How to Plan a Safe, Fun Road Trip with Your Dog

Planning to hit the open road with your furry friend? Check out our detailed guide to learn how to plan a fantastic road trip with your dog.

The only thing more exciting than setting out on a road trip is taking your furry friend along for the ride! While planning a road trip with a dog may sound complicated, there are ways to doggy-proof your plans to make it as easy as possible.

From gathering the right traveling supplies to planning pet-friendly accommodations, this guide will break down how to travel with a dog in the car so everyone has the most stress-free, enjoyable experience.


Prep Your Dog’s Health and Safety Info

Before you travel, set aside a little time to ensure your dog’s health and safety information is up to date and accessible in case of an emergency.

First, call your veterinarian to confirm your dog’s vaccinations are up to date. In case any problems arise while traveling, have a copy of your dog’s vaccination records on hand or stored in your phone. While you’re at it, you should also add your veterinarian’s number to your contacts in case of any questions, prescription refills, or emergencies!

Depending on where you are headed, some medications may be necessary to protect against diseases your dog could encounter along the way. For instance, if you’ll be near woodsy areas, make sure you apply a flea and tick treatment well before you head out.

Finally, check your pet’s tags to ensure their collar and microchip include your current contact information.


Take Practice Trips

If your pup is not accustomed to long car rides, go on a few test runs! See how they handle sitting in the car for at least an hour or two. Whether you’re traveling with dogs across many states or just going on a weekend getaway, you’ll want to make sure your pup can lie down comfortably in the vehicle.

A dog bed, yoga mat, towel, or folded mattress topper can transform a section of your car into a comfy resting spot. There are also a variety of specially designed dog travel crates and carriers that are particularly great if you plan to take a road trip with your dog often! Some states require dogs to be kept in a crate when traveling for safety reasons, so check out what rules apply to each state. Be sure any crates, carriers, doggy seat belts, or holders are the appropriate dimensions for your dog’s size and comfortability.


Plan Your Route

dog inside car looking out window

When mapping out your drive, make sure there are plenty of opportunities for potty breaks. After all, you both deserve a regular break to stretch your legs! Many rest stops have enough space for dogs to stretch and play, or at the very least take a little stroll.

Most families traveling with dogs can handle a four-hour drive with 10-to-20-minute breaks, but you know your road trip buddy best. If they start whining or pawing the seat, they may be trying to tell you it’s time to pull over.


Book Pet-Friendly Accommodations

If you anticipate sleeping somewhere other than a friend’s house or your vehicle, check ahead of time for dog-friendly lodging options. Depending on your location, your hotel or rental options may be limited, so book a room for you and your furry friend in advance.

If camping is part of your road trip, make sure the grounds permit pets. The rules may vary by site.


RELATED: 11 Lesser-Known Tips for Camping with Dogs


Pack for Your Pack

Just as you pack your own necessities, your furry friend needs some essential belongings for the trip, too. Here’s a quick list of what to bring:

Enough food for the duration of your trip: Stick to your dog’s regular feeding schedule and avoid giving them food right before they hop in the car. Dogs are prone to getting sick if they’re not used to the movement, so your pooch may feel best on an empty stomach.

Also, be sure not to switch up your pup’s kibble during the trip to avoid any stomach issues.

Plenty of treats: Giving your dog snacks during the road trip is a great way to keep them happy and entertained along the way. Occupy their time with long-lasting chews such as retriever rolls, or reward them for being a good Cadet with dog treats.

Collapsible bowls: Easy to pack and easy to clean, these bowls are ideal for giving your pooch a quick snack and water at rest stops.

Medicine: In addition to ensuring your dog’s shots are up to date, take enough supplements or medication to last the whole trip.

Favorite toys: Help your pup remain occupied and stress-free by bringing along their favorite toys! Consider packing fun dog play toys to get your furry friend some exercise at rest stops and your vacation destination.

Leash: Don’t forget to bring a leash or tie-out for your trip. They are required at most rest stops and necessary for the safety of your pup and others.

Seat covers: Dogs are great co-pilots in many ways—but not the tidiest! Invest in some easy-to-clean seat covers to protect your seats from dirty paws, pet hair, and debris. Or, simply cover your dog’s space in towels and blankets.

As you learn how to travel with a dog in a car, you may find that packing everything in can be a challenge! Just be sure you save enough space for your furry friend. If you do need to keep luggage close to your dog’s spot, double-check it is secure so nothing tumbles over during the drive.


Squeeze in Some Exercise 

dog on walk with owner

A sleepy dog travels best. Before you hit the road, tire them out to minimize distractions while driving. You’ll have plenty of time to frolic and play when you get out of the car!

Throughout your adventure, you should also make an effort to exercise your dog at locations that have plenty of open space. Taking walks and playing with your pooch are great forms of physical stimulation. Don’t limit yourselves to rest stops for playtime; plan ahead to find local dog parks, trails, and other dog-friendly places.

If a hike is on the road trip agenda, check out these helpful tips for hiking with dogs.


Listen to Your Dog

You know your dog best. One of our best tips for embarking on a road trip with a dog is to pay attention to any sudden changes in your furry friend’s behavior. Suddenly whining out the window or panting more than usual are signs your pup could be feeling anxious. Trust your instincts, and if you’re uncertain, pull over and assess the situation. They may just want to go to the bathroom!

Whether you’re visiting a new town or exploring a national park together, traveling with dogs will take your vacation to a new level. Happy travels! 

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