Must-Read Tips Before Bringing Your Pet on a Road Trip

More and more Americans are choosing to bring their pets along on vacation. Here are some must-read tips before you hit the road with your four-legged friend!

Pet parents in America love to travel with their fur babies.

There are around 85 million families in the U.S. that own a pet. Of those, I read that approximately 78 percent of them travel with their pets each year.

What does that mean? If you’re one of those 85 million families with a beloved furry friend, chances are you want to travel with them. Luckily, there are plenty of dog-friendly vacation spots in the U.S. that are ready and waiting for you to explore!


Of course, traveling with pets is a whole different ball game than just traveling with, say, kids. After all, you can’t just throw a tablet and headphones at them to keep them happy and occupied for the duration of a trip. And apparently, not everywhere is as welcoming to dogs as they are to toddlers — though I think it’s safe to say that a toddler can cause just as much damage to a hotel room, if not more. I digress.

I’m sure you already know to bring plenty of water to keep your pet hydrated, but did you know that you should be careful about feeding them before heading out on your trip? Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind before you hit the road with your furry friend in tow.

Book Your Accommodations In Advance

Even though we love our pets and think of them as members of the family, hotel management and Airbnb owners don’t always feel the same. To avoid any surprises when you arrive (potentially leaving you without a place to stay!), it’s best to call ahead before you book. Always verify that they will allow your pet to stay there, even if you’ve read a hundred reviews online from other pet owners who said it was fine. You never know when policies have changed.

Luckily, though, the travel industry has caught on in recent years. I’ve seen restaurants with special doggy menus, hotels that welcome pets with treats and toys, and even entire towns full of dog-friendly things to do. And if your pup likes to take a dip, there are plenty of dog-friendly beaches in the U.S., too.

Always Plan for the Worst, Just In Case

closeup of a dog's collar and ID tag

No one really likes to imagine it happening to them, but it’s always best to prepare for the worst. Losing your pet in an unfamiliar place far from home is one of the worst things that could happen — and unfortunately, it does happen sometimes. Get ahead of it by making your pet easier to find.

The obvious first step is to have your pet microchipped if they aren’t already. If they do already have a chip, verify that the information is up to date. Also, make sure that your pet has appropriate ID tags and that the information is current.

Pets Should Be Safe and Secure

The best way for your pet to travel is always in a well-ventilated crate or carrier. No matter how well-behaved your pet is or how much they enjoy riding in a vehicle, it’s not always safe for them to have free roam of a car. Should your car make a sudden movement or you’re in an accident, your pet could be injured, panicked, or even escape in the event of a major crash.

Your pet should be comfortable in their carrier, especially for long trips. It should be well-ventilated, and large enough for them to sit, stand, lay down, and turn around. Let your pet get used to the carrier in the comfort of home before embarking on your vacation!

Keep Them Comfortable With Favorites

You know how you can’t travel without your pillow, or you know your kid won’t survive without their special stuffed animal? Those items bring us comfort. Many pets can be the same way about their special belongings.

While packing for your trip, don’t forget your pet’s favorite toys, bed, blanket, or bowl. Having these familiar items can help calm anxiety from being in a new, unfamiliar place. However, I don’t suggest stuffing all of your pet’s belongings into their crate. Doing so could make the space cramped and nearly impossible for them to move around and adjust their position. Instead, pack a special doggy suitcase!

Think About Skipping a Meal Before Traveling

dog looking at food bowl

Most pets will probably experience some level of stress while traveling, no matter what you do to make it a pleasant experience. That’s why you should also plan for the possibility of anxiety and even motion sickness. Food can upset your pet’s stomach, which could cause unwanted symptoms like nausea or diarrhea.

To (hopefully) avoid any accidents while traveling, feed your pet less than you normally would before you hit the road. You obviously shouldn’t starve them by any means, but it might be a good idea to skip the last meal that you would normally give them before you head out.

Keep Them Occupied

Much like handing a kid toys or a tablet in the back seat, you’ll want to think about keeping your pet occupied while they ride along. This may help distract them from stress they might experience in the vehicle.

Like I mentioned before, you definitely don’t want to cramp their crate space with every toy they own. Keep it limited to one or a few items. Try choosing items that will keep them busy for as long as possible. Puzzle toys are a great option, as they will keep your pet focused on trying to get a treat.

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