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 agency 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!
Latest national pet surveys indicate more than 70 percent of people take their dogs – and yes, even some travel-savvy cats – on road trips.
8 Tried-and-Tested Tips for Road Tripping with Pets
To keep your sanity and to keep your pets safe during those long hours of driving, here are 8 tried-and-tested tips. Plus, be sure to download your Pet Road Trip Checklist to help you prepare for the journey!
1. Pack with a purpose
Keep pet travel essentials in your vehicle. My must-have list include a water bowl, bottled water, 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 left 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 stays in advance by using pet-friendly websites like BringFido.com and GoPetFriendly.com. But be sure to call the hotel directly, too. You may save a bit by booking direct.
4. Park your pet while you drive
Do not allow your dog to ride in the front passenger seat or in your lap or allow him to stick his head out the window. An unrestrained 60-pound dog becomes a 2,700-pound projectile in a sudden stop or an accident at 35 miles per hour. Depending on the size of your dog, fit him in a pet safety harnesses securely clipped into a seatbelt in the middle seats or place him inside pet carriers, also fastened in place. In 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 seat belt in the middle seat.
5. Purchase pet insurance
Nothing takes the fun out of a vacation like an unexpected expense or injury. Treating a broken leg can cost $2,000 to $5,000. Pet insurance helps you prepare for the unexpected. The best part is that you can use any vet in the U.S. with Pets Best coverage. So if you’re just passing through and an emergency happens, you don’t have to worry about using a different veterinarian.
6. Tap into technology
With the swipe of your finger, 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 by downloading the Pet Tech PetSaver App or other similar ones. Pets Best customers can access their policy’s included 24/7 Pet Helpline for questions and tips for keeping their pet’s healthy during road trips too!
7. Dine at odd times
Try to dine at pet-permitting restaurants and outdoor cafes during off peak times, such as mid-morning or late afternoon. Weekdays are usually quieter than weekends. Be sure to have exercised your dog with a brisk 30-minute walk before dining to help calm him down. Request a table in an out-of-the-way corner. Tether your dog’s six-foot or four-foot leash securely under one of your chair legs to keep him from disturbing other diners.
8. Paw it forward
Set a good example for the next person traveling with his or her pet. Have your dog be in a sit-stay 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 tip: Keep your smart phone 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. Check out Rover’s list of dog friendly stops for your next road trip!