When you first started bucket-listing your dream vacations, traveling with your dog may not have made the list. But our relationship with dogs continues to evolve into a more integrated lifestyle. And that includes travel.
Unless you’re journeying for self-discovery and time alone, your traveling companion(s) will determine a lot of your plans. Do you always travel with a spouse or significant other? Do you travel with friends, children, themed groups?
And how do you like to travel? Are you a flier, cruiser, roadster? A camper? A glamper? Are you more about experiencing nature and outdoor views? Or do you travel to go to museums, restaurants, shops, and shows?
No matter what stamps you currently have in your passport or what class you’re used to flying, another bucket-list trip awaits.
If you’ve never considered traveling with your dog, you may be missing out on one of the most enjoyable ways to experience the world.
You know that any travel takes a lot of forethought and planning. Traveling with a dog takes just a little more. But the effort is worth it and eventually becomes second nature.
The Girl Scout motto doubles for hitting the road/seas/skies with your canine bud: be prepared.
Anticipate not only what you need to pack and what you want to go right, but what could potentially go wrong.
Tips for traveling with your dog
Your preparation will be based, in large part, on questions like:
- Where are we going? Are we staying local? In-state? In our own country? Overseas? Internationally?
- When are we going?
- What will the season and weather be where we’re going?
- What will we be doing on our trip? Sightseeing? Hiking? Camping? Hanging on the beach?
- How are we traveling? Will I be traveling with a dog on a plane? Will we be going by car/RV/camper? Will we have to take other forms of transportation (trains, buses, boats, taxis) at our destination?
- Where will we be staying? Hotel? Airbnb? With family or friends? Campsite? RV?
- How long will we be gone? Is this a day trip? A weekend? A full-on vacation?
- How many people and dogs will be on this trip? Can I handle this on my own, or should another person come along?
- What are the costs involved? Will there be additional fees for having my dog with me? What is the cost to fly a dog? What if I have more than one dog?
- Are dogs allowed in the places we are planning to visit?
- Did we pick a dog-friendly destination?
- Will I need a pet sitter at our destination?
- Are there veterinary services where we are going?
- Is there a quarantine requirement on either end?
- How much can I pack in the way of supplies?
- What medical, vaccination, and/or registration documentation do I need?
- Are my dog’s age, health, and temperament conducive to a safe and enjoyable trip for him?
International travel with your dog
If you are traveling internationally, your first prep-step will be to your vet.
Different countries have different requirements. But they will all involve some combination of bloodwork, permits, vaccination records, health certificate, and microchip/identification.
This is a good time to talk with your vet about how you will be traveling and any special precautions you should take. S/he may even consider sending you with medication for anxiety.
No matter where you are traveling, make sure your dog is microchipped and up-to-date on vaccinations and heartworm/anti-parasite preventatives.
Taking a road trip with your dog
If you’re planning to take a road trip, think safety, safety, safety.
You should check ahead to see if states you will be traveling through have laws about unrestrained dogs in cars.
Some have rules forbidding dogs in the front seat, in truck beds, or hanging their heads out of windows.
But why tempt fate? Unrestrained dogs are as much at risk as unrestrained people. And they are a definite distraction to the driver.
Crate your dog inside the car, use a puppy seat for cars, or, at the very least, use a crash-tested (and approved) seatbelt harness. A car safety harness like the ones that Sleepypod, Kurgo, or CarSafe offer are good options. Or, if you already have a car safe harness and need an adjustable safety seatbelt, consider a dog seat belt that clips into your car’s seatbelt buckle.
If your dog gets carsick, restraining him can be a huge help, as can keeping the car cool and quiet.
How long will you be in the car? Can you plan pitstops at rest areas with designated pet areas for walking and exercising your dog? Does your dog’s breed have the traits that align well with long-haul road trips?
You can read the AKC’s recommendations for car travel here.
Traveling with a dog on a plane
When it comes to air travel, sometimes you simply have no choice.
But prioritize your dog’s safety and comfort level above convenience or any other motivation for putting him onto a plane.
While death, injury, and loss aren’t the norm, enough pets have died or been injured or lost during flights to (hopefully) give you pause.
Only small dogs and cats that can fit in airline-compliant carriers stowed under the seat can ride in the cabin. The cost? $100-$125+ one-way, not including the carrier. Need a carrier? We recommend an airline-compliant carrier that expands to let your fur buddy have some breathing room when possible.
Larger dogs, other than service animals, have to ride in cargo. They, too, have specific carrier requirements, and their one-way tickets can be several hundred dollars to well over $1,000.
Commercial air travel is very stressful for animals. And there are so many mishaps that can happen.
Unless it’s absolutely necessary to fly your dog, opt for a way that keeps you both together for all parts of your adventure.
Traveling with your dog by plane or bus
When it comes to trains and buses, more accommodations exist for small dogs than for dogs over 20 pounds.
And different cities and countries around the world have their own sets of rules about what animals can travel via public transportation. As of now, Greyhound doesn’t allow dogs on board, but you will find that policies are more relaxed on local public transportation buses. Always call ahead and do your research, policies vary and change often.
If you’re wondering if you can travel with your dog on a train in the United States, check the train’s policies. Amtrak, for example, allows pets up to 20 lbs., only 5 pets per train, only on trips up to 7 hours and they must travel in a pet carrier that can fit under the pet parent’s seat.
If it sounds as if traveling with your dog is best done on four wheels, you’re correct.
Finding pet friendly accommodations
On a pawsitive note, however, many hotels, restaurants, and stores are becoming more dog-friendly. And if you think your dog would prefer a vacation of their own, check out these luxury pet hotels where your doggo will stay while you’re away on vacay.
Some of the biggest, most familiar hotel chains are also some of the most accommodating to furry guests. Element hotels (by Marriott) came in at #1 in a recent pet-friendliness ranking.
Click here to see the full top 10 list of familiar hotel chains and check out our top 10 list of luxury pet-friendly hotels for some of the more luxurious accommodations offered with your starlet in mind.
Be prepared to pay anywhere from $20-100 extra per night in many dog-friendly hotels to have your cuddle-buddy with you.
But be sure to check out these hotel chains that roll out the red carpet for free or very little.
When traveling with your dog, make your trip about spending time with your buddy in special places, doing special things.
Take the opportunity to build lifetime memories through your dog’s eyes. Get your paws dirty. Watch the sun rise and set while sitting with your best friend.
Go everywhere together or don’t go at all. Pack dog years into a single day. And take a gazillion pics. #besttripever