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Roadsurfer: Dog-Friendly Campervan Hire (USA, Canada & Europe) - Q&A

This post is part of a partnership with Roadsurfer. All opinions are our own and all pricing is correct at the time of publication of this blog post. CLICK HERE FOR A PAWESOME DISCOUNT CODE!


Dogs love their routine, and one of our takeaways from our first USA road trip end 2019 was that even for the most well travelled humans (let alone pup), changing hotels or places on an almost daily basis is tiring.


So even if none of us would have ever thought we'd be "that type", we started looking into a campervan as a possible alternative when planning our next North American adventure. In the spirit of not renting something for a month or more without having made sure that it was suitable for us all, we did get in touch with Roadsurfer end Summer 2023 and decided to try one of their camper on a pre-US road trip to Europe. This trial trip started in London and took us to France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and Italy and was a huge success as Marcel took less than a day to know where he was meant to stay when we drove and to settle in the van! He'd subsequently go up front paws on the little step for us to lift him up in the van when we rented another in Scotland later that year, as soon as we opened the side door!


Fast forward to February 2024 - after 3 weeks travelling from NYC to LA (as Roadsurfer only had an office in LA at the time, this has now changed) by car (the things we do to keep dogs comfortable, after all we choose to travel with Marcel so he come first not our convenience), we picked up our "Couple Condo" van near LAX airport for a 4-week round trip up to the Canadian border and then down the Pacific coast. And the first thing Marcel did when we opened the sliding door? Go up the little step to be lifted inside the van!


5991 miles... 9642 kilometers... This is how much we drove during our 3rd experience with a Roadsurfer camper van! No Extra because, in addition to now being dog-friendly in Europe AND North America, one of the most awesome features the company offers (very unusual especially in the USA) is that they offer unlimited mileage!


We asked you what questions you had about our experience on Instagram a few days ago... here are the answers (with some added info and tips)!


General Questions

Can you pick it up in one place and drop it off in another? Or do you have to do a round trip?


So at the time we did the trip (in February 2024) there was only round trips available from the US as there was only one station available in Los Angeles. However this has changed since and you can now in some cases pick up a van at a station and drop it off at another, in the same country or another on the same continent (offers vary in Europe with a current one of €99 one-way fee for a 7-day trip, the one way fee is £399 for North America).



Do you have to buy insurance from the camper van company itself or can you use your personal automobile insurance?


Camper vans are not covered by personal automobile insurances as far as we know as they are more complex vehicles. Roadsurfer offer three levels of insurance - basic (included in all rentals - 2 drivers included and excess £2200 per damage), advanced (3 drivers, excess £880 per damage - £13 per night rental) and complete "carefree" (unlimited drivers, zero excess - £25 per night rental). See here for full costs breakdown.


Are all models in all locations dog-friendly? What are the fees associated when you travel with a dog?


All models can be booked as dog campers on request, now in all locations (North America and Europe). A one-off dog fee per booking of £89 in Europe and £115 in North America will apply in addition to the daily rental price and one-off service fee that is applied to all bookings (with or without pets - £89 in Europe and £135 in North America).


What surprised you the most (in a good way😁) about the whole roadsurfer experience in the US compared to past experiences?


The possibilities when it comes to dispersed - free - camping and boon docking (they're a lot more limited in Europe, legally)! We discovered the option of "wally-docking" too!


Oh and how much time we spent off grid as many areas had no phone signal or very limited (which is really enjoyable once you get used to it like us city folks need haha). So it's important to plan a bit and look for directions but also sites to stay when there is access to internet (wifi or 5G) and to download maps and resources offline where possible (dispersed camping locations, Google Maps).


Is renting a camper van a cheaper way to travel on road trips? And is it a good way to have more flexibility when travelling?


We thought it would be and it turns out it's not really (especially if you travel in peak season) if you rent one (vs own one) on either fronts.


Renting the camper costs as much or more than a car, then there are the gas and propane fees (propane only needs refuelling every week or so as we used the heater a lot but was fairly cheap), rv or camp sites fees (they vary from $15 to $100 per night with the majority we saw at a min of $50 a night) fees, fees to empty grey and black water and fill in fresh water (included in most rv sites, there are free or cheap options also available at gas stations and dump stations).


In terms of flexibility there is a lot more off season which is what we picked (because of that but also our works and - even if that meant more inclement weather - to avoid the heat of Summer months with a dog, higher prices everywhere and more people everywhere). According to many of our friends and community who camp or travel with RVS, sites in the Spring, Summer and early Autumn get pretty booked up too well in advance (which is kind of reducing the options to be spontaneous or stay at sought after sites, the same for dispersed camping spots being full very early in the day whereas most National Park campsites were available on a first come first serve basis when we went - with most having availability late in the day too.


