The Essential Road Trip Packing List for Your Dog


The open road is calling. Will you be making any trips home for the holidays? 

tips for a safe road trip with your dog or cat

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (yep - that's a thing), most long-distance holiday travel, about 91 percent, is by personal vehicle. The average road trip is about 250 miles, so not only is the road trip more economical, but considering airport check in, security, boarding, taxi, take off, flight, deplane, and luggage pickup for that 250 miles; driving will still get you there faster. 

Other pluses to choose driving include the ability to have a vehicle at your destination, the ability to avoid crowds, and to keep your pets much more comfortable. 

Here is a comprehensive list of the essentials for a road trip with your dog. I have personally done this many times with my 80lb hound, traveling over 1,600 miles one way, and logging almost 10,000 miles in total with sweet Doogie in the car. Of course, my trips require several days of traveling and yours might too. So some of these suggestions may only be necessary for longer trips. 

1. Plan Ahead.

How far will you have to drive? How many stops will you have to make? If you are on a longer trip, are there sights you would like to see along the way? Are they dog friendly?

Apps like Roadtrippers are great for planning longer trips for humans, suggesting restaurants, hotels, campgrounds and roadside attractions. But what about your pooch? Check out websites like Bring Fido or www.dogfriendly.comBoth are great tools for finding dog friendly hotels, dog parks, restaurants, stores, and rest-stops. 

If there are still places that you want to visit and your dog isn't allowed, these websites are also great for locating doggie day care facilities in the area. Daycare facilities require prior registration, so take care of all necessary paperwork ahead of time. I have done this on more than one occasion and I think my dog appreciated the break from the car as much as I did. Often times, extra vaccinations are required, so be sure to schedule a visit to the vet at least a few days before your trip

For overnight stays, I rely on La Quinta hotels almost exclusively. They are 100% dog friendly and there are no extra charges for pets. Many of them also have grassy areas with dog waste bag dispensers. And for you, they serve free breakfast!

2. First Aid and Emergency Preparedness

Always have a first aid kit on board for long trips. That's even important when your dog isn't with you. Fortunately, many of the same items you would pack for yourself are suitable for your dog. Be sure to have basic things like gauze, tape, scissors, antibacterial ointment and Benadryl. Vet Wrap Tape is also a good idea to have on hand. If your dog has a prescription medication, make sure you have enough for your entire trip. Make copies or take photos of shot records and of your dog's id tags. Also, snap a few photos of your dog, just in case your poor pup gets lost. The Red Cross also created a Pet First Aid App to help you locate emergencies veterinary services. 

3. Bring the Comforts of Home 

A long trip away from home can be stressful for your canine companion. Be sure to pack their favorite toy. A worn article of your clothing or a blanket is also a comfort for extended periods of separation. If your dog is particularly anxious about new surroundings, a compression shirt may be helpful. If your dog has a crate, be sure to bring it for hotel stays.

4. Safety First

Always be sure that your dog is safely restrained during your trip. There are many backseat covers that can also be installed "hammock style" to keep wandering dogs from climbing into the front seat. Do have have an SUV? This Soft SUV Dog Mat may be a great solution. It's not recommended to let your dog ride with her head out the window at highway speeds, but I have always let Doogie hang out his head to smell and enjoy a new place every time we venture off the Interstate. 

5. And last but definitely not least...

Don't forget the basics! Food, treats, dishes, leash and water. I usually pre-measure food into zip lock bags to prevent schlepping a giant bag of food into the hotel room. And, sometimes dinner time rolls around before you get to your destination. It's much easier to pull over, grab a pre-measured bag of food and dump it in a travel bowl. If your dog has a favorite treat, treat dispensing toys are great for keeping him busy and happy. Always make sure to bring a few gallons of water. Dogs get extra thirsty when traveling so this is extremely important! And of course you need a leash so that you both have a chance to stretch your legs. So many rest areas now have short dog trails. And, let's face it, you need the exercise as much as your pooch does, after spending long periods of time in the car. 

So that's it! It's actually quite a lot. But with some careful planning and a little thought about every worst-case scenario, you will have everything you need to keep your dog happy and healthy on the road.

Disclaimer: this post contains several links to other products, apps and websites that you may find useful. All links are unsolicited. These are recommendations based on my own experience and research.