door was not operational – perhaps a tree fell on that side of the coach, or the coach was on its side – we’d use one of the windows in the front of the RV to escape. Our plan is for Rod to go out first and help me get Buster and Ty out, before helping me to the ground.
If a fire started during the night, or we didn’t have access to the front of our RV, we’d be limited to the bedroom emergency exit. This window pushes out from the bottom and is hinged at the top – and it’s heavy! We found an old mop handle that was just the right length to prop the window open and we keep it next to the bed.
Our plan for going out the bedroom window quickly goes like this: As soon as the smoke detector wakes us, Rod opens and props the window, grabs the spare set of RV door and compartment keys we keep in the drawer directly under the window, and climbs down. While he’s doing that, I gather the dogs and get them up on the bed.
At this point in your plan development, it’s a good idea to open your emergency escapes and have a look down. For us, that is between a 7- and 7.5-foot drop. Ty and Buster are unlikely to go happily out that window, so we’ve come up with a couple of ideas to help get the boys out quickly.
Ty is small enough to fit in a pillowcase, which I can grab off the bed, pop him into, and lower him to Rod on the ground.
Buster, at 80 pounds, is too big for the pillowcase, but the wood cover on the fuse panel at the foot of our bed makes a good bridge between the mattress and the cabinet under the window. From the bed, I’d get buster to walk across that panel and, with Rod below, we’d help him to the ground and I’d follow behind.
One weakness of our plan is that we keep our “go bag” in the front of the RV, since that’s where we spend the majority of our time. If we did need to escape from the back of the coach, we may not be able to reach the “go bag” in time – and certainly anyone that has gotten out of a burning RV should never go back inside to retrieve any possessions!
This plan may not be perfect, but it’s 110% better than having no plan at all. If you have any suggestions, or want to share your ideas for evacuating your RV in an emergency, please leave a comment below!
If you’ve been traveling with pets for a while, you’ve likely discovered that most of our national parks are not particularly pet friendly. There are a handful of exceptions. But, for the most part, pets are granted very little access to some of our most popular vacation destinations.
When you consider the National Park Service’s mission to conserve the land, plants, and animals within their boundaries, their restrictions are more understandable. With conservation as the primary motivation, their policies are designed to limit the impact of all outside forces on the natural environment.
Luckily, the National Forest Service has a multi-use directive to balance recreation, sustained harvesting of resources, environmental and wildlife protection, and conservation. This translates into much more welcoming pet policies!
Generally, leashed pets are welcome on all trails at all national forests across the country, and it’s rare that you’ll find a national park without a national forest nearby. That’s great news for you and your pup if your pet-friendly vacation plans include some spectacular hiking options!
When visiting national parks with Ty and Buster, we alternate days in the park where dogs are restricted, with days doing things that are more fun for the boys.
Here are some examples of our favorite national forest alternatives:
Black Hills National Forest when Visiting Badlands or Wind Cave National Parks
There’s nothing quite like the beauty of the Black Hills, and there are some great pet-friendly options to explore near Badlands and Wind Cave National Parks. Custer State Park offers some fantastic hiking options, but if that’s not enough, head over to Black Hills National Forest.
Spanning the border between southwestern South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming, Black Hills National Forest covers over 1.25 million acres. Comprised predominately of ponderosa pine forests and grassland prairie, it’s a place where time seems to stand still.
Bridger-Teton National Forest when Visiting Grand Teton National Park
Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, and Shoshone National Forests are all within easy striking distance of Grand Teton National Park, so your pet friendly exploration options are virtually unlimited. Our favorite adventures with the dogs include walking from downtown Jackson to the top of Snow King for a great view of the valley, a three-mile hike up to sparkling Goodwin Lake, and a day spent hanging out in Atherton Creek campground.
Dixie National Forest when Visiting Bryce or Zion National Parks
Situated between Bryce and Zion National Parks, Dixie National Forest spreads across almost two million acres in southern Utah. Hiking here is a dream, with trails to meet every ability level. We chose a 5-miler out of Red Canyon and were rewarded with an absolutely perfect afternoon among the hoodoos with the boys.
Gallatin National Forest when Visiting Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is virtually surrounded by national forests, and you’ll find some absolutely stunning scenery along these routes. Two of our favorite areas are Paradise Valley, north of the park, and Gallatin River Canyon, west of Yellowstone – both in the Gallatin National Forest.
The Yellowstone River flows out the north border of the park, through the village of Gardiner, and up Paradise Valley to the town of Livingston. This spectacular river valley, flanked by the Absaroka Range to the east and the Gallatin Range to the west, offers world-class fishing, fantastic hiking, and stunning scenery.
From West Yellowstone, Hwy 191 takes you through Gallatin Canyon, where the milky-blue Gallatin River rushes over rocks that have been worn smooth. Turn-outs, campgrounds, and picnic areas are scattered along the river, so plan to take your time and soak up the beauty of this place.
I hope that the next time you encounter pet policies that seem to be holding you back you’ll remember this article and look for more accommodation opportunities nearby. If you’d like more information about our pet friendly travel with Ty and Buster, visit us at GoPetFriendly.com.