How to Plan a Road Trip with Your Pet

Maya rides in the cargo area of the SUV on a road trip from Kansas to Texas.
Maya rides in the cargo area of the SUV on a road trip from Kansas to Texas.

How many times have you taken a road trip and halfway through realized you forgot something important? Or you wished you had thought to bring something that would make the trip easier or more comfortable? Taking a road trip requires planning. Traveling with your pet can be easy... if you plan ahead.

Maya & Pierson ride very comfortably in the back of the SUV. They can still wear their dog seat belts in the cargo area.
Maya & Pierson ride very comfortably in the back of the SUV. They can still wear their dog seat belts in the cargo area.

If you travel with your dog or cat without planning, you might find yourself woefully unprepared. Things which could make your trip very unpleasant include your dog getting car sick, your pet going crazy, getting restless, being uncomfortable, and getting nervous in the car. And not to scare you, a nervous or sick dog may very well void himself in the car. Believe me, I've had it happen. So if you are planning a road trip with your dog or cat, the first and best thing you can do is know how your pet reacts to riding in the car and prepare accordingly.

Cute Dog Whining in the Car

The above video of the cute dog whining in the car is of my Labrador Maya. She is super excited about riding in the car and would be quite a distraction if she wasn't wearing her dog seat belt.

My dog Sephi was older with a bit of arthritis and so we used a heated car seat cover for long road trips.
My dog Sephi was older with a bit of arthritis and so we used a heated car seat cover for long road trips.

Know How Your Dog or Cat Rides in the Car

Before your trip, take several small trips in the car with your dog. Go to the drive-through bank, coffee shop, or fast-food drive-through. You can take your pet to the dog park or visit a friend. Take some longer trips, if possible to see how your dog or cat does. Now that you know how your pet reacts in the car, here are some things you can do for certain issues:

1. Car Sick Dog – Ask your vet about any medications you can give to help with car sickness. Limit feeding. Instead of one big meal, give a little bit of food an hour or two before the trip and a little bit at a time along the way. Use a car seat cover or blanket to protect your car's interior. If you have a small pet, consider a pet car seat to give him a boost. Sometimes being able to look out the car window helps with car sickness.

2. Nervous Pet – Ask your vet about any medications. Also, there are pet products such as Canine Calm from Earth Heart that is supposed to help a nervous dog. Other pet products helping with nervous dogs could also include the Thundershirt.

3. Excited Crazy Dog – Try the calming medications or products indicated above. Also, try taking your dog for a run before the road trip and make plenty of stops during the road trip. Well before the trip, practice having him wear a dog seat belt in the car so he doesn't jump around and distract the driver.

4. Restless Pet – Perhaps your dog is restless because he is nervous, excited, or afraid. It could be a variety of reasons. Don't sooth your pet because if he is restless because he is afraid, your soothing might send the message that there is something to be afraid of. Don't yell at your dog either. It won't help. Try to make your dog more comfortable by providing his own bed and some of his favorite toys. Be sure the toys aren't toys he will tear up. You don't want him to start choking or hurt himself during the trip.

5. Uncomfortable Dog – Older pets may especially have this issue. For an older big dog, try a heated car seat cover (if the weather on the trip is not hot). Give plenty of blankets for your pet to rest. For a smaller pet, consider a comfy pet car seat.

My dog Pierson in the car wearing his Bergan dog seat belt. My car is also outfitted with the Kurgo Backseat Bridge to cover the floor and give my dogs more room to stretch out on long road trips.
My dog Pierson in the car wearing his Bergan dog seat belt. My car is also outfitted with the Kurgo Backseat Bridge to cover the floor and give my dogs more room to stretch out on long road trips.

