Preparing for a Road Trip with Your Dog

Going on a road trip with your dog can be a great way to bond and explore new places together; But, it’s important to make sure you’re prepared before hitting the open road. In this blog post, we’ll share some tips for making sure your road trip with your furry friend is safe and enjoyable for everyone involved. From packing the right supplies to making sure you take plenty of breaks, read on for everything you need to know about hitting the open road with your dog.

Planning your Trip

When planning a dog road trip, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for both of you. First, consider your dog’s personality and energy level when choosing a destination – if they’re the type that loves to explore and meet new people, a busy city might be a great option. If they’re more low-key, a rural area with lots of open space to run around in would be ideal. Our dogs are definitely the adventurous type, so really love to hike and swim.

Tips for Road Trips with Dogs

Planning Your Route to Include Dog-Friendly Stops

Assuming your dog is well-traveled and accustomed to car rides, the next step is to consider your route. You’ll want to make sure you include plenty of stops along the way so your furry friend can stretch his legs and relieve himself.

If you’re unsure of where exactly these stops should be, a few great resources are the websites, and These are jam-packed with reviews and information on dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, parks, beaches, and more – all across the United States.

Once you’ve planned out your route and made a list of potential stops, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and double-check that everything is still dog-friendly. Particularly with your hotel reservations! Don’t always assume that internet listings are up to date or accurate – Things change quickly, especially in popular tourist destinations, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Choosing the Right Car

Not all vehicles are created equal when it comes to traveling with dogs. Here are a few things you’ll want to take into account when choosing which car to make the trip.


Size is probably the most important factor, as you’ll need enough space for your dog (or dogs) to be comfortable, while also having enough room for all your gear. Make sure there’s enough room in the backseat or cargo area for them to stretch out and move around. Rooftop carriers can make a huge difference in freeing up interior space for your pup – we love our Thule carrier and would be lost without it!

Another thing to consider is how easy it will be to get your dog in and out of the car. If your dog is small enough, you might be able to just pick them up and put them in the backseat. But if they’re larger, you might need a car with easier access – like one with a hatchback.

We are big fans of renting a van for a pet friendly road trip. Not only is there plenty of space but its very easy for the dogs to jump in and out of the side door. Just make sure to check on the rental companies pet policy beforehand, and be prepared to give it a good vacuum at the end of the trip so you won’t be charged any extra cleaning fees.

Temperature control

This is especially important if you’re traveling in hot weather. Dogs can overheat quickly, so you’ll want a car with good air conditioning and ventilation. Rolling down the windows isn’t always enough, especially if it’s super hot outside. I’ll never forget how shocked we were by the heat stepping out of our car in Phoenix a few years back. I can’t imagine driving through the Southwest without great A/C!


You’ll want to make sure your dog is properly secured while riding in the car – both for their safety and yours. If they’re small enough, they can ride in a crate or carrier secured with a seatbelt. For larger dogs, look for a harness that attaches to your car’s seatbelts.

Another option is investing in a pet barrier to keep them safely in the back. These are available for all different makes and models and can truly be a life saver.

Road Clearance

Finally, think about what kind of terrain you’ll be traveling on. If you’re sticking to city streets and highways, pretty much any car will do. But if you’re going off-roading or plan on doing a lot of driving on dirt or gravel roads, you might want something with better clearance or four-wheel drive. For example, when we were traveling through the forestry roads of Bridger-Teton National Forest we were definitely wishing we had an SUV!

Dog Vehicle Safety Tips

Here are a few tips to keep your dog safe in the car:

  • Never leave your dog alone in the car, not even for a minute. The temperature inside a parked car can rise quickly to dangerous levels, even on a cool day.
  • Never let your dog stick his head out the window of a moving car. He could be hit by something or jump out and get lost or seriously injured.
  • Never let your dog ride in the bed of a pickup truck. They could fall out or be injured by flying debris..
  • When driving with your dog, keep them restrained for their safety and yours. A loose dog in the car is a distraction and can be easily injured if you have to brake suddenly or are in an accident. Use a pet seat belt or harness, or confine them to a crate or travel carrier.
  • Be cautious when opening the door to let your dog out of the car. If they’re excited, they may dart out into traffic without looking first. Always leash them up before opening the door, and use caution when crossing busy streets.
  • Keep an eye on your dog while they’re exploring outside of the car. They may be tempted to chase after squirrels or other animals, which could put them in danger from cars or other hazards.
  • Never allow your dog to ride in the front seat of the car.
  • Be cautious when bringing your dog to new places. They may not be used to the sights and smells and could become anxious or scared.
  • Keep an eye on your dog while they are playing outside and make sure they do not ingest any harmful objects.

Planning a Road Trip with Dogs? Here is everything you need to know!

Packing for your trip

Packing for any trip can be stressful, but you are certainly adding to the degree of difficulty when you are bringing pets along!

