Dog-Friendly Vacation: Tips for a Successful Getaway

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If you're like most dog parents, you're bound to take your canine companion on a dog-friendly vacation at some point. Quality time with your pup can be one of the best parts of getting away. While a variety of boarding options are there when you need them, sometimes it's worth planning ahead to include your dog in the fun. Whether it's an adventurous outing or a trip to visit family, taking your dog on vacation can be one of the most rewarding experiences you have together.

Packing Dog Supplies

Nothing helps you plan for a dog-friendly vacation better than making a handy packing list of everything they'll possibly need. Here are some of the most important supplies to remember when preparing for your dog-friendly vacation:

  • A crate or pet carrier (ensure it's suitable for airline travel if you're catching a flight)
  • A secure collar or harness with proper identification tags and a leash
  • Your veterinarian's contact information in case of illness or injury
  • Contact information for emergency veterinary clinics in the area you'll be traveling
  • A dog-friendly first-aid kit (the American Veterinary Medical Association offers a first-aid checklist)
  • A health certificate, even if it's not required for transportation
  • Extra dog food and plenty of water
  • Collapsible bowls that are easy to store and unpack
  • Dog treats to reward them for good behavior
  • Puzzle toys to entertain them and minimize stress
  • Waste bags (leave no trace!)
  • Their favorite chew toys
  • Bedding, extra blankets and towels to keep them comfortable and clean

Also, check the weather before you go — especially if you're staying in a different climate. If you live in Southern California but are traveling to, say, Michigan during the winter, you may need to pack your dog a coat or booties to help keep them warm and comfortable in the cold.

Preparing Your Dog for the Trip

If your dog isn't a seasoned traveler, do a practice run before the big trip. You don't want to find out your dog gets carsick when you're hours from home and your trusted vet. If you discover that your dog gets anxious or nauseated in the car, travel might not be fun for them, and that's OK. You can also speak with your vet about medications to help ease anxiety or calm the tummy — plenty of options are out there!

Remember to check with your vet about reionally specific health risks or recommendations you may need once you get to your destination. Do you live in an area with minimal risk of exposure to ticks and fleas but are traveling south? You'll want your dog to be on the appropriate pest preventatives to help keep them healthy and to avoid bringing back any unwanted souvenirs.

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Traveling Tips

With the above checklist and other preparation tips, you can feel confident you have what your dog needs for an easy, breezy vacation. Next, you'll want to plan transportation and where you'll stay.

Use a Crate in the Car

Traveling by car? As much as you might want your dog to be your co-pilot, it's best to let them lounge in the back seat in a roomy crate. The specific crate or containment system you use can vary as long as your pet is comfortable. Hard-sided crates and carriers are arguably the safest, but you can always add a seat belt or other barrier system for additional protection. Whichever you choose, make sure your dog is used to it. Practice for days or even weeks ahead of time so your dog can get comfortable riding in the car in their cozy crate.

Take Pit Stops

Plan for plenty of pit stops. You should never leave your dog in the car unattended, so drive-throughs can be a big help when it comes to meals on the road. If you're not fond of eating in the car, look for a shady spot to sit and picnic with your pup. Heatstroke is a serious threat to dogs even when the weather doesn't feel hot to you. Always take your pup with you when you hop out of the car, even if just to snap a photo. And remember, traveling with puppies will require more stops and attention than with an adult dog.

Review Airline Requirements

When traveling by plane, you'll have to use an air-approved dog crate. Check with the specific airline you're flying with, as each has its own criteria. Dogs who won't fit under the seat will need to travel in cargo, and the weather at the time of takeoff may affect whether the airline allows them to fly. Breeds with flat faces such as pugs and bulldogs often don't do well with flying due to the changes in air pressure, and puppies and older dogs may not fly well either. Flying can be stressful, so if your dog becomes anxious in strange surroundings or around unknown people, this might not be the best mode of travel. Ultimately, you know your dog best.

Book a Dog-Friendly Hotel

If you're not staying with family or friends, make sure your hotel is pet-friendly. More and more animal-friendly hotels are becoming available, so you should have no issue finding a comfortable place for you both to stay.

Keeping Your Dog Happy

Although travel can disrupt your regular routine, try to keep your dog on the schedule they're used to at home as best you can. Keep meals regular with respect to portions and time — keeping time zone changes in mind — and provide plenty of opportunities for exercise. The more familiar the routine, the less likely your dog will feel stressed by travel. Airports and hotel lobbies can be busy places, so make sure your buddy is comfortable and has enough time to use the restroom before relaxing in their crate.

A little preparation and consideration about how to keep your dog comfortable and secure can go a long way when it comes to traveling to new, exciting destinations. Ultimately, the more you travel together, the easier it'll be to explore with them beyond your own neighborhood. The world is your (and your dog's) oyster!

Contributor Bio

Karen Louis DVM, MS, cVMA