9 Tips for an Amazing (or at Least Tolerable) Road Trip with Your Pet

Traveling with dogs and cats - 9 tips for a less stressful road trip

Pets. We love them, and sometimes when we're traveling, we don't want to leave them. Whether it's because your boarding situation isn't ideal, or you just can't imagine going on a vacation without them, you want to make sure you and your dog (or cat!) are prepared for a pleasant and non-stressful road trip. I've hit the road a few times with this furry lady pictured here, and after a few hundred hours in the car together, we've learned a thing or two. Here are some tips for traveling with dogs (and cats!) as you head out on your vacation this summer.              

Our dog Doria, ready to hit the road
My dog Doria, ready to hit the road

My spouse and I have done a lot of traveling with both our dog and our cat. I feel pretty lucky in that they both travel so well. Neither get carsick or incessantly whine, and even the cat likes visiting new places (a surprise all around!). While both are excellent road trip companions, traveling with cats and dogs is always going to be a stressful event, especially if you're under prepared. We recently finished a 48-hour road excursion with our senior dog, so her needs and wants are fresh in my mind. Each time we hit the road with her, I feel like I learn something new about how to travel with a dog. Here's my advice on how to take your pooch on a cross-country trip in a way that won't be stressful, and might even be a little fun:

1. Over-pack on food

When traveling without animals, options for food are abundant. When traveling with dogs or cats, not so much. PetSmart stores don't line the interstate with the same frequency that McDonalds restaurants do. Because you can't predict what might happen during your travels, be prepared for the unexpected. Pack a few extra servings of pet food in case your road trip runs long. If you pet is on any medication, make sure to pack a few extra doses of that as well.

2. Bring extra water (and a bowl)

Every time I travel, I'm always surprised at how tricky it is to find (free) water. Avoid buying bottles of Aquafina at every gas station you visit by bring a gallon of water from home. Don't forget to pack a bowl, too - there are all kinds of collapsible pet bowls out there if you're looking to save cargo space.

3. Make sure your hotel is pet-friendly

If you have to make an overnight stop while you're traveling with dogs or cats, you'll need to find a pet-friendly hotel. Fortunately, most hotel chains have pet-friendly locations. They will, however, usually come with a weight limit, an additional charge, and a limit to how many pets you can in your room. Check the Hotel Policies section of the hotel's website, or call the hotel directly to find out if pets are allowed. If they are, don't forget to mention your furry companion at check-in.

Some hotels with pet-friendly locations:

Not a hotel person? There are lots of Airbnb listings that will gladly welcome your dog or cat.

4. Check that your rental car is pet-friendly, and cover seats

Wondering how to travel with a dog or cat if you need to rent your car? You may still be able to. Depending on your car-rental company, you can bring your pet along for the ride (usually at no additional fee). To avoid pricey cleaning fees, be sure to cover any area your pet will be hanging out in. A large blanket or sheet over the seats will collect pet hair and protect from scratch marks. If you're traveling with dogs, make sure they're bathed and their nails are clipped before entering a rental car. If you're traveling with cats, it's easiest to keep them crated during your trip.

Some car rental companies with pet-friendly locations:

5. Take breaks at rest areas

Let your dog stretch their paws by stopping at rest areas. Most rest stops along the interstate have large, grassy areas to walk your pet in. Taking them on a long, midday walk will tire them out and make them less anxious as you travel.

6. Collar, chip, shots

It's awful to think about losing your pet along the road, but when traveling with dogs or cats, you need to be prepared for any emergency. Keep your pet's collar on at all times, and make sure your contact information is securely attached and up to date. Have you had your pet micro-chipped? If not, now is a great time to do so. Additionally, make sure your pet is up-to-date on their shots before traveling.

7. Track your pet

You can purchase a GPS tracker that attaches to your dog's collar so you always know where they are. Road trips are stressful, and until you take them on the road, you won't know if your dog will try and bolt or not. Heads up: Most GPS trackers come with a monthly subscription fee.

8. Consider Xanax (for them, not you)

If your pet is generally an anxious animal, you may want to consider giving them some pet-strength anti-anxiety medication before embarking on a long trip. This is highly recommended when traveling with cats, as they tend to be less adventurous than their canine counterparts. Visit with your vet before you travel, and ask about your options. Note: Your vet will likely give you a prescription starting one day before you travel to allow your pet to become accustomed to the medicine in a familiar environment, so make sure you visit your vet ahead of time.

9. Carry a piece of home with you

Even if your pet loves the feel of the wind in their fur, the unfamiliarity of hitting the open road can cause stress. Make sure to pack along something of theirs that brings them comfort. Their favorite toy, a familiar blanket, their bed; something that smells like home will help them feel at ease.

Remember, when traveling with dogs and cat, be mindful. Are you thirsty? They're probably thirsty too. Need to stop and stretch your legs? They're in the same boat. It may take a little longer every time you stop along the road, but the extra time is a small price compared to keeping everyone in the vehicle happy and low-stress.

Traveling with dogs and cats - 9 tips
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Traveling with dogs or cats this summer? I want to hear about it in the comments!

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