Traveling with pets has been trending in recent years, making it easier than ever for families to bring their pets along for the ride. But it takes some advance planning before hitting the open road. Read on to learn how to plan the perfect road trip with a dog, cat or other furry family member.
Read This Before Taking a Road Trip with Pets
Some of our best family road trips have been with our dogs. It’s fun sharing outdoor adventures with them on family vacations. After all, they’re part of our family! And when they’re with us, we don’t have to worry abut their care (or kennel expenses).
In hindsight, I wish we would have started bringing our dog Trooper on family vacations when he was younger. We didn’t know how much fun it would be to bring him along! He started traveling with us when he was about 5, and loved our road trips to beaches and mountains until he passed away several years later. He even stayed at luxury hotels like the dog-friendly Fess Parker Hotel in Santa Barbara. (Following a major renovation, the hotel recently was renamed the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort.)
I wouldn’t dream of bringing our young dog Maya to a hotel. She’s too chatty. But that doesn’t mean we don’t bring her on family vacations. We find plenty of lodging and even dining options to accommodate this sassy (but sweet) girl. Thanks to more people traveling with their pets, an increasing number of establishments are welcoming dogs, cats, parrots and other family pets! In fact, the pet-friendly Montage Deer Valley in Park City even has canine ambassadors to greet guests. Resident pups Monty and Summit work on meet and greet duty daily from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the resort lobby.
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Pet-Friendly Travel on the Rise
“The main focus of pet-friendly travel used to be out of necessity to bring pets. But now the industry has a growing sector of airlines, hotels, and restaurants that cater to pets because travelers are making traveling with their pet a priority,” says Melissa Halliburton, founder of BringFido.com. The website lists pet-friendly hotels and their pet policies. You can also call, email, or send a chat message to BringFido from the road.
The proportion of hotels accepting pets has increased from less than half to over 60 percent in the last 10 years, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The sharpest increase has been among luxury hotels, 80 percent of which are pet-friendly, says Halliburton.
Sure, it’s more work to bring your dog on vacation. But it’s worth it. You’ll probably even learn a lot about your dog that you might not otherwise. For example, although Trooper was a Lab mix, he didn’t like swimming. However, he loved the snow on our ski vacations, and summer boating trips to Big Bear Lake!
Pros and Cons of Pet Travel
Things to consider include your pet’s overall temperament, his physical limitations, or if he suffers from an illness. Whether by car or airplane, traveling with a pet requires advance planning, from visiting the vet to finding pet-friendly accommodations. If taking a road trip, you’ll have to stop and take more breaks along the way. Especially on a long trip. Once at your destination, find activities to keep your dog active. Unless you plan to leave your dog in your accommodations during meal-times, scout out dog-friendly restaurants.
Planning Your Pet-Friendly Trip
There are thousands of dog-friendly hotels in the United States. Finding one isn’t a problem. But take your dog’s health into consideration when choosing a destination.
“Dogs don’t care where they are as long as they are with their owners. However, pet owners should make decisions based upon knowing their dog,” says Halliburton.
For example, if your dog is old and has hip problems, you probably shouldn’t take him on a hiking trip unless you plan on carrying him in a backpack. If your dog is a barker, you may want to book rental home accommodations instead of a hotel stay. Or hire a dog walker/doggy daycare when on vacation if you will have to leave your pet unattended at any time. If you are booking a special bucket list-type trip for your dog, you’d want to fill your days with all of his favorite things and places, advises Halliburton.
Before you leave, have your pet micro-chipped for identification, and bring a spare tag with your cell number.
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Taking a Road Trip with a Dog
While on the road, remember that safety comes first. Don’t leave home without an emergency kit for your family and a separate pet first aid kit. Have the first aid kits handy so you don’t have to unpack the whole car to reach them. It’s also a good idea to pack copies of a health certificate and medical records.
Essential pet items include food and water bowls, leashes, pet wipes, blankets/bed, poop bags, and a crate or kennel. Be sure to pack any medications your dog needs, and bottled water. It’s also a good idea to have a harness and seat belt or car seat for your dog. BringFido’s editors recommend the Snoozer Roll Around Travel Dog Carrier Backpack 4-in-1 travel carrier. It converts to a backpack, dog bed, and car seat. It also has wheels so owners can tow their pets through an airport.
Last but not least, make sure your furry best friend is comfortable for the ride. Bring treats and his favorite toys to keep him occupied.
Doggy Dos and Don’ts for Riding in the Car
Designate a safe place for Fido in your car. “Traveling with Fido will be much easier and safer when he has a comfy place to ride. The most important thing when on a road trip with a pet is that your pet is restrained,” says Halliburton.
That means your dog shouldn’t sit on your lap or jump between car seats. It’s safest for dogs to be contained in a carrier, secured with a harness or seat belt, or laying down in the back seat. Try to make their area comfortable with a bed, blankets, and familiar toys. Some cars even have great pet-friendly features like washable, fold-down cargo areas or cargo barriers that keep your dog safe in the back of the car or SUV.
Plan for Pit Stops
Give yourself plenty of time to stop for breaks. Be sure you allow extra travel time on your road trip for bathroom breaks for your dog. It’s also a good way to prevent car sickness. “It’s generally recommended to stop for a break every three hours, but again, you know your dog’s routine best,” says Halliburton.
On BringFido.com you’ll find dog parks listed along your route so your dog can stretch his legs after a long car ride. The site also lists pet-friendly restaurants with outdoor patios for meal breaks.
Upon Arrival at Your Destination
One of the first things we do upon arrival is take our dog for a long walk. Dogs are curious about their new surroundings. On her first trip to Big Bear, Maya explored every room in the cabin. But mostly she enjoyed sniffing pine cones, trees and other new smells outdoors. We brought her on hiking trails and to the lake. Including dogs in our activities is a lot of fun. After all, that’s the main reason we travel with them, right?