Ten ways to prepare for you first dog-friendly road trip

Planning a family road trip with the dog can be tons of fun! There’s no worrying about finding a good kennel and hauling your pup over there to stay while you’re vacationing. With a little advanced preparation, you can have an enjoyable vacation for the whole family, pooch included.

I don’t know about your dog, but mine sure keeps me on my toes. He might get a little carsick, he might bark at every turn signal, and he might cause a ruckus if he sees other pets at our destination. Despite all this, we’ve just recently booked a Tucson getaway with him! Here are my top tips to prepare for any hiccups in your canine road trip plans.

  1. Find friendly lodging

With more and more people travelling with pets, this part can be a breeze. You’ll want to make sure your destination can accommodate both you and Fido. Hotel brands such as Motel 6 and LaQuinta have been happy to host both us and our pups in the past. And with other rental sites available such as Airbnb, it’s quick and easy to search for a home, apartment, or other place for your family and dog to crash for the night.

Just be careful, some of the big name-brand hotels can actually have different ownership or management, and thus different pet policies. Your best bet is to call each individual hotel to double check if your furry friend will in fact be allowed. You know what they say about assumptions, right?

2. Stay safe on the road

There’s nothing worse than a dog that gets in your way on a road trip. Depending on his or her manners, your pup may think they are quite welcome to climb all over your lap while you’re driving, but resist the urge to allow it! Be honest with yourself, distracted driving is not ok, and this includes trying to wrestle or manage a dog in your lap. Find a proper restraint for your dog so he’s out of the way and doesn’t go flying if you’ve got to slam on the brakes. We’ve found a great little restraint that fits over the seatbelts in the back seat and clips right on to our dog’s harness. This way we know he’s secure, and we’ve got a little more peace of mind that he can’t roll down the windows and leap out of the car. Yes, my Dart has been known to step on the button to roll down his car window 🙄

3. Pack the essentials, and then pack some more

You remember fractions in math class, right? Calculate how much food your dog will need for your vacay, pack a little extra, and leave behind that big bag of kibble. Thankfully, my pup eats 1/2 cup of food twice a day, so our mental math is super simple at one cup per day away from home. Don’t forget, you’ll also need your dog’s regular meds, and maybe a few other “just-in-case” remedies. We’ve been known to pack plenty of treat toys to distract our doggo when we really need him to settle down and behave. ThunderEase and Adaptil sprays have also been a lifesaver for us. Each has a pheromone (think hormone) that helps your anxious dog calm down, pretty similar to the pheromones your pup’s mother used to help her litter calm down and relax. We spray it on our dog’s bandana and bedding a few minutes before getting in the car, and we’ve got one non-stressed dog!

4. Prep your car space

There is a fleece blanket in my car that I literally call “the dog blanket.” Fleece material has saved us a couple times, quickly catching small wet messes before they can seep down into car upholstery. I also love to take a dog bed in the car, one with kind of high sides, so my dog feels safely snuggled and nestled into his seat. Of course, spare blankets, some cleaning wipes, and your favorite clean-up bags need to be well stocked in your car too, for any “deposits” that your dog may make in the car or (preferably) outside at the rest stops on the way to your destination. My one (very sick) old dog once pooped in the cup holder on my car door. How?! I had to forgive the poor guy, but gosh it took me a few smelly days to find it hidden in the cup holder 💩

5. Read the fine print

Yes, you can find all kids of hotels and rentals that say they allow dogs, but at what cost? As you read more about pet policies, make sure you’re aware of any deposits and fees, and whether or not they’re refundable. One cringe-worthy detail is those rentals that “allow” dogs, but only if they never get on the furniture or beds. Hello? Where do they think my spoiled dog lives? Certainly not the cage or the floor.

Also, look for whether or not your doggo will be permitted to stay home alone without you. Sometimes you’ll be required to bring a crate for him to stay in too, in case roaming the whole house without you isn’t a good option.

6. Look at local laws

Do you need a health certificate to cross state lines with your pets? What are leash laws like at your destination? Are you allowed to leave your dog unattended in your car, or would they quickly overheat in the vacation climate? Know the rules in the states and cities you’re headed to so you can avoid any fines or unforeseen obstacles on your road trip.

7. Update your info

Nobody wants to think about their pet going missing during a trip, but you never know where a scared dog might run to in unfamiliar surroundings. Make sure your pet has a collar with up-to-date contact info for you, and better yet, a microchip in case the collar slides off. Animal hospitals and animal shelters all over the country have microchip readers to help identify your lost pet. Even if you’ve got a different brand than their scanner uses, each will typically tell your pet’s rescuer that there is another microchip brand in there, so they can keep looking for another way to scan you pet and find all the info to reunite you.

8. Research important professionals ahead of time

So, your dog found something questionable to eat during your trip. Or they found out why cacti are evil. Either way, know ahead of time how you can get medical help for your dog at your destination. Do a google search, find a close and reputable vet, and write down their contact info and address before you embark on your trip. Don’t assume you’ll want to waste time googling, or that you’ll even have cell reception, at the time your dog decides to do something zany and get an illness or injury.

9. Find dog-friendly experiences

From dog-friendly cafes to brewery outdoor patios, there are all kinds of fun places you can visit with your canine companion. But will the weather be right to hang out outdoors while you travel? And if you’ve got a lot of pit stops on your way, will you and your pup each be able to find facilities to relieve yourselves when you stop to stretch and refuel? Don’t forget, you’ve got plenty of dog travel blogs to help you find honest reviews of pup-friendly activities at many of the top destinations. Use these to your advantage! Another dog owner’s review will give you great insights into any barriers or special considerations before you visit a new location.

10. Have fun!

Don’t sweat it too much, you know your pup best and you’re ready to make all kinds of great new memories together ❤

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