Lots of Family Circle readers—83 percent, to be exact—listed camping with pets as one of their favorite family vacations. While most recounted purr-fectly pleasant experiences—yes, cats went too—some ran into problems. To guarantee a trouble-free vacation, we turned to Kelly E. Carter, pet travel expert and author of The Dog Lover's Guide to Travel, for advice on camping with four-legged companions.
Know Your Pet: Your dog or cat's usual behavior will tell you whether camping is a good idea. A pup known for barking excessively or acting out (one reader's pooch tore a tent) won't be a happy camper—and neither will anyone else. Since dogs often howl when they're bored or want attention, pack a few favorite toys to occupy them. If your cat is one of the rare ones who tolerates a leash, you might consider bringing her along.
Schedule a Pre-Trip Vet Visit: Know what health precautions to take. When traveling to an area where ticks are common, for example, perform daily checks—on yourself and the rest of the family too! It's also a good idea to carry proof of your pet's rabies vaccination, including the lot number and expiration date.
Keep Safety in Mind: Most campsites require that both cats and dogs be on a leash—you may want to try a retractable one so your dog has room to roam. But never leave him tied up on his own. If you like to sleep outdoors, be sure to keep your pet inside your tent with the flap secured.
Prep Before a Hike: When you hit the trails with your dog, be careful not to burden him with a heavy load. Don't fill a doggy backpack with more than one-third of his weight. Use cooling devices—vests, bandannas or collars should do the trick—to keep him comfortable in the summer heat. And unless you're familiar with the path, don't let him wander off alone. Smaller pups and cats can be carried in a sling pouch with a safety clip while you're exploring.
Before pitching a tent or parking an RV, do your pet-friendly research.
Good Sam Camping: Find out where pets are allowed in 8,000 private campgrounds and RV facilities across the country (iTunes and Google Play, free).
PetFriendlyTravel.com: Note specific restrictions (like length requirements for leashes) as you plan trips to state forests, national parks, private campgrounds and RV parks.
BringFido.com and App: Access reviews, fees, photos, maps and policies of animal-friendly campgrounds worldwide on the site. The app also lists trails based on popularity, distance or ratings (iTunes, free).
Use this packing checklist that includes nine things every camping-bound animal needs.
Freeze-dried raw food
Cooling devices (bandanna, vest, collar)
Mini sleeping bag
Sling pouch with safety clip