Here are some things that you don’t want to forget:

  • Food
  • Water – Don’t assume that the water will be available or drinkable where you are traveling!
  • Medications
  • Treats
  • A portable dog crate or carrier (We love this one from Noz2Noz)
  • A leash and collar or harness
  • Dog Hiking Supplies – Dog booties, backpacks, etc.
  • Reflective walking gear
  • Food and water bowls
  • Poop bags
  • Toys, bones, and chews to keep your dog entertained during the trip
  • A bed or blanket for the dog to sleep on
  • First aid supplies for your dog

We like to use clear totes for dog supplies on our road trips. Usually packing one with food and perishables that comes in and out of the vehicle when we stop for the night and another with gear that can remain in the car.

Be Prepared for Emergencies

No matter how much planning and preparation goes into a road trip, there’s always the potential for something to go wrong. That’s why it’s important to be prepared for emergencies, especially when traveling with your furry friend.

Here are some tips to help you be prepared for any emergency situation:

  • Have a first aid kit on hand and know how to use it. This should include items like wound spray, bandages, antiseptic ointment, and tweezers.
  • Know the emergency numbers for the area you’ll be traveling in and have them saved in your phone.
  • Make sure your dog is up to date on all their vaccinations. This will help reduce the risk of them getting sick or injured while on the road. Also make sure to have copies of their medical records with you in case you need to show proof of vaccinations.
  • Have a plan for what you’ll do if your dog gets lost. This includes having an up-to-date ID tag on their collar and knowing where you’ll search for them if they go missing. It may also be a good idea to get them microchipped if they aren’t already.
  • Remember to regularly check your dog for ticks! This is particularly important if you plan to do a lot of hiking and exploring.

Make Sure your Dog is Comfortable

Assuming you have packed all of their essentials, there are a few more things you can do to help make them comfortable during the drive. First, get them used to being in the car by taking some short trips around the block or to nearby trails before embarking on a longer journey. This will help them get acclimated to the car and understand that it is a time to relax and not a time to play.

If possible, make sure that your dog gets some good exercise before starting the trip. Take them out for a walk or jog, give them some extra time to run around the yard, or play a nice long game of fetch. A tired dog is usually a well behaved dog!

Next, create a comfortable space for them in the car. If possible, put a soft mat or towel down for them to lie on and make sure they have plenty of room to move around. If they are crate trained, this may be the best option as it will provide a sense of security. Otherwise, secure them in the backseat with a seatbelt harness or cargo area with a pet barrier.

Finally, try to keep the car as calm as possible during the drive. Avoid loud music or excessive talking and instead focus on creating a relaxed atmosphere. This will help your dog stay calm and avoid getting too worked up during the trip.

Two Golden Retrievers on a Dog Road Trip

How to Keep Your Dog Entertained in the Car

Depending on the length of your road trip, you can’t expect for them to sleep the whole time! Make sure to bring along a few of their favorite toys to keep them entertained during the drive. We love utilizing chew toys you can fill with treats like the Kong or West Paw’s Toppl. These provide good mental stimulation and will hold a dogs attention for quite a while.

You can also give them treats throughout the ride, or play music that they enjoy. With a little planning, you can ensure that both you and your dog have a fun and safe journey.

Make Frequent Stops

When you’re driving with your dog, it’s important to make frequent stops. This will give your dog a chance to stretch his or her legs and relieve him or herself. It’s also a good time for you to take a break from driving and rest yourself.

If possible, plan your stops ahead of time so that you can find dog-friendly places to stop. This might include parks, rest areas, or even businesses that allow dogs. If you don’t have any specific places in mind, simply keep an eye out for places where your dog can safely run around and use the bathroom.

Whenever you do stop, be sure to give your dog plenty of time to explore and do his or her business. And if you’re stopping at a place where there are other dogs present, be sure to keep your dog on a leash and under control at all times.

Dogs at Red Roof Inn

Dogs and Hotels

When it comes to hotels, there are a few things to keep in mind when planning to stay with a dog. First, always call ahead and make sure the hotel is pet-friendly. As we mentioned above, it is better to be safe than sorry!

Second, bring along a travel crate or bed for your dog to sleep in.

Third, make sure to clean up after your dog in the hotel room, common areas and green space outside. It is a privilege to allow dogs and you don’t want to have to pay a fine or give your fellow pet-lovers a bad name! By following these simple tips, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable stay for both you and your furry friend.


We hope you enjoyed these tips for road trips with dogs! If you have any other tips that you’ve found to be helpful, please share them with us in the comments below. And if you’re planning a road trip with your dog, we wish you all the best of luck (and lots of fun)!


Kevin Sando
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3 thoughts on “Preparing for a Road Trip with Your Dog”

  1. Thanks for this, it’s very useful! Were currently planning a 2-week road trip with our one-year-old dog and a puppy. We’re used to doing 6-8hr trips with dogs but spending that long in a van with two pups will be interesting. I need all the tips I can get!

  2. WOW! I love the infographics you’ve posted here, I’m surprised that there aren’t more people commenting about this. I’ve found that it can be quite the effort getting a dog (in my case a Bernese Mountain Dog) ready for a road trip, but it’s all worth it in the end.

    She loves going on car rides! Thanks for sharing this information! 🙂


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