4 Dogs, 1 Car: Tips and Tricks for a Roadtrip with Dogs
If you're like me, then you love taking road trips with your dogs. There's nothing better than getting in the car and hitting the open road, with your furry friends by your side. However, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind when traveling with dogs. In this blog post, I'll discuss some tips and tricks for making a road trip with dogs as smooth as possible!
I've been road tripping with dogs for years now - ever since I got my first dog, Lulu back in 2015. I currently have four dogs, ranging in breed, size, and age, and they often come with me on trips all across the country and even to Canada. Some of the trips are pretty thoroughly planned with Airbnbs, while others are go-with-the-flow car camping trips. Over the years, I've learned a lot about how to make road trips with dogs go as smoothly as possible. Here are some of my top tips:
Prepping Your Car
Before hitting the road, it's important to make sure that your car is prepared for a road trip with dogs. This means cleaning out any loose items that might become hazards and making sure they have a comfy, safe spot to spend their time. I also recommend getting a dog seat cover or some type of barrier to keep your dogs in the back seat, as this will help to protect your car from any potential accidents or messes. To be safe, you should always have your dogs harnessed with a dog seat belt in case you get in an accident. And of course, don't forget the water and food bowls!
With all of my dogs, we've always taken them on car rides since they were puppies, so they are all willing and love going on drives. I take my 2018 Toyota Prius on road trips specifically because of the great gas mileage, but also because I can keep auto-set the air conditioning to a certain temperature when I have to run into a store or use the bathroom and I can leave my dogs in the car without the risk of them overheating. I also have a laminated sign that I put up in the window that asks people not to bother my dogs (since Lulu gets defensive against strangers) and also that has my phone number on it in case the dogs look distressed so someone can call or text me.
Getting Dogs Used to Car Rides
One of the first things that you need to do is train your dogs for long car rides. I recommend taking some practice drives around town, or a short day trip a couple of hours away to a dog-friendly park or beach before embarking on a longer road trip. This will help your dogs get used to the car and hopefully prevent them from getting car sick. Also remember that if you're taking your dog on trips that are several hours long, you should be stopping every few hours to let them out to the bathroom and to run around and get some energy out. Letting them sniff a new area for 10-15 minutes is actually great mental stimulation for them, as well as having the windows slightly rolled down so they can get all the good smells in.
Finding Dog-Friendly Places to Stay
Hotels and Motels
Another important thing to keep in mind is finding dog-friendly places to stay. This can be tricky, but there are a few resources that can help you out. One of my favorite websites is BringFido.com, which is a directory of pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, and attractions. I've been able to find some really great places through BringFido for last-minute hotel stays. Motel 6 is also a very budget-friendly option that has locations all across the country and they almost always let pets stay for free! Just be sure to check their website or call before to make sure they have room and about their specific locations pet policy.
For certain trips, I'll also book dog-friendly Airbnb, which they've made really easy with the option to add the exact amount of dogs you are bringing. Most places max out at 2 dogs, but sometimes some places allow more or you can offer to put down a bigger deposit or pet fee to bring more. When I plan road trips, I usually book an Airbnb for a few days in the main spot in advance, then on the trip, I find places to stop along with way based on how far I can comfortably drive. If you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, there are also a bunch of camping options or car camping as well!
If you're planning on camping with your dogs, there are a few things you'll need to keep in mind. First, make sure that the campground you're planning on staying at is pet-friendly. Most campgrounds within National parks allow dogs, but the National Parks themselves do not allow dogs on hikes and within the backcountry area since dogs can alter the ecosystem. The nice thing is that all around National Parks are National Forests, which almost always allow dogs in the parks and on their campgrounds. There are also many private campgrounds that you can look at like KOA's that often have more amenities like showers and wifi.
When camping with your dog, you'll want to make sure to bring along all of the necessary supplies for your dogs, including food, water, bowls, leashes, toys, etc. Make sure that they are leashed or trained well to only stay by you since at night there could be other people, dogs, and critters that your dog might react to. And be sure that they also have a sleeping bag or warm blankets if it's cold!
If you're traveling solo or with a small group, another option is to just sleep in your car. This can be really great if you don't want to deal with finding pet-friendly hotels or if you want to save some money. I've done this a few times when I'm traveling by myself with my dogs and it's worked out really well! There are a few things you'll need to keep in mind though. First, if you're going to be sleeping in your car, you'll want to make sure that it's comfortable for both you and your dog. I have a hatchback Prius and I usually just put the back seats down and put a foam mattress topper back there. I usually have it all set up already with all my clothes and camping equipment on one side. Or if I'm traveling with another person, I put everything down by the floor of the backseat and in the front seats.
Another thing to keep in mind when car camping is that you'll want to make sure your car is secure. If you're sleeping in a parking lot, you might want to consider getting covers to put over your windows. This will help deter people from trying to break into your car or mess with you while you're sleeping. You can also park your car in a more visible area or close to the entrance of where you're staying so that people will know that someone is in the car. Most Walmarts along the busy highways are open 24 hours, and they are OK with people sleeping in the parking lots since it encourages more purchases. You'll often see trucks and RV's parked at these locations, and it's nice since you can use the bathrooms there as well.
Picking Dog-Friendly Vacation Spots
When picking a destination for your road trip, it's important to consider whether or not it will be dog-friendly. For example, if you're planning on spending a lot of time hiking, you'll want to pick a place with trails that allow dogs. Or if you're looking for a beach vacation, you'll want to find a beach that doesn't have a strict no-dogs policy.
You can use BringFido to search towns and specific locations to find out whether or not they are dog-friendly. This website is a great resource not only for finding hotels, but also restaurants, beaches, parks, and trails that allow dogs. Some of our favorite spots we've gone to with our dogs are Chattanooga (TN), Moab (UT), Door County (WI), and Bend (OR).
Things to Remember
When traveling with your dogs, it's important to make sure that they are up to date on all of their vaccinations. This is especially important if you're traveling out of state or to a different country. You'll also want to make sure that they are microchipped in case they get lost while you're on your trip.
And finally, one of the most important things to remember when traveling with dogs is to have patience! Dogs are known for being loyal companions, but they can also be a lot of work. Just remember to take things slow and enjoy the journey with your furry friend by your side.
All in all, road-tripping with your dog can be a great experience! Just make sure to do your research ahead of time, bring along all the necessary supplies, and find dog-friendly destinations. With a little bit of planning, you and your pups will have the time of your lives!
Do you have any favorite dog-friendly roadtrip destinations? Share them in the comments below! Happy travels! :)