11 Tips For Taking a Road Trip with Your Dog

Traveling with your dog can be great fun—for both you and Fido—when you follow some essential travel and road rules.


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Archer and Pez had never ridden an elevator before, but they stood in the lobby of La Quinta Inn waiting like seasoned travelers. When the elevator doors opened, they didn't even bat an eye. They just stepped in like they were used to being whisked upward to another floor every day of their lives.

This anecdote is only remarkable because Archer and Pez are my dogs.

And they are well-traveled dogs. Because they are well-behaved Jack Russell terriers, small (about 10 pounds each), housebroken, and not big barkers, they've been invited on a number of family trips. And they've exhibited nothing but boundless enthusiasm for every activity in their family's travel itinerary.

Taking a car trip with your dog is fun—and easy when you plan ahead. Here are some tips for hitting the open road with your dog.

  1. Groom before you travel. If you rent a car (or take your own), you don't want to have to clean up a lot of extra hair. Give your dog a good brushing before you pack to remove as much excess hair as possible. This is especially important when renting cars; some car rental companies might charge you a cleaning fee for pet hair.
    Get grooming tips for dogs.
  2. Make sure your pet has ID. Your dog should wear its collar with appropriate pet ID (its name, your cell phone number and address) so that if your dog becomes separated from you, whoever finds it can contact you. A microchip identification is even better: Collars can come off, but a microchip, which is embedded beneath the dog's skin, is forever.
  3. Take along health records. Pick up papers from your vet to show that your dog is up-to-date on inoculations. If there is a chance that you might board your dog on your trip, make sure it has had a kennel cough vaccination. Most boarding facilities will require documentation of this vaccination because kennel cough is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection that can spread quickly in the confines of a kennel.
    Get tips for boarding your pet.
  4. Pack photos of your pet. It's unlikely that you will lose your pet while you travel, but accidents happen. And losing a pet in an unfamiliar location is even more terrifying—for pet and owner. If, for example, your pet should escape from your car or hotel room, having up-to-date photos will assist others in helping you find your pet.
  5. Travel with your pet in a crate. The safest way for your pet to travel inside your car is inside a crate. This keeps your dog off your lap and away from your feet while you are driving. It also keeps your dog safely secured when you get in and out of your car. You can also buy specially made doggie seat belts for your backseat.
  6. Take your own pet food and water. Travel alters your pet's daily schedule, but there's no need to also change its diet. Take along your dog's regular food and treats and stay on your at-home feeding schedule. Bring water from home, too. Just fill a gallon jug and keep your pet well-hydrated while traveling.
  7. Stop every couple hours. This is good advice for any traveler—human or canine. Every couple hours, stop the car at a grassy rest area and take a walk, allow your pet to go to the bathroom, and get a drink. A walk will expend some energy.
  8. Stay at pet-friendly hotels. Many hotel chains (and independent hotels) open their doors to dogs. Some hotels will let your pet stay without an extra charge. Others require a nonrefundable damage deposit. There might also be restrictions on the number of dogs allowed as well as their size/weight. Look online for hotels in each state that allow pets. Hotels that welcome pets include Motel 6, La Quinta Inns & Suites, Red Roof Inn, Comfort Inn, Candlewood Suites, and many others. Call the specific hotel you want to stay at to verify that they allow dogs and to inquire about restrictions or additional charges.    
  9. Dine at pet-friendly restaurants. Look for dining (usually with outdoor venues) that allows you to bring along your dog. For example, you can enjoy fresh-shucked oysters with your pooch at Up The Creek Raw Bar in Apalachicola, Florida. Or sip a pale ale with your Lab (or other breed) at Lucky Labrador Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon. Check out restaurant/bar rules before you travel to get a list of dog-friendly dining establishments.
  10. Scope out dog-friendly activities. Some towns are more dog-friendly than others. Many offer activities that you can do with your furry friend. Surf with your dog in Coronado, California, go beachcombing with your pet at St. George Island, FL, or hike with your pooch through Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine.
  11. Clean up after your pet. Wherever you are, make sure you take along cleanup bags for waste. Be a good dog owner and follow the rules established by dog-friendly locations about waste removal.
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