Essential tips for pawsome road trips with pets
A woman and dog sit in the open rear cab of an SUV, playing.
Torn between your wanderlust and a wagging tail? Don’t give up on either. Road trips are all about bonding with family and friends – and your pets are family and friends! But they might not always be the best travel buddies. To save you the trouble, Way.com put together these essential tips for hassle-free road trips with pets. So, make room for some barks and purrs, and hit the road with your furry friends.
An amazing 78% of pet parents do not mind their fur babies tagging along on vacations! If you count yourself lucky to be a part of these numbers, we bet you’re looking forward to a fall adventure with your four-legged friend. But taking a road trip with your pets cannot be impulsive.
To put things into perspective – having a dog or cat cooped up for hours inside a car is no different from traveling with a toddler. No matter how well-traveled they are, long car rides aren’t easy on animals. But there are a few things you can do to keep them comfortable and happy. The key to a stress-free road trip with kids and pets is a good plan and prep.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind before setting out on a long drive with your pets.
Prep your car to be pet-ready
A terrier looking out the window of a car.
Don’t worry; no need to rush to the auto shop for a car makeover. But consider getting pet-proof seat covers and floor covers. Even the most well-groomed doggos and kitties cannot promise a no-scratch, no-mess guarantee. If you have an SUV with a pet barrier, set up and secure your pet’s bed or crate for them to lie in comfortably. Otherwise, ensure your pet is harnessed and secured to the car seat or floor. A harness is better than a collar, and never use a choke chain. Invest in a carrier for smaller dogs and cats to avoid the risk of injury while traveling.
No matter how cute or Instagrammable they look, letting your pet roam freely inside the car isn’t safe. They will likely distract you while driving, especially when traveling alone with a pet. Large dogs must have their own seat – ideally, in the back. And, though they’ll love it, don’t leave dogs to poke their heads out the window without supervision. Also, remember to deactivate the airbag for your pet’s seat. Experts say that airbags could be dangerous to pets in case of an accident.
Make sure your pet is comfy
Two terriers sleeping side by side in the back seat of a car.
If your pet is unfamiliar with your car, you must do a lot more than trial runs. First, they should get comfortable inside a vehicle with closed doors and windows. Start with a parked car. Let them sniff around and explore. Then you can take a short drive. Bring their favorite toy along or a t-shirt you wore recently – this could help make them feel safe when restrained to the backseat while you are driving. Try stopping somewhere busy so your pet gets used to the noise and chaos of the streets. At the end of every trial ride, don’t forget their treats to reinforce the positive association.
The key is to make your pet think of the car as their home on wheels. Crate-trained dogs are likely to prefer staying in their crates while on the move. Cats could be tricky, but they might like the security of a crate. Leave a few toys or blankets from home on your pet’s seat or crate to dial up the comfort. And don’t be shy to break into your pet parent’s voice and talk to them. Repeat their name to keep them feeling cared for and safe.
Take more breaks on a long road trip with pets
A man and leashed dog taking a walk.
Experts highly recommend taking a break every two hours. Apart from bathroom breaks, this also gives your pet a chance to exercise. Just like kids, a tired and happy pet is a better traveler! Even cats could use a walk now and then. You could train them at home with a leash instead of taking risks on the road. Always be leash-ready for rest stops. Don’t forget to research and find pet-friendly rest stops on your way. Mostly, it is a designated area for dogs to relieve themselves. But you could get lucky with a small play area, and your dog might enjoy a quick play date with other road-tripping dogs. If you are going off the beaten path, a short hike can burn off some energy during the day.
Stick to your pet’s regular schedule – try to keep up with their usual feeding times. Do not feed your pet in a moving vehicle. Give them a light meal 3-4 hours before your drive begins, and make regular stops for the rest of their meals. Don’t forget a portable water bowl and a large bottle of water as well
Find pet-friendly places to stay
A woman and ginger cat sit on the bed in a hotel room.
At the end of long drives, you and your pet would be craving a comfy place to sleep. The excellent news is that pet-friendly vacation rentals and hotels are on the rise. But what they really mean by adding “pet-friendly” varies. And that is why you need to review your hotel’s pet policy before booking. Do not rely only on the information available on their website. Always call and double-check directly.
Here are some questions you might have:
Do you allow more than one pet?
If traveling with multiple pets, make sure your pet-friendly hotel or vacation rental allows more than one pet per booking. Check the costs involved too.
Can the pet be left unattended in the room?
If you need to step out for a couple of hours to pick up some essentials or run an errand, does the hotel allow pets to be left unattended inside your room? Most hotels we have seen do not have this as an option, but do check.
Are there any weight or breed restrictions?
And if they do, can they make an exception for your good boy or girl? It doesn’t hurt to ask!
What amenities do they have for pets?
The least you can expect is a patch of grass, but some hotels make an effort. Treats at check-in, bowls and beds in the room, a restaurant with pet-friendly seating, and a pet menu!
Do they charge any additional pet fees?
Find out whether it is chargeable per night or for the entire stay. You can also check if any portion of the pet fee is refundable if there are no damages to the room after your visit.
Are there any off-limits areas?
You don’t want to wander around the property with your pet and land in trouble. Get a good idea of where your pet is allowed.
A stress-free place to relax is essential not only for the pet but also for the pet parent. You know how pets can quickly pick up on their owner’s mood.
Be prepared for emergencies
A black and white cat and brown dog sitting side by side.
Traveling pets are better off microchipped – if not, ensure they have a tag with up-to-date identification details. If you are going on a cross-country road trip with pets, include information about your destination. Even when microchipped, get them a flat collar with an ID tag.
Before hitting the road, call or visit your vet to confirm all vaccinations are up-to-date. Discuss any health concerns and possible remedies for emergencies. Diarrhea, restlessness, and car sickness are common concerns while traveling. Make sure you have all medications and supplements needed for the journey. Scan all your pet’s medical records and other documents onto a USB drive or phone before your long trip. It will come in handy in case of a vet visit during your road trip.
What to carry on road trips with pets
A white fluffy dog wearing sunglasses sitting beside an opened, half-packed suitcase.
Not everyone loves packing, but you can’t be sloppy about your pet’s kit for the road. Here’s a list to get you started:
- Medication, vitamins, and other supplements
- Pet-specific first-aid kit
- Proof of vaccinations
- Leash (not longer than 6 feet) and collar – many places require you to leash your pets.
- Food and water – if your pets get an upset stomach easily, it’s better to carry drinking water and familiar foods. (Don’t forget can openers for canned food)
- Bowls for food and water. You’ll also find cool water bottles for pets with attached cups.
- Kitty litter, litter box, waste disposal bags, potty pads, and wipes to deal with any mess.
- Toys – as many as you can – and treats to keep them interested.
If this is your first time traveling with a pet, here are two more things to remember.
Be considerate: Not everyone enjoys the presence of pets. It’s hard to understand why; I get it. Your floof could be the most adorable thing to you, but others might not feel the same way. Make sure your pet isn’t causing any inconvenience to anyone. That’s going to be rare anyway – get ready for more pets than stares while you travel.
Leave room for error: when traveling with pets, everything’s not going to turn out perfect. As you go, your plans might need tweaks, and that’s part of the experience. Just go with it and let nothing stop you from having a road trip of a lifetime.