Camper Van Dreaming: Ever go RVing with the dog?

dog on bench near beach dogtrotting.netThe lure of the open road is hard to resist especially when you take the dog along … and  sometimes that’s challenging when you can’t leave him alone in the hotel room and head to the museum.

Clearly, more museums need to be dog friendly.

Until that happens, I’m entertaining romantic notions of road tripping with my dog Victor (and maybe cats Daisy and Sally) across North American in a camper van: Stopping at easy to use campsites, national, provincial and state parks and maybe a Walmart parking lot or two (or not), eating dinner on a fold out chair under an awning, and viewing the interstate from the slow lane.

I’m visualizing something smaller than an RV, easier to drive and navigate city streets, if necessary, but still big enough to be self-contained and comfortable. Read: has a shower and bathroom.DOGtrotting_logo (small)

Full disclosure: I’ve never slept in a camper van. But why would that stop me?

So, curious to see what’s out there (and how much it costs) I headed to the Toronto RV Show at the Congress Centre last weekend. (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada hosts another Feburary 2 to 4, 2018). ‘Tis the season for getting good deals on summer toys, apparently.

Initially, I thought I want something  all-in-one that I could jump in and drive – but trailers started to look sexier and potentially more affordable. However, that would mean a new much bigger car….. hmm.

Here’s what caught the eye of an RV novice:

Camper Vans

What I call ‘camper vans’ are actually Class B Motorhomes such as those produced by Pleasure Ways. These are slightly bigger to drive than I expected, but have snazzy interiors including bathrooms with showers over the toilet and awnings outside. They also have a higher price than I realized – $80,00 to $115,000 depending on ‘bells and whistles,’ as the salesman said. But they’re drive and go option.

Motor Homes

Then there are the mini-RVs, or Class C motor homes with the classic extra ‘bunk’ over the driver’s seat, like the Orion by Coachmen. I loved the hotel room look of the inside. The bathroom with separate shower and sink would make the whole experience more comfortable. Plus, no need to put the bed away each day. However, prices started at $95,000, gas consumption would be high and they’re challenging to navigate. (I think).

Retro Trailers

I admit I fell in love with the retro looks of two trailers: one in either blue or red (red, definitely red) called The Throwback that had me at black and white tiled floors, 50s diner-style dinette seating and a price point of $20,000 or less. However, the bathroom hand shower over the toilet would take some getting used to and I’d need a towing car at least the size of an SUV. (I don’t have one).

vintage cruiser camper dogtrotting.netGulf Streams are sexy. There, I said it. And that company’s retro Vintage Cruiser trailer (the smaller version) for $24,000 had both comfort and visual appeal. The bathroom was a little better than the Throwback, but the trailer door opened into the bed area instead of the dinette seating, which seemed weird.

Bullet-shaped Airstreams

Silver Airstream trailers had me feeling the ‘Beam Me Up’ vibe.  Sleek looking with a small bathroom, a kitchen that looked out the front ‘space ship’ window and circular sitting area, it just felt cool. However the bed is a bunk over the table and would have to be made up each day. With a price point of almost $50,000, you’re paying for style … and then there’s that car thing again.

Driving my self-contained unit cross-country like a wanderlust consumed turtle is just an idea at the moment … or maybe a fantasy. I’m visualizing slower but longer trips, less time spent on the road between stops, thoughtful evenings eating from a small electric barbeque and having a place to safely leave Victor when necessary.

Plugged in, the sales reps tell me, air can still circulate through all these units for those times when I have to leave the dog ‘at home.’ Briefly, of course. Maybe we can even do the shore-to-shore ‘dog expo’ circuit across Canada one summer.

But first, I have to figure out how to buy, drive, set up and participate in the RV ‘lifestyle.’ It’s likely a huge learning curve .. and big investment.

What do you think? Motor home? Camper Van? Or Trailer? I’m open to any advice.

toy motorhomeOf course, if I can’t afford the real thing, there’s always the toy version from (affiliate link). Can’t wait to see who gets me this for my birthday…


  1. […] 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 […]

  2. We bought a travel trailer for part time trips last year, specifically so we could bring along our dogs. Hotels frown on Dobermans and German Shepherds!

    When I was a kid my parents had a popup camper for a couple of summers, but I had no experience with any of the set up or maintenance. Luckily, my husband grew up with an increasingly nicer series of travel trailers and 5th wheels so he had a lot of experience helping his dad back up, set up and tear down. After one year of doing things as a team, I’m proud to report I took the first girls trip with our trailer all on my own. Towing it was easy, setting up and tearing down was fine, and I just booked a pull-through site because I still haven’t mastered that 90 degree backup.

    And we leave our dogs along in the camper for up to 4 hours without problem. They’re well behaved and quiet. Some what shameless plug, but I wrote about how we do it here:

    As someone else mentioned, the downside of the camper van is you’ll have to find another way to travel to the sights if you don’t want to break camp each time. Maybe you’ll develop a love of biking!

    1. Thank you so much for the insight. I’ll check out your post. So far, I haven’t tried it myself but it’s still on the bucket list…

  3. We are just now entering the same discussions. Being always the researcher, I am investigating class B motor homes. Hubs wants our rig to be on a Mercedes chassis for the power. I’m considering 2. The Pleasure Way Ascent, and the Road Trek Agile. Both are only slightly over 19 feet long. But like you, we want to be able to go ANYWHERE. We also plan to occasionally stay in hotels or Air BnBs – we’re not planning on full time RVing. But we want to be able to take our dog, Roxie, head up a forest service road, AND have some creature comforts! I’ll be interested in following along your journey! ~ Lynn

    1. Awesome. I’ll follow your journey – you’ve researched it more than I have. Taking the dog is my first priority too.

  4. I just went through this decision making process. I am taking a 3-month US road trip in between jobs and Glia (my mutt) is coming along. I originally thought I wanted a campervan, but I also wanted a low-entry price. The class B campervans I could afford ended up feeling too claustraphobic and old. So I just purchased a 1996 class C Minnie Winnie. It actually seemed to drive easier than the 1991 class BRoadtrek I had driven the day before. I am, however, worried about the length/size and parking at trailheads etc. But I figure if this one ends up being too big, I can always sell it and try a smaller one next time. Maybe once I have more funding I can even purchase a beautiful class B like the Pleasureways pictured in your article 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your detailed insights. I will definitely check out the models you recommend. I suspected the Pleasureways was at the high end of the price point. I will also have to try actually driving something and see how I do.

  5. I, too, have been thinking of some sort of RV so it would be easier to take Tippy with me on trips. My choice, for me, I think, would be a “camper van.” However, the price is hard to justify, plus, you would probably want to get a “road trip” car of some sort to pull behind the van so that you wouldn’t have to disconnect every time you wanted to go somewhere locally. I hear the little tow trailers aren’t like a normal trailer, so are easier to navigate.

    1. Good point. I didn’t think about disconnecting the van each time. I was leaning toward the van idea until I saw the price – everyone says look for a second hand one but that’s easier said than done. But I’m in no rush. The trailers were really cute.

      1. I know. I just don’t think I would be very good/safe at towing one.

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