Life with a Dog / 04

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Tip #4: Road trips

I’m in the passenger’s seat writing this on the way home from a road trip we’ve been on in the Pacific Northwest for the past three weeks. This trip has been a blast, the best summer road trip I could have imagined. More to come on that, but for now I wanted to write about some tips I’ve learned while on the road with my dogs, as well as share some of our road trip essentials. Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset

I should say, not all dogs like car rides or are equipped for spending lengthy amounts of time en route to a destination. It’s best to use your judgement whether or not your dog (and you) would enjoy a trip together. But, if you do think it will be enjoyable, here are a few tips I’ve found to make life a little easier when traveling with a dog:

1. Dog friendly places to stay

  • Hotels:  We almost always stay in La Quintas because they are a solid 3 star hotel with no pet fee and all rooms are pet friendly. Holiday Inns are good too, but charge anywhere from $10-25 per animal depending on where you are. To find hotels on the road, we use Orbitz because you can filter by amenities, including the pet friendly option. Other apps like Kayak and Priceline don’t have that. Also, before you book a hotel that says pet friendly, give the hotel a call and ask if all rooms are pet friendly. We’ve found that some hotels  have a limited number of pet friendly rooms available, and it can be frustrating to book a room and then find out later they don’t have a pet friendly room to accommodate you. It’s also always a good idea to close the bathroom door/keep the toilet lid down in hotel rooms if your dog likes to drink out of the toilet…some places use cleaning products that contain bleach and other agents that can be harmful to dogs.
  • Airbnb: If we are staying more than one night somewhere, we like to stay in Airbnb places. There are plenty of dog friendly houses and apartments available and we’ve had some awesome experiences using this method. Make sure when booking to use the “dog friendly” filter and always give the owner a heads up as to what kind of dog you’ll be bringing with you just incase there are any size/breed restrictions (though I’ve never encountered one) or another dog is on the property.
  • Campgrounds: Campgrounds are usually more lenient when it comes to dogs. If dogs are allowed, they usually require them to be on-leash (no one really does this 100% of the time, but it’s good to have them on-leash in public/common areas at least). We bring long pieces of rope and tie the dogs off to a tree, picnic table, etc so they have a large radius of the campground to roam without being able to intrude on the neighbors asking for hot dogs (not naming names JACK). I’ve also recently heard of HipCamp, which is like Airbnb but for campsites, and I’m excited to give it a try.

2. Invest in a good travel bowl
Having a travel bowl on hand for water and food is a no brainer. We keep ours under the seat and use it all the time since they come a lot of places with us. We have this one, which I like because it dries quickly and collapses easily, making storing it really easy. There are a lot of options out there including cool ones like these and this one. Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset

3.  Take breaks and don’t leave them in the car.
Even on a breezy day, the car can heat up to 90-100+ degrees and cook them like an egg burrito on a Sunday morning. It’s not cool, literally. If you stop off for a bite to eat, look for a place with outdoor seating where you can tie them up next to you. If you’re stopping to go to the restroom or what not, let them out too. No one wants to sit in the car all day!

4. Have a towel on hand
Swimming dogs are so cute until they try to jump in your clean car, right? Looking at you, Keeper. We let them dry off in the sun for 5-10 minutes, then towel them off before they get in. A towel is also nice to have around incase they step in something and need to have their paws washed off. There are pricey dog towels at the pet store, but we just use a beach towel we retired. Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

5. ID tag and microchip
The last thing you want is for you and your dog to somehow get separated and have no way for them to be reunited with you again. Etsy has some good custom ID tags and the vet will microchip your pup with your address and phone number information for around $15.

6. Vaccine / medical records
We keep a copy of these with us in the car just incase there’s an emergency.  If your dog gets bit by something and needs medical attention…and you can’t prove they’ve had their rabies shot, it could mean quarantining, which would really put a damper on your trip. Your vet’s phone number is also great to store in your phone incase you have a question that needs answering on the road. Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset

7. Give them a designated spot in the car
We always let them in the truck using the back doors so they know that area is “theirs”. Putting a ball or toy on the seat can help them make that association (we always have one of these in the car). We use “Back” as the command if they try to come up front with us…and then after they go back we deliver the command “Stay”. This is where good training comes in handy. It’s your choice whether or not to use a harness or shield to keep them in their designated spot in the car. We don’t use one, but if your dog has more of a rambunctious spirit, and you want an extra layer of protection in the car, there are options.

8. Don’t forget something comfy to lay on
Jack and Keeper lay on a bench seat behind us in the truck. We put beds back there a few times but they kept kicking them to the side to lay on the bench instead. To protect our seat from muddy paws, etc, we have a tie-dyed sheet we made last summer (the store bought ones weren’t doing it for us) that we throw over the seat for them to lay on.

9. Food 
We feed our dogs once in the morning and once at night at home. I’ve found it’s best to stick with that schedule even when on the road. Typically I measure out their food and put it in a gallon Ziploc bag before we leave and then store it somewhere readily accessible in the truck so I’m not digging for it later at night when everyone is tired.

10. Be happy knowing that adventure and travel is good for your health (and theirs!). There are tons of studies out that have given evidence to the physical and psychological benefits to traveling – and a lot of those benefits also extend to your pups! Here is a great write-up of why traveling is good for your health.

Those are our road trip tips + essentials we use when on the road with our dogs. Do you have any tips you’ve found work for long car rides with yours? I’d love to hear about them!

More Life with a Dog tips can be found here.

  • Quercus

    Great write up! I liked the tips for hotels and camping (and that seemingly awesome airbnb equiv for camping). A couple of things I have learned or done with Maeve that she seems to enjoy.

    I crate her when we’re in the car, I have since she was a little pup. It gives her her space in the car, keeps her safe (especially with the wacko drivers here in the Bay Area) and it makes it easy to pack the truck because I can just pack everything around the crate and she still has her space! ( She will usually pass out as soon as we set off! She loves to sleep on the road. I also find it helpful to have a thermometer in the truck (on the kennel inside) so when I get somewhere I can leave the car for about 10 minutes with her out of the car, and then come back to see how the car is. If it stays cool inside, I can feel ok about leaving her in there with her water and a good chew! But never in any kind of heat, that’s not good for anyone, especially her.

    Another thing I find helpful is having a supply of water for her on the road because you never know where or when you’ll be able to fill up a bowl. I use this ( and it works like a charm. Up to 1.5 gallons, and minimal spilling!

    Anyways, I could go on for days, but those are a few things that work for us! I hope you enjoy!

    • nic

      Thanks for sharing what you do with Maeve. I love the idea of crating (we have one in the house that Keep hides all her toys in). I’m thinking of doing a post on them. And that water dispenser looks super handy!