More and more people are turning to life in a tiny house. Regardless of if yours has wheels or not, living in that small square footage takes some adjustment, especially with dogs. The realms of this lifestyle are forever expanding as more and more people are testing the limits.

Us, we are testing the limits by cramming five bodies into one van.

It is true that vanlife would be worlds easier without our three rascals. More space, less stuff, and the ability to go anywhere we choose without second thoughts. Our dogs do limit us, a lot, but they also add an unbelievable amount of happiness to our life.

We decided to let you in on the things we’ve learned about how to make life in a van more livable with your pup.

Crossing the border

When crossing the US Canada border with your dogs the only vaccination they care about is against Rabies. All you have to do is go to your vet and get the paperwork. They will give you a piece of paper with the dogs information along with a rabies tag and a sticker off the bottle they used.

If this is the first time your dog is getting its rabies vaccine it will last for one year. After that it will be every three years you have to redo it. It is a simple shot. Your dog will become docile the night of their shots but recover quickly. Use this time to shower them with treats and extra love.

Do you need a passport to go to canada?

Yes! You do.

Every time we cross we hand our passports along with the dogs paperwork. This significantly reduces the border wait times. We cross the border a lot and it is never an issue for us. The guards rarely check the piece of paper and have never made a big deal about the dogs.

Check out the ways we keep our dogs cool!

Leaving your pups

This is the only, and by far the biggest, negative of living in a van with dogs. As your van/bus/car becomes your home there is no safe place to leave your pup while you are gone.

dogs, volkswagen

This presents a problem at simple things like the grocery store as well as more crippling things like National Parks and must sees like Antelope Canyon. I’m going to be real, this is the hardest part of having dogs in a van.

Our recommendation: when getting your dogs their Rabies vaccine, get them vaccinated against a couple other common illnesses such as kennel cough so you can opt for some doggy daycare. Ask your vet about which vaccines kennels require to board them. That extra hundred dollars will be well spent ensuring you are not sitting beside the Grand Canyon without a way to go see it.

Night time

It may sound silly but giving our dogs a bedtime is CRUCIAL. This is mainly true when we have new people with us, or are having a fire and staying up well into the night. When our dogs get tired, they get grumpy.

We don’t have a time but it is easy to see when the pups are starting to bark or get grumpy. Putting them in the van gives them the safe place they need in order to go to sleep. They feel more comfortable and are able to make their own bed and relax. We load our bed and floor with blankets and pillows so they have the comfiest sleep possible.

Let them out, a lot

This is by far the best part of having a dog. On driving days or days where you find yourself in a cement heaven let your pups out, a lot.

dogs, lagoon, lake

For us this has been great and has helped us to see parts of the world we would otherwise have not seen. We have had some of our greatest experiences in areas where we never would have expected to go. We stopped to give the dogs a break and rounded a corner to be surprised by a crystal clear lagoon or met some amazing new people.

This is by far the best part of vanlife with dogs. They inspire you to get outside more.

Think safety

I can’t tell you how important this one is. Our dogs are our best friends, we want to keep them safe. We spend almost all of our time in completely foreign areas in which our dogs don’t know. Our dogs are pretty used to it, but the longer we stay in a place the more confident they get and farther they stray. Even if we stay in a place for only a few minutes we make sure to bring out the dog beds for them to get comfortable.

We definitely free range parent more so than most dog owners. We let our dogs roam to their heart’s content as they have mastered the rules of not going on the road and not going out of sight (they know just how dependent they are on us). That isn’t to say something still can’t go wrong.

Not too long ago, we had a horrible day when our one pup Freckles chased a bunny and ended up getting stuck or lost. We lost him for about 9 hours. The whole time we spent scouring our desert landscape thinking only the worst. We notified animal shelters and anyone we thought could help us.

It was an absolute nightmare. That reaffirmed that despite how good your dogs are, accidents happen and it is so unbelievably crucial to work hard to avoid them.

We have our dogs have a microchip and tattoo with their all of our information on their dog tag. We make sure that their collars are always on (except our lab who gets skin reactions – she’s micro-chipped though) and their info is up to date.


Our bed is not that big. When you couple that with three dogs that like to cuddle, you are left with no room to move. Roxy is a spooner. She lays length-wise like we do. Freckles likes to find a space near our legs while Bella usually sits on our head. Right before we go to sleep we like to spend some family time. We usually watch a movie or TV show with the dogs on the bed.

But when it comes time to actually sleep we rearrange the dogs. Our front passenger seat swivels and faces backwards. This has quickly become Freckle’s favourite spot. We put a blanket on the floor, with two pillows under it, for Roxy. Bella is small enough that she can fit on the bed with us. She doesn’t usually sleep on the floor since she thinks she needs four times the room she actually needs. Even though we have a lot of bodies we make it work.

