Skip to Content

Top 7 Things to Keep in Mind Before Going on a Road Trip with Your Dog

Going on a trip with your dog can be fun and exciting for both of you. However, a long trip can be quite different from a short trip to the park.

Before heading out, here’s what you can do so that you can be sure that you’ll be able to care for your pooch while on the road and at your destination.

Top 7 Things to Keep in Mind Before Going on a Road Trip with Your Dog

1. Don’t leave before talking to your vet

If you haven’t taken your dog to the vet recently, a good time to do so is before leaving on a trip.

While at your vet, you can ensure that your pet is up-to-date on his shots and vaccinations. You should also ask if there are any extra vaccinations your dog may need, such as a Lyme disease shot.

Should your pooch be on any drugs or medications or eat special food, you should stock up on them.

They may not be available where you’re going without a vet visit, and it’s better to have more than you need than not enough.

You may also want to get a copy of your dog’s medical records and a recommendation for a good vet in the area where you’ll be staying.

Top 7 Things to Keep in Mind Before Going on a Road Trip with Your Dog

2. Getting your dog ready

While many dogs are fine just sitting in the back seat or the passenger seat when going on a quick trip, this setup probably won’t work well when you’re going to be in the car for hours.

It’s a good idea to get a roomy crate for your canine that will help them feel safe and secure and keep them from moving around and becoming a distraction while you’re driving.

There are crash-tested and safety-certified crates available that are specifically designed for car travel, and a crate will also provide a safe space for your dog when you’re at your destination.

Some dogs feel uncomfortable in a new environment, and a familiar crate with its own scent may help them feel more at ease.

On the day you head out, be sure to feed your dog several hours before leaving to reduce the risk of car sickness and a mess.

You should also take a long walk before hitting the road because it can give your pet a chance to relieve themselves and expend excess energy.

Top 7 Things to Keep in Mind Before Going on a Road Trip with Your Dog

3. Make reservations at pet-friendly places

The last thing you want to do is to spend time hunting down a hotel, motel, or campground that allows you to have pets with you while on the road.

Many hotels and motels forbid pets, and some campgrounds have restrictions on dogs of certain sizes or breeds.

Avoid being surprised by hotel fees or not being able to stay in a particular location by doing some research ahead of time.

Best Western and Holiday Inn typically allow pets, and many chains will let you know on their website if pets are allowed and what fees may be required.

Top 7 Things to Keep in Mind Before Going on a Road Trip with Your Dog

4.  Make arrangements for dog care

Your dog may be more anxious in an area they are not familiar with, and it will only be worse if you’re gone for a long time.

Friends or family may mean well, but they may not know what to do if your dog becomes agitated or very upset.

If you’re going to be away from your dog for a while, it may be a good idea to arrange for your dog to stay at a doggy day care or arrange for your pet to be boarded.

Top 7 Things to Keep in Mind Before Going on a Road Trip with Your Dog

5. Plan your route

When going on a trip with your dog, it’s a good idea to map out a plan ahead of time that involves a number of breaks throughout the day.

Breaks will allow you and your dog to stretch your legs, and spending 15 to 30 minutes outside every four hours or so will help keep your dog from getting too restless or having an accident.

If possible, try to find areas that are pet-friendly for you to stop at.

Many rest areas have grassy or semi-wooded areas that you can walk your dog in, but you may also want to see if there are any parks in areas you’ll be driving through.

Top 7 Things to Keep in Mind Before Going on a Road Trip with Your Dog

6. Make a doggy bag

Unlike a bag that contains leftovers, this doggy bag should contain the things that you’ll need to take care of your pet while on the road.

The bag should be separate from your own luggage and be easily accessible.

Items that you should consider including are:

  • Food and water bowls
  • A couple of filled water bottles and plenty of food
  • Treats
  • Medications, if necessary
  • Dog-friendly sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Doggy water goggles if you’re going into the water
  • Brush, shampoo, flea comb, and tick remover
  • A leash and collar
  • Toys for chewing and/or fetching
  • A blanket and a towel
  • Doggy poop bags

Top 7 Things to Keep in Mind Before Going on a Road Trip with Your Dog

7. Update your dog’s ID

It’s stressful enough if your dog goes missing at home, but it can be even worse if you’re on vacation when it happens.

Make sure that your dog is always wearing a collar with a tag that lists your cell phone number.

You may also want to consider creating a tag just for the trip that also includes the number of friends or family in the area.

Top 7 Things to Keep in Mind Before Going on a Road Trip with Your Dog

A long trip with your dog will be much safer and easier if your dog is in good health if you have plenty of supplies on hand and if you plan to make stops along the way.

You’ll also have a much better time if you plan to stay at pet-friendly accommodations.

You also need to ensure your dog will be taken care of properly if you’re not with them for an extended period of time.

Author bio:
Matthew Young is a Boston based freelance writer. As an aspiring automotive journalist looking to make a name for himself in the industry, he is passionate about covering anything on 4 wheels. When Matthew is not busy writing about cars or new emerging tech, he usually spends time fiddling with his camera and learning a thing or two about photography. You can tweet him @mattbeardyoung


Thursday 11th of October 2018

Great things to think about before planning the trip. Good to know all you need and prepare before you go.. especially to make it less stressful for your dog/pet


Sunday 29th of January 2017

Great tips. I'd add that if your dog isn't going to be riding in a crate to think about a seatbelt. Why do people wear seatbelts? To keep us safe in an accident. Why should dogs wear seatbelts? To keep them safe in an accident. Really. I'd also suggest researching the seatbelt. There are no regulations so anyone can slap together some straps and call it a seatbelt. I've even seen some DIY instructions that look cute, may keep your dog in the backseat and will do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in a crash. Any seatbelt that allows the dog to run back and forth in the back seat? NOT A SEATBELT. Webbing across the seat to keep your dog in the back? Nope. In a crash, your dog will bounce around like a wayward ping pong. The seatbelt should hold the dog around the torso, not clip into her collar. (What do you think would happen in a crash if something tightens around your dog's neck?) The stitching should be strong and reinforced. The material should be strong and able to withstand the force generated in a crash . The strap should be long enough for comfort but too short to wrap around the dog/dog's neck/dog's limbs. There are some good ones out there that clip directly into the existing seat belt clip (holder thing, I don't know what its called). The ones that use the existing seatbelt/shoulder belt through a loop are less desirable. If the shoulder belt doesn't register itself as being in use and doesn't lock down, then it won't help your dog in a crash. I know that this comment is lengthy. Seatbelts are (clearly) important to me! The rest of your tips are awesome though.

Beverly Edwards

Monday 2nd of January 2017

My beagle, Abe, loves riding in the car! I will use these tips to bring him along for more trips!

Victoria C.

Friday 2nd of December 2016

We full-time traveled with our furbabies for several years. Sometimes "pet-friendly" hotels means they are sticking you in one of about 5 rooms that are very questionable. Always check the room before paying! ALWAYS!

Happy Travels,

Victoria Drive Me Crazy Family Adventure

Debra Holloway

Friday 2nd of December 2016

Oh I have seen some tragic events when traveling concerning pets. Many let their pets ride in the back of their pickup unchained or caged. Tragic mistake, many have jumped to their deaths while the vehicle was moving. They see something and think they can jump out and chase it.


Sunday 29th of January 2017

Absolutely. My sister had to amputate a dog's leg for just that reason. The dog is lucky to be alive. The awful owner just left her in the road because he didn't want to get blood in his truck. She was saved by a fed ex driver. After the amputation (my sister is a vet), my sister adopted the dog.

Love these woofs?

Help spread our waggie tales. You're pawesome for doing it!