Living in a van with pets brings a whole set of additional considerations and there are even more considerations when you travel solo. Many solo van dwellers live with a pet or multiple pets and love it while other’s don’t want the extra hassle.
The decision to live and travel with a pet is a personal choice. Depending on your situation, answering the following questions will help you decide whether or not to have a van-dwelling pet:
- Does my pet travel well?
- What will I do with my pet when I’m at work or need to leave them alone for a while?
- What if my pet gets sick while I’m on the road?
- What if I end up in the hospital?
- Where Will My Pet or Pets Sleep?
- Will My Pet Be Allowed At Campgrounds?
- Can I live in my van with a pet while stealth camping?
- What if my pet has a disability?
Let’s take a look at each of these questions in more detail…
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Does My Pet Travel Well?
If your pet isn’t fond of traveling it can be a deal breaker. But, on the other hand, there may be ways to remedy the situation.
Does your pet get car sick?
Living a nomadic lifestyle with a pet that gets car sick isn’t the most pleasant experience.
It could be that your pet is nervous and getting them accustom to traveling will remedy the situation.
If your pet gets sick from something other than nerves you’ll need to talk to your vet so you can formulate a plan (possibly medication) to keep your pet comfy while you travel.
The first time my dog, Cookie, went for a ride he promptly puked all over the floor. He was a puppy, though. But, after shorter rides he did much better and, now, he rides thousands of miles across the country with no ill effects.
Is your pet well trained?
If your pet is a dog who incessantly barks at everything, lunges at passers-by or doesn’t listen to your commands then you may have problems on the road.
You will be exploring new places and meeting new people.
If your pet wanders off and doesn’t listen when you call it will be difficult for them to find you again because your home moves.
You also don’t need them lunging at people or possibly biting them.
Whether you travel with a dog, cat, bird or another type of critter, traveling with a well trained pet is essential.
You need to know that your pet will listen when you give him/her a command.
Two simple ideas for training your pet quickly while remaining sane:
- Consult with a local dog, cat, bird, critter trainer.
- Find a YouTube video about training your specific pet!
Cookie would bark at everything. It was very annoying! I couldn’t figure out how to make him stop – even after watching YouTube videos. Before I hit the road, I took him to obedience training through a local Dog Trainer. It only took a few lessons and the lessons were mostly for me (teaching me how to handle my dog!).
Crates and Pet Carriers
A pet crate or carrier is helpful for training as well as keeping your pet comfy and feeling safe while in your van.
Cookie loves his crate! He feels safe inside. I have a soft, expandable pet carrier that can be used on airplanes. It was originally bought because Cookie needed to travel on an airplane but it works well for other purposes. When Cookie sees the carrier he jumps right in!
What Will I Do With My Pet When I’m At Work or Need To Leave Them Alone For A While?
This is an important issue that needs to be addressed when deciding whether or not to live in your van with a pet.
Assuming you’re in a climate cool enough to leave your pet in a vehicle you’ll need to make sure your pet is well behaved. A barking dog or a cat sitting on the dash may attract unwanted attention that could result in them being taken away from you.
Your pet(s) also needs food and water. Some pets need outdoor potty-breaks and a way to release pent-up energy so you’ll need to be able to check on your pet(s) several times during the day.
If you’re in a cool enough climate, there’s not a problem leaving your well-behaved pet(s) in the van while you run into the store for food and supplies or to get a hair cut, etc.
If you’re in a hot or humid area there’s absolutely no way you can leave a pet in your van while you work or even to make a quick trip into a store.
I was in the Georgia-Florida area. Even with the windows down it was too hot inside the van to leave Cookie for even a quick run into the store for food and supplies. Thankfully, the hotter the climate, the more “pet friendly” stores there seem to be and (in some stores) I could take Cookie in with me.
Tips For Dealing With Pets When It’s Too Hot To Leave Them In Your Van
If you need to leave your pet while you work here are a few alternate ideas:
- Board them. You simply can’t leave your pet in your van it’s too hot for them. Boarding them or using a Pet Day Care service is a viable option.
- Have a friend watch your pet or share the responsibility. You watch their’s while they work and they watch your’s while you work.
- Find your pet a new home. Sadly, this is sometimes the best option.
Here are some ideas on what to do with your pet while you make a quick trip into a store:
- Locate pet friendly stores. Individual stores have their own policies and each city could have it’s own ordinances. The best way to know if a store is pet friendly is to call the store and ask. Or, ask Google/Alexa or the virtual assistant of your choice!
- Use a free grocery pickup service. Walmart (and a few other stores) have started offering a free grocery pickup service. You order online, drive up to the store and they put the goods in your van. I suspect this service will become more wide-spread as time goes on and it’s an easy way not to leave your pet in your van in the heat.
- Use a Pet Day Care service. Some Pet Day Care services charge by the hour. You could leave your pet for an hour or two and get all your errands done while your pet is safe at Day Care. Some veterinarians do this so checking local vet offices is one way to start your search.
I needed to leave Cookie for a while because I had errands to run and it was hot weather time. I found a veterinarians office that charges by the half day. The rate for a whole day was $7.50 and the rate for half a day was $4.00. I think this was very inexpensive and it was great running errands and not having to worry about Cookie.
