The Ultimutt Dog-Friendly Road Trip Planner

Updated: 4/21/2021
For many pet pawrents, being able to bring our dogs on vacation is a dream come true. And with more and more hotels, restaurants and venues opening their doors to our furry best furiends, its easier than ever to plan a dog-friendly road trip.

And while traveling with a dog is exciting, there can be some additional challenges. From motion sickness to dog-restricted areas, to long days in the car, having your canine pal with you can, at times, be difficult. But with some foresight and a bit of preparation, you can craft a trip with your dog that you both will love!

If you need a little help planning the pawfect journey, here is the ultimutt list of tips that’s sure to make a road trip with your dog something to bark about!

Make an appointment with your veterinarian

Your dog will be encountering new places, people and pups on the trip, so make sure they are in tiptop shape. Check to see that they are up to date on all their vaccines and parasite treatments, and discuss your itinerary with your vet in case your dog may need additional ones for the areas you will be visiting. Get a copy of your dog’s medical record to take with you for crossing state lines, visiting local dog parks, or if you need to find pet care while you are away.

This is also a good time to refill any medications your dog may need. If your dog has a history of motion sickness or travel anxiety, your vet can also prescribe or recommend medications that can help with these conditions. Be sure your dog’s license tags are current, and if they aren’t already, you may want to get your pooch microchipped in case they get lost.

Plan your road trip

Whether you have one destination in mind, or several, taking a dog on a road trip that includes plenty of dog-friendly stops is the key to a successful journey. On average, you should stop every 2 to 4 hours for about 15 to 30 minutes to allow your dog to go potty, get some water and food, and a bit of exercise. Younger puppies and older dogs, or even dogs with certain medical conditions, may need to stop more often.

While many state-run rest areas offer places for leashed pups to roam, you can plan destinations into your route that let you both have fun! Find a local hiking trail or romp on a beach before hitting the road again.

Be sure to find hotels along the way that are dog-friendly, and book rooms ahead of the journey so that there’s no anxiety at the end of a long day of driving. Going camping with a dog? Check that the campsites allow pets and read over any rules they may have. Also be aware of the weather where you are heading, and pack anything your dog may need. Bring clothes or shoes for any conditions or terrain that may be rough on your dog, and throw in a towel or two for rainy or dirty conditions.

Plan for your dog's car safety

If you’re planning a day long ride, or are driving cross country with a dog, you’ll need to keep your dog secure while the car is moving. The safest place for any dog is inside a secured carrier or crate. Other dogs will do great with a harness and pet seat belt where they can sit or lie down in the back seat. There are also barriers available to keep them from jumping into the front seat with you and causing a distraction. Be sure to test drive your safety strategy before the trip so you can adjust it as needed.

Besides keeping your dog restrained, you should also prevent them from hanging their head out the window. Your dog could be hit by flying objects, or by other vehicles, or could even fall out! For their safety, its best to keep your dog inside the car at all times. Don’t furget to put the child lock on the power windows too, just in case a misstep opens or shuts the window. Check here for more car travel tips for dogs that will keep your furry bestie safe and happy.

Plan for your dog's travel issues

If your dog is prone to motion sickness or travel anxiety, the trip will be no fun for them. Whether or not your dog has a history of these issues, you should be ready with medications and other strategies in case they need them. Antihistamines can stop the motion sickness before it starts, while sedatives will calm your dog so they can relax.

You can also look to herbal treatments, aromatherapy and dog pheromone products for their calming effects. Having a pillow or blanket that smells like home can help make your dog feel more secure too. Bring along some toys and treats to distract your pup, and consider playing soft music in the car. Training your dog to enjoy car rides can eliminate any fear they may have, and make the adventure exciting again! For motion sickness, withhold food for a few hours before starting the trip to decrease the nausea, and be sure to give them any medications before the trip begins for the best results.

Get packing!
The best road trips for dogs include everything they need. Here’s a checklist of supplies to help you get packing:
  • Food and treats
  • Water, bottled or from home, as water from new places can result in digestive upsets
  • Bowls
  • Toys and chews
  • Medical records and tags
  • Crates, safety belt or car harness
  • Extra collars, harness, and leash
  • Pillows, blankets, bed and towels
  • Medications
  • Herbal remedies, pheromone products, and aromatherapy
  • Dog first aid kit
  • Protective clothes, shoes, or reflective vest
  • Portable fan or window shade
  • Insect repellant and sunscreen for dogs
  • Brush, comb, and shampoo
  • Cleaning wipes and carpet cleaner for messes
  • Seat covers and mats for car protection
  • And lots of clean-up bags!

Enjoy the adventure!

Once you are on your way, enjoy all the fun moments with your best pal. There are so many sights and sounds to experience on the road, and each day will bring new adventures! Whether you are heading to an event, or love getting lost and discovering new places, be sure to keep your dog’s safety in mind.

You should never leave your dog in the car alone. Temperatures can soar in a closed car quickly, and can lead to heatstroke. In colder temperatures, a car can act like a freezer, and your pooch could freeze to death. Even in mild weather, your dog’s anxiety could increase in an unfamiliar place without you, which could result in damage to your car, or even worse, injury to your pup as they struggle to get out. Having another person on the trip is the best way to make sure your pup is never alone.

If you are visiting any humans-only destinations, consider hiring a dog walker or dog sitter to keep your pup safe and calm while you are away. With this peace of mind, you can enjoy yourself knowing your pup is being pampered!

Now that you’re an expert at planning the ultimutt dog-friendly adventure, there’s no limit to the memories you can create with your dog. Bon Voyage!

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