With that said it's still, in our opinion, the best way to road trip off season and especially with dogs. It offers them a constant home and better chance to have the routine dogs thrive for, and is less tiring for the humans on road trips with a little bit of organising (no need to check in and out every day, to pack and unpack regularly). With roadsurfer there is also the major advantage of the unlimited mileage, which are pretty inexistant in the USA especially (you don't go far away with 100 miles a day included there!).


Extra things to bring as not provided in the van?


A complimentary box with all things kitchen is provided with the van and has all you need! Bed linen can be rented too or brought by yourselves. Extra things would be those you usually travel with plus towels and cooking stuff (but each rental office has a station where people can pick up stuff like cleaning products, condiments, and basic things that others Roadsurfers left at the end of their trips, a brilliant feature).


What was the most challenging aspect about traveling in a van?


Getting used to the different pace, planning a bit more ahead and not having everything on hand like we city folks do but, once done, that was also the most enjoyable aspect of it (and the time spent without access to internet). But most of all... how silly humans can be sometimes (aka trying to drive the van on a snowy road - though we found most were superbly maintained and de-snowed - and getting stuck and having to call a towing truck at 10pm on the Sunday before Presidents Day!


Camper Van Equipment

Next time Can I come too? 😁🧡. It looks really comfortable was it nice as a home away from home for both you and Maman and papa?


You absolutely can as there will definitely be a next time! It's super comfortable, we picked the Couple Condo model as found the access to the bathroom better without a bed at the back and two beds on the sides instead (with that said the two beds are designed to be joined to make a giant one) and having to climb over the other person if needing to get up during the night! It was also kept this way so Marcel could walk around and move if needed when static / at night and have more room. The beds were super comfortable (no back ache using this one or the ones in Europe) with all creature comforts (toilet, spacious shower, heating, loads of storage, stoves - enough electricity from the battery to run lights and charge devices on USB for a couple of days static - and, when connected to shore power and an antenna, a TV, oven/microwave and even air conditioning unit).


Can't believe that's the stove for the van! had to do a double take!


Quite good isn't it? ;) There's also an oven-microwave to cook and fridge with a small freezer compartment (the former needs shore power to be used without emptying the battery quickly, the gas stove and fridge could function on battery power.


Do any come with solar panels for off grid camping? Btw absolutely love the model you had! Perfect size for Marcel 😍


The camper vans do come with solar panels and a battery that charges when you drive so you can stay static for a night or two whilst using some of the van's features HOWEVER there would need a lot more surface than that of a van for the solar panels alone to be a main source of energy. A full charge (requires a few hours of driving) would provide sufficient energy to charge small devices (smart phones, drone), have light and heating and keep the fridge running for a couple of static days however if you wanted to use the air con or microwave/oven then those can empty the electricity in less than an hour so are best only used when connected to shore power. The power sockets on board also can only be used on shore power.


As for the Couple Condo, it was the perfect model with loads of room for us three (we think it's great for two small dogs or a medium one, probably not ideal for larger dogs) and for Marcel to be able to stretch at night with the two beds kept separate vs made one big bed. It's also a perfect size to drive (very easy to) for the humans and to park!


Did you have a toilet and shower on board?


Yes, both! That was a requirement for the humans. And the Couple Condo's are surprisingly comfortable and spacious with a shower with good water pressure too (and warm water) as well as an outside shower should somepuppy get muddy! Most models in the US have toilet and shower (some larger than others), the smaller vans everywhere don't but you can rent a portable toilet for those!


Is there air conditioning while the van is off/parked?


Yes, and heating BUT the air conditioning is only to use when plugged in/with shore power unless you want to use all the battery in less than an hour! They explain this when you pick the van up but apparently someone decided to take a van to a week long festival where it was static and not plugged in and blasted the air con regardless of the instructions given and that resulting in the battery dying and with it the fridge and all the food in it spoiling (and yes, they left a bad review complaining about this anyway haha).


How complicated is disposal or grey or waste water?


We found it easier (and less yucky) than the cassette system that most vans in Europe have! (but then the person who was in charge of that is not the one writing this blog post haha). There are dumping stations in most established campgrounds and at many gas stations (some even free) too so it was not difficult nor very expensive to do (and needed only every 4/5 days with regular use, or we could last longer if not using the shower in the van daily especially).




Who is the better driver? Did Papa cook on the van?


"Papa" Pierre did most of the driving as planned whilst I - Aurélie - was in charge of planning where to go and navigation so there was only really one driver! And yes he did cook on the van, simple things usually (pasta, breakfast baps...) as we like simple food (with our fave being a brunch for Miranda's birthday - from FiberFriends - made with duck eggs and chard from their farm).



What was your favorite way to break up long driving days?


