Dog Food Reviews

Road Trip: Raw for the Procrastinating Packer

The dogs feeling refreshed after a swim in Colton Pond near Killington, Vermont
Written by Rachael Sando

We recently went on a rare vacation without the boys.  It was our unofficial delayed honeymoon – and while of course we had a wonderful time, we are big fans of traveling with the dogs whenever possible. This past weekend we had the opportunity to spend a long weekend in Killington, Vermont and stay with my sister and brother-in-law and their adorable pooch, Mia.  Our boys Harley and Charlie were welcome guests as well, so of course I was pretty excited.

Harley loaded up in the car and excited to head out on a weekend trip to Killington, Vermont

“We’re going on a road trip, we’re going on a road trip, we’re going on a road trip” – sung on repeat for most of the day last Thursday.

Imagine living with me…I think even the dogs wish I was wearing a muzzle.

Our Golden Retrievers Harley and Charlie on the start of our road trip!Please stop singing, Mom!!

A smiling Charlie is excited to embark on a weekend road tripFinally! 

Sometimes when we tell people that we like to travel with the dogs, they look at us like we are crazy. It’s the same look I give one of my colleagues when she describes driving her 4 children to Disney every summer, I don’t know how she does it!

Charlie excited to go on a weekend roadtrip to Vermont

In reality, taking dogs places is both easy and rewarding. The trick is to be prepared and plan ahead.

True Confession: I am a packing procrastinator. I am NEVER planned nor prepared. Life is BUSY!

So you might be wondering how does a procrastinating packer manage two big dogs who also eat raw?  Well, that’s a good question..

As you may already know, we made the transition to Natures Variety Instinct Raw Diet several months ago. We have seen phenomenal results including: fluffy healthy coat, increased energy, no major allergy attacks, and solid BM’s! With such a good thing going, you can see why being consistent is so important to us.

Luckily, the Instinct diet is designed to be flexible, with many types of feeding options and formulations.  Over the past few months we have tried several of them (Kibble, Kibble + Raw Boost, Kibble + Raw Bites) and as advertised, the boys have tolerated changing between them very well.

Transitioning into Nature's Variety Instinct Diet

While at home, we love to feed the Grain free kibble with Frozen Raw Bites; however, like we shared in an earlier post, feeding frozen raw may not work all the time. In our case we were traveling to Vermont to stay in a cabin that belongs to my Brother-In-Laws family.

Here is what we were working with….a 6 hour drive, a cooler of perishable items going with us, and a full size refrigerator and freezer once we arrived.


  1. Pack Kibble + Raw Bites: This was not a viable option for us. Take a look in the cooler, there was no room! As you can see there was no extra room in the cooler for the dogs frozen raw. Thank goodness for the Instinct Kibble with Raw Boost!
  2. Pack Kibble and purchase Raw Bites once we arrive at our final destination: After a quick scan of the Natures Variety Store Locator, we realized that there was a store in the town over from where we were staying that carried frozen raw bites. This is a real benefit to choosing Natures Variety over some other options. It is widely carried by healthy pet stores all over the country! We stopped in, checked it out, and even made an unrelated purchase for the pups!Catamount Pet Supply in Rutland Vermont offers Natures Variety in both kibble and frozen
  3. Pack Kibble with Raw Boost:  This was definitely the easiest option. It feels great to be able to still incorporate some raw into the dogs diet, while maintaining the convenience of kibble. What we will often do is just pick up a small 12 lb bag to take with us. Though they are slightly more expensive ($3.70/lb vs. $4.33/lb) it is convenient and allows us to simply carry the food in its original packaging (with a zipper seal). Natures Variety Instinct selection at Petsaver Superstore in Rochester, NY

…and the winner is, Option 3

We stopped at the store to pick up a bag of Natures Variety Instinct with Raw Boost on the way out of town

It was just soooo… easy. In our frantic moments before leaving we stopped at Pet$aver Superstore, grabbed a 12lb bag as well as a handy scoop/clip, and were on our way! This was the perfect solution for us this time. It didn’t matter that we were slightly unprepared, I could still feel good knowing that my “lazy” option was not skimping at all on nutrition.

We considered Option 2, going so far as visiting the local pet store after we arrived, but decided against this option because we had more food than we needed and didn’t think we would make it through the raw bites during our time in Vermont.  However, we really loved that picking up the frozen raw in a fairly secluded town was even an option!

Traveling with a bag of Instinct Raw Boost

Trying out our new Dexas Collapsible KlipScoop with a scoop of Natures Variety

Charlie has had enough of the pictures and is ready to eat!

Harley and Charlie taking a whiff of Natures Variety Kibble with Raw Boost

Traveling with the Instinct Diet

Harley eating some Natures Variety Instinct with Raw Boost on vacation

Though we had already tested the Instinct Kibble with Raw Boost before, the dogs seemed thrilled to see the pieces of freeze dried raw back again!  Feeding 3 Dogs was no big deal. Our newly acquired Clip-Scoop was ready for the task! A quick measure, some puppy pleading, and separate corners did the trick!

What else did we bring?

