10 Tips for Surviving a Road Trip With Your Dog

We love traveling with pets, but long rides can get thorny. Here are tips to keep pets comfy, safe, well-fed and happy.

Four puppies with their tongues out and front paws hanging out an open back window on a car

Shutterstock / PhilipYb Studio

Summer is a great time to enjoy the outdoors, the best food of the year and, of course, vacations! We love taking road trips this time of year. There’s no weather to worry about, and you can dawdle in small towns or have amazing picnic lunches at scenic overlooks.

For pet owners, road trips are an awesome way to travel, cheaper and less stressful than air travel. (Check out ways to save $125/day while traveling.) But while some dogs love to hang their heads out the car window and relish the breeze, others loathe car rides. And just about any car passenger, two-legged or four, will get antsy after two or more solid hours of sitting still.

Here are our best tips for keeping your pet safe and comfy on the road:

Secure Your Pet With a Safety Restraint

First things first. Make sure your pet is safely secured in your car, whether with a pet seat belt, harness, booster seat or car seat. Just like people, dogs need the equivalent of a seat belt to prevent any injuries. Do not have them roaming around, as it leaves them vulnerable to falling or getting hurt if you have to stop or turn suddenly.

Seat Covers

Seat covers ensure that pet snacks don’t end up on your car seats. There are many different types of seat covers out there from which to choose. They keep your pet cozy and your car seats clean. Muddy or wet paws can easily stain car seat fabrics, so prevention is key. Once you are back home, just remove the seat covers, throw them in the wash and ta-da, good as new.

(Got something to clean? Reach for the salt.)

Get Comfy

Since your pup will be sitting or lying down for a few hours at a time, make sure its seat is very comfy. Pillows, blankets and dog beds can all be used to help pets enjoy their ride. They may want to take a little nap, so their favorite plush toy will do the trick. Snug as bug (or pup) in a rug.

Pack Some Snacks

We all like to eat some tasty snacks on the road, regardless of species. (We’ve got some snacks both humans and dogs can enjoy!) If you’ll be gone a full day, make sure to bring enough kibble along, and offer food at roughly the same time that your pet usually eats. Altering its schedule can cause tummy upset-definitely not something you want to risk on the road!

Don’t Forget the Water

Be sure to bring a container of cool drinking water, too. Easy to forget, but pets get parched, especially in a dry, air-conditioned space (or a hot car).

Bring Comforting Objects…

Alleviate travel anxiety by bringing along some objects. A favorite toy, a piece of bedding or even an owner’s undershirt or other scented item will bring the smell of home along.

…and Toys!

Keep your pooch entertained and busy to make the time fly by. Toys such as Kongs, puzzles, the Tricky Treat Ball, the Waggle or the Dog Casino stimulate your little friend’s mind and keep it happy. We especially like chew toys, because they’re solitary and absorbing. Toys also come in handy in the hotel room, campsite or rental.

(We’ve got tips for traveling with kiddos, too.)

Let Your Hair/Fur Down

If your fur ball loves car rides and getting some sunshine and wind on its face, let this be its shining moment. If weather and traffic speed permit, crack the window a little to let your dog have its fun. (Don’t crack it so much that your dog can lean too far out, creating safety issues.)

Get Those Steps In

Taking rest stops for potty breaks is essential. This is a great time to get your pet moving so it can stretch out, exercise, boost its appetite and maybe even take a snooze for the next portion of the trip. Rest stops help pets keep some semblance of a routine, and human passengers will also get a chance to get their blood flowing.

Take Pictures

You will be busy having fun and enjoying your vacation, but don’t forget to take pictures! Document your road trip and save your sweet moments together. Be sure to keep your pet’s Instagram totally up to date. 🙂

Traveling with dogs and cats is so much fun, but does require some planning and preparation. So pack your bags, make some yummy snacks and go forth and road trip with your pet! Dogspeed!

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Meg Scanlon
Meg Scanlon is an actor, improviser, writer, filmmaker and member of SAG-AFTRA. She received her acting and filmmaking training from NYU Tisch's Stonestreet Studios. She studied and performed improv and sketch comedy at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, The PIT, The Second City NYC and Gotham City Improv. Her writing can be seen on Funny Or Die, BarkPost, Love TV, The List, Home Life Media, Taste Of Home and Bridgehead Media. She is also sometimes called Megan or Meggie. And Scantron, Scantown, Scandalous and just about any other word that has "Scan" in it.