Would you believe over 1 million Americans live in recreational vehicles full time, and over 40 million regularly go RVing ? Did you know more than 50% of people traveling in one take their pets? Caravan travel means freedom, the chance to explore, pick up and change location when you want, having the comforts you need and living in your home away from home.
Depending on where you travel, you may not be able to run out and pick up something you forgot, so remember to pack things like food and water bowls, food, medication, favorite toys, treats, bed, first aid kit and anti anxiety supplements.
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Whether it’s your first caravan trip, or you’ve been enjoying this type of travel for years, if your dog will be joining you, this detailed packing list will be a big help.
I created this packing list after a few caravan trips with my dogs Red and Jack. Red was a senior dog with health issues, and Jack was younger and in pretty good health, so I had to really plan in order to satisfy both their needs.
Depending on where you’re going, the time of year and even your dog’s health, not everything will be relevant so just tick off the items that are and use that as a reference. Also, they are not in any particular order. I will also include links to products I’ve mentioned to make it easier to find what you need.
When your trip is over let us know how it went, and be sure to include some photos as well. It might inspire others to try a caravan holiday with their dog!!
First Time Traveling in a Caravan
If you have a nervous dog, and it’s their first time traveling in a caravan, I recommend getting him or her used to it before you set off on the road. A gradual introduction can help reduce her anxiety and make the trip more pleasant for everyone.
How slowly the introduction process goes, will depend on your dog’s anxiety level. For the sake of this training guide I will assume your dog will be very wary, and the steps I write will reflect that. Feel free to adjust them or skip some to suit your dog.
NOTE: Don’t move on to the next step unless your dog is relaxed. It’s also important to advance very gradually, because moving too quickly can set your training back.
Take your dog to where your caravan or motorhome is parked, stand outside and see how she reacts. Calm? Give her a treat. Nervous? Stand further back, and if she’s calm, treat. You’ll do this a few times until she’s relaxed.
Open the door and stand outside with her. Calm? Treat. Nervous? Take as many step backs as you need for her to be calm, then treat. Practice!
Bring her inside. Calm? Treat. Nervous? Get back outside and start at the point she was calm.
Sit down in the caravan. Calm? Treat. Nervous? You’ve moved too quickly.
By this point your dog is calmly sitting in the caravan, and now you’ll want to go for a drive. Can you make it to the end of the driveway? Around the block? Half hour drive? Again, only do this if your dog seems relaxed, and if she isn’t you’re going too quickly.
Before you go off on a long drive, maybe day a day trip first to see how she does. You can even park in your driveway and sleep in it for the night for practice.
Okay, back to the packing list!
Collar and id tag
Not technically something that is packed, but important to have in case the unthinkable happens and your dog runs off. Check all information is up to date, and have your dog microchipped as well please! In the event of spotty cell phone reception, an additional tag containing contact details of your destination (and/or next one if you’re on the move) is a safety precaution worth considering.
Being in unfamiliar territory can be unsettling, accidents happen and your dog may wander and lose his way. It’s even more terrifying if your dog has anxiety issues. A GPS collar will increase the likelihood he will be returned safely and quickly.
Even if your dog does not typically wear a harness, I always recommend using one while on the road and at your destination. Even the calmest, most easy going dog can get spooked in an unfamiliar environment so a harness will provide that extra level of safety. I would say it’s a must have for any fearful dog, but not only when travelling, but on daily walks as well.
I know it’s something so obvious you’re wondering why it’s on a packing list, but believe it or not I have forgotten it more than once. How I don’t know, but I have.
I don’t know the rules about restraining dogs in moving vehicles where you live or where you’re going, but it really is the safest thing for everyone. A dog allowed loose in the car, no matter how small he or she may be, can distract the driver and cause an accident. A harness with seatbelt, car seat, travel bag or crate are all much better options.
If you’re traveling with an old dog who needs a bit of help, or you’re concerned you’ll be doing a lot more walking than usual, here are a few items worth thinking about including.
- Ramp/pet steps to get in and out of the caravan
- Stroller for breaks during a long walk
- Support sling
- Booties for rougher terrain
- Carpet squares, yoga mats or something similar if your caravan floor is bare and slippery
A current photo
On your phone and physically printed out, it can save time should your dog go missing.
Food and water bowls
Whether you bring the same ones he uses at home or you buy new ones is up to you. I brought my dogs’ from home just to add a touch of the familiar. A foldable/collapsible bowl is perfect for day trips. They take up no room in a knapsack, purse or even a pocket and you’re never caught without.
Rubber mats for under the bowls
Rubber mats are an easy way to protect the floor from spilled food and drink, especially if you’re only renting the caravan or motor home.
Dog food and treats
Obvious I know, but in the excitement of packing sometimes the thing we need the most and don’t write on the list is the thing we forget to bring! Have a supply that will last you the length of the trip…and longer just in case you’re having such a great time you can’t bear to leave. It’s particularly important if your dog is on a special diet.
Dog organizer bag
If it’s a long car ride until you get to your campsite, a dog travel organizer bag is a must have. I think they’re wonderful because it keeps your dog’s food, water and even a toy or two all organized, and in one easy to access place while you’re on the road.
I’ve packed in a knapsack so many times, and the dogs’ stuff always starts off perfectly organised. Half way through the trip things are flying because I can’t find anything. These bags are definitely a better solution.
Bring bottled water
This is a personal preference for me. I know campsites have drinking water on site, but I only use it for filling water butts. For everything else, including the dogs, I bring a supply of bottled.
