Many assume that traveling with your dog will be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be! Dogs are great companions, in life and in travel, and there’s no better way to appreciate a new place than with a dog.
I learned that with research and a little extra planning, you can take your dogs with you on most adventures — and it’s not as difficult as you might think.
According to the 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 63.4 million U.S. households own a dog, and the number of families wanting to travel with them increases by the year.
The travel industry has had to adapt to this growing demand, and today, traveling with your dog is easier than ever.
Boogie and Marcelo have journeyed by land, air, and sea, in boats, planes, trains, and automobiles, and always with ease. Here are a few general tips for a dog on the go.
Pack the essentials
Every journey, however great or small, will require a few essentials that you can’t leave home without. Poop bags, a leash and harness, and some dog treats are just a few things you’ll want to bring along. Not every location will have a good pet store, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Some items you might need include:
- Dog food, treats, and water
- Collapsible bowls: this will make eating and drinking on the go easier.
- Toys: for a bit of fun and playtime.
- A dog bed: a safe, and comfortable space that smells like home. Great for keeping them off of furniture when in a hotel or Airbnb.
- Flea and tick medicine: especially if you’ll be doing any hiking, camping, or outdoor activities.
- Medical records and travel documents: keep these readily available, with a digital copy on your phone and a paper copy in your bag.
- Cleaning supplies: always have poop bags and paper towels handy, that way clean ups are easy and painless. A bit of disinfectant will also help keep places bacteria free and prevent smells. Throw in some hand sanitizer for you too!
Check out our Dog Travel Checklist to make sure you’ve got everything!
Teach your dog manners
Before you hit the road, it’s best if your dog knows a thing or two. And let’s be real: unruly dogs are no fun. They’re tough to handle and they’re annoying to be around.
You should have a well behaved pup. Whether you’re staying in a fancy hotel or camping under the stars, it’s important for your dog to put their best paw forward. Plus, a well-trained dog can be left behind in a hotel room for a few hours while you have a nice dinner or visit a museum.
Bonus: milk your dogs great manners to rack up positive reviews on sites like Airbnb. When people rave about them, others will be more likely to say “yes” to your requests.
Here’s a list of helpful commands your dog should learn before traveling.
Practice makes perfect
The best way to prepare your dog for a life of travel is to practice.
The more you familiarize your dog with new environments, new smells, and new people, the more they will be prepared to embark on new adventures.
Before your dog starts country hopping, jet-setting on 10 hour flights, or embarks on a month long road trip, practice!
Train them to stay in their crate or carrier for periods of time, and/or go on shorter trips before taking a long one.
Simulation will help them gear up for things, so there are no surprises.
Help them break routine in small ways, and always use positive reinforcement.
Make your dog tired
Dogs have lots of energy, especially young ones. Pent up energy can cause them to act out or have trouble focusing.
My rule of thumb is: a tired dog is a good dog.
Always exercise your dog before embarking on your journey, to get the wiggles out. A trip to the dog park, a quick run around the block, or a game of fetch will tire them out.
A fully rested dog will settle down on the road faster, helping for a smoother ride.
Pack dog food and treats in your carry-on
Whether you’re traveling overnight, for a week, or for a month, always bring some dog food with you in your carry on.
Here are a few reasons why it’s a smart idea:
- If your plane is delayed and dinnertime rolls around, you’ll be prepared.
- If you’re planning to buy dog food at your destination, having some on hand will give you extra time to purchase it in case of any unforeseen obstacles (the store is closed, they don’t have your food in stock, etc).
- In case you can’t find your preferred brands at your destination
- If your checked bag with food in it is lost or delayed by the airline, you’ll have back up in your carry on.
Besides this, having food and/or treats on hand means you’ll have a nice incentive to make your dog sit, stay, or lay down.
Click here to learn more about the rules of flying with dog food.
Skip hotel fees
Sure some hotels may welcome your pet, but not without charging you extra money. Hotels charge everything from extra cleaning fees, to deposits, to pet fees per animal. It can add up, and make your trip more expensive than you’d planned.
Skip the hotel fees and stay in pet-friendly hotels that won’t charge you extra. There are many hotels, everything from big chains to boutiques, that won’t put a dent in your wallet just because your dog is staying too.
Here’s a list of pet-friendly hotels with no fees – keep it as a reference for your next trip!
Double and triple check policies
Restaurants, airlines, and hotels are constantly updating or changing their policies, especially when they come to pets. Establishments don’t always remember to update them online, on third party or sites or even on their own websites.
I like to double or triple check before assuming my dog is welcome anywhere. A quick call or email can verify whether the place is dog-friendly, and if their policy has changed in any way (are there new fees or weight restrictions?). When in doubt, always ask, and never assume it’s a no.
When it comes to traveling internationally, this is especially important. Airline policies are constantly in flux, and you don’t want to be turned down when you show up at the airport.
I usually check the airline’s website, give them a call, and/or send an email before booking my flight. Better safe than sorry!
Accidents happen – be prepared!
Accidents happen, no matter where you are. I learned this the hard way when my dogs got into a bag of vitamins while we were traveling in Guatemala.
The best way to be prepared is to make sure your dog is covered, no matter where you are.
After some diligent research, we found a pet insurance that covers your dog, even when you’re traveling internationally. That way, you won’t have to worry about vet costs should anything happen on your trip.
Besides having pet insurance to cover your back, there are other measures you can take to stay protected.
- Have a list of local vets available for your destination.
- Communicate and make a plan if you don’t know the local language (find English speaking vets and/or have Google translate or a dictionary on your phone).
- Keep a pet first aid kit on hand.
- Stay calm and check your energy.
As prepared as you are, accidents on the road are bound to happen, so why not make life easier and plan for it.
Be respectful and courteous
Not everyone is a dog lover, and as travelers, we must be respectful to people local to the area. Local customs when it comes to canine-human boundaries may differ to what you’re used to. You should always be considerate of those around you, and keep these differences in mind.
This is especially true if you’re traveling internationally. Be aware of the cultural differences and that human relationships with dogs vary incredibly across cultures.
Learn from locals
Speaking to local dog owners is the best way to get the lowdown on a new place. Local dog owners are a great resource to learn about the best dog-friendly hang outs, trustworthy vets, and activities in the area. Plus, dogs are social creatures, and maybe yours will make a friend or two.
The best ways to tap into the local dog community are:
- Go to a dog park – Dog parks are a great place to exercise, socialize, and meet other dog parents. If there aren’t any official dog parks in your area, visit a local park.
- Take a walk – Head out for a walk around the neighborhood to meet other dogs and chat.
- Find an online community – Online platforms host a myriad of dog groups. Many online communities host meet ups and social gatherings, and they’re also a great place to ask questions.
- Visit a pet store – Local pet shops post flyers for local dog services, or information on nearby dog-related activities.
- Social Media – It’s common nowadays for dogs to have their own social media profiles. To find local dogs, look up hashtags, like #dogsof and enter in your location.
Click here for more tips on traveling with your dog!
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