small black dog sitting in car back seat waiting to go on a road trip
small black dog sitting in car back seat waiting to go on a road trip

You, Your Dog and the Open Road: How to Best Travel & Take a Car Trip Together

You love your dog. You love sharing everything with them, including road trips. And because your little pal loves you too, they want to be wherever you are — even if that means a long car ride full of unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells. Planning your trip, packing carefully and preparing for bumps once you’re on the road is a great way to make sure you both enjoy the journey!

small dog sitting in womans lap planning car road trip together small dog sitting in womans lap planning car road trip together

Planning Ahead for Your Car Trip

Before you and your canine copilot hit the highway, check out these ideas and tips for planning your adventure on the open road together.

Dog-friendly Hotels

Make sure your accommodations welcome dogs. If your pup needs a carrier to sleep in, bring a collapsible model that’s easy to handle. See if there are public parks along your route for stretching out little legs and providing much-needed play breaks. There might even be dog parks to visit!

Health Check

Before leaving home, make sure to check that your dog’s vaccinations are up to date and bring copies of any records an out-of-town vet might need in case of an unexpected visit. Don’t forget to pack any medications, especially if they’re prescribed and can’t be easily replaced. It’s also a good idea to bring a pet first-aid kit.

Don’t Forget the ID Tags

Get some temporary ID tags that have your dog’s name, your name, your contact number and destination info. If you’re staying in different places, make one for each stop. If your pal’s permanent tag has your home address, you might want to take it off while traveling so you’re not advertising the location of an unoccupied home. If your dog is microchipped, check that the data is accurate.

Dog Collar & Leash Safety

How’s that collar fitting? Is it in good condition? You don’t want your little explorer to slip out of a loose or worn collar or harness. For improved visibility, consider a reflective collar or one with LED lighting. And don’t forget the leashes — make sure they’re in good condition and will be able to keep your best friend out of harm’s way.

Dog Test Drive

your dog isn’t used to riding in the car or in the particular vehicle you’re going to drive, try taking them on a few short test drives prior to the big adventure. Test drives are also good opportunities for both of you to try out any new gear. That way, you won’t be slowed down by any gear-related surprises on the road or get stuck in the driveway reading a manual instead of starting your trip.

Car Carrier

Keep a carrier secured inside your car for the duration of the trip. It’s much safer than a harness or restraint — although these keep your pup on the seat, they don’t protect small dogs from the harm that airbag deployment can do.

small white dog sitting on bed helping pack for car road trip small white dog sitting on bed helping pack for car road trip

Pet Packing

As the old maxim goes, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it — but there’s limited room in your vehicle. Here’s a list of priority must-haves for keeping the highways happy for you and your dog.

Food and Water

To make mealtimes feel like those you share at home, pack plenty of familiar favorites, such as Cesar® WHOLESOME BOWLS™ Wet Dog Food. And bring lots of water — sometimes drinking fountains are turned off and stores may be closed.

Unbreakable Dishes

If your four-legged friend’s home dishes are tough enough, it’s best to bring along what they know. However, if their usual food and water dishes are breakable, opt for a new shatterproof set for travel duty.

Dog Toys

When it comes to toys, try a mix of favorites and new surprises. Include toys that dispense treats or otherwise keep your pup happily busy — these are great for when they need a distraction and you need a nap. Just be sure that nothing you bring is irreplaceable or cherished, because those are always the items left at a rest stop three states away.

Bedding

A beloved bed or blanket will help your little adventurer rest easy, whether on the road or in cozy accommodations. If a night under the stars is on your itinerary, look at picking up a dog sleeping bag for insulated comfort in the great outdoors.

Potty Gear

Pack plenty of plastic bags and paper towels — just like you would for a walk around the block, but enough to accommodate the length of your trip. In case there’s no trash can in sight, you’ll want a large resealable container or airtight bag for holding your “souvenirs” until they can be properly discarded.

Cleanup Kit

No matter how well your furry friend does with road trips in general, accidents can happen. Be ready to clean up any bathroom or car sickness mishaps with nontoxic cleaners, disposable gloves, paper towels and small trash bags.

Eye Protection

The open car window with a smiling dog’s fuzzy face bathed in the rush of air is an iconic sight. But to be honest, it’s not safe for a number of reasons — eye damage being chief among them. Even at low speeds, a small insect can pack a punch. If you have to indulge your pal’s open-window obsession, get them some dog goggles.

small dog sitting in dog bed in front seat of car waiting to go on a road trip small dog sitting in dog bed in front seat of car waiting to go on a road trip

On the Road

Every adventure has its unplanned detours, so you have to be willing to go with the flow. The top priority is making sure that you and your best pal travel safely and enjoy your time together. With that in mind, here are a few basics to remember once you hop on the highway.

Feeding

Give your dog a small meal before you leave home. Feeding too much or too close to your departure increases the chances of car sickness. For the same reason, don’t feed your pup while the car is moving. If you’re on the

road for many consecutive hours, try giving them small meals and snacks during pit stops.

Be Alert

Whenever you’ve stopped the car for any reason, your buddy will probably be anxious to get out, thinking they’ve arrived at an exciting destination. Be wary of them trying to sprint out an open door and stay mindful of what’s around you in terms of traffic, other people, other dogs and so on.

Don’t forget to take some great photos of your dog along the way! Stops are a much safer time to document your trip together. Don’t try to handle taking pictures of your dog while you’re driving (no matter how cute they are).

Bathroom Breaks

As deeply as you and your little furball connect, they still won’t understand you when you explain that there could be two hours of driving between breaks. Allow them the opportunity to do their bodily business every time you stop, even if they haven’t been showing the usual signs that they need to go. Given the chance, they’ll hopefully take advantage.

Watch the Windows

If you let your dog ride outside their carrier, set the child lock on the windows so a paw doesn’t accidentally open or close one and potentially cause an injury.

Hot Cars + Hot Dogs

We know you’d never leave your priceless pal inside a hot car. But let’s say you have a car that can be left running with the air conditioning on and the doors locked, keeping your pup cool and your vehicle safe. Then everything should be fine, right? Well, even if your dog is perfectly comfortable, a well-meaning bystander might still smash a window to “rescue” them. Just something to keep in mind — a broken window hundreds of miles from home definitely puts a speed bump in your journey.

Where to?

There are now countless dog-friendly destinations across this great land where you and your pup will find rest, adventure and fun. Finding a pet-friendly hotel is easier than ever. Restaurants, bars and breweries often welcome four-legged friends. There are specialized parks and play zones designed for dogs. Numerous wilderness areas and beaches are open to your little pup. Sporting events, outdoor shopping plazas, ice cream shops … the list gets longer all the time, so start planning the next trip for you and your best pal!

Was this article helpful?

Yes No