With Autumn in full swing and warm, sunny days getting shorter, it’s high time to take that road trip with your pet(s) that you’ve been thinking about the entire summer. You may think you’re too late now, but in reality, this is the ideal time for a road trip adventure – it’s not too hot, it’s just warm enough; the sun is not boiling and blinding but pleasant and mellow; and there may not be bright green trees and grass everywhere you go but that’s why there are bright reds, oranges and yellows everywhere you look. Also, pumpkins – something both you and your dog, cat or whichever pet you’re traveling with can enjoy in unlimited amounts (we’re just kidding, don’t overfeed your pet!)
But before you pack up your and your pet’s things and go, it’s a good idea to learn a thing or two about traveling with a pet. While road tripping with your favorite furry friend can be incredibly fun and thrilling, it can also be tiring and even dangerous if you don’t plan and prepare yourself well. To help you do just that, we’ve rounded up 10 most essential tips for road traveling with your pet.
Top Tip for Traveling With A Pet
Keep Your Pet Safe and Comfortable
One of the most important things you need to do when traveling with a pet is keep him safe and sound throughout the entire trip. While many dogs enjoy traveling in a car, some, especially those that don’t travel often, can get nervous, scared or irritated when expected to be peaceful and quiet for a long period of time. For such pets, dog car seats can be a blessing. A nice, cozy dog seat will not only help keep your pet stay in one place, but keep him snug and cozy throughout the entire road trip. And if your pooch is highly active and rambunctious, it’s a good idea to get a dog seat belt. These handy little contraptions work like car seat belts for humans – they keep your pet safely secured in one place and prevent him from roaming the vehicle and making trouble. Not to mention, they help keep you and everyone else involved in traffic safe too – according to AAA, unrestrained pets create distracted driving and can lead to accidents and worse. In fact, according to one survey, 29% of respondents said they are distracted by their dog while traveling together, while 65% of them said they actually participated in at least one distracting behavior while driving (petting, feeding the animal, etc.). This is quite alarming as distracted behavior can put you and everyone else on the road in danger. So, if you know your pet is mischievous or simply highly active, make sure you have a seat and belt prepared for him.
Pack All the Essentials
If you intend to travel for a few days, besides your own food, clothes, hygiene essentials, etc., you also need to pack all your pet’s essentials, including food and water, leash and collar, grooming supplies if necessary, toys, waste bags, dog blankets and maybe even a bed. Make sure you take your dog’s or cat’s favorite dry or wet food with you, as a change in environment doesn’t have to mean a change in a good diet – this is especially important if your pet has a sensitive stomach. It’s also a good idea to bring a few blankets with you. Not only will you keep your pet warm and comfy during the ride, but if you rent a place for a couple of nights, you can protect sofas, chairs and other furniture with those blankets (super important if your furball sheds like crazy!). If you don’t want to bother with dog beds and blankets, check out dog crates – a compact, cozy pet crate can save you a lot of time and trouble as you can use it both inside the vehicle and in a rented apartment if necessary. A dog kennel can also keep your pet secure in one place while traveling and provide a comfy bed while staying in rented places.
To keep things neat and simple, here are some of the essentials you should take with you:
- Your own documentation (ID, license and registration, etc.)
- Your car’s manual
- First aid kit
- Food and water for yourself
- Your hygiene essentials
- Clothes (including protective clothing)
- Your pet’s documentation
- Food and water for your pet
- Medication (for both you and your pet)
- Dog seat, belt, crate (whatever you prefer, or better yet, all of it)
- A leash and collar with ID tags
- Your pet’s hygiene essentials (including waste bags)
- Pet clothes and/or blankets.
- Car Emergency Kit
Check the Weather Before Traveling
If you’re going on a short trip (a day or two), the weather may not be of great significance, unless, of course, it’s freezing cold or incredibly rainy. But if you’re going for more than a couple of days, do make sure to get a weather report, as this can help you prepare properly. Lots of rain may slow your travel, so it’s good to know what you can expect before you leave so you can plan accordingly (how much money and food to bring, what clothes to take and so on). Knowing the weather that awaits you can also help you better pack for your pet – if it’s going to be colder than what your pet is used to, make sure you bring those blankets we mentioned or pack some pet clothing just in case.
Book Only Pet-friendly Accommodations
While many motels, hotels and rent apartments are now pet-friendly, don’t assume that all are. In fact, it’s best not to assume anything and check, even double check before making any reservations. While it’s not that uncommon that some hotels do not accept pets, know that there are even some campsites that don’t. So, to be sure both you and your furry companion will have a place to stay, contact the individual accommodation to find out about their pet policies and whether or not they allow bringing them with you. Some places have specific breed restrictions and what many pet parents would label as unfair pet rules, so be sure to check if your place of choice is one of them. Many hotels will have this type of information on their websites.
Get Your Documentation Organized
Before going on the trip, make sure you have your and your pet’s documentation organized and prepared. If your pet doesn’t have an updated ID, update it now. You never know what can happen while away from home, so just in case your cat or dog gets lost somewhere along the way, it’s good to have a proper ID tag. Put your pet’s name and your phone number as the primary contact information and one of your family member’s or friend’s phone number as the secondary contact information (just let them know beforehand!). Don’t forget your pet’s medical records as well – records about vaccinations, previously taken medications, etc. can all become necessary in a case of emergency. While we’re at it, it’s a good idea to bring a recent photo of your pet with you – it might be helpful if she gets lost. Obviously, don’t forget to prepare, organize and bring your own documentation too!
