Pet Travel. Made Easy.

The Complete Guide to Planning the Perfect Pet Friendly Road Trip

The Complete Guide to Planning the Perfect Pet Friendly Road Trip - Everything you'll need to make your next vacation a success - @GoPetFriendlyYou’ve been dreaming about it for years, and it’s finally happened … for the first time in your life, you have your very own dog! Of course, he’s perfect in every way. You’ve already taught him some basic commands, and now you’re ready to strike out on your first big adventure together. You can almost see the miles of open road, feel the wind in your fur, and imagine all the new scents along the way. It’s going to be fantastic … but first you’ll have to do a little preparation so your dog friendly vacation comes off without a hitch!

Road trips are the best kind of vacation with a dog – it’s easy to adjust your pace and decide moment by moment what sounds like fun. Laying out your route and locating accommodations and activities along the way is a cinch when you use a pet friendly road trip planner, but there are a few other things you’ll need to think about before you take off!

Prepare Your Vehicle

In addition to making sure your car is tuned-up, you’ll need to get it “pet ready” before you hit the road. Coming home together safely is the most important part of any trip, so be sure you have a way of securing your pet while you’re traveling. Crates, carriers, or car harnesses will prevent your dog from making an unannounced visit to check the view from your lap while you’re driving, and will protect him from injury in case of an accident. Also remember to deactivate the airbag for any seat your pet will be occupying.

Talk To Your Vet

Call your vet to confirm that your dog’s vaccinations are up to date and discuss any possible health concerns that might exist where you will be traveling. Also ask about possible remedies for car sickness, diarrhea and restlessness – just in case!

Finally, consider having your pet micro-chipped and updating your contact information with the company that registers the chip. It would be a nightmare, but pets do become separated from their people while traveling. Shelters, animal hospitals, veterinary clinics and humane societies have scanners that read the chips so they can quickly notify you of your pet’s recovery.

Polish Your P’s and Q’s

 You can avoid embarrassing and potentially dangerous situations by teaching your dog reliable Come, Heel, Quiet, and Settle commands. Practice is the key. Before you set out, test your progress somewhere with a lot of distractions, like an outdoor café or the dog park.

Gather the Gear

Dogs need a lot of stuff when they are on vacation! Here’s a checklist of things you’ll want to take along:

  • Packing the right gear for your pets is important for any pet friendly road trip.Food and Treats – if you are not certain that you’ll be able to find the brand of food and treats you feed your pet along the way, pack enough for the whole trip plus a little extra. And, for canned food, don’t forget the can opener!
  • All medications, vitamins, and supplements.
  • Drinking Water – if your dog’s stomach is easily upset, it pays to take along drinking water from home.
  • Food and Water Bowls – portable bowls pack easily and are great when you are out & about, and anti-spill water bowls are fantastic in the car.
  • Your dog’s bed and a couple of toys – to make him more comfortable when you spend the night in unfamiliar locations.
  • Current Identification Tag – Of course you’ll want to include your cell phone number, or other phone number where you can be reached while you are away, on your dog’s ID tag. If your dog requires medication, include that information on his tag as well.
  • Leash – Many places require your pet be on a leash no longer than six feet. Also consider a long leash (15-20 feet) if you plan to hike with your dog or let them run in an unfenced area.
  • Waste bags to pick up after him along the way.
  • A couple of rolls of paper towels and some carpet cleaner – for muddy paws and other messes.
  • An old towel – in case of rain, or after swimming.
  • First aid kit.
  • Proof of vaccinations – you’ll need these at some dog parks, hotels, and campgrounds. Also, if you need to use a pet sitter, day care, or kennel services while you are traveling, they will require these documents.
  • Medical records – having your pet’s veterinary records with you could be critical in the event of an injury or illness. Rather than lugging around a large file, scan the documents to an easy-to-pack USB drive. And, don’t forget to take your vet’s telephone number, and the telephone number for the National Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435.
  • Photo of your dog – in case you get separated, have a current photo handy so you can create posters quickly.

All this advance preparation takes some time, but it’s the secret to making sure your trip is enjoyable for everyone. With the groundwork done, it’s time to decide where you’ll go and what you’ll see!

Less is More When it Comes to Fun

Start poking around and you’ll find that there are thousands of pet friendly destinations that would be fun to visit with your dog. From hiking in the mountains, to romping on the beach – the possibilities are almost endless! It’s tempting to jam-pack your itinerary with all of the pet friendly stops you’ll find along the way, but remember to leave time to stop and sniff the roses.

