This content was updated for accuracy and relevance on December 24th, 2021.
A road trip is a rite of passage everyone must embark on at least once in their lives, and if they’re very lucky, it’s with their dog. Dogs can be the best road trip companions. That is, when you’ve planned ahead of time to make it enjoyable for both you and your pet.
Though road trips are supposed to be filled with spontaneous moments, a bit of preparation won’t kill the carefree feeling of the adventure. In fact, it can add to it by taking away the stress of accidentally leaving important dog travel accessories behind. Plus, with a little preparation, you might be able to discover some of the best places to travel with a dog that you may not have previously considered.
So, if you’ve been thinking about hitting the road with your pup, here’s how to road trip with a dog in a way that’s safe and comfortable that includes all of the road trip essentials you will need.
How Long Can a Dog Go on a Road Trip?
The length of time your dog can be in the car is dependent on the age and personality of your pet. Dogs that haven’t been house-trained are often too young and too inexperienced to make it through an extended car trip successfully. It’s best to wait until they’re a bit older to enjoy the experience of road tripping. Otherwise, it may take you longer to get to your destination than you had wanted.
In general, older dogs who have been housebroken can ride for two or three hours before needing a bathroom break. Planning breaks allows you to estimate when and where to stop for meals and will help you determine when you’ll arrive at your final destination.
If you have a comfy set up for them in the back seat of the car, they might be able to go longer before needing to stretch their legs or go to the bathroom. When planning your stops, choose spots that have a pet area where they can run around. Getting this energy out before getting back in the car will prepare your pup for another long stretch before they become too restless again.
How Do You Travel Long Distance with a Dog?
Most dogs can endure lengthy car rides, but how long is too long for a dog in a car? As long as your dog is comfortable and has the essentials of its daily life, you can take your dog for a ride across the state or across the country for whatever you have planned. Traveling long distances with a dog requires different packing than if you’re only headed an hour or two out of town. Here are a few must-have dog travel accessories you’ll want to take with you in the car:
Dog Bed - When traveling long distances with your dog, give them enough cushion to feel comfortable. When possible, lay down the seats in the back and let them spread out. Or for smaller dogs, just put their dog bed in the seat so they can curl up when they’re ready to rest. There’s something about the comfort of your own bed. If you can’t have it for yourself, at least you can give that feeling of home to your dog.
Food/Snacks/Water Bowl - Unlike traveling with your pet by plane or train where food and water either isn’t allowed or isn’t convenient, taking a dog on a road trip means you have more flexibility with meal and snack times. Also, bring along a jug of water to fill up their water bowl when making pit stops. Water isn’t always automatically available or accessible at road stop rest areas.
Chew Toys - For the first few hours, your dog may be entertained by looking out the window, but that can grow old quickly. Pack a few chew toys to keep them entertained and give them some of their favorite comforts of home. Also, pack a chew rope or tennis ball to play catch when there’s time for a break outside. They’ll love the chance to play and enjoy the fresh air with their favorite person.
Leash and Doggie Bags - Don’t be that person who lets their dog go poo and doesn’t pick it up. Always pack doggie bags (actually, why not just always have them in the car?) and a leash in case the area you’re in requires one. These are must-have travel accessories, especially if you plan to take your dog on walks and hikes once you get to wherever you’re going.
Blanket or Towels - You never know what the weather and terrain will be like when you’re on the road. Bring along plenty of old towels and blankets to lay down on your car seats to protect the interior from scratches, tears, and anything they pick up on the pit stops. Use them to wipe muddy paws and to simply keep your pup more comfortable as they’re riding along.
Medication - It’s a good idea to schedule a check-up with the vet before embarking on your road trip. And if your pet is on any medications, make sure you fill the prescription to last you for the duration of your time away. Keep it within easy reach when packing the car so you don’t have to hunt it down when it comes time to give it to your dog.
When packing for your getaway, pack a travel pet carrier or designated weekender bag or backpack for your dog, too. It keeps all their things in one place and allows you to consolidate the items so you don’t end up overloading the trunk. Plus, either of these smaller luggage pieces is easy to tote around when on a nature walk or checking out a new town. You can take their need-to-haves with you on the go without worrying about taking up precious space in what’s probably an already overflowing purse.
How Do I Prepare My Dog for a Road Trip?
The way your dog acts at home may be completely different than how they are when embarking on a road trip. However, here are a few travel tips for a long trip before you get going to make it a more seamless experience for both of you while also taking pet safety into consideration:
Get them familiar with shorter rides - Whether you’re planning for a couple of hours down the road or a cross-country road trip that takes multiple days, familiarize your dog with car travel ahead of time. It’ll also help you decide if your dog is ready for a long road trip or needs a few years of experience before making a bigger move.
Map out pet-friendly pit stops - Most highway road stops have a special area for pets to roam around. However, there are others where accommodations are scarce or limited. Check for stops along your route to mark pet-friendly areas whenever possible and don't forget the poop bags! Also, note which stops do not allow dogs so you know to keep them inside if you need a break just for yourself.
Go for a walk before getting in the car - An active or restless dog can be a distraction when driving, so help them get their wiggles out before getting in the car. Tire them out with a walk and give their legs a good stretch before they’re confined to the back seat of your car for a few hours. Between traffic, GPS directions, and catching up on your favorite podcast, having an excitable dog is a distraction you won’t want as you head down the highway.
Check for pet-friendly accommodations - Whether you’re staying with a friend, at an Airbnb, or stopping at pet-friendly hotels, make sure they’re accommodating to dogs and review what protocols, if any, are in place. Nothing like driving all day and feeling exhausted only to roll into a place and find out they won’t let your dog come in. Save yourself the misery and check in advance where it’s best to take your pet. Fortunately, there are several hotel chains that are not only pet-friendly but truly accommodating to your furry friends by providing special pet amenities. Many places love pets just as much as you do. You as a pet owner just have to seek them out.
Life on the Road with Your Furry Companion
It’s a memorable experience when you can take your furry companion along with you on your adventures. Whenever you have the chance, plan for your pet to join you. Even those with cats can bring them along. A car ride is usually much easier to manage. They can lounge and relax just as they do at home. However, sometimes cats are more skittish about car travel and trying new things.
Though cats don’t often need as much stimulation or exercise as dogs, you’ll still want to pack their comforts and necessities to make the long road trip a successful one. BÉIS helps keep both you and your furry friend stylish wherever you roam with enough space to pack all the things to make the road trip a success.
The only decision left is: where to next?
If you're looking for fun destination ideas with your furry friend here are some of our favorites:
- Missouri: St. Louis
- Montana: Glacier National Park
- Washington: San Juan Island
- California: Los Angeles or San Francisco
- South Carolina: Charleston
- How Stuff Works. How long is too long for a pet to be in a car? https://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/pet-travel/too-long-for-pet-to-stay-in-car.htm
- BeChewy. 11 Tips for Surviving a Road Trip with Your Dog. https://be.chewy.com/pet-parenting-travel-7-tips-for-surviving-a-road-trip-with-your-dog/