Have you been planning the ultimate family vacation? If you’re driving, why not consider bringing your dog with you? After all, Fido deserves a vacation too! Boarding facilities can cost a lot of money, so how about saving some dough and keeping the family together? Let me help you decide if bringing the dog along on your next trip is a good idea.

Will it be fun?

Does your dog like to drive in the car? If he doesn’t, you can pretty much make the call right now. (Hint: You probably shouldn’t bring him.) If he’s only slightly anxious in a vehicle, you can try giving your pup some Benadryl to make him sleepy. (Be sure to call your vet for advice about an appropriate dose!) And do some dry runs around town (Who doesn’t like company when picking up the dry cleaning?) before you’re all packed up and ready to drive for hours (or days). If carsickness is an issue for your dog, there’s a great medication called Cerenia you can get from a vet’s office, as long as Fido’s been seen within the last year. Be sure to investigate this possibility if you don’t like the idea of puddles of drool or vomit in your car (Who does?), so tummy upset won’t be a problem when you’re trapped in a confined space with your four-legged best friend for hours on end!

The doctor is in.

Dogs should always be current with all of their vaccinations before taking a road trip. Rabies in particular is a must. (Police can actually ask for proof of a rabies vaccine if you get pulled over, so be sure to bring a vaccine history in the car!) A microchip is another must for travelling with your dog. It’s the size of a grain of rice and is implanted under your pet’s skin with a needle, between the shoulder blades. Make sure you’ve registered that microchip with your most recent contact details before you leave. Should the very worst happen and your dog gets lost, any shelter or animal hospital will scan him for the chip as soon as he’s brought in. With a microchip, they can get ahold of you, Fido can get back to his beloved family and a happy ending is pretty much guaranteed. Don’t worry, they haven’t started microchipping humans yet, but I wouldn’t be opposed to implanting one into my kids, who have a tendency to wander!

Dogs allowed.

Make sure you’re going somewhere your pup is welcome. Many hotels are now animal friendly and have specific rooms they allocate for guests bringing pets. These rooms are generally on the first floor for easy entry and exit, and sometimes have designated potty areas immediately outside. Most hotel chains charge an additional fee for bringing your pet, which can vary from a deposit you get back in full at checkout to an automatic cleaning fee of $50-$100. Any additional fees can seem steep, but it’s much cheaper than a kennel if you’re staying several nights! If you’re renting a house, the scenario is usually similar and there is generally a standard fee for bringing your pet. One great website to help locate dog friendly hotels and rental properties is bringfido.com.

Safety first.

Special crate‘Buckle up’ is a good rule to follow for everyone, including our furry friends. Pets should always travel in the backseat (where the airbag can’t hurt them) and be safely secured. You can get a great harness that clips into the seatbelt, or try a special crate for the car.

We use a crate because it’s light, easy to pop up or down, and also perfect for inside the hotel room too. (Unless you have an aggressive chewer that might eat his way out. Sometimes that mini bar is just too tempting!) Always remember that you should NEVER leave your dog alone in the car, even with the windows cracked, as it gets too hot for them. Even on a relatively mild 75-degree day, the temperature can reach a sweltering 109 degrees inside your car within 30 minutes. Brain damage or heat stroke can happen in less than 15 minutes. Don’t take the risk!

Are we there yet?

Just like kids (and let’s face it, adults too, as we get older), pets need to stop to use the facilities frequently. I love rest stops for breaks along the way to your destination (and maybe because my own father never wanted to stop the car on our epic family driving trips so we’d be sure of ‘making good time’). Rest stops often have a specified pet relief area and you can give Fido an opportunity to drink some water and stretch his legs. Studies have shown that for safety, people should take a 15-minute break for every 2 hours of driving. So take advantage of having to stop, let your dog run around a bit and get some exercise at the same time!

Be prepared.

Once you get to where you’re going, you want to set your dog up for success. Bring some familiar toys and blankets from home to make him feel comfortable in the new environment. Lots of fun, new chew toys are smart idea as well.

Chew toys
Chew toys
Chew toys

Give Fido extra attention and tons of exercise, because a worn-out pup is usually a well-behaved pup! Being prepared also includes being ready for the worst, so find out where the nearest emergency vet clinic is in case something goes awry.

Most of all, enjoy giving your dog some new experiences! One of my favorite family vacations was the summer we brought our dog Aspen to the beach with us when she was in her senior years. She swam in the waves like she was a puppy again and left those adorable doggie footprints in the sand. Plus, the kids all loved taking turns walking her because everything was new and exciting! And bringing her along meant she didn’t have to get left behind in an unfamiliar environment, cooped up in a cage. The little bit of extra effort involved in taking your dog along on your next vacation is really worthwhile and can make the trip more fun for everyone!


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