8 Tips for Taking a Road Trip with Your Pet

By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance company for dogs and cats.

Imagine driving for three days, staying at two hotels and covering 1,383 miles with a 60-pound dog and a meow-happy cat. And, then a week later, repeating this trek to return home. Does that sound like your dream road trip? Surprisingly, it was for me! Recent national pet surveys indicate more than 70 percent of people take their dogs, and yes, even some travel-savvy cats, on road trips. To keep your sanity and ensure your pets stay safe during those long hours of driving, here are 8 tried-and-tested tips:

1. Pack with a purpose

Keep pet-travel essentials in your vehicle. My must-have list includes a water bowl, bottled water, an extra leash and collar with identification tags, poop bags, an old towel, pre-moistened wipes, a basic first-aid kit, necessary medications, a copy of health records, bedding, treats, one or two favorite toys and at least a 3-day supply of food inside resealable plastic bags or containers.

2. Don’t be a road warrior

If you are traveling by yourself, take a break every couple of hours and check if your pets need a bathroom break or water. I limited myself to eight hours behind the wheel each day and always got on the road an hour or two before the morning rush hour.

3. Select hotels that that don’t take a big bite out of your wallet

Book hotel rooms in advance by using pet-friendly websites like BringFido.com and GoPetFriendly.com. You might save some money by calling the hotel to book directly, too.

4. Park your pet while you drive

Do not allow dogs to ride in the front passenger seat or in your lap, and be sure their entire bodies remain inside the vehicle. If you are driving at 35 miles an hour and experience a sudden stop, an unrestrained 60-pound dog can cause an impact of 2,700 pounds if the animal collides with a person or object. If possible, fit dogs into pet safety harnesses securely clipped into a seatbelt, ideally in the middle seat. You can also place dogs inside pet carriers that are fastened in place. During our trip, my dog was harnessed in the back of the SUV, and my cat was inside a well-ventilated cat carrier tethered to a seatbelt in the middle seat.

5. Purchase pet insurance

Nothing takes the fun out of a vacation like an unexpected expense or injury. Treating a pet’s broken leg can cost as high as $2,000 to $5,000Pet insurance helps you prepare for the unexpected. Pets Best, for example, offers customers a comprehensive plan that reimburses up to 70 to 100 percent of a veterinarian’s bill for covered services, with rates starting as low as $19 per month.

6. Tap into technology

With the push of a button and the swipe of your finger on a smartphone, you can obtain instant access to your pet’s medical records, locate the nearest emergency veterinary hospital and receive step-by-step audio and print instructions for pet first-aid. These resources are available through applications such as the Pet Tech PetSaver App.

7. Dine at odd times

Try to dine at pet-friendly restaurants and outdoor cafes during off-peak times, such as mid-morning or late afternoon. Weekdays are usually quieter than weekends. Be sure to exercise dogs with a brisk, 30-minute walk before dining to help calm them down. Request a table in an out-of-the-way corner and securely tether dogs with a 4- or 6-foot leash to your chair legs to prevent them from disturbing other diners.

8. Paw it forward

Set a good example for the next people traveling with their pets. Have your dogs remain in a sit-stay position when you check in at the front desk. Abide by the pet rules and always leave a generous tip for the housekeeping staff, especially if you have a shedding dog like mine. These gestures create a positive impression that will benefit other pet lovers.

Final note: Keep your smartphone and camera fully charged so you can share your tail-wagging adventures with your pet-loving pals on Facebook, your blog and other social media outlets.

To learn more about Pets Best, visit www.petsbest.com.


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