When it gets really cold we bring the dogs on the bed for safety. We’ve slept in some frigid temperatures where the dogs needed to stay warm. When this happens Freckles and Bella end up under the covers near our feet while Roxy assumes her spoon position. It keeps us all warm and safe.

Road tripping with dogs has added endless rewards to our life and with these tips it can in yours too. Let us know how you find traveling with your dogs in the comment section below.

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The USA is full of amazing cities that seem to not get the recognition they deserve. When we were living in our old Volkswagen Westfalia van we travelled with little to no plan. This meant that we also had little to no expectations about the cities we visited. It took us a while to slow down and get a feel for the top US cities that we were driving through.

When we head towards a destination I couldn’t tell you if it was going to take us the 8 hours google maps says or 8 days. Truthfully, I couldn’t even tell you with any sort of certainty that place is even where we would end up.

This way of living has made it so that every day, and every city, is a complete surprise.

Sometimes that bites us in the butt and we end up in cities like Stockton without even realizing it. Other times, we find these amazingly vibrant cities that we never would have expected.

This has allowed us to be completely and totally surprised with a lot of cities. Keeping in mind that we aren’t the biggest city people, our list of the top cities may surprise you.

Kansas City, Missouri

Perhaps it was our pure ignorance that associated Kansas with wheat fields and more cows than people. Ok, that isn’t entirely true. Kansas is one wheat field after the next but Kansas City is a surprisingly young vibrant city.

For those who have traveled through the middle states in America you are well aware of the massive nothingness that is there. That may be why we so quickly fell in love with the young vibrabt vibes of the city.

The city is like a mirage in the desert. Moving from east to west driving through the states changes from forests with no large cities to wheat fields – until you reach Kansas City. It’s streets are tree-lined, restaurants are lit with glowing lights and their transportation system is green and amazingly maintained.

This city is incredibly urban with modern architecture, a great Italian district and an incredibly artsy feel. The vibe of this city is upbeat and artsy.

Driving through on a Thursday night we were pleasantly surprised with how lit up the city was. With string lights hanging from tree to tree and the downtown streets full of hundreds of people enjoying the bars and nightlife, the city felt energetic.

Boulder, Colorado

Ok, ok, so this one isn’t a huge surprise. If you know anything about us you know we LOVE Colorado. The laid-back, health-conscious vibes combine with the mountains, rivers, and hot springs to create a truly magical place.


Sure, Denver is nice, beautiful even, but head a little way north and you get to Boulder. It is a much smaller city while still having everything you could want and need.

With hundreds of awesome parking and camping pull-outs, this area is just one big outdoor playground.

Boulder is tucked into a beautiful canyon with winding rivers and areas for the best rock climbing, slacklining, kayaking, and biking. If you are an outdoor lover you will be very pleasantly surprised.

The drive to go anywhere north or west of Boulder is insanely beautiful with winding roads with endless gorgeous scenery. You feel tucked away into another world. If you are an outdoorsy person Boulder is the place you want to add to your bucket list.

Admittedly, the city here isn’t much to write home about. Sure, it has nice shops with that great forward-thinking Colorado mindset, but the landscape surrounding this city is where it is really great.

Madison, Wisconsin

Myles and I had a great experience at University so the young vibrant Uni vibe of this city really resonated with us. Taking a tour through this University you see all the beautiful brick buildings mixed in between endless walking trails and water features.

Throughout the town are old buildings with beautiful architecture situated right along the lake. The streets are full of people playing road hockey and beer pong. For a cool way to see the city hop on a beer biking tour. Basically a mobile bar, this pedal bike holds roughly 20 people and tours you through the city drinking along your route.

We were there in the summer and it was beautiful. Nights were long and sunny with people playing on the lake and soaking up the sun.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Utah has quickly become my number one favourite state in America. Weird, because previous to visiting here I couldn’t name 3 cool things about it: Zion, Moab and …..

The drive south to Salt Lake City was full of so many colours. We were ‘oohing” and “aaahing the entire drive – there was always something catching our eye. Almost every field or patch of grass is flooded with beautiful wildflowers giving it the most beautiful array of colours.

There are a few hidden gems around the city. The Homestead Crater combines two of our favourite things: Hot Springs and scuba diving. You can soak in the water or rent a snorkel and take a look under the water.

The Bonneville Salt Flats are another great place in Salt Lake City. The fastest cars come to this alien-looking place to prove their top speed. It can even look like you are walking on water at times as the flats glisten.

There are tons of lakes and rocky canyons around making this an excellent place to go with dogs or on a road trip. Given the extremely hot temperatures (we were sitting in 38 degrees almost every single day) the many water features were godsends.