Plan Your Route Right
Traveling with people is actually quite similar to traveling with animals – like humans, dogs, cats and animals alike prefer to stretch their legs and relieve themselves from time to time than to sit in one place for hours on end. However, unlike people, your dog or cat cannot let you know when he’s gotta go. To prevent pee accidents (or worse!) and keep your car clean and fresh, make sure you plan your route the right way. Plan to take short breaks, 15 to 30 minutes, every three to four hours, just in case. During this time, encourage your pet to relieve himself, as well as to walk around and stretch his legs. This will also make the whole trip more fun and spontaneous (yes, planned breaks can be spontaneous!), as you’ll experience new environments with your furry friend directly, instead of just passing through by car. If you see some pet-friendly attractions along the way, do make a stop as your pet will certainly appreciate it.
Make Sure Your Pet is Road-ready
If you’re planning a long trip but your pet has very little experience with road travel in general, it’s a good idea to try a shorter trip to see how your furball reacts. Start with very short trips –a 20-minutes drive can help you get a clearer picture of how your pet likes (or doesn’t like) her rides. If all goes well, go for a one day trip with your pet and see if she gets motion sickness. If she does, all you have to do is take a few very short trips, as most dogs and cats get used to the sensation of being in a car the more they spend time in it. But if your pet is not showing signs of feeling ill and is rather looking scared, nervous or anxious, don’t go for too many rides at once – instead, go for one short ride and bring some nice treats and toys with you. Talk with your pet along the way and let her eat her treats freely and play with toys (but do not play with your pet – pay attention to the road ahead of you!). Once your pet becomes more relaxed and used to car rides, you can start preparing for longer trips. Don’t forget to take frequent breaks!
Prepare Your Vehicle and Pet for the Trip
Before beginning your road adventure, make sure your vehicle is all set and ready to go. Here are some of the things you need to check and maybe even fix before the long road trip.
- Check and change fluids: things such as the engine oil, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid and of course your car oil all need to be checked, upped or changed if necessary.
- Check the tires: air pressure is of utmost importance, but so is the placement of the tires. Make sure you rotate them if needed, and of course, replace them if necessary (and just in case, have a spare one with you).
- General maintenance: check your brake pads, light bulbs, air filters, car battery and everything else you think requires closer inspection. Don’t forget to fill your gas tank full!
- Clean the vehicle: to keep the space you’re going to be spending a lot of time in clean and fresh, make sure you vacuum and clean everything that needs to be cleaned – inside and outside.
What about your pet? By now, you should know if your pet is road-ready. The short road trips we talked about should be able to show you if your pet has car sickness – if he does, don’t worry, all is not lost. Take as many short drives as possible before the long trip as most animals get used to being in a car after a while. Traveling with your dog or a cat in a pet crate is a good idea too, as kennels can make the animal feel safer and comfier. Also, remember to feed your pet at least several hours before getting in the car. This will give him enough time to digest his food and prevent motion sickness. Another useful tip is to take a long walk before heading out so you can tire out your pet before the road – this way, he’ll want to relax and sleep for the majority of the trip.
Get the Right Apps
Traveling with a pet or several pets can sometimes be tiring, especially if your furry friends are restless and need frequent breaks. If you want to make your road trip less stressful and tiring and more fun and easy, consider installing a few pet-friendly apps on your phone. Most of the really useful apps are completely free so you won’t have to spend a dime making your trip comfortable. For example, an app called BringFido can let you know what are some of the pet-friendly destinations nearby, including accommodations, parks, restaurants and so on. Another free but extremely useful app is called VetFinder – using your current location, it can help you find a nearby vet clinic. Obviously, nobody expects that their pet will get sick, but just to be extra-safe, it’s good to have help. Finally, if you need help with your pet’s documents (or even your own!), install an app called CamScanner – again, totally free but very useful. Instead of taking a bunch of your pet’s papers with you, take a photo of each document you need, and scan it with the app which will then crop it and resize it to make a PDF file which you can then send, share and even print. Another bonus is that you can tag docs to categorize them and find them easier.
Bring Extra Supplies
Essentials such as your own clothes, food, documentation, first aid kit, etc., as well as your pet’s food, documentation, maybe some clothes and blankets, are all obviously a must-have, but just to be thoroughly prepared and safe, it’s a good idea to bring extra supplies with you. First things first, let’s cover your own extra things and supplies:
- Jumper cables and a spare tire
- Phone charger, flashlight, notebook and a pen
- Travel pillow and a blanket
- Painkillers, hand sanitizer, sunscreen and whatever your skincare essentials are.
Your pet’s luggage of extra supplies can include:
- Favorite toys (including chew toys for dogs and small scratch posts for cats)
- Collapsible food and water bottles
- Flea and tick control
Bonus Tip: Have Fun!
One of the most important things you need to do when traveling with your pet is to remember to have fun. Seriously, isn’t that why you want to travel with your pet in the first place? Check out some new places together, try new foods and make new memories– this is the time to bond with your pet, enjoy your free time and simply have fun. Sure, traveling with pets can be stressful, but if done right, these road trips are something you’ll remember forever – and so will your furry companion!