Is a vacation with your dog truly a vacation?
I didn’t know until a fall getaway. I had never gone on a trip with a pet. When it came time for my boyfriend and me to plan our annual road trip — two years ago we went to Yosemite and last year we did Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — with a pandemic puppy now living with us, we quickly realized we wanted Millie, our 11-month-old goldendoodle, to come along.
In the weeks leading up to our trip that took us to five national parks — Capitol Reef, Arches, Rocky Mountain, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Grand Canyon — in a rented camper van, I did tons of research about where to stay, what to do and what to see, including finding dog parks and other dog-friendly spaces.
Two days before we set out on our six-day, five-night trek, I voiced concerns to John. Were we doing the right thing by taking Millie with us? Would she like being in the van for the majority of most days? Would she behave? Would there be enough for her to see and do?
Ultimately, we decided it was too late to change our plans. We just had to go with it. We ended up having a great time and making the sweetest memories. If you’re planning to hit the road in 2022, especially for the first time with a pet, these are some things we learned along the way about traveling with a dog.
Do your research to find the camper van company that works for you. We used Cabana, which I had first heard about in a Times article earlier this year. It allows pets (for a fee). And the big sell? It had unlimited mileage. That was important to us because we knew we’d drive far (we clocked close to 2,500 miles), and we found most other companies only allow for a set number of miles per day and then charge per mile after that.
Millie stretches her legs at a rest stop off of Interstate 70 in Edwards, Colo., just outside of Vail.
(Jessica Martinez / Los Angeles Times)
Find dog parks or other places your dog can stretch their legs along your route. Depending on your dog’s energy level and needs, you’ll want to stop the car every two hours or so. I made note of a dog park or two every day of the trip so we never had to worry. Still, despite my extensive research, we were pleasantly surprised by a small fenced-in area at a rest stop in southwest Utah where we let Millie run. We stopped at several rest stops along the way when we were ready for a break, but we really loved a Moab dog park where Millie got her legs covered in red dirt and a large park in Montrose, Colo., with lots of trees and small trails where Millie could explore.
Look into dog-friendly spots near your destination or destinations. Our plan was to make this a national park tour, but national parks aren’t overly dog friendly. (They’re allowed but access varies. We found Black Canyon …….