How to Plan a Dog-Friendly Road Trip · The Wildest

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Planning a Pup-Friendly Road Trip

Your dog is your favorite person anyway — why not plan the perfect vacation with them?

by JoAnna Lou
Updated July 25, 2023
A dog with its head sticking out the window of a moving car.
Photo: Javier Pardina / Stocksy
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Memorial Day weekend marked the unofficial start of summer vacations — and road trips with dogs, of course. Whether you are thinking of going on a brewery tour with your pup or heading to the beach, there are plenty of dog-friendly travel options. But there are a few things to consider before heading off on that spectacular road trip with your pup.

How do I prepare for a road trip with dogs?

Road trips with dogs involve a decent amount of time in the car, so it’s important to think about how your dog will safely ride with you. A crate or specially designed dog seatbelt (that is well-fitted) will help keep your dog safe in the event of an accident while also preventing distractions while you drive. The crate or seatbelt should be set up in the backseat, away from airbags which can be fatal. When you’re going on a road trip with dogs, the cargo area of hatchbacks and SUVs isn’t ideal because of crumple zones, where the most damage could happen to a vehicle. But you might need to put a crate there because of space restraints if you’re traveling with multiple people.

Oh, and be sure to get your dog used to their restraint before you need to use it by easing them into longer rides. You don’t want a multi-hour road trip to be their first time in a crate or seat belt.

How can I ensure my pup is safe during the road trip?

As cute as it is to have your pup’s head hanging out of the window, it's important to secure them safely in your car. Follow these steps to ensure the safest way to drive with a dog:

1. Schedule lots of stops.

Let your dog get out of the car to stretch, pee or poop, and burn off some energy.

2. Start with shorter journeys.

Some dogs get nauseous in the car, so it’s best to slowly build up to longer trips.

3. Don’t feed while driving.

Instead, feed your dog at least three hours before your trip, especially if they get motion sickness. Keep them hydrated along the way.

4. Don’t let your dog hang out the window.

It’s generally not safe, and it’s not good for their eyes. The wind can dry them out and may also expose them to flying debris. 

5. Don’t give them treats on the trip.

Dogs have been known to choke while eating in transit, so don’t risk it.

6. When you arrive, check the floor of the hotel room carefully.

Dangerous medication in the form of pills is often dropped on hotel floors.

7. Don’t leave your pets in the room unattended. 

This is against most hotels’ pet policies, and also increases the likelihood they might damage something in the room.

8. Be mindful of people and dogs you encounter.

Especially in hallways and elevators — as hard as it is to believe, not everyone wants to say “hi” to your dog.

What should I consider when choosing a destination for my dog-friendly road trip?

When you’re planning for the best road trip with a dog, you won’t have much difficulty finding pet-friendly accommodations because of the growing market for vacationing with pups. Most websites can filter hotel search results by pet-friendly accommodations and let you know of any size limitations. Websites like Go Pet Friendly and Bring Fido will list only dog-friendly lodging, including campgrounds. Online reviews are invaluable for narrowing down choices. TripAdvisor is a great choice since there are millions of users, and you can search reviews by keywords such as “dog” or “pet.” Check out our list of 51 spots for awesome dog-friendly summer trips.

How do I plan the route on my dog friendly road trip?

When figuring out how to road trip with a dog, check your route for pet-friendly spots in the major cities that you’ll pass through. Go Pet Friendly’s Road Trip Planner has lots of road trip essentials for dogs and lets you map your route and view pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, parks, and stores along the way. Many restaurants with outdoor seating allow pets, but not all, and policies can change, so be sure to call ahead to confirm.

What are the rules for dog parks on my route?

  • Abide by park leash laws, as tempting as it is to let your dogs run around outside.

  • Don’t leave bagged poop on the side of the trail. Even biodegradable bags take a long time to degrade. It’s preferable to carry out the bag until you see a trash can or bury the poop (without the bag) off the trail.

  • Follow trail etiquette, such as yielding to passing hikers and keeping your pup close and under control.

How do I make sure nothing bad happens to my dog on the road trip?

  • Before you leave on your trip, make sure microchips and identification tags are updated with your current cell phone number because that will be your main point of contact.

  • Carry a photo of your dogs so that you have it handy in case one of them gets lost.

  • Look up the closest emergency hospital to the hotels you’ll be staying at along the way. This way, you’re not scrambling to find a veterinarian if something happens.

What are the best tips for dogs on road trips?

  • Remember to take enough breaks to let your dogs stretch their legs and have pee breaks.

  • Have snacks and water handy so your pups don’t get hungry or dehydrated. 

  • Be careful when leaving your dogs in the car when it’s warm out. Cars can heat up to a dangerous level even if it’s only 60 degrees outside.

  • Attach important information to your dog’s crate that would be invaluable in a car accident.

FAQs (People Also Ask)

1) How can I keep my pup entertained during the road trip?

Give your dog a safe chew toy they can’t choke on in the car, and make sure to plan stops so you can get outside and play with them if it’s a long trip.

2) What are the tips for making the car ride more comfortable for my pup?

Remember to take enough breaks to let your dogs stretch their legs and potty, and have snacks and water handy so your pups don’t get hungry or dehydrated. 

4) What are the precautions I should take when visiting new environments with my pup?

Ensure microchips and identification tags are updated with your current cell phone number, and look up the closest emergency hospital to the hotels you’ll be staying at.

5) What should I feed my dog before a long road trip?

Don’t give your dog food the day of a long road trip to reduce the risk of nausea and vomiting. Instead keep your pup hydrated and feed them on arrival.


JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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