Three road warriors dish out their secrets for traveling with their best friends.

Holiday season equals lots of travel and if you’ve hit the road with a dog before, you know it takes a mix of planning, ingenuity and ability to keep your best friend happy and healthy. To help you plan that type of travel with your pet, we sat down with three adventurers who always bring their dogs with them: writer, photographer and mom Heather Balogh Rochfort (@Moxie82) and her 12-year-old mutt, Tally; climber and podcaster Kathy Karlo (@inheadlights) and her dog, Shooter; and community organizer Noël Russell (@noel_russ) and her rescue pups, Fin and Lhotse. Read on for the best gift ideas for your road and dog-loving friends, the best parts about traveling with pets, and inside tips for keeping the car clean and the dogs happy after driving all day.

What’s the best thing about having a dog on the road? 

HBR: Pure joy. Tally joined my husband and me on our two-week campervan honeymoon road trip on Canada’s Icefields Parkway. We like to say that *our* honeymoon was the best experience of *her* life.  Waking up and seeing her smiling doggy face every morning brought all three of us joy, and it was an honor and privilege as her dog mama to bring that type of happiness to her life. 

KK: Constant companionship. She might not be a good conversationalist, but I know she’s got my back.

NR: Everything is better with a dog. Waking up in the morning could be the most mundane moment ever, but when you have two furry beasts snuggled in bed with you—every morning is simply magic. Dogs make the littlest things in life that much better, I can’t think of one part of my day that isn’t enhanced tenfold by their simple existence in my life.

What’s the hardest thing about having a dog on the road?

HBR: Dogs can’t go everywhere, even if you want them to join you. I live less than an hour from Rocky Mountain National Park but have never spent much time on the backcountry trails since Tals can’t join! 

KK: When I take a work day, that typically means leaving the doggo in the car. If the weather is nice, I can set her up outside with a blanket and a water bowl nearby. In colder weather or rainy temps, it’s simply not an option.

NR: One, imagining how life would be without having a dog while we travel and, two, wishing we had a bigger van so we could travel with more dogs! But in all seriousness, dogs are such a blessing to have around. We consider it an honor to be concerned about the wellbeing of another family member, and consider ourselves lucky to be able to learn how to put their health and safety before ours. We can’t hike in national parks—that’s not a serious struggle, but we miss it. We would miss our dogs more, though, so we focus on recreating in places like BLM land and national forests where dogs are always permitted.

Best tips for road trips with dogs?

HBR: If you are traveling in a van, use the Kurgo Loft Wander Dog Bed as a rug, too. It’s water-repellant and sheds fur easily, so it’s a great way to keep the inside of your vehicle clean: Pick it up, shake it outside, and put it back inside. Voila! No dog fur, clean-ish floors, and a comfy pup. 

KK: Store stinky treats in a drysack are best road-trip hack I’ve learned about in a while. Also, sometimes restaurants will let you bring plates of food out to your van and eat inside it if you explain that your dogs are in there (and they trust that you’ll return your plate to the restaurant after you eat). Sometimes if you’re really lucky, they’ll let you bring a pitcher of margaritas out, too! 

Do you have any good gift ideas for adventurous dog-lovers?

HBR: The Kurgo Loft Wander Dog Bed I mentioned is certainly one of my favorites. It’s certainly not for backpacking, but if you’re car camping or simply traveling, it’s big and fluffy enough to keep a large dog happy. Back when Tally hit the trail more frequently, we really loved the Ruffwear Palisades Pack, too. The saddlebags are removable, which is awesome, and the handle on the top meant we could yank her out of the water….or away from skunks.

NR: Our favorite items are the Ruffwear Bivy Bowl and Trail Runner Bowl as well as Hurrta’s Outback Dreamer sleeping bag (which works well on cold nights inside the van or when camping in the backcountry) as well as Wilderdog’s Doggie Bag, which works well when you want to keep food stored without making the whole van smell like a fish house.

What are your holiday plans together? 

HBR: I recently had knee surgery so I promised my PT and surgeon that our adventures would be minimal until I was fully healed. But, we do have a few jaunts to Utah on the tentative schedule, so fingers crossed.

KK: Towersgiving! Unfortunately, that means leaving the doggo at home for this one—Shooter doesn’t do multi-pitch climbing.

NR: Desert trip! We plan to head south and ditch the rain and fog for a bit. We’l be hitting Joshua Tree and Borrego Springs as well as the Superstition Wilderness, where we’ll thaw out in the shade of saguaros and fall asleep to the sound of screech owls. As much as l love the mountains, my heart finds its home in the desert. 

Noël Russell and her rescue pups, Fin and Lhotse.

Kathy Karlo with her dog Shooter.

Heather Balogh Rochefort and her 12-year-old mutt, Tally.