What If My Pet Gets Sick While I’m On The Road?
It’s no fun dealing with a sick pet when you’re on the road but there are veterinarians everywhere.
To find a vet in your area just search the internet. If you don’t have internet ask a local resident, a local business or gas station attendant.
Most vets are understanding when you tell them you are traveling with your pet.
I wouldn’t suggest you tell them you live in your van. Sadly, the whole “living in a van” thing gives most people the WRONG impression. Simply tell them you’re traveling – which isn’t a lie!
Be sure to have your pet’s records with you and get a copy of any new records from whatever vet you happen to see. I always keep a paper copy of Cookie’s records but I also take a picture of everything so I have a virtual copy too.
I was in St Augustine, Florida when Cookie started limping. There was nothing in or wrong with his paw that I could see but he wasn’t getting better. I consulted my good buddy Google to locate a vet and I got an appointment that day. The vet was understanding that I was a “traveler” and he fixed Cookie up quickly. We had been walking in an areas where there were prickly things and Cookie had one stuck in his paw. I wasn’t able to see it but the vet was familiar with it and knew to look for it.
What If I End Up In The Hospital?
If you’re traveling with a group (like a caravan) or if you aren’t living in your van alone this shouldn’t be as much of an issue. Unless everyone ends up in the hospital, someone should be readily available to look after your pet while you away.
For the solo van dweller this isn’t an easy question to answer because there are so many variables such as:
- A big city vs a remote area.
- Being at a hosted campground vs parking at Walmart vs trying to stealth somewhere for the night.
- Your hospital stay may allow you a few hours to find someone to take care of your pet vs being an emergency where there’s not time at all.
If you’re healthy, though, your chances of ending up in the hospital are remote but there are no guarantees.
No matter what, having some sort of hospital vs pet contingency plan is something you should consider when living in your van with a pet.
Tips On Making A Plan For Unexpected Hospitalization
- Make a plan with a friend or family member. Before you even hit the road talk with a friend or family member about what they could do if you end up in the hospital or are unable to care for your pet while on the road.
- Contact local authorities or ask hospital staff. Explain your situation and see what help they can offer.
- Join a van or RV group. Naturally, this needs to be done before you end up in the hospital. By being part of a nationwide group you could conceivably put out a plea and someone may be close enough to help you with your pet (and possibly other needs).
Groups are everywhere but you’ll need to choose the right group for your situation. I’ve found great groups on Facebook and other social media platforms.
But don’t limit your search to just Van Dwelling groups. You can also include RV groups as many RVing groups also welcome van dwellers. If they don’t welcome van dwellers just move on!
To get you started, check out this post on RVShare.com titled The Ultimate List of RVing Social Sites.
Where Will My Pet Sleep?
The simple fact is… pets take up space in your van! It’s not just storing their food, water, bowls and other supplies but they take up space just sleeping.
But they’re worth it, right?
If you’re living in your van with pets you’ll need to decide where they are going to sleep.
Both you and your pet(s) need to be comfortable so decide the sleeping arrangements upfront.
Will My Pet Be Allowed At Campgrounds?
Each campground has it’s own rules but it seems that hosted campgrounds have the most (or strictest) rules.
As a van dweller you not only have to be concerned about whether or not your van is allowed at the campground but you also have to be concerned whether or not your pet will be allowed.
You read that right, some campgrounds do NOT allow vans!
As for pets at campgrounds, you’ll need to check with the campground to find out their rules but, in general, some campgrounds do not allow certain (supposedly vicious) breeds of dogs and some also restrict the size of the dog.
There may also be restrictions on the number of pets and, naturally, you’re expected to pick-up after your pet and make sure they’re not being a menace to the other campers.
I’ve not encountered any campgrounds that restrict allow cats but I do know some campgrounds specifically don’t allow exotic animals or other dangerous animal breeds.
Can I Live In My Van With A Pet While Stealth Camping?
I don’t recommend having a pet if your primary way of van life is going to be stealth camping or if you’re trying to stay under the radar.
Your pet can possibly draw attention to you and, if your looking for stealth, you’re goal is to NOT draw attention to yourself.
Depending on your pet, your pet may need to go outside for exercise, potty-breaks or both. This could be an issue if you’re trying to stay under the radar.
What If My Pet Has A Disability?
Depending on your pet’s disability it may or may not be wise to live and travel full-time with them in your van.
This is a decision that only you can make – based on your pets handicap and your ability to care for your pet.
In some situations, making a few tweaks to your routine means your pet can travel with you safely and comfortably.
My little Cookie is deaf. He went deaf about a year ago. I have to take additional precautions – like not letting him run loose where he can get lost – but it’s simply a matter of doing things differently and tweaking things to meet our needs.
Traveling with a pet can be a rewarding experience or a disastrous event. There are pros and cons to any choice we make and having a pet is no different.
When making the decision to live in a van with pets you’ll need to consider how you will live the van life lifestyle along with the needs of your pet. After all, the needs of your pet always come first.
Related Blog Post… Cookie Got Hurt – How I Take Walks With A Lame Deaf Dog
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