Road Trippin' With Fido - Tips for Doggy Road Trips
Updated: Jan 23
“Life is a journey best travelled with dogs.” - Unknown
The first time we took Buzz on a road trip to Colorado, we were both nervous it was going to be a disaster. By that point, we had gone on too many trips without any dogs, and couldn’t not bring him along with us. The thing was, though, we were nervous it would be a disaster. We had done virtually no research and had no idea what we were doing.
I remember that within the first fifteen minutes of the trip, I was already regretting our decision to bring him. He would go from the window to the center console to my lap. Then, he’d sit for a second before floundering around there. After a few minutes of this, he’d go back to the window and start the entire process over again. It was exhausting, and we hadn’t even gotten out of Iowa yet.
I was already stressed out. All I could think to myself was that this had been a huge mistake because we had twelve hours of driving to go before we reached our destination. If he is acting like this in the car, I had thought, how will he act when we finally get to Colorado? What a long trip this was going to be.
Luckily for me, he settled in about another 30 minutes later and started napping. At this point, my stress levels subsided and I figured maybe this hadn’t been as bad of an idea as I had originally assumed. Since that first trip with Buzz, we’ve learned a lot about car rides - both long or short - with a dog.
Bring Fido Everywhere. Whenever possible, bring Fido along with you in the car - no matter how short the drive. When the weather is nice, I will take Buzz with me on errands like getting groceries (I am always positive the weather is right, and keep the truck running for him with the air on to ensure climate control), running for coffee, or whatever.
Make Sure Trips are Fun! Even if your car ride is just to run to the grocery store, stop at the pet store and bring Fido in to sniff around. Bring your four-legged friend to the dog park. Grab him a treat or a special new toy. Whatever you do, make sure that your buddy knows that car rides don’t always mean the vet.
Bring a Blanket or Dog Bed. Talk about an absolute lifesaver. Picture this: It’s your first road trip with your dog. You brought a blanket, but thought it would belong in the back, underneath all of your camping gear - far, far away from accessible at the moment. There’s no way you’ll be able to get that blanket out to use until at least tomorrow. You are wearing shorts, and your dog’s toenails are digging into you like talons, leaving permanent red scrapes all up and down your legs. Now, I’m not saying that was me, but I am saying that that is not an ideal situation.
Be Prepared for More Potty Stops. Buzz seems to do really well with potty stops. If anything, we are typically stopping because of me. Still, though, be prepared to figure in a little extra drive time from point to point when you have a dog along. They want to stretch their legs worse than you do at all of those stops along the way, so you will most likely be spending a little extra time at each pit stop compared to what you would do normally.
Think About Bringing Car Sickness Remedies. We have been very lucky with Buzz. He has never gotten carsick on any of our trips (except for that one time that while listening to dubstep, he threw up all over me, but that’s a story for another time - I think he just really hated our choice in music that night). That being said, not everyone is so lucky. Car sickness is very common, but there are some easy remedies to try to help combat it (bonus - some are all-natural):
Place a few drops of lavender or chamomile essential oil on a cotton ball, and leave it inside the car for a soothing scent (Source: AKC).
Spray some Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) inside the car (Source: AKC).
Give the dog some Benadryl, but be certain to give the proper dosage - the smaller the dog, the less they need.
Review different anxiety treats and medicines to see what is best for your dog, if any.
More frequent, shorter car rides will help build a tolerance to car rides and car sickness as well.
The next thing we had to do was find a place to stay for the night. Typically, we do the “let’s drive until we can’t anymore” sort of thing on our trips to Colorado. This was going to be a different experience with a dog along for the ride, as we knew that not every hotel along the route allowed dogs.
We learned a few things pretty quickly as we searched for a hotel that night - and they have been helpful for all our trips that included a dog since then.
Check “Pet-Friendly”. Places like Expedia and Priceline are a life-saver when it comes to travelling with a dog - just check the “Pet-Friendly” filter when searching for a place to stay.
Shop Around. It’s good to shop around, even if a few pet-friendly hotels are found in the same area. We have found two to three different hotels that show the same cost per room, but the pet fees can impact the total price by $25 or more. The additional fee can be a per dog fee or a total fee. Other times, hotels will allow pets to stay completely free. Some hotels will only allow dogs of a certain size (the weight limits, if any, are around 25-30 pounds or less). Finally, some hotels will only allow one dog.
Remember to Take Fido Along. A lot of hotels will not allow you to leave your dog alone in the room if you go somewhere (like, say, to dinner). Keep in mind that you will need to have your dog with you nearly everywhere you go. A lot of bigger cities now have websites that show dog-friendly places to eat. If that is not an option, or if you are doing something other than going out to dinner, keep in mind that you will have to either take your dog along or leave them in the car. This may be something to think about when deciding where to go and at what time of year - you will have to leave windows down or keep the vehicle on to ensure your pup's safety.
Watch Your Pup Get Acclimated. At the very first hotel we stayed at with Buzz, we let him off his leash immediately when we got to our room. The very first thing he did was lift his leg and pee on the bed. We were placed in a room that always had dogs in it, and he took no time at all to sniff out where a dog had previously peed (gross, I know). Since then, though, we have been better about watching him get acclimated to the room, ensuring that we can stop that from happening again.
Ask for the Ground Floor. Getting a ground-floor room is the easiest way to allow for simple midnight trips outdoors for the dog.
We have seen in our experiences that a lot of the hotels and motels that we’ve stayed in have put us on the second floor, even after advising them that we have a dog along with us.
Keep in mind that you can always ask for a ground floor room, but sometimes they do have designated areas for those that have doggos - to make sure to only impact certain rooms for those that have allergies, etc.