Holidaying with dogs in a campervan in NZ: Tips From a Quirky Dog Mum

Around one in three New Zealand households now own a dog – a dramatic rise over recent years. Planning a local trip away is an exciting prospect… until it comes to sorting out who will look after your beloved furry friend(s). Wouldn’t it just be so much more fun, easier, and cheaper (who wants to pay a small fortune for a dog hotel?) if you could take your dog on holiday with you? After all, they are part of the family.

Well we’ve got good news for you – nearly all Quirky Campers in NZ are pet-friendly – with no extra charge for the privilege!

We invited guest blogger and dog mum Tara to share her top tips for travelling with your furry friend in a camper.

Luna riding up front in Madeleine!

Luna (@lifewithlooney) is our gorgeous, energetic 2-year old border collie, greyhound x retriever. Myself (Tara) and my husband (Warwick) had already fallen in love with the freedom and flexibility that comes with a campervan holiday having travelled around North America and the South Island. So, when Luna joined our family, it felt only fitting we bring her along on our next trip. 

Now after two dog-friendly campervan experiences with Quirky Campers, we are hooked! We think more people should try it and we’d love to offer our top tips for van life with your pooch so that you can consider it too.

There’s nothing quite like holidaying with your dog in a campervan

Imagine pulling up on a secluded beach or a quiet piece of a woodland,opening up the doors and letting them jump out. Watching them discover all the new smells and run around ’til their heart’s content in new places every day. It’s all so exciting for them, and for you too watching them!

Dogs are happiest when they’re outside, playing, eating or snuggled up with their paw-rents. So, it seems like campervanning is the perfect kind of holiday! Not sure where to start? We’ve gathered our top tips for holidaying with your dog in a campervan so that you can experience this too. 

Look for dog-friendly campervan features

Quirky Campers has so many dog-friendly vans to choose from. Simply head to the Hire a Campervan tab, select your location and add the filter under House Rules for ‘Pets’. Make sure you book early in advance, as even though there are plenty to choose from, they are one of t akind and you don’t want to miss out on one you have your eye on!

Check out Barbara’s specifically designed kennel space under the bed, which opens at both the front and out the back. There’s even an outdoor shower so you can hose off those muddy paws after a big adventure walk!

Barbara‘s specially designed kennel space – open at both the front and back

For our first trip we hired Selma. She puts the quirky in Quirky Campers – we loved her Kiwiana design and homemade touches. Luna was even treated to a bag full of treats on arrival to pick her up – one very lucky girl. While Selma is small, Luna is a medium-sized dog and we had no trouble curling up with her on the fixed bed.

Luna in Selma. She takes van life very seriously 😀

We went further afield for our second trip, flying down to Christchurch to pick up Madeleine. She had everything we needed for a week-long stay – we didn’t want to leave! Having flown down from Auckland we needed space for our big packs and all of Luna’s gear. Madeleine has ample storage all around the van and a high roof so we never felt like it was a squeeze with the three of us.

It may seem like a small detail but the tinted windows and thick curtains were a blessing – particularly if you’ve got a dog that can be very alert to even the smallest movement (like Luna). Little things like this go a long way to make them feel safe. There’s even a removable table meaning we could all comfortably eat inside if the weather packed it in.

Loads of room for our big hiking packs plus all of Luna’s gear in Madeleine.

Finding places to stay

The question of “where are the best dog-friendly places to camp in [NZ region]?” comes up a lot, on many different pages, groups and forums. And it’s fair to say that the answers change over time, for many reasons… local bylaw changes, restrictions at different times of the year and general opinion!

The safest bet is to use an app like Rankers or Campermate, where you can apply a filter to find dog-friendly campsites across NZ. If you’re not already a member, there’s also the NZMCA. Virtually all the places that members can stay are dog-friendly, which is pretty cool! 

If in doubt, ring ahead to confirm what – if any – restrictions are in place for dogs. Most places welcome well-behaved dogs on a leash. 🙂

Pines Camp – a stunning campsite we found on Rankers on the shore of Lake Pukaki.