To a dog, nothing is more important than thoroughly sniffing the tree before them. Rushing him on to the next tree, and the one after that, before he’s finished with the first is just plain frustrating. When you’re traveling with your pet, trade in your scurry for a mosey, and really enjoy your experiences rather than just checking them off some list.

Booking a Place to Stay

Dogs - Ty and Buster at Hotel Salomar - San Diego, CAReserving a pet friendly hotel can be a tricky proposition. While more and more locations welcome pets, the degree of enthusiasm with which your dog will be received ranges from “barely pet tolerant” to “over-the-top accommodating.” Ask these questions, and you’ll have all the information you need to find the perfect place to stay:

Does the hotel accept pets? Hotel pet polices change quickly, so it’s a good idea to verify that the property you’re considering still welcomes pets.

Are there any weight or breed restrictions? It’s common for hotels to impose weight restrictions – but if you’ve found a hotel that’s a perfect in every way, except that your pup is a little too big, ask if they’ll make an exception! Most hotels leave a little wiggle room in their size limitations and will try to accommodate you when asked.

How many pets are allowed per room? When you travel with multiple pets, it’s important to ask if you’ll all be allowed to stay in the same room together. 

Will you be charged additional pet fees? This is where a hotel’s true pet friendly colors will show. Some hotel chains welcome pets to stay for free, while others heap on additional charges that can add up to more than the nightly room rate! Be sure you have a clear understanding of the cost before booking your reservation. Determine whether the fee is per night or for the entire stay, whether it’s charged per pet or is fixed regardless of the number of pets, and whether any portion of the fee is refundable if the room isn’t damaged during your stay.

Are pet travelers limited to specific pet friendly rooms? Everyone has their preferences … proximity to the elevator, stairwell, ice machine, and high floors vs. low floors. It’s good to know up front if the hotel will accommodate your requests.

What amenities does the hotel offer? The most important amenity is always a convenient, grassy pet relief area, but some hotels also provide treats at check-in, pet beds and bowls in the room, doggy room service menus, spa treatments, and pet sitting services. Some hotels have restaurants with pet friendly patios, and some even host a “yappy hour” in the lobby each evening! Deciding how much to pamper your pooch is up to you.

May pets be left unattended in the room? Determining up front whether the hotel allows you to leave your pet alone in the room while you step out for something to eat or to run an errand helps you plan appropriately. Hotels are primarily concerned with two things when dogs are left unattended: damage to the room, and barking that disturbs other guests. To alleviate those concerns, the hotel may require that pets be in a crate when you’re away and following our tips for a quiet stay will help ease any worries with barking.

Are some areas of the hotel off limits to pets? Pets are generally not allowed in breakfast areas, restaurants, pools, and fitness rooms, so ask to sure you can live with the restrictions.

Dog Bowl on Sidewalk

Keep to the Schedule

Maintaining your dog’s feeding and exercise schedule as much as possible during your trip will reduce any anxiety he may feel about being away from home. Set an alarm to remind you when meal time is approaching, and set aside time each day to let your dog stretch, run, and burn off some energy – isn’t this what being on vacation is all about, after all?

Be Considerate

When you travel with your pet, you are an ambassador for all pet travelers – so make a good impression! Abide by the rules of the places you visit, especially keeping your dog on-leash and always cleaning up after him. Inconsiderate behavior can have unfortunate repercussions on future pet travelers and local pet owners.

Roll With It

When things go a little sideways – and they sometimes will – you can choose to let it ruin your day, or you can choose to see it as a new adventure. Dog are great teachers in that they’re never attached to the outcome … where you end up, how many places you see along the way … those things are all irrelevant to your dog. He just wants to be with you and have fun. If you can embrace that mindset, you’ll see every detour as an opportunity to have a great time, and you and your dog will grow closer for the experience.

With these tips in hand, your first dog friendly vacation will be a breeze! And, most importantly, you’ll be making memories with your best friend that will last a lifetime.

Waggin’ trails!

Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
Pet Friendly Hotels | Pet Friendly Destinations | Pet Friendly Activities

  • Heathclyff St James-Deville says:

    This would make a useful document to make available as a PDF

  • Adam says:

    Another great road trip post, Amy.

    Gather the gear section is excellent to reference when packing. It takes a lot of planning and patience to travel with your dog but sharing an adventure with them is so worth it!

    • Amy at says:

      Totally agree, Adam. We love looking back over all the great trips we’ve taken with our boys. Waggin’ trails to you!

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