Do it once, and you’ll be hooked. Traveling with your dog can be one of the most gratifying ways to get away from your day-to-day routine and enjoy new experiences. But taking a trip with your pup takes some extra planning and an extra packing checklist. So, we’ve assembled the must-haves for traveling with your pooch by car, plane, train, or foot-&-paw.
The magic of life with dogs is the way they keep you in the moment — spontaneous, unpretentious, up-for-anything.
The irony of that present-to-the-present mindset when it comes to travel is all the extra planning it requires. It’s up to you to be prepared so that both you and your furry travel companion can cut loose and enjoy your trip.
What to consider when traveling with your dog
When traveling with your dog by car, plane, train or bus, your packing checklist will need to meet several needs:
- documentation for identification, updated vaccinations, and health release
- proper containment, restraint, and walking equipment
- safety supplies and gear
- medication and first aid supplies (in fact a pet first aid kit is on our best gifts for dog owners list!)
- food and feeding supplies
- grooming supplies
- walking and/or hiking gear
- toys and comfort items
Before you start packing, however, it’s important that you know your dog well and are prepared to accommodate his needs and comfort level.
Questions to ask before planning to travel with your dog:
- Does your dog get carsick or anxious, or does he ride comfortably in the car?
- Is your dog comfortable in social settings with a lot of people?
- Is your dog well-trained and well-behaved?
- Have you ever traveled with your dog before?
- Has your dog ever been on a plane, train, or bus?
- If you are traveling internationally with your dog, is there a required quarantine? If so, what are the requirements, and are they worth it?
- How will your dog’s size affect your means of travel?
- What is the longest amount of time you have been away from home with your dog?
- Will you have any other humans along for this trip, or will you be alone to manage everything?
- How old is your dog, and what is his health condition?
- What time of year will you be traveling, and how will the weather affect your dog?
- Is this trip about your dog’s enjoyment at least as much as it is about yours?
You will also need to be prepared for differences between your destination(s) and home:
- Are you going to a dog-friendly location that welcomes dogs in its public spaces and local means of transportation?
- What are the local laws specific to dogs?
- Will you have access to dog-friendly accommodations and pet-friendly hotels?
- If there aren’t dog-friendly hotels, are there good dog hotels available for pet boarding and is that an option based on your pet’s personality and needs?
- Will you have access to veterinary care at your destination?
Packing Checklist for Traveling With Your Dog
And now to get ready to pack! Here are the must-haves for traveling with your dog, no matter how you plan to travel.
Must-have packing checklist for travel with dog
- Identification and emergency contact information (on your dog’s tags, embroidered on his collar, written on an emergency card in your wallet, and included in an emergency crate tube and in a photo file on your phone)
- Pet license, if applicable
- A few good photos of your dog to show people or use for flyers in the event you are separated
- Pre-made “Lost” flier with photos of your dog and your phone number and email address
- Necessary vaccinations and documentation
- Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) or vet-issued health certificate (be sure to thoroughly read and closely follow the USDA requirements regarding pet travel, especially when traveling internationally)
- Emergency crate tube for storing identification, medical, and emergency documents and attaching to crate
- Updated microchip (make sure your registration information is current and your annual fee is paid; have your vet check the microchip to ensure it is still in place and working)
- Apple Air Tag and personalized Air Tag case for collar or harness
- Addresses and phone numbers of veterinary (and emergency) clinics along the way to your destination
- Address and phone number of a kennel at your destination
- Collar plus spare
- Leash plus spare
- Seatbelt harness for car travel
- Crate for car travel (the ideal method for safety; click here for the top-rated travel crate)
- Airline-approved dog carrier if you are traveling with a dog on a plane or train (in cabin)
- Airline-approved dog crate if you’re traveling with your dog on a plane in cargo
- Medications (including anti-nausea and anti-anxiety meds if necessary and prescribed)
- Nutritional supplements (bring supplements you regularly give your dog to keep up with their routine)
- Mental wellness supplements (traveling can cause anxiety in pets, if you give your dog calming chews or CBD supplements for anxiety, pack them)
- Collapsible compact pet stroller (if you plan to do a lot of walking on your trip and your dog will need a rest or won’t be able to walk as far as you can)
- First-aid kit
- Favorite toys
- Food and water bowls
- Folding water and food bowls for day excursions
- Food (including treats, of course)
- Bottled water
- Basic grooming supplies (brush, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo)
- Poop bags
- Potty pads
- Outerwear (dog coat, dog boots)
- Urine eliminator to clean up messes
- 2-3 old towels
- Sheet to cover hotel bed
- Muzzle (optional for dogs that require in certain situations)
- Life jacket (for trips that will involve boat travel or swimming)
Checklist for trip with multiple forms of travel
If your excursion is going to involve multiple forms of travel, be prepared for different restrictions. Amtrak, for example, allows pets only up to 20 pounds (including carrier), only one pet per passenger, only on trips up to 7 hours, and only five pets per train. And the fee is $25.
While Greyhound doesn’t allow dogs onboard, local transportation systems often have more relaxed rules regarding pets-about-town.
Again, you will have to research the rules of your destination if you intend to use multiple means of transportation. You will find that size does matter in many cases, making travel easier if you have a Chihuahua than if you have an Irish Wolfhound.
Of course, the American Disabilities Act requires that service dogs be accepted for travel. But even service dogs have guidelines, so read up before you head out.
In Our Experience
Traveling with your dog is an entirely different way of experiencing the world. It heightens your awareness of little things you probably wouldn’t otherwise notice. And it has a way of bringing out the child in you so you can experience your adventure with your dog’s enthusiasm.
A little extra planning and prep? Sure.
A lifetime of unforgettable memories and a gazillion photos? Absolutely.