Above: George Lilley and Quigley plan their days activities outside of their RV. Photo courtesy of Janice Lilley.

Taking a trip without your pet could pose two choices — find pricey boarding for your four-legged best friend or bring him or her along. For many older adults (as well as other animal owners), pets are an integral part of the family. Leaving them behind adds concern and cost to almost any type of get-away.

“It doesn’t have to be like that,” suggested George and Janice Lilley, of Warner Robins, Ga. In addition to other hobbies, traveling is high on their list of things to do — and they do it with two dogs.

The Lilleys travel in a motorhome called a Class A recreational vehicle or RV. For them, traveling without Quigley and Jack would be almost unthinkable, they said.

Dog in RV
Photo courtesy of GORVing.com

“The best thing about RV-ing is you don’t leave part of your family behind,” said Janice Lilley. The Lilleys say their dogs travel well and are an excellent way to break the ice and meet new people.

“There are a lot of dog lovers out there,” she added. “Ours attract the attention of passersby and many of them will stop to talk about how they have a dog that looks like ours — or how cute and pretty they are.”

Janice explained that she and George and meet a lot of people by recognizing fellow dog lovers. When they walk their pets by the RV, there’s a special and immediate commonality, she said, and added that taking pets along can make a travel home feel like a real home.

Georgians actually are encouraged to bring furry family members along to Georgia’s State Parks. In theory, the tails will wag the whole time, according to Georgia’s “Tails on Trails Club” website, gastateparks.org/TailsOnTrailsClub.

Georgia’s State Park trails are perfect places for dogs, exceptforspecific hikes at Tallulah Gorge and Panola Mountain. Some state parks even offer ranger-led dog hikes where you and your pet are encouraged to find new friends.

“Dogs need exercise just as much as people do,” said Kim Hatcher, Public Affairs Coordinator for Georgia’s Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites.

“All visitors have to do is purchase a Tails on Trails Club membership card at one of the participating state parks,” she said. “Once they hike each trail, they’ll earn a t-shirt for themselves and matching bandana for their dog.”

Hatcher says they started the Tails on Trails Club to encourage people to enjoy Georgia’s outdoors with their pets.The number one rule for most places: All pets “must be kept under physical control at all times,” she stressed.

Dog with head outside of RV
Photo courtesy of GORVing.com

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) has pet policies as well. The rules help protect pets from being attacked by wild predators, such as bears or coyotes. And they try to safeguard pets from being burned or otherwise injured in places where hot springs or other dangers look inviting, but can be harmful, according to the NPS website, nationalparks.org.

From a medical perspective, park rules also help prevent the exchange of diseases between domestic animals and park wildlife.

Lindsay and Dan McKenzie are full-time RVers and adventurers, as well as founders and authors of the Follow Your Detour blog. According to Lindsay McKenzie, “It’s also not enough just to verify a park allows dogs, because some may have breed and weight restrictions.” She also cautioned that there are RV parks that don’t allow pets at all, so it’s important to check before just showing up.

“In our year of RV travels, we’ve crossed paths with many retired travelers who travel with pets and it seems to keep them active and happy,” she said. “Pets are also great adventure buddies since they get you outside and keep you moving.”

The Lilleys noted that it’s not unusual for an RV park or resort to charge a few extra dollars per night for pets. For them — and most pet owners — the joy and companionships that pets bring to travel are what make the most memorable RV trips.

Dog on an RV trip
Photo courtesy of GORVing.com

Some Common-Sense Tips to Traveling with Pets

  • Be sure your pet is a good travel companion. In a recent Trailer Life article, RVer Jerry Smith reminds readers that, “Some animals [may] have a hard time adjusting to the idea that home is moving.” Smith says that it’s important to realize that the view out the window is constantly changing and strangers are everywhere — and not every pet is comfortable with such diversions.
  • Make certain your pet has a collar, including a pet license, tags for rabies and other vaccinations, along with owner contact information, including cell phone numbers.
  • Never leave your pet inside the trailer when towing your RV. The same laws that apply to people should be followed for pets and may change based on the type of recreational vehicle you have.

Judi Kanne is a public health communications consultant and contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.