Road trip adventures are even more fun and special when you share them with your furry kid. However, the idea of bringing a pet along can be daunting, especially if it’s your first road trip together. There are so many variables to consider--where to go, where to stay, what to bring, what to do with your pet while you’re there.
You really can have a stress-free, enjoyable trip with your pet, and we’re going to let you in on how. It all comes down to some thoughtful planning.
1. Decide on the Best Destination
Dreaming of a trip to the mountains? Long to head out to the beach? Overdue for a visit with Grandma? There are a lot of destination options, and choosing where to go isn’t always easy. Narrowing things down becomes easier when you look for destinations both you and your pet will enjoy. If Rover is shy and fearful, a quiet, uncrowded destination is probably best. If your dog prefers lazing indoors to running around outside, a trip to Grandma’s might be perfect. But if your dog loves to swim, run, and hang out in the sunshine, grab your sunscreen and head for the beach!
When choosing a destination, keep trip length in mind. Some pets would be happy to jump in the car every time the door opens. Others are fearful or dislike car rides. Some dogs are so high-energy that they can only manage short trips confined in a car. Think about how long your pet will stay content in the car and factor it into your decision.
The point is, treat your dog as though he’s a fellow traveler and not a tagalong sidekick. Keep his needs in mind, and you’ll be rewarded with a smooth trip you’ll both enjoy.
2. Look for the Best Lodging
When you’re traveling with a pet, the accommodations can make or break your trip. Pet policies vary from chain to chain, and sometimes from hotel to hotel within a specific chain. Do your homework and research fees, weight limits, number of pets allowed, and availability before you go. Keep in mind the level of comfort you’re looking for, as well. If you’re only looking for a place to crash, a hotel that merely accepts dogs will be just fine. If you’re looking to settle in and get comfortable, you will want to find a hotel that welcomes dogs with open arms--and there are plenty to choose from.
Once you find the right accommodations, consider requesting a first-floor room to allow for quick and convenient potty breaks for your pup. Avoid leaving your pet unattended in any hotel room unless absolutely necessary. If you do have to leave, plan to come back as quickly as possible, and let the front desk know that your pet is alone in the room. Don’t assume your pet will be fine--even the most well-behaved pet can become stressed and act out in an unfamiliar environment.
Often, pet parents are tempted to leave their pets alone so they can enjoy dinner out. If you and your pet will be road trip buddies, why not include him in your dinner plans? Plenty of restaurants welcome dogs on their outdoor patios. Some even have special doggie menus. Breweries are especially dog friendly, as they often allow pooches inside and out. And, where there are breweries, there are often food trucks!
Speaking of food trucks--many cities and towns have local food truck hot spots, and finding out when and where you can find your fave mobile eatery is just a matter of googling.
3. Gear up for the Ride
Traveling with your pet really isn’t a matter of tossing him in the car and hitting the road. It’s important to take measures that will keep your pet healthy, comfortable, and safe. Start with a checklist of essentials your pet will need on the trip, including food, fresh water, medications, a bed, favorite toys, a carrier, and a leash. If your pet is a restless traveler, packing a toy that will keep him busy in the car might help. A Kong stuffed with something yummy can buy you lots of peace and quiet.
Have a plan in place for safely securing your pet in your vehicle. It’s not safe for your pet to sit in the cargo area of your car, or to roam free while you’re driving. Pet seat belts, travel kennels, vehicle pet barriers, and specialized pet car seats are all great options for ensuring your pet’s safety while traveling.
Give your pet minimal food and water when in the car. Combined with the car’s motion, larger amounts of either can cause stomach upset, which can make both of you miserable. Keep fresh water available as needed, and add time in your travel schedule for frequent potty breaks. Many rest stops have designated potty areas for pets--just make sure to have waste bags available, as they’re not commonly provided.
The most important travel tip for your pet’s comfort and safety is to never leave your pet in the car unattended, especially in the summer heat. Planning ahead and having all necessary supplies on hand can eliminate the need for leaving your pet behind.
4. Pack some Patience
If you really want to ensure your trip with your pet goes smoothly, make sure you bring one all-important item: calm energy. Show your pet that you are excited, but not anxious, and that you are in control of your own emotions and the situation at hand. Pets are energy magnets -- when you are anxious, so are they. And if you plan ahead, stay flexible, and keep a positive attitude, you’ll have no reason to stress!
When in doubt, TripsWithPets is your go-to source for planning a road trip that’s full of bonding and good memories, instead of stressful and anxious moments. Count on us to help you plan the perfect pet-friendly getaway!