The city itself is beautiful and is sandwiched between a mountain range and the salt lakes. Be careful if you drive though, the roads are horrible. Our car bottomed out a few times on potholes and speed bumps.

Monterey, California

It’s no secret that California is one of the most beautiful states in the USA. Monterey is a small town on the coast of California just south of San Francisco. You are able to pull off the road and sit feet from the beach. Waves crashing all around you, pelicans on the rocks and old Victorian-style inns add to the charm of this place.

The shops downtown are situated along the water and have been built along one strip making it easy to park and walk around. There are loads of jewelry stores and restaurants where you can enjoy a nice meal with a view.

Pro Tip: The Fisherman’s Pier is a great place to go if you love animals. If you go to the very end and peer under the walkway you will see some of the fattest sea lions ever. They love sunbathing on the support beams and will greet you with a grunt.

Just a short drive south (literally one exit on the highway) is a little place called Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s like a land straight out of a fairy-tale. Streets don’t have names, house roofs are made from wood and have intricate designs and fences are made from sticks. The beaches are also out of this world.

White sandy beaches seem to always be a stone’s throw away. The entire beach along the shore is this beautiful white sand only seen in movies. Keep in mind the water is cold. There are people surfing but are wearing wet suits.

All of the places on this list were complete surprises to us. I am sure as we keep exploring this beautiful Earth our lists will forever change but for now, these are our top spots.

Have you been to any of these cities? Let us know what you thought of it in the comment section below.

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After living a life on the road for around 3 years, we now consider ourselves experts in finding the best free campground. If you add the fact that we have only paid for about 4 nights of accommodation – boondocking is our specialty. There are many aspects you should factor into your decision about where you should spend your time in the woods.

Whether you are looking for a new unplugged experience, or just want to find some of the most secluded campgrounds, going off the beaten path works wonders for your mental health. Since we travel with dogs we prefer public sites rather than private ones where we don’t have to keep them leashed all the time. We have been asked so many times how we find the sites we stay at so we thought we’d let you all in on all of our secrets.

This is for weekend warriors and Vanlifers alike. No matter where in North America you are these tips will help you find the best campground near you. Some places are going to be easier to camp in than others. Depending on where you are going, there are certain things you should know.

Not in North America? Check with local bylaws for rules on camping. When we were road tripping through Scotland they have a freedom to roam act that allows you to camp on any public land.

Free Sites

There are tons of land that you can camp on for FREE in North America. If you are in Canada most “Crown land” is free to camp on as well as any forest service roads. For example, 94% of land in British Columbia is considered Crown Land. This means the government owns the land. The USA has a similar thing called BLM land. This is land that isn’t owned by a single person. It is owned by the government, considered public land, and is free to use.

Not all maps will show you where this is or how to get to it, but trust us it is some of the best land to camp on. Some of this land is simply that, bare land that you can set up a tent or park your van on. The cool thing about this land is that you will find campgrounds that have everything provincial, or state, parks have. This can include picnic tables, fire pits and even outhouses. Don’t expect electricity or running water though.

* A few things to consider:

  • Do your research to see if there are any fire restrictions in your area. If there are you can be fined for starting a fire. It is your responsibility to find this out. This is especially true in Canada where there are fire restrictions every single summer in most places.

  • For both Canada and the USA, there is usually a stay limit, typically around 14-21 days. This, at least in our experience, isn’t strongly enforced but rather a way to keep it fair for all campers to get an opportunity to experience the site.
  • There are no garbage services at these sites. It is your responsibility to pack out what you pack in. Keep in mind that someone has been at your site before you. If they left the site a mess you’d be upset, so treat your space with respect. One thing that is great to leave behind is the extra firewood you didn’t use. This is always a welcomed surprise for the next camper or RV.
  • Rangers and police do not usually patrol these areas. This doesn’t mean that they are dangerous, it just means you have to be courteous to your neighbours. For example, don’t party until 2 am right beside a family with young children.
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Recreation Sites (Canada)

Recreation Sites and Trails are a halfway point between completely free off-grid sites and Provincial/State Parks. They usually come with a small fee per night – usually in the $15 – $20 range. Rules are usually more relaxed at these recreation sites but also have fewer amenities than at Provincial Campsites.
Their website is a great resource to find areas that have a lot of campsites. These are nearly all first come first served so we recommend finding areas that have a few Recreation Sites close by – there’s nothing worse than having packed and drove to the site only to find out that it’s full.
When you click on a site that you’re interested in you’ll see all of the important information. Some postings have more information than others, including photos. The cool thing about this is that the driving directions sometimes include information about the vehicle you need to access the site (ie. 2 wheel drive vs 4×4 and if a motorhome or trailer can access).

