Caitlin UltimoPet Parenting / Travel

Tips for Taking a Road Trip With Dogs

Since airlines currently don’t allow pets over 20 pounds to fly (unless they are assistance dogs), many pet parents opt to take a fun road trip with dogs in tow. From past pet travel experiences, it seems that when hour four settles in, the pack starts to go a bit stir crazy.

Over the past 3 ½ years, we’ve trekked from Boston to North Carolina and back, taken on a traffic-filled ride to the Jersey Shore and back, and experienced an adventure-filled, stop-and-go trip from Boston to Charleston.

My takeaway: always be prepared for not only the car ride itself, but the days leading up to it. Whether you’re driving cross country with a dog or just going a few miles, here are some tips for how to travel with a dog.

Before You Head Out:

Talk to Your Veterinarian

Whatever the distance, it is always important to talk to your veterinarian before going on a road trip with dogs. Let them know where you are traveling to and how long you’ll be in the car, and always get their advice and suggestions that are unique to your pet and their health.

A quick vet visit and checkup are most important for those of you who have an elderly or special needs pooch that may have a harder time adjusting to new environments during pet travel.

Exercise Your Pet

Prior to your trip, possibly even a week before, ramp up your pup’s exercise. This means longer walks and stays at the dog park, or for the busy/working pet parent, drop them off at your local doggy daycare to party it up with their best buddies. This will help with minimizing their energy levels so they don’t get too antsy during the trip.

Make Your Car Pet-Friendly

It is equally as important to make sure your car is equipped with all the accessories your dog needs to feel safe and comfortable during your long trip. When traveling in our family car, we’ve opted for the MidWest Wire Mesh Universal Car Barrier, which keeps them comfortably secure in the back. The gate prevents them from wandering from seat to seat, or even row to row, making it less likely for them to have a misstep and potentially get hurt.

Since the gate is secured in the trunk, we’ve added plush K&H Pet Products Travel & SUV Pet Beds for a comfortable place for the pups to lie down, and to avoid them getting cramped from lying on the hard floor.

We also bring multiple Kurgo Collaps-A-Bowl Pet Bowls that are easy to store and pop out when ready to use. These are the perfect bowls for rest stops, and they take up minimal space.For pets traveling in a car seat, we strongly suggest Kurgo Direct to Seat-Belt Tether, which is super simple to use by clicking directly into your vehicle’s seat-belt attachment. We recommend this seat-belt tether to all New Jersey residents in particular, as it is a state law for dogs that are not secured in a crate to be buckled in. New Jersey drivers who do not follow the pet travel seat belt law can be pulled over and fined for the offense. Click it or ticket, pup.

Figure Out Your Route

Something I’ve learned after going a few thousand miles without a pit stop plan is to always know your route. Take a look at the route before you head out on a road trip with dogs to figure out which towns you will travel through and where the rest stops are.

Even though your pup will likely be sleeping a good chunk of the time, it is important to stop every 2 hours to get out, stretch their legs and have some water.I strongly suggest checking out each state’s Department of Transportation website and finding the Travel Service Plazas Tourist Information Center link. From there you will see all the rest stops as well as their services. At least a handful will have “dog walk area” or even “dog park” listed.

If your selected rest stop doesn’t have this and you still need to stop, make sure you are extra cautious when taking your pup out of the car and onto the parking lot pavement for a lap. After all, you are next to a busy highway, and your pup may be out of sorts in an unfamiliar place. Hold that leash extra-tight and be overly aware of your surroundings as cars are backing up and strangers are walking about.

Get Going:

As for the day of departure, I suggest a long walk, a game of fetch or dog park play right before you get in the car. You want them not only physically exhausted, but also mentally, so they will spend their time snoozing it off while you get miles under your belt. Once they are safely secure in the car and you’re packed up with all the doggy necessities you need for your getaway, it’s go time. With all your newly learned pet travel tips for how to travel with a dog, you can kick back, relax and hit the road with a happy pup. As always, stay safe, and remember you have precious (and adorably cute!) cargo in the back. Safe travels!

Jenna Donleavy bio