Admittedly, I’ve got this romantic idea of jumping in an RV, packing up the dog and two cats, and hitting the open road across North America – yes, Canada and parts of the U.S. I’ve never been to mid-west America.
Only thing is, I have no idea how to do that and know nothing about RVing. Never done it.
Yet the dream is real. And so is the dog and two cats.
What better place to start figuring it than an RV show? Which RV is best for travelling with my dog? (Ok, clearly the correct answer is an RV park but that’s not what I did). Recently, I headed to the Toronto Spring Camping & RV Show for the second time. (Check out our previous experience here). This time, I’ve recovered from sticker shock and have some idea of what to expect.
I’m here to answer the question: Where and how can I camp with my dog?
I’ve been dreaming about some kind of dog-friendly vacation property or mobile equivalent but as yet, they are images on my vision board. Here are my options so far:
Park Model Trailers
FIRST STOP: Very pretty furnished out-of-the box two-and-three-bedroom cottages (called Park Model or Park Model Trailers) staged like photoshoots in a home décor magazine. Select your model, select your site on cottage communities resembling sub-divisions in the woods. Prices vary from $70,000 to $130,000 (Canadian).
Advantage: dog-friendly, but some have two-dog limits, and it’s like owning a lake house.
Disadvantage: you don’t own the land under the cottage and rent it either annually, or seasonally (if the sites aren’t open year-round). Rents average $5000 to $6000 (CD) per year and you can’t put a fence around most properties to keep the dogs in.
SECOND STOP: you pull it with your vehicle. These travel trailers range in size and price but even big ones – close to the size of prefab cottages are under $65,000 \(CD) in price. I’m imagining having one towed to a site, maybe some where warm or a closer conservation site with dog-friendly beach and parking it there all summer like a cottage.
Most, even smaller ones, have their own bathroom and a few have small tubs which is likely necessary to rinse off the dog. I’m especially found of ones with doors to shut off the main bedroom for the kitchen area. Corner bunk-style beds look ideal for cats up top and maybe a dog or two on the lower level – when there not cuddle in the ‘master’ bed.
Advantage: Dog-friendly, easy to leave the dog if you take your car somewhere Fido can’t go, and you get set up a dog run around your trailer (depending on park rules). Sizes range but prices start at $16,000 and $25,000 (CD) gets you something very cute – even retro. Also, you can leave the trailer at the site, and take your car (or truck) sight seeing.
Disadvantage: Trailer fees still apply and vary depending on site. I’d need a different vehicle more expensive than mine to pull it (if I could) or I’d have to leave it in one spot and depend on someone else to tow it. Much research is needed to find the idea spot to park.
Class C and B Motor Homes
THIRD STOP: All-in-one RVs you drive and Camper Vans (Class C and B Motor Homes). Once you put an engine in something and add a steering wheel, the price gets much higher. This option will require some savings, but the mid-sized models have comfortable up-front seating, loft bed above (cats would love that) and bathrooms with separate showers and toilets, which I know I’d need.
Vans are amazing with flat screen TVs and all the comforts of home, albeit in a tighter space. But prices are $100,000 (CD) or higher. Vans – I imagine – are easier to drive, especially into cities when museums distract from the great outdoors. Some batteries keep air conditioning running so pets have a comfortable place to wait.
Advantages: Freedom to pick up and go with your house on your back. Class C and B Motor Homes are comfortable living space like a hotel room on wheels.
Disadvantage: Hard to manoeuvre through urban areas and pricey. These ones require financing and forethought. Road trips will be more expensive thanks to extra gas and insurance.
FINAL STOP: Fancy tent pulled behind a car – these are small car solution to wanting something more stable than a tent. Less than 1000 pounds, they are light enough to be towed by almost any car and provide more protection from the elements than a tent. Some are a hardtop roof to sleep under at least; others have seating, a hot plate and even a chemical toilet.
Advantage: Economical, easy to tow and faster to install than a tent with more protection. A tiny trailer would have been ideal during our cool weather camping triplast year. Several provincial campsites in Ontario don’t allow dogs in cabins or glamping sites.
Disadvantage: Most love outdoor or tent camping, and the dog must be with you always because there isn’t really a safe way to keep him contained otherwise. The cats, however, would have to stay home.
TAKE AWAY: I’ve got a much better idea of what different options cost but little idea about anything else.
Step one is to try a few places by either jumping in and finding a rental company at Go RVing or trying out the campsite vibe at KOA by renting a pet-friendly cabin. Bathrooms, however, are an issue for me.
UPDATE: Great News! In 2020, Ontario Provincial Parks are allowing dogs in certain cabins, yurts and glamping sites – check out the list here.