Provincial Parks (Canada) & State Parks (USA)

These are the sites that you are going to have to pay for. They are typically closer to larger cities and come with more amenities (but not always). We rarely stay at these sites since there are plenty of free ones. Paid campgrounds can range from $15 all the way to over $50 – and that’s without hookups.

In Canada Provincial Parks (and State Parks in the US) will always cost you money. Most people think these are the nicest, and easiest, places to get to but that hasn’t been our experience. However, they are well maintained and supervised by Park Rangers, and usually have showers, RV hookups, Wi-Fi service and flush toilets.

The downside to these sites is that they are strictly regulated. If you bring an extra car or have more than 4 people in a site be prepared to pay extra fees. Pets are required to be on a leash and stay in the designated area; you can’t bring alcohol to the beach, and you have to be quiet by a certain time.

It has been our experience that even with these rules Provincial and State parks are usually louder and more cramped than free sites.

If you are on a road trip or need a place to rest a Walmart or Highway rest stop is a safe place to stay. In our experience, both of these places are welcoming (unless otherwise posted) and allow you to catch up on some sleep. It’s not recommended to stay for longer than you need, or set up lawn chairs, but are a real option if you are desperate. We only ask that you are respectful of everyone around you. If you take over their parking lot the establishment will change their rules, ruining it for everyone.

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How to find these spots

Finding your ideal free campsite can be a bit of a challenge if you aren’t familiar with how to do it. There are many different ways of searching for the best sites.


We talk to everyone we can and ask them their secret spots. Driving an old Volkswagen van draws a lot of attention. People come up to us and strike up conversations nearly every day. You do not need an old van in order to start talking to everyone and getting all the insider secrets of where to go. Listening to the locals is an excellent way to find out the best spots.

The Internet

We try to use this one the least however it is often the most reliable. Spending time on our phone or computer trying to find a site, especially at night, can be a frustrating task. Trying to find a reputable website is not the easiest. Some campgrounds close down, don’t look like the pictures or cost significantly more than they say online. Coupling this with not having a phone plan makes it even more difficult. If you are planning to look online, a simple free campsite website should help you find what you are looking for.

AllStay and FreeRoam app

We saved the best for last! These sites and apps are our secret gold mine and the thing we rely most heavily upon. While the AllStay app isn’t free it will undoubtedly be the best purchase you make for an extended road trip or camping experience (note: this is not a sponsored post, it is just that good!). This is a smartphone app that has proved to be one of the best purchases we’ve made. It works much the same as the Maps app on your phone but shows you every single campsite around you both free and paid.

Just keep in mind that this app is only available through the Apple App Store.

There are lists of search categories to choose from. If you are wanting to opt for free campsites only there is a button that will allow you to filter and view only the free campsites in your area. It has information like toilets, by a creek, elevation, how many sites, fire pits – everything you need to make your decision. It also gives you detailed directions on how to get to the sites. We have found that it is completely worth the $13 which is less than one night’s stay at a paid campground

The FreeRoam app is a free option that has done a great job of compiling many free, and paid campsites. Their app is available for Android and Apple devices and is easy to operate. Many listings through the app will have links to government sites that contain information about the site including how many sites, toilets and even the vehicle you need to access the site. This is an easy-to-use application that even has an option to sort sites by cell signals for all of you digital nomads.

All of the photos in this post have been from free sites. How do you find a campground near you? Let us know, and post your photos, in the comments below.

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When we started this trip we had an idea of what it was going to be like. As much as we tried to do this without expectation and without any planning, nature set in and we couldn’t help but dream about our freedom. But, as always, reality is different. When we started this life, we were much like children at recess, running in circles basking in our new found freedom. We are now more like children after school – still running around hyped on sugar, but we know we have a little more time than the 15 minutes now.

In two months of Vanlife we have only paid to sleep once (I am writing this from an air-conditioned room in Saint Catharines, Ontario). We have slept everywhere from the mountains outside Lillooet to a department store’s parking lot in Wisconsin.


East. The direction of our travel. Wheat is in our rear-view, lakes and forests are our new driving companions. Leaving Winnipeg you are hit with a sudden change of scenery. As we drive the now winding Highway 1 we are excitedly fixated on our surroundings. On the lookout for moose and deer we sit as if waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve. Winding through the lake-scattered east coast of Ontario, Samara and I had some time to glance at a map. Having heard the drive to Kenora was breathtaking, that was our destination. But as we gained on the small town, we were faced with another decision: keep heading east, or head south towards the Canada US border. Having explored East to Toronto, our minds once again raced as we dreamed about exploring the unknown land mass to our south.