Going on holiday is a time to toss your worries aside, relax and unwind. However, having to leave your loyal canine companion(s) behind may cause the exact opposite; feelings of anxiety and stress can develop (for you and the pets).

But the good news is, holidaying with pets is achievable and lots of people are happily doing it. We have met many people who travel with dogs, cats, and even birds. Some were on holiday, while others were living full time on the road.

Oakly strolling through the buttercups

When we announced to friends our plan to live full time in our fifth wheeler, the usual response was, “But what about your dogs?”

It’s never been an option not to include our dogs (Oakly, Paddy and Boo). We appreciate travelling with three dogs may cause some restrictions – plus a fair amount of organising. So we researched and spoke to people already on the road with pets.

Ann Mair holidays in her brand new 5.95-metre Ford Benimar Tessoro with her much-loved bichon frise ‘Soots’.

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Ann plans ahead to find dog-friendly places to stay, which makes it easy. She always checks the NZMCA ‘bible’ (New Zealand Motor Caravan Association Travel Directory), and apps such as the NZMCA and Campermate. Ann marks the travel directory with people’s recommendations from Facebook groups such as ‘Motorhome Friends’ and ‘Motorhoming with Pets in NZ’. She also phones ahead if it’s ambiguous. “The only area that was difficult was the West coast of the South Island, but mainly as there were so many DOC campgrounds and so much 1080 spread.”

Ann suggests taking along your dog’s blankets, bed, toys, etc. so the campervan becomes a familiar place. Keeping to the same diet can help prevent an upset tummy. And when it comes to travelling Ann secures a harness on a seat for safety.

Life on the road means new swimming holes to try out. And time for Paddy to practise his diving

“If you are travelling on the ferry always ensure your dog has access to water. If he/she is anxious a drop of Rescue Remedy helps to calm your pooch.”

When Ann crosses Cook Strait with Soots she stays in the van with him until the last possible minute so he’s not worried by strange noises. “It pays to park below decks so your vehicle is not out in the sun.”

Joy and David Hillman have just started life on the road with their standard schnauzer, ‘Lucy’. Their home on wheels is an 8.3-metre 2017 Sunliner Northshore fifth wheeler.

Man’s best friend Oakly feeling excited in the snow Snuggle time for two tired dogs

So far they have had no problems finding places to stay with their dog. Joy said, “Phone apps and the NZMCA Travel Directory are all helpful in identifying places where dogs are welcome.”

Unfortunately Lucy suffers from separation anxiety, which can make leaving her in the rig difficult, but she is happy waiting in their ute, and that has worked well during the cooler seasons. However, when summer arrives the Hillmans will look for another solution.

Joy also mentioned, “People travelling with dogs may have a problem providing an address when registering their dog.” She suggests giving a family member’s or close friend’s address.

Another important factor when moving to different regions is being mindful of where poison has been laid. Council and DOC websites can provide advice on areas to avoid.

Lousie Hackshaw and her husband Ewan Allan travel with two dogs, Scooter and Bella. They’ve been on the road for a year in their 7.9-metre 2013 Autotrail Scout.

Paddy on a bush walk

Louise said, “We have been really lucky so far finding places to stay; we usually opt for POPs (Park Over Properties), CAPs (Charges Apply Parking) or Holiday Parks. Generally we check their pet policies in advance. We have only had one place refuse to take us because of the dogs. As it turned out we found somewhere that was cheaper, on the beach and with exceptional facilities, where we ended up staying a week.”

“Most campgrounds expect the dogs to be leashed at all times. This took a bit of getting used to when we were first on the road, but it’s totally manageable now and the dogs know the routine. We are vigilant about controlling barking, picking up after the dogs, etc. as we don’t want to lose the opportunity to travel with them. We’ve found travelling with dogs is a good conversation starter, so we have met lots of lovely people – which is a bonus.”

Louise and Ewan have been lucky as both their dogs travel well and have adapted to life on the road. However they are mindful of the need to keep the dogs exercised adequately while living in such a confined space. Most of the towns and cities they have spent time in have off-leash dog-exercise areas. If there aren’t good exercise options for dogs in a town, they tend to move on.

Ann Mair and Soots

Louise said, “The biggest disappointment has probably been not being able to walk the dogs on many of the trails and tracks throughout the country. While we do recognise DOC’s need to restrict access for dogs in National Parks, we didn’t expect so many other public walks to ban dogs, even on leash.”

“The biggest challenges have been managing two dogs in a limited space, especially when the weather is bad. Having plenty of towels for them and throws (to protect the upholstery) is an absolute must. Ideally, adding a privacy room would probably be a wise investment. Having a space to transition from the outside, and to hang wet coats and towels, is something we may consider before next winter.”

Paddy in his ‘Happy Place’ Portable dog fencing is easy and quick to assemble

After hearing of the challenges that wet weather brings, Bernie drew up a design for a small awning. We wanted an enclosure before entering the rig that would be easy to put up and to provide another space for the dogs to eat and an area to dry them (and us) if wet.

An outside area for the dogs was also important. We didn’t want them tied up outdoors but we needed them to be contained, so we purchased two boxes of portable dog fences through TradeMe.

They are easy and quick to assemble, and are a multi-configuration design that allows us to set up an enclosure using different quantities of panels to form various enclosing shapes to suit where we’re staying.

Lots of time to chase sticks on the beach

Finding places to stay has become a whole lot easier with the Facebook group ‘Motorhoming With Pets in New Zealand’. With over 2000 members it’s a handy forum to ask questions, share advice and learn of sites to stay that are pet friendly.

We also have a blog called ‘Paws Awhile’ which documents our journey of setting up for life on the road. Now that we’re on the road, the blog shares places to stay that are pet friendly. Plus it highlights attractions, snippets of history, people we meet along the way and walks that are suitable for your pooch.

Travelling with pets should be as enjoyable for owners as it is for the pets themselves. They offer us companionship, comfort and sometimes security.

Our motto is to be mindful of others, to keep the dogs well managed, and to only leave footprints behind.

Boo loving a lie in the long grass on a sunny day

Tips for people holidaying with pets:

  •  Travel with your pet’s vet records for evidence of vaccinations
  • Ensure your pet is up to date with worming, de-fleaing and vaccinations
  • Always clean up after your pet
  • Keep a supply of old towels for those wet-dog days
  • Carry a pet first-aid kit
  • Always have fresh water available for your pets
  • Be aware of areas that have 1080 or other poisons laid
  • Respect signs requesting pets to be kept on leads
  • Have your contact details on your dog’s collar
  • Be mindful of others, not everyone is an animal lover.