Well for the dogs other needs, I have a pretty good system set up.  In fact I typically leave a bag packed at all times that contains most if not all of these things…

A close look at our essentials for traveling with dogs. We try to stay prepared and keep most of these items in a pre-packed bag.

  • Bowls: Two bowl inserts, easy light weight, and dishwasher safe!
  • Pet Wipes: for those unexpected messes.
  • Flea & Tick Wipes: Its “bug spray” for dogs. A quick wipe down before any outdoor adventures keeps lots of flying insects away!
  • Waste Bags: Well, you know… Cleaning up after you dogs is really important!
  • Treats: When you want your puppy or old dog to listen, it helps to come with treats. Treat of choice this time: Good Reasons, Charlie’s Cheddar Chomps
  • 30 Ft. Leash: You never know what kind of situation you might encounter. We like to have our “training leash” so that the boys can be safe if they are near a road, or if we have to take them out late at night.
  • A few of our favorite things: We always grab a couple of the most popular toys from home. We find it’s a good idea to have a variety…a couple of plush toys, a ball, and something to keep their mouths occupied when you need some time!

So what did we do on vacation?

All my planning and preparation (HA) paid off. We had a great weekend full of doggie fun! Check out a couple of sneak peak photos of our Vermont Adventure!!

Exploring Killington: We even got a picture with a GIANT Golden friend!

Harley and Charley posing with a giant Golden Retriever statue in Killington, Vermont

Hiking: We found creeks and ran around like puppies! The boys were spoiled with a large yard on vacation and Charlie was sure to ask for a Frisbee throw (or 5) every time he went out!

Enjoying a hike with the dogs on our trip to Vermont

Lazy Mornings: Hanging around with the people (and dogs) that we love.

Charlie and cousin Mia enjoying a hike on our weekend getaway in Vermont

Harley and Charlies cousin Mia, a boxer cocker spaniel mix

Charlie and Mia patiently waiting for a treat

Patrolling the Property: The boys kept a watchful eye on the enemy and even neutralized the threat…

Harley defending the yard from a decorative metal owl!

Harley doing his best "tough guy

Handsome Golden Retriever

Swimming: An impromptu stop on our way home. We thought it would be great to let them stretch their sea (pond) legs and splash around! It worked, they pretty much didn’t move until we got home!

Harley and Charlie overlooking Colton Pond in Killington Vermont

Be sure to come back soon and see more photos of our Vermont vacation adventures!!

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to be a crazy planner in order to make feeding a healthy raw diet to your pet a reality. Coming from the queen of procrastination, I found that despite a lack of advance planning, I had so many options for having continuity in the boys’ diet. I loved that the “lazy” option was so healthy and good for them, but I also had the option of feeding Frozen Raw Bites, because they are carried across the country! As time progresses we are finding that feeding raw truly can fit into any lifestyle!

Traveling with Raw is no big deal with a bag of Instinct with Raw Boost. No need to save room in the cooler!

Like I said before, the real key to a smooth travel experience is being prepared and planning ahead. In my case juggling my full time career as a school psychologist and pet blogger, life is busy and even with the best intentions, it’s not always an option. For me, my best way to be prepared is to PLAN on not having enough time to get ready. Creating a bag that has a lot of the necessities packed and paying a little more (~$.60/lb) for the on-the-go, 12lb bag of food are my keys to sanity

The dogs feeling refreshed after a swim in Colton Pond near Killington, Vermont

What travel tricks do you have? If you feed a raw diet, what do you do while on vacation?

To continue seeing how the boys are doing on their Instinct Raw Diet, and all their other product reviews and adventures, please sign up for our newsletter!

About the author

Rachael Sando

Rachael is a School Psychologist with degrees from the University of Rochester and RIT. Though a lifelong dog lover, this passion has taken on a new direction through the utilization of therapy animals in her day job. Charlie, our Golden Retriever, works with Rachael as a school therapy dog in a local primary school where he brings comfort and support to students and staff on a daily basis.


  • It looks like the doggies had a lot of fun! Love the photos, Vermont looks so pretty. I’ve only visited once before in winter when it was all covered in white; it’s lovely to see so much green.

    We feed frozen raw usually, but when we went on a trip to Napa in March, I bought a bag of freeze-dried Primal nuggets and fed that instead. With the wide availability and variety of freeze-dried raw, feeding raw is as easy as a kibble-based diet.

    • Absolutely – the freeze dried options really are convenient. We wanted to make sure we mentioned them to our readers because we had no idea they were even an option a few months ago. Feeding raw these days is definitely not as difficult as most would expect!

  • Oh, you were close to our neck of the woods! We’re in NH and Killington is just about an hour’s drive away. It’s beautiful there. Now I think we might have to take a drive and go see that straw dog!
    It sounds like you had a great time and I’m glad your plans came together. I am always interested in a raw food diet, even though we don’t do it (yet). I didn’t realize there were so many options.

    • It really is a beautiful spot! In case you were interested the straw dog is right near the intersection of routes 100 and 4, but there are other straw sculptures all over town.

      We had always been interested in feeding raw as well and are so glad we finally gave it a try. We definitely had a lot of questions that delayed our decision to start and we assume that many of our readers feel the same way. That is why we want to make sure that we share everything we learn about raw feeding and the various options available!

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