Finding dog-friendly activities

Whether it’s going for a hike, visiting a landmark or grabbing lunch at a cafe, it’s important to check first whether your furry friend is welcome too. Here’s a few ideas for how to keep your dog, and yourselves of course, entertained while holidaying in a campervan.

  • Go hiking. For finding and planning hikes while on the road, we found the Facebook group Hiking with Dogs New Zealand to have a wealth of information. Once you’ve decided on a destination, you can easily search the group or even make your own post and get loads of suggestions in return. It’s a good idea to cross-check this with the DOC website to find out if you need a permit for your pooch.
  • Take a stroll. A scenic walk in a new location is a sure-fire way to please your pooch. With its dog-friendly filter, AllTrails helps you find thousands of suitable trails fast. Alternatively, check out Paw Planet NZ. We also find the AA Travelling New Zealand with Pets to be an amazing resource for finding walks and dog parks. You can pick up a physical copy at most pet stores.
  • Make a splash. Aotearoa has a wealth of dog-friendly rivers, beaches and lakes, so you’ll never be far from a place to take a dip. Some regional councils have created maps and searches for dog-friendly beaches (and parks) on their websites, like Auckland and Wellington. While some beaches allow dogs to be off-leash, always have one with you just in case.
  • Visit a brewery or a winery. On our travels we discovered that many breweries and wineries are set up to be dog-friendly which is great when you don’t want to leave your dog to have a meal. It’s also a great rainy day activity.
  • Grab a bite at a cafe. We usually search Google Maps for ‘dog-friendly cafe’ or phone ahead to double check.

Luna halfway up Mt Fyffe. Dog permit can be obtained by emailing the Nelson DOC Centre.

Sticking to routine

The host of new sights, sounds and smells each destination brings can be quite overwhelming for any pup! That’s why it’s important to maintain aspects of their home routine like eating, sleeping and walking times. Where possible, comforts from home, like home bedding, toys, and food bowls, should also travel with you to help keep them calm.

Staying comfortable in the van with your pooch 

There’s a few things you can do to ensure your dog stays safe in a campervan and at a campsite.

  • Bring a longer leash. Dog-friendly campsites generally ask that dogs are on-leash at all times. By bringing a longer lead, you can allow your dog a bit of extra freedom, while keeping them under control. We often choose to tie the lead somewhere on the van.
  • Park further away. When you find the perfect campsite, try to park in a secluded spot away from other campers. If your dog is sensitive to noise, this can allow them a bit of extra space so that they won’t get scared by unfamiliar noises.
  • Bring a mat for outdoor use. This gives your dog a place for them to go while at camp. You’re unlikely to bring their usual bed with them when travelling, so a portable, washable mat is great for when your pup wants to chill outside in the evenings with you.
  • Pack plenty of towels. Even the most spacious vans can still seem small and you don’t want to be curled up next to a muddy or wet dog! We always have towels on hand to dry Luna off.
  • Have treats and chews on hand. Long-lasting chews like deer antlers are great for when you want to keep your dog busy while cooking up dinner. Or they might be kept busy enough by hovering around waiting for off-cuts or dropped food!

A mat and a longer leash come in handy even when not at a campsite and want to enjoy your morning coffee with a beautiful view of Aoraki!

Leaving your dog alone in a campervan

This should really be avoided, especially in summer when vans can quickly reach scorching temperatures. If you’re out of options, be sure to:

  • Make sure there is plenty of ventilation by opening roof vents and windows (without creating an escape risk!)
  • Lock the doors and close any blinds or curtains to keep the space cooler and block any outside distractions
  • Ensure they have adequate water
  • Keep your time away to an absolute minimum. During the warmer months, a van’s temperature can soar in a matter of minutes which  could prove fatal.
  • Beforehand, pop a cooling mat on the floor, or take them for a swim to help them keep cool while you’re away.
  • Check on them regularly if you need to be out of the van for more than a short supermarket trip
  • Park under trees or an underground carpark so that the van isn’t in direct sunlight

For longer spells you could consider NZ Pet Sitters On The Road – to make contact with others who offer or receive pet sitting!

Check out Quirky’s pet-friendly campervans for hire and happy travels with your dog(s)!

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