Take a Road Trip with Your Dog

It might be the perfect time to take a socially distanced vacation with your best furry friend.

Man traveling with dog
Kit8.net / Shutterstock

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If lately you’ve been feeling like a hostage in your own home, trapped in a dreary cycle of work-laundry-dinner under one roof and staring out your window at a frigid, snowy landscape, it’s no wonder that a vacation is calling your name. Imagine how your dog feels.

Your furry friend could be clamoring for a getaway too.

Coincidentally, the safeguards of a socially distanced trip — car travel, camping, outdoor dining — can line up perfectly with the natural restrictions of travel with a dog. With some extra patience and planning, you can make special memories with your pooch and give them — and yourself — the change of scenery you both need.

Know Your Dog

Some dogs get overly stressed by long car rides. If this is the case with your pup, consider a closer getaway, like a day or weekend trip in-state. Look at state, national, and local parks nearby for an unfamiliar destination with less travel time.

Before You Go

Check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations and preventative medications. Tell your vet where you’re going so they can offer advice on the best way to prepare for your dog’s vacation. Depending on your destination, you may need a health certificate issued from your veterinarian for interstate travel. Make sure your dog is microchipped and wears a tag with your current contact information in case they become separated from you.

Do a Road Trip Right

Before hitting the road, make sure your pet will be as safe as possible on your trip. For smaller dogs, secure a carrier in the backseat that they can move around in freely. Otherwise, you’ll need a harness that you can secure with a seatbelt. Check out these crash test certified options from the Center for Pet Safety.

En route, make plenty of stops to satisfy your dog’s needs. Most highway rest stops display signage on where you can walk your dog.

What to Bring

  • Generous supply of your dog’s regular food
  • Water
  • Food and water bowls
  • Medications
  • Bedding and blankets (the more familiar, the better)
  • Veterinarian contact information
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Dog waste bags
  • Extra-special treats
  • Vaccination records (either paper copies or on your phone)
  • Strong leash
  • Grooming items

Pitch a Tent

Camping is an obvious arrangement for a dog vacation. There are so many options for campgrounds and national forests that will allow you to bring your four-legged friend. You could go the “glamping” route, and rent a posh tent in Moab or a camper in the Florida Keys. For a more rugged experience, try backpacking with your dog for free in Ocala National Forest or the Linville Gorge Wilderness. Whether you camp off the beaten path or at a private campground, be sure to check ahead of time to make sure dogs are allowed. There might be restrictions based on weight or breed.

Get a Room

If hotel accommodations are more your speed, you can find plenty of places to stay that will allow your dog. EconoLodge, Best Western, and Red Roof Inn allow dogs for little or no extra charge at many U.S. locations. In the way of luxury resorts, Inn by the Sea in Maine and the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa in New Mexico are just a couple destinations that offer special services and accommodations for dogs. Find more on a site like PetsWelcome.

To browse any number of vacation rentals where you can bring your dog along, search a site like AirBnB or Vrbo and filter the results by listings with “pets allowed.”

Where to Go

Camping and Backpacking


Dog-Friendly Destinations

  • Key West, Florida
  • Austin, Texas
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Bend, Oregon
  • Sedona, Arizona

Tips for the Pet Set

  • Prepare your dog for tent camping by trying it out before you go. Make sure their toenails aren’t so sharp that they’ll poke through the floor of your tent.
  • Many beaches and piers disallow dogs, and you could face a steep fine for breaking the rule. Look ahead of time for dog-friendly beaches and parks.
  • Keep in mind that your dog is in a new environment, possibly surrounded by dangerous wildlife. Even if you’re used to letting them go off-leash, it’s best to keep them leashed and close for their own safety.
  • Be prepared to spend a lot of time with your dog. Specifically, ALL of the time. Unlike at home, you won’t be able to leave your dog unattended on vacation (probably not in a hotel room or camper, and certainly not in a tent). Plan ahead, and you can spend less vacation time fretting about this and more of it bonding with your pooch over beer and oysters on a patio or frollicking in the surf on a dog beach. For days when you might want a break, find a local dog daycare or search for a sitter on the website Rover.

Featured image: Kit8.net / Shutterstock

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  1. Thanks for this great new feature Nick. Really everything you need to know for stress-free, problem-free canine companion travel. For all of its faults (and fault lines), Ca. still has beautiful scenery where you can feel like you’re in a different state once you’re out of L.A. county, which my dog and I badly need in ’21; even for a couple of days.

    The coast is so great, from Big Sur to Monterey especially. We’re not going that far. No. Santa Barbara would be an ideal mid-week getaway, off season. I need to find a dog accommodating motel or hotel to stay at that’s around $100 (preferably less) per night. That’ll determine if it’s 2 or 3 nights. No ‘roughing it’ though, no.

    I recently got a new bottle of all-natural formulated for dogs, anti-anxiety drops. Just squeeze the top and get it right in his mouth when he’s anxious or stressed, like noisy Holidays. Damn firecrackers. I really should buy the human form again at Sprout’s. Try that first before a Xanax. Got my dog’s tranquilizer at a mom & pop pet shop.

    We must support small businesses as much as possible, instead of corporate ones like Petco and Unleashed in these perilous times. If you have to use a chain or Amazon, then you do; but try your local pet shop first!


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