[Last updated on June 28th, 2016]
Before we had kids, our dog was our kid. We got our tiny, 8-week old shorthair dachshund when we had been married about two years. He had clothes. I knitted him a dog sweater once. Now he’s 10 years old and about 12 pounds. He’s not our only baby anymore, but he is still part of our family, and we like to take him with us when we can. It’s easier than boarding and he makes the kids feel at home when we are away from home.
Before you go
Make sure your pet is in good health and is up to date on all vaccinations before you travel. You should also have a sturdy collar or harness on your dog with tags that are readable with your current phone number on them. Microchipping is an even more reliable method of identification, doesn’t cost much, and only takes a minute or two online to update any time you move. If your pet is found by someone, a small tattoo inside their ear indicates that they have a chip that can be read at any vet’s office.
For your stay
Taking your dog or cat with you when you travel is totally doable. Many hotels are pet-friendly or at least allow them even if they are not service animals, and you can find vacation rentals on AirBnB that clearly state whether or not pets are allowed. Be sure and clear your specific size and breed of dog before you make a reservation.
If you do bring your pet, I highly recommend a soft-side travel carrier. These collapse for easy stowing in the car, yet provide a bit of that home smell to alleviate stress while you’re on the road.
Remember to bring a favorite blanket, towel, or toy to provide some familiarity while you travel.
The Poochie Bowl is an excellent travel companion! Not only does it keep long or furry ears out of your dog’s water dish, it has travel lid that goes under the bowl and allows you to store food.
In the car
Pets can make a mess of seats. But you don’t have to spend a lot to protect your upholstery. Grab a few yards of performance fleece at your local fabric store and put it down in the backseat under your carrier or where your pet will sit. You can easily cut holes where you need them around seat belt fasteners if needed, and the fleece is highly absorbent and washable. For extra protection, buy a few Goodnites pads and stick them to the seat under the fleece. I like these better than puppy pads because they have sticky around the edges to prevent shifting.
Always have a leash and water bowl handy. I keep one in the car at all times, because it never fails that we decide to bring our dog somewhere and forget the leash. You can come up with your own organization systems or purchase a Pet Travel Organizer Kit to keep in the car.
Since we travel with kids, it’s easy to remember to give the dog a potty stop, but if you don’t have kids, make it a habit to stop at highway rest areas. They always have grassy areas where leashed dogs can stretch their legs, and you can get water there, too. You can also look up any off-leash dog parks that may be on your route and make a detour to stop there. A well-exercised dog is a much better travel companion.
Remember, when you’re traveling you need to pick pet-friendly activities or board your animal during the day. Doggy day cares and local vet offices that offer boarding will take out-of-town guests, but you need to have your paperwork in order and be able to show that your dog is up to date on all their shots, including their kennel cough vaccine, which your dog may not have had if they have not boarded recently.
Outdoor activities like beaches, hiking, landmarks and festivals are usually a good bet, but double check websites to be sure dogs are welcome. Once we assumed the RedBull Flugtag would be fine to bring our dog to because it was outdoors, and sure enough, after having driven two hours we were denied entry with the dog. BringFido.com has a listing of over 300 dog-approved tours and activities so you can plan your entire trip around your dog if you want.
More and more restaurants offer dog-friendly outdoor seating, but don’t ever assume outdoor seating means dogs are welcome.
Lastly, be a responsible dog owner! When you travel with your pet, you represent dog owners everywhere. Pick up after your pet, don’t take animals out in public that aren’t well-socialized, and be sure dogs are welcome wherever you go before you arrive.
(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)