When we got our dog a year ago we got a lot of comments along the lines of “say goodbye to your travels.” And “That dog is gonna tie you down!”
Anybody else heard that? Said that? Fear that?
I’m here to tell you something – you can travel with your pets, your life isn’t over. Exhibit A – Willy, our 80lb fur child has traveled more miles this year than a lot of kids have.
And yes – maybe this post is an attempt to share more pictures of my adorable dog – but it’s also wonderful advice. I promise. And cuteness…
There is a trick to traveling with your pet, and bringing your dog along can make things a whole lot more fun! When we first dreamed of having our chocolate lab (that’s right, we travel with a 90lb dog) we promised each other that if Willy (the dog) could go somewhere, we would bring him along. Our friends know, if we are coming to stay with them chances are it’s a party of 3 – and they know when to tell us he needs to go to “camp” and hang out instead.
We’ve done our research and from experience, here’s our top tips to traveling with a dog, more particularly a large breed dog. Cat person? You’re on your own – your cat is probably plotting your demise while you travel anyway.
Plan on Road-tripping.
Yes, you can fly with your dog – but our rule of thumb is that with our large breed, we drive. Flying cargo for dogs is traumatic and bringing them in airports is hard unless they are properly trained. Our dog is very much still a puppy, and we know that. Just like people traveling with kids, a leisurely road trip allows that flexibility for breaks and keeping things as normal as possible.
Bring your dog in the car with you often.
If your dog never leaves the house, they are going to act like they never leave the house when you travel – so have a plan for the car. For us, our dog sits in the same spot every time, on his bed. He knows where to go and relax and can spread out. Though it doesn’t mean he won’t try to cuddle!
Limit travel to 8 hours a day.
Travel isn’t active, and that’s tough on pets if they are used to moving around a lot. Plus, it takes longer. I mean think about it, every time you need to stretch your legs your pet most likely feels the urge twice as much. Most highway rest stops provide pet relief areas, and they will need to play a bit to get the wiggles out for more time in the car – so plan for it. When you arrive in a new place, whether your final destination or an overnight stop, your pet needs some time to acclimate and play. Take the extra time to make them comfortable so you’re comfortable.
Use the same overnight bag for your dog each time you travel.
This helps the dog establish a routine and knowing “ok, I am going somewhere overnight.” We use this bag when he goes to “camp” or travels with us – and he is learning how to act when the bag comes out. In the bag, pack the following items:
- A copy of your pet’s immunization records.
- Extra poop baggies.
- A blanket they use at the house.
- Some of your dirty laundry so they recognize your smell in unfamiliar places.
- Their 3 favorite toys.
- Pet food, with 2 days extra (hey, we’ve forgotten it before!)
- Their food and water bowl from home.
- Rescue Remedy and Benadryl for emergencies.
- Marking spray & accident clean up materials.
All of this helps with familiarity, and establishing a routine for your pet. Also, little reminders from home can help solve behavioral issues.
Download the app “Bring Fido” or visit the website: bringfido.com.
This app has been awesome for us. Here you can find hotels, rest stops, and even restaurants that are pet friendly and rated on a scale of 1-5 bones of how great their service is to pets. Many times with restaurants, you can call ahead and make a reservation so your furry friend doesn’t have to stay in the car or hotel while you have fun. You can also book hotels directly through this site.
Book your hotel in advance.
So you can’t be COMPLETELY spontaneous when you travel with your pup (bummer, right?). Though some hotels do offer pet rooms, there may be limits on how many they will take or a huge pet deposit; so go old school, pick up the phone and take 5 minutes to figure it out. When we travel with our lab, our go-to is staying at La Quinta Inn. They have no breed restrictions or pet fees and provide a relief area – and are generally pretty clean. All they ask in return is crating your dog when you’re not in the room. Bonus? We book our rooms through hotels.com and collect free nights! After booking, I still call ahead and request a room on the first floor near an exit, even better if it’s the room on the end. A dog gets nervous if they don’t know where sounds come from, so eliminating neighbors and having a quick exit for the inevitable early morning potty session makes it more comfortable for all parties involved.
Have a game plan when you arrive to the hotel.
Hubs and I about have this down to a science when getting our pet situated. Whether traveling alone or with someone, have your plan and repeat it each time so your dog has some sense of what’s going on.
- Check in to the hotel, one person stays in the car with the dog. If you’re traveling alone, take the dog for a short walk before walking them in with you for checkin so the staff can meet your pet and they aren’t barking bloody murder when you check in. First impressions are everything.
- This next step works best with two – one person takes the dog for a long walk and the other unload the car and begins unpacking and setting up the room. Make sure the dog relieves themself plenty and the area that will be the dog’s “home” is set up as well as some of your things unpacked before Fido comes home.
- Introduce the dog to the room, let them sniff around and explore on their own – and be ready should they choose to mark their territory. Let them see where they will be, your things set out and give them lots of love.
It’s ok to leave your dog in the hotel, just not for too long.
Spend some time with your pet in the room when you first arrive and settle in, and then take yourself out for dinner – but make it an early night (at least the first night of travel.) Before you go: pet them, love on them, maybe throw on Animal Planet if you’re desperate. Then, give them some food, and go through your normal routine when you leave the house and give yourself a break and have a great dinner. Pick up a bottle of wine on the way back and take advantage of that free HBO and some puppy cuddles for the night.
Leave out your dirty laundry.
Did you cringe for that one? Leaving some dirty laundry in the room will help spread your smell and put your pet at ease that you’ll be back.
Sleep in pajamas.
I feel like this is self-explanatory at a hotel but there’s really nothing worse than a truck rolling by or your neighbors coming to your room in the middle of the night and your dog having a panic attack – and you naked. Especially if someone comes to the door. Plan for the worst, turn down the thermostat and put your mind at ease.
Plan something active each day of your travel.
This is a rule-of-thumb for us when we go somewhere, but we make it a top priority when Willy is in tow. Whether it’s taking an hour exploring a state park, hiking some trails or walking on the beach, you and your dog need some exercise. After all, you didn’t bring your pet with you just to keep you company, right? They have to have fun too.
Traveling with your dog is very rewarding, it’s nice sharing the experiences as a family and taking a minute and stopping to smell the trees when you go for a walk. Rest at ease, you’ve got this!
Have any other tips? Favorite destinations? I’d love to hear about it!