Traveling Light with Your Dog(s): Tips for Road Trips
General Travel Considerations
A stressed pet (and/or pet owner) isn’t enjoyable for anyone. If you have never traveled with your pup before – no worries, there is a first time for everything and this list will help weed out any nonessentials. If you know your dog gets nauseous in the car or is an anxious traveler – consider getting someone to house sit or find a reputable place to board them while you’re away.
Did you know dogs can’t sweat? Weird, right? So, it can sometimes be difficult for them to regulate their body temperature when they get too warm. Temperatures between 65-73F inside the car/mode of transport are ideal.
Planning Ahead Can Make Your Life Easier
Nothing is worse than stopping at a hotel late and tired just to find out they don’t allow dogs (we’ve all been there – not judging). However, you can call a few weeks ahead or even when you’re a few hours away to see if the hotel you have in mind does indeed allow pets.
Depending on the hotel chain, these are also common:
- A fee may be required (anywhere from $50-$150)
- They may request to see vet records
- Some breeds could be excluded at the discretion of the establishment
Minimize the Drive-Thru Diet
It’s at your discretion where you stop and what you eat on the road – for your dog however, they should ideally stick to their normal meals and meal schedule as much as possible. Don’t be alarmed if they seem to brush off food during that first travel day, they are likely getting used to the sights and sounds of being in the car. A nugget or two every once in a while is totally fine and we’d be lying if we said we didn’t give in too. Just know it can be hard for their little systems to deal with the grease in fast food and it can also make them less likely to eat their dinner if they assume the next time you stop they’re getting a #3 with fries.
Like any well-executed plan, there is a practicing element involved. A 12-hour marathon road trip should not be the first time your dog has ever ridden in the car. To minimize their anxiety and create positive associations with vehicular travel, bring them along next time you do errands and reward them with tasty treats for good behavior. Bonus points if you have a bed in the car already so they get used to the layout of the seat with that addition.
If you know your pup gets nervous being in the car, that is something you can totally work on and it shouldn’t put you off of taking a road trip all together – like anything else, it can require some training and time but doable.
Things to Pack
- A water bottle of cold, fresh drinking water
- A collapsible dog bowl(s)
- Dog or baby wipes – either will work (for dogs – not the other way around)
- Paper towels in a pocket of the carrier in case of an accident
- Any medications (it’s also best to give anti-anxiety meds before even getting to the car)
- A folder for all required paperwork
- Some dry kibble in case of tummy upset
- A pillowcase or old t-shirt, unwashed, in their carrier so they are comforted while on the plane. It’s a lot of mental stimulation to walk through the airport and all the sights and sounds can be overwhelming
- Food and Treats for the duration of the trip of course
- High value treats are essential here to keep your pup’s attention. There will be many factors and new sights and smells competing for it so bring out the big guns (like chopped up steak or hot dog) to make sure they keep their eyes on you.
- A dog bed with soft edges – easy to take into and out of the car and hotel rooms
- A towel, sometimes it rains and a wet-dog smell while on the road is unpleasant for everyone
Some Final Thoughts
Know you will get to your final destination, build in some buffer time for extra stops, and know that these things get easier the more you do them! New things can be scary, especially to our pups. So try your best to be patient and reward them when they mind their manners as you stop in new places.
The holidays can be a trying time in terms of travel but the togetherness is always worth it.