Dog water bottle
A dog water bottle is the perfect accessory when away from the caravan during the day. Whether you’re at the lake, enjoying a stroll or walking around town, this will make it easy to keep your dog well hydrated This is the water bottle I use for my dog Jack. It only holds 8.5oz, so if you have a bigger dog, this might be a better option. Of course you can fill it while you’re out, but it’s nice to start with a decent amount that will last for a bit.
Flea and tick treatment
Find out, in advance, the flea and tick situation where you’re going and if your dog’s current products offer the right level of protection. If it is a concern, there are plenty of indoor/outdoor sprays available, some with natural ingredients if you like to go that route.
Bed and blankets
Don’t assume he’ll sleep “wherever” even if that is what he does at home, because that may not be the case in a caravan. Bring his bed so he has a comfortable spot of his own, and a couple of blankets in case it gets chilly, or to cover furniture.
A favourite toy/puzzle toys
If he can’t live without that stuffed rabbit, make sure you bring it with you. I also recommend a puzzle toy or interactive toy to keep him busy, particularly if the weather isn’t cooperating and you’re spending more time indoors than you had planned.
We know brushing the dog is a great bonding experience, there’s no reason you shouldn’t continue it while on your travels. If it’s not something you typically do, now is the perfect time to start, if for no other reason than you’ll cut down on the amount of dog hair you find inside! After a long hike in the woods you’ll be happy you brought one.
Drops in evening temperature, an unexpected rainstorm or caravanning in the winter means a sweater, coat and raincoat are must haves. I never travel without at least one of them! This picture is of Red wearing her sweater. Even though her bed was near the heating vet, this helped keep her warm.
Medication, supplements and calming aids
Once again I recommend you bring more than you need, just in case.
Even if your dog is not anxious, it’s still a good idea to look into some anti-anxiety remedies to have on hand. You may find it comes in handy if you’re traveling with an older dog or one with dementia that may have a harder time adapting to a strange environment. It could be something as simple as Rescue Remedy which is available in health food shops and pharmacies, or a pheromone diffuser plug in such as Adaptil.
It seems sunscreen is as important for dogs as it is for us, particularly if they have white fur and skin as they can burn easily. Here is an article you may find interesting – “Can Dogs Wear Sunscreen?“
If your dog has health issues or been treated for an illness recently, bring his medical records. Your vet can easily email you a copy and you can print one out as well.
Some parks may want proof your dog is up to date on vaccinations, and if travelling further afield proof of rabies is always required.
First aid kit
First aid kits are a must have not only for a caravan, but your car and home as well. Should an accident happen you want to be as prepared as you can be. Make your own and add as many items as you want or buy one ready made. If it doesn’t contain as much as you would like, you can always add to it. Be sure to include a booklet outlining what to do in case of various emergencies.
List of local vets and emergency hospitals
A first aid kit means you can attend to your dog immediately, but it won’t help in every situation. Before you leave home, prepare a list of local vets and emergency hospitals where you’ll be staying. Precious time can be wasted if you wait until you need one to start looking.
It’s one thing if you’ll be staying close to town where you can run in and grab poop bags, but what if you’re enjoying the peace and tranquility in the middle of nowhere? They don’t take up any room so do yourself a favor and throw in some extra rolls. You’ll be happy you did.
If you use them at home you’ll use them while away. Although Red went out often throughout the day, kidney issues and dementia meant she sometimes had to go in between those outings. Covering the floor with pee pads made it super easy, especially at night.
Stake in the ground
A stake in the ground with a rope is something really handy to bring with you. Attach it to your dog’s harness, let him explore his surrounds and lounge in the fresh air safely.
Towels…and lots of them!
If you have experience with caravan travel, especially in the rain, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Unless you have an awning set up, how do you squeeze through a narrow doorway wearing your raincoat and wellies with a soaking wet dog in tow…and not ruin your floors! What about dogs that love to swim, then run inside and roll around your couches to dry off!! That’s why towels, and lots of them, are a must.
An easy way to wash the mud off your dog, or just hold him under one of the faucets on the site like I do. I know this is obvious but I have to say it anyway – if you’re using a hose please make sure it’s on a very low setting so you don’t scare or injure the dog. Sorry, I know you know this!!
Carpet squares or mats
Perfect right by the front door to trap dirt and mud before your dog comes in, or to cover the floor to prevent slipping. It’s particularly helpful if your dog has arthritis or other mobility issues.
Blankets or sheets
Perfect for creating a soft spot for your dog outside, and for covering seating areas…even if the weather is good. I keep the couches covered all the time just in case.
Handy to have, especially if it’s damp or muddy outside. They can’t always take the place of water and a towel, but they make a great substitute in many cases. I always keep a pack right near the front door so I could grab one before we even walk inside.
In addition to your standard cleaning supplies, carpet cleaners for pet stains and air fresheners make a good addition.
If boating with your dog is on the agenda or even just a possibility, bring a life jacket. Your dog may be a first class swimmer, but can get into trouble in unfamiliar or rough waters.
Clip on dog light
A small, lightweight flashlight is handy to keep with you when walking your dog in the evening. How else can you find where he pooped!
When you take a caravan trip, what are your must have supplies? Sharing helps others so please leave your comments below.
I’m a dog trainer specializing in helping shy, fearful and aggressive dogs.
Does your dog go after other dogs and people while on a walk? Is he or she petrified of fireworks and thunderstorms? Does he growl or even nip when someone goes near his food bowl or treats? Is he scared of the vet? Men? Children? Visitors to your home? All sessions are conducted via Zoom, at a time convenient for you.
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