Traveling with pets is essentially a “learn by doing” endeavor, but sooner or later, you’re
going to have to find someplace to park — and when you do, the outside environs need to be as pet-friendly as the interior of your coach.
That isn’t always the case. Many private and public campgrounds have strict limitations on the number or size of pets they will allow, while others don’t let pets on their property under any circumstances. Even campgrounds that are seemingly amenable to four-legged guests can’t always be described as “pet friendly.”
“A pet-friendly park makes us welcome by giving us clear, reasonable rules of
responsibility for control and care of our pets on arrival, and by enforcing those rules
consistently throughout our stay,” noted one pet owner when responding to a query of
pet-friendly parks posted to RV.net.
“We don’t expect excessive rules, like ‘Dogs are not allowed to relieve themselves in any campsite, including yours, but ONLY in this designated area,’ or ‘Pet owners must have clean-up bags in hand and visible at all times.’ Over-regulation just tells us we are tolerated, not welcomed, when we travel with our pets.”
“You have to ask specific questions of the campground,” another pet owner responded.
“We stayed in one campground in New York that advertised pets as OK — but when you get
there you find the dogs have to stay on your site and may not under any circumstances leave
Another irritation among pet owners is the added charge that is oftentimes
levied by a park when accepting pets. As one enthusiast stated, “I don’t believe
campgrounds should charge extra for pet facilities since I am already paying for other
amenities that I don’t use, such as arcades.” Most pet owners readily accept any cost
increases, however, particularly when visiting a park that offers features designed
specifically for pets.
“My favorite campground right now is Austin Lake in Toronto, Ohio,”
wrote one owner. “We will typically get a stream site and Quincy (his Jack Russell terrier)
goes to town playing in the water. They also have what they call the ‘Bowser Swimming Area’
— where they encourage you to take your dog to swim in the lake.” At Ocala RV Ranch in
Ocala, Florida, another pet-lover was impressed by the wealth of pet accommodations,
ranging from a dog run — complete with fireplug — to a dog bath. “I thought it was a hot
tub until I got up close!” he said.
“We don’t have a dog,” he admitted, “but it was nice to see a park that catered to them.”
Among those parks truly deserving of the pet-friendly
label, another service is fast becoming popular with owners: pet sitting. “We found one
campground in New Orleans (New Orleans West KOA) that offered the service, which allowed us to sightsee all day,” enthused one owner. “They were great and gave a report on the dog when we got back. Thanks to another (Florida’s Titusville KOA), we could tour the NASA – Kennedy Space Center all day and relax because someone was checking on our dog. We don’t mind paying for it — it is well worth it!”
Among other parks specifically cited for a pet-friendly atmosphere were Frontier Town (Ocean City, Maryland); 3 Seasons Resort (Rehoboth Beach, Delaware); Tom’s Cove Park (Chincoteague Island, Virginia); PirateLand and Lakewood Camping Resort (both in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina); and the San Francisco North/Petaluma KOA in California. “Our park has a dog-walking area around the park, convenient potty-disposal units, a run-free area and dog contests,” noted the KOA park’s owner, Pauline Wood. The park even hands out dog biscuits to pooches upon arrival.
However, the standard in four-legged friendliness may have been set by Four Paws Kingdom in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.
“In addition to the normal features you’d find at a
full-hookup resort, it has large, separate fenced-in off-leash areas for big dogs and small
dogs, with fresh water, pools and toys,” wrote dog owner Donna Kennedy.
“There is an
agility yard with equipment for those dogs who want to ‘work out,’ and the park owner is an agility trainer who is happy to help you if your dog has never tried it before. “There’s
also a spring-fed pond with grass and sand for cooling off and rolling around, along with
hiking trails, and a ‘doggy bath house’ with do-it-yourself grooming equipment. They also
have many planned events for dogs (and owners) to enjoy, from theme weekends with games to talent contests and training sessions.
“We planned to be there for a couple of weeks,” she added, “and ended up staying for more than two months!”
As noted in Camping and RVing With Dogs, authors Jack and Julee Meltzer admit that “it should be easy to figure out which campgrounds accept dogs and which don’t. However, as a practical matter, the task can be surprisingly complicated.” Fortunately, the Meltzers have done a lot of the legwork; along with some great traveling tips, health hints and camping caveats, the recently published book (2005, by Desert Winds Press) is chock-full of pet-friendly campgrounds. Indeed, the directory portion comprises 236 of the book’s 314 pages.
Another excellent source is the Trailer Life RV Parks, Campgrounds and Services Directory. The directory lists campground pet restrictions by animal size, breed and quantity, and notes that “[pet] restrictions at campgrounds are the exception rather than the rule.”
The Internet also offers plenty of
resources, though it’s harder to sort through some of the claims. You might also pick up a
few tips by subscribing to Fido Friendly, called the “Travel Magazine For You and
Your Dog.” Similarly, the “DogGone Newsletter” is said to be filled with locations you can
travel to with your pets — and a subscription allows you access to the newsletter’s
Internet database of more than 35,000 dog-friendly lodging, restaurant and vacation
For more articles and information about traveling with pets,
MotorHome magazine subscribers may download “Have
Pets, Will Travel.”