Road Trip Planning for Fido and Fluffy's Vacation Away From it All

Road trip planning takes on a whole new element when you’re taking your pets along for the ride. It can be great to have your best friend traveling down the road with you – you can just see Bowser’s face as he pants and smiles at the passing scenery or Mr. Kitty as he keeps tabs on local birdlife!

Road Trip Planning

You can’t wait to share everything with your furry friend, but don’t think this is anything like a quick run to the grocery store at home. You’ll really need to be doing some solid road trip planning in order to make sure that your pet has a good – and safe – time on your road trip.

Don’t even think about bringing your pet on a road trip if you haven’t already taken him or her (or them) with you on errands/tootling around town in the past. I’ll never forget the first time I took my mellow Himalayan cat with me on a trip to Delaware when I was in my twenties. I always thought that she made those horrible noises in the past because she was scared of the vet – that’s the only time I took her in a car, so I assumed she knew where she was going and was telling me in no uncertain terms that she was not happy about it.

Could I be more wrong? Moo Moo (that was her nickname – don’t ask me why, she liked being called that) wailed all the way through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. She hated it! Moral of the story: find out if your pet likes to travel in a car and enjoys it before you do any other road trip planning.

Even if you have a dog, and you think all dogs love cars, give your pooch multiple test runs first. Some dogs get terrible motion sickness; I’ve known quite a few. Do you think Bowser’s going to like throwing up for miles? I think not!

What other steps do you need to take to bring Fido or Fluffy (or both) on your road trip?

Road Trip Planning for Pets: Step 1
Before you even take your pet on one errand, go out and get a carrier – I’ve seen people put their dog or cat in the back seat of their car one too many times. Do you know how much injury your pet will sustain if you hit the brakes hard? SLAM! That is cruel!

Go out and get a good-sized carrier for your pet with plenty of room for him or her to move around/turn around. Next, put the carrier in the room your pet spends the most time in and add a soft blanket as well as some appealing toys. Let your pet learn to enjoy the carrier and see it as a part of your home. One way to get him or her interested in the carrier is to incorporate a game with it – like throwing your dog’s favorite ball in the carrier for him to retrieve or dangling a bit of string in the carrier for your cat to paw at.

Once the carrier has been fully incorporated into your pet’s life, start taking him or her in the carrier in your car on errands. Make sure the carrier is secure and doesn’t move around in the car – you don’t want it sliding around at all. Be sure to never ever leave your cat or dog in the car (unless we're talking a minute or two). They’ll have to come inside with you, so be sure where you’re going will allow that.

Road Trip Planning for Pets: Step 2
Make appropriate road trip plans including hotels and attractions – Only book hotels that allow pets. You may think you can "sneak" your pet in, but don’t even try. You could easily get booted and end up with nowhere to stay. Also, make sure all the attractions and sights you plan on visiting along the way allow pets.

You won’t be leaving your pet in the car at all on your road trip – I’m sure you’ve heard, but I’ll tell you just in case: you will either cook or freeze your best friend if you leave him or her in the car. Just don’t do it! There are lots of great places to go with your pet and plenty of restaurants you can visit including drive-thrus, many diners and cafes, etc.

Road Trip Planning for Pets: Step 3
Pack for your pet – There are lots of things that your pet will need on your road trip and they include:

  • Lots and lots of water in bottles plus food. Only feed your pet when you’re stopped along your route – never in motion. They can choke just as easily as you can, and it will be too late when you find out. Also, be sure to keep your pets on their usual feeding schedule. Try to never feed them too much before you get on the road – allow an hour after a big meal before driving. Very small snacks on the road are okay, but larger meals usually lead to motion sickness.
  • Their bowls (water and food) from home. They’ll need all the familiarity they can get.
  • Leash and collar with identification including your home address and cell phone number. Be sure to leash your pet securely before opening car doors/carrier near roadways or parking lots to prevent your pet from running and being hit.
  • Poop patrol stuff including papers, poop scoop, plastic baggies, etc.
  • Medications and any other first-aid type items that your pet might need. As some states require it, be sure to bring your pet's health certificate and records of your pet’s rabies vaccination.
  • Grooming stuff including brushes and their own shampoo in case they roll in that stinky puddle or get something stuck in their fur.
  • Favorite toys and treats. Bring their pet bed if they use one at home (don’t bother if you just wish they’d use it).
Road Trip Planning for Pets: Step 4
On the road again… Plan to stop a lot along the way. Your pet will need to get out and you can both take a break, have a snack, drink some water, and take a walk. You should plan to stop at least once an hour (preferably more often – come on! You can check out every sight and pretty park along the road this way!)

You may be tempted as a dog owner to let your pooch hang her happy face out the window – look how cute she is! Don’t do it – not only is the dog in danger by being loose/not secured, but items (like bugs) can fly in her eyes and blind her (or at least seriously injure her).

With these road trip planning tips for your pet, you’ll be ready for a great vacation with your best buddy (and what’s better than unconditional love while you’re on vacation?).


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