A Guide to Road Trips with Your Dog

There’s nothing better than hitting the open road with your furry friend! Here’s everything you need to know in order to plan a dog-friendly trip.

Nov 1, 2023By Lauren Rey
guide to road trips with your dog

People are traveling with their pets more than ever and dogs especially love a good adventure. This can be a lot of fun, but also lead to some difficult times for the unprepared. A few preparations ahead of time will ensure that your dog stays safe, comfortable, and stress-free.

Making Your Dog Comfortable in the Car

dog road trip

If your dog is not already used to longer car rides, start by taking them for some shorter ones to get them acclimated. If your dog experiences any anxiety or tummy troubles, talk to your veterinarian about treatment options. There are prescriptions and supplements that can help, as well as over-the-counter calming aids such as Adaptil travel spray.

Once your dog is ready for the long ride, you’ll want to set them up with a comfortable space in the car. Bring along their bedding or a blanket from home and a few of their favorite toys. If your dog gets bored during the ride, try an interactive toy like a Kong to keep them occupied. Make sure they always have access to fresh water. A spill-proof travel bowl will help keep your pup hydrated and your backseat mess-free.

Keeping Your Dog Safe During the Trip

dog car safety seat

Just like any other passenger, your dog should be secured while in a moving vehicle. There are several options from dog car seats, safety harnesses, seat belts, and crates. Do some research and choose the best one for your dog based on their size, body type, and where they will be riding in the car. Keeping them secure is also important during stops. Dogs may get overly excited in new places and try to jump from the car as soon as you open the door. The last thing you want is your dog getting loose at a rest stop.

Dogs love sticking their heads out of car windows, but we need to be mindful of their safety. Consider getting your dog a pair of safety goggles to protect their eyes from the sun and any possible debris. Don’t let your dog hang out the window on highways while going at a high rate of speed.

dog goggles

Keep your pet cool in warm weather. Make sure the car’s air conditioning is reaching them and consider using a cooling mat if your pet is prone to overheating. Never leave your dog alone in the car. Temperatures inside of a parked car can rise to dangerous heatstroke-inducing levels in just minutes. If your dog is elderly, overweight, or brachycephalic, they are at a higher risk for overheating. Take extra precautions to keep them cool as recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association AVMA warm weather pet safety.

You’ll also want to make sure that your dog is up to date on their vaccines and parasite preventatives (fleas, ticks, heartworm). They may be visiting areas that have high traffic for other dogs and wildlife. Consult your veterinarian for any additional preventatives they may need based on where they’ll be visiting.

Planning a Dog-Friendly Route

dog rest stop

Traveling with a dog requires a little more planning than usual but it’s worth it when you see how much fun they will have! Once you have your destination in mind, plan out the route and look for dog-friendly stops along the way. Remember that your dog will need a potty break every few hours so look for roads with plenty of rest stops or parks along the way. You’ll also need to find dog-friendly activities and accommodations. Dog travel resources such as Bring Fido can help you find hotels, restaurants, and activities that allow dogs. When searching for hotels just be sure to check for any weight or breed restrictions. Bring their bed or crate inside to give them a safe and familiar place to rest.

During stops and activities make sure the weather and environment are tolerable for your dog. Bring plenty of water and take frequent breaks so they don’t overexert themselves. If you are visiting a national park or wilderness area, familiarize yourself with any local plants or wildlife that may pose a risk to your pet like snakes, poisonous plants, mushrooms, etc. Most parks will have signs posted around the main entrance and/or trailheads.

dog taking break

Plot out a few emergencies or veterinary clinics along your route and at your final destination. Should an emergency arise you’ll be able to quickly reference the closest one. You’ll also want to keep information handy for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control in case your dog ingests something at a stop. Gas stations and rest stops can often be littered with things that may be toxic to dogs like gum, candy, cigarettes, antifreeze, and oil.

Dog Road Trip Checklist

dog travel backpack
  • Food, water, medication, and treats - pack enough for the duration of your trip plus a few extra days in case of any unexpected delays
  • Bring copies of your dog’s vaccine history and medical records
  • Make sure their ID tags and microchip have current contact information
  • Bedding, blankets, and toys to give your dog comfort and familiarity
  • Travel bowls for food and water
  • A safety restraint such as a seatbelt, harness, car seat, or travel crate
  • Seat cover
  • Extra leash
  • Towels
  • Pet wipes
  • Dog shampoo
  • Poop bags
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Cleaning products for any spills or accidents
  • Any activity-related gear that may be needed such as a life jacket for swimming or a warm jacket for snow

Now you have everything you need to keep your dog happy, healthy, and safe on the road. You and your pup are ready for an epic adventure! Where will you go?

Lauren Rey
By Lauren Rey

A lover of all animals, Lauren’s background is in the veterinary world, but she is now a content writer on travel, wildlife, and all things pets! She’s based in Florida, but when not writing, she’s usually plotting out a new road trip route with her partner-in-crime. Pickles is a mixed-breed rescue dog that loves hiking, road trips, and Starbucks just as much as her mom does!