Pet Stuff to Bring on Your Road Trip

A. Leash and Collar – Be sure your pet's collar includes identification tags that are up to date.
B. Pet Food and Water – Bring plenty for the trip and the stay.
C. Pet Bowls.
D. Dog Bed, Pet Crate, Pet Blankets, and Other Creature Comforts.
E. Pet Toys.
F. Car Seat Cover or Cargo Cover – If your pet sheds, a seat cover or cargo cover is a fantastic thing to bring.
G. Dog Poo Bags or Kitty Litter – You must pick up your dog's waste wherever you visit. If you're traveling with your cat, make sure you have everything you need to change his litter box.
H. First Aid Kit – For you and your pets. If you can, see if you can also find a first aid booklet for pets. The Blue Pearl Emergency Veterinary Clinic which can be found nationwide has a good one. The American Red Cross might have one too.
I. Veterinary Info and Emergency Contacts – Keep your pet's info and emergency contacts in your purse, wallet, and/or glove box.
J. Dog Seat Belt, Pet Crate, or Pet Car Seat – Be sure your dog or cat is secured safely in the car. Not only does this help protect your pet on the trip, it can also help keep your pets from distracting the driver. And it may help with some of the pet issues previously mentioned.
K. Medication – Your pet's regular meds and/or medications which may help with car sickness or other issues previously mentioned.
L. Stuff for Keeping Cool or Staying Warm – If traveling in warm weather bring ice packs to help keep your pet cool. Remember, the a/c may not work as well in the back area of the car. If traveling in cooler weather, bring your dog's blanket not just for comfort but for warmth. Never in any kind of weather leave your dog alone in the car.

I know this is cute, but please be careful about allowing your dog to ride unrestrained in the vehicle. A sudden emergency car maneuver and this adorable little dog could get thrown out of the vehicle.
I know this is cute, but please be careful about allowing your dog to ride unrestrained in the vehicle. A sudden emergency car maneuver and this adorable little dog could get thrown out of the vehicle.

On the Road with Your Pet

Make plenty of pit stops. Pick up after your pet. Keep your pet restrained in a dog seat belt, pet crate, or pet car seat. Always make sure your dog is on a leash when outside of the car. Never leave your dog or cat alone in the car. Not only could it get really hot in the car, even in cooler weather, but someone could steal your pet. If you are traveling alone with your pet and you must, be sure to make your own pit stops as quickly as possible. Pets are not allowed in rest area restrooms. And finally, if you are making an especially long road trip, be sure to check in advance for pet-friendly hotels. Know in advance which hotel chains tend to be pet friendly such as Red Roof Inn, Holiday Inn, and Baymont Inn.

I know this is a lot of information, but it really is simple if you prepare in advance. I love traveling with my dogs. We travel from Kansas to Texas every year to visit family. My Lab Maya is hyper in the car and Travel Calm really helped her. My Chow mix Sephi did well but she was older and needed the heated car seat cover since most of our travel was in late fall or winter. My Aussie mix Pierson does well but he tends to get car sick so we limited feeding. And all three wore a dog seat belt in the car.

I hope your road trip with your pet is just as enjoyable!

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Comments 4 comments

DrMark1961 profile image

DrMark1961 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

Great article! I want to put a plug in for that first aid kit; if anyone has any questions about what should go in there go over to my profile page and click on the "What should I put in a first aid kit for dogs" hub. A good first aid kit can make a big difference when you are on the road; the nearest veterinary clinic may be far away, or even closed when you get there.

The photo of Pierson in his seat belt is great too. Seat belts are a great way to prevent accidents and a lot better than incarcerating a dog in a crate.

I am sharing this on HP. Thanks!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is an important hub for pet owners, Nature By Dawn! Thank you for all the very useful information, as well as for sharing the photos and video of your dogs.


Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 3 years ago from Central Oregon

Great advise for traveling with your dog. I especially like your checklist format, very healpful.


DIYmommy profile image

DIYmommy 3 years ago

Fairly young still, we have yet to plan a road trip for our 7-lb maltese-bichon dog. This summer, I'd like to change that, and perhaps take a trip down to Myrtle Beach. Because a family member rents a beach house down there, that would be the perfect opportunity. Thank you for the great tips!

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