Finding places for Marcel's regular walks (we aimed for at least one "nice" one per day) thanks to a brilliant app called AllTrails.


How did you adapt the van to make it Le Corgi-friendly?


So a van is a great Le Corgi but also dog friendly way to travel because it provides a constant and helps with the routine dogs thrive with (the reason why we started using on on road trips where possible). We brought a bed, fave toy, usual bowls (water always available), crash tasted safety harness, were extra careful with not allowing jumping off the van for Marcel's back (we used the mosquito net when the sliding door was open to block off the door a little) and left the two beds as two instead of joining them to make a big one so there was additional room for Marcel to walk around and stretch when needed. The rest was pretty much the same as at home, only in a smaller space! Also, just like we do when we travel to hotels or rented accommodation, we locate the nearest emergency vets, just in case, and their contact details!

Our Tips & Recommendations

Top spots you stayed at with the camper? Nature ones? City ones? Free ones if there were any?


  • Top Spot with a Special Meaning: Best Friends Animal Society RV Site near Kanab, UT

  • Top Nature Spot: Elk Prairie Campground, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, CA

  • Top Beach Spot: Quileute Oceanside Resort, La Push, WA (yes THE Twilight "werewolves beach")

  • Top City Spot: H. Dana Bowers Rest Area & Vista Point – Northbound just across the Golden Gate Bridge with stunning views of the bridge and San Francisco - and it's FREE too!

  • Top Stargazing Spot: White Tank Campground, Joshua Tree National Park, CA



What are your recommendations in terms of apps and websites / sites to use when travelling in a camper van in the USA?


Knowledge and research are KEY we found when it came to picking where to park the van for the night. Rumour has it our "happy go lucky" attitude towards that initially got us into trouble (aka stuck in snow and needing towing, cough cough). Rental cars and vans including Roadsurfer are not permitted on dirt roads (exception being the roads of established camp grounds) which most dispersed camp sites are on. It is possible to park overnight for free on the car parks of some chains (Walmart, Cracker Barrel, some LOVES stations...) BUT not all (ie not in big cities) so this needs checked and permission sought before settling.


Here are some of our recommendations with resources to find where to park with an RV / camper van:


  • The Dyrt app to find RV and tent sites (we highly recommend the PRO version which costs $35 a year, well worth the money)

  • Recreation.gov is your go to to book permits but also camp and RV sites on National Park land!

  • the BLM website (Bureau of Land Management) for established campgrounds (some free but need booking in advance) or dispersed (or primitive camping) which can take place on most public lands, including BLM lands, as long as it does not conflict with other authorized uses or in areas posted "closed to camping," or in some way adversely affects wildlife species or natural resources.

  • https://www.ioverlander.com/ is also a great option apparently though we did not try it.


Finally, to find where to walk a dog, and include requirements such as walk difficulty level and length, we LOVED "All Trails"!!

Where to splurge/ where to save?


Where to splurge? Picking a campsite with nice showers and extra amenities (some even have hot tubs!) from time to time. The shower in the van was great with good pressure though! Some nice meals in restaurants along the way from time to time.


Where to save? Occasionally doing boon or dispersed camping (aka free camping) or staying on the campsites of many National Parks (they're usually a lot cheaper, often with reduced amenities but fantastic views and environment and very comfortable too). Cooking in the van. Finding free dumping stations (often just a google search away) to save on those costs too!


What to check before leaving to know all is in working order


It's always best to talk to the team to ask if the van has any issue and check if all appliances are working before leaving with the van just like with a rental car (we always take photos and a video and have scratches etc written down by the staff so they're recorded). We had an issue with the converter of ours and only found out a few hours away from the station - they did offer for us to go back and to replace the van or to have it looked at at a garage but we elected to not go back and do without it and shore power in the van for the rest of the trip. Also ask the super friendly team at the station whilst there (once on the road, communication is limited to emails during office hours and road side assistance for emergencies only) to give you a quick overview of the van and how things work (they have tutorials online). And of course read the fine print!!


What Next?

Where are you going next?


We're thinking about another UK road trip (or shorter trips near London), and/or one to Scandinavia or the EU after the Summer (we limit travel during the Summer as it's too hot often, packed and a lot more expensive than off season).



DISCOUNT CODE: Click on this link & use code "GBSUMMER" for a 10% discount on any van rental departing from the London, Bristol, and Manchester stations! (offer ends 22 July 2024).

 


For more information on renting a Roadsurfer van with dogs, check out their blog post: Camping with a Dog. Tips & Tricks.


As usual with any rental or contract, please make sure you read the fine print and are aware of possible additional fees before entering an agreement. The Roadsurfer full terms and conditions can be read here and costs and conditions here.


Anymore questions? Ask them in the comments or on DM or the original post on IG.



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