Are you planning a cross country road trip with your dog? Not sure where to start? Well, you’re in the right place! Having traveled across the country countless times with up to 3 dogs in tow, it’s safe to say I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way! Here are my 8 tips for planning a stress-free cross country road trip with your dog – oh, and don’t forget to download our printable ‘road trippin’ with your dog checklist‘, it’s FREE and full of helpful info 🙂
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BEFORE THE TRIP…
1. Acclimatise your dog to vehicle travel
If your dog isn’t already used to vehicle travel, practice makes perfect! Start off with a few short practice trips close to home to ease them into it; gradually increase the length of your trips until you feel that they are ready for that long-haul trip!
If your dog is fearful of car rides or is extremely anxious or even suffers from motion sickness (which can happen), a chat with your local vet to discuss your options before hitting the road might be best.
2. Prepare your vehicle (including restraints)
Invest in a car harness or seat belt for your pooch so that they are properly restrained whilst travelling – there are lots of options on the market these days (see below). Travel crates are another great option, ensuring that your beloved fur-baby is safe and secure whilst on the road.
For smaller dogs, pet-booster seats and baskets are handy alternatives.
When fitting restraints for your dog, be mindful of air bag locations, as these can deploy with significant force in an accident and have the potential to cause serious injury or even death.
Hammock seat covers and cargo barriers are also great for keeping your pets confined to one area of the vehicle and can be used in conjunction with car harnesses and/or seat-belt attachments.
If travelling in the hot of summer, you might also like to invest in some car window shades for the trip too – oh how I wish we had these on our last cross-country road trip!
3. Make sure your dog is in good physical health and their vaccinations and preventative treatments are up to date
This also includes preventative treatments for areas that you might be travelling through i.e. research parasites and common health risks in the area you are travelling through.
Similarly, does your dog take any medication? If so, ensure you order enough prior to travelling to cover the length of your entire trip and pay attention to storage/temperature requirements for the meds too – we had to bring an ice box for one of our dog’s meds the last time we travelled as it had to be kept refrigerated at all times.
4. Plan your route
Plan your travel route ahead of time and be sure to include rest stops and potty breaks at least every 2-3 hours. If you can, ensure these stops are taken at dog-friendly locations, like parks and ovals and not just at the side of the road (which can be dangerous).
Also be sure to allow a little time for exercise and play prior to setting off (to burn a little energy) and be mindful of the times of day that you are travelling – if you can avoid the super hot temps in summer and super cold temps of winter, do it. Similarly, if you can time your check-ins to include as little down-time as possible (i.e. waiting around), this can be beneficial too.
For example, when we travel with our 3 dogs and need to stopover at motels en route, we try to time our check-ins to be later in the day to early evening (if we can). We find that there is less noise at these times (most people have already check-in by that time, so less things to bark at!), plus, they tend to settle-down a lot quicker the closer it is to bedtime.
5. Book accommodation ahead of time
Make sure you book pet-friendly accommodation ahead of time and are aware of any additional pet surcharges and pet policies for the places you plan to stay.
6. Snap a few current pics of your pooch, ensure their Microchip details are up to date and attach physical ID to their collar before travelling
That way if you are split-up whilst travelling, you have the best possible chance of being reunited with your best friend ASAP.
7. Brush up on basic commands and training
Ensure your pet is on their best behaviour when you’re away from home by brushing up on basic commands. This is especially important if you are staying in share-accommodation or hotels where there will be other paying guests – common courtesy really! It’s for their own safety too of course.
8. Other considerations
It doesn’t hurt to check for emergency vets en-route and at stopovers, just in case you need one. If you are familiar with their location and phone number, it can help to alleviate some stress at an otherwise stressful time. Similarly, if you own a restricted breed, check out local laws ahead of time and adapt your plans as required.
A pre-trip bath and groom is also a good idea – no one likes to travel with a smelly pooch!
WHAT TO PACK…
- Food and treats
- Food/water bowls
- Dog towels, sheets and blankets
- Mini grooming kit (including dog wash)
- Medication if applicable (including travel meds)
- Cleaning kit (for accidents – they happen!)
- Jackets/coats (if applicable)
- Vaccination certificate
- Microchip details
- Pet bedding and/or crate
- 2 leashes (1x spare)
- Favourite toys, kong, chews
- Doggy poop bags
- Pet first aid kit
- Hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand wipes (for you – dogs can be grotty sometimes, you might need to clean up messes along the way and may not always be able to wash your hands right away).
DURING THE TRIP – Things to remember…
- Feed and exercise early (before setting off) to burn energy and allow time for digestion
- Have rest stops/drink and potty breaks every 2-3 hrs (in dog-friendly places)
- Never leave your dog alone in the car (especially on moderate to warm days)
- Never open car doors/windows when your dog is unrestrained
- Be considerate of other travellers
- Relax and have fun!