Windows Down, Head Out: The Ultimate Dog Road Trip Planner

As the weather becomes nicer, pet owners are considering going on a road trip with their dog for the first time. A dog road trip planner is key to keeping things organized when preparing to hit the road.

While you’re super excited about it, at the same time, you want to ensure that your dog is healthy and happy the entire car ride and has a positive experience exploring the open road. After all, he’s never done this before, and you aren’t exactly sure how he will react.

Before you set out for the adventure of a lifetime, read these tips for taking your dog on a road trip so both of you can have a wonderful time.

Go on Short Trips for Practice


If you’re taking a long road trip that could last for days or weeks on end, then dog owners should practice by bringing your dog along for short trips. This could include a weekend getaway or a day trip to somewhere nearby just to see how he reacts.

Does he need to use the potty every hour or so? Does he have to drink from his water bowl every few hours? You’ll know how to better prepare for longer road trips if you do a quick practice round.

Get the Right Safety Gear

dog car seat

When you’re driving, your dog should not be loose in the car. Not only is it distracting, but if you get into an accident, he could get seriously hurt. It’s best to restrain your dog in a carrier in the backseat that connects to a seat belt. The carrier needs to be big enough that your dog can stand up, turn around, and lie down to get comfortable.

A car hammock seat cover, car seat, or car harness are other good safety tools that prevent your dog from sliding to the floor.

You should also bring a dog life jacket if you’re going to be taking your pooch to the water. It’ll give you some peace of mind that your canine best friend is safe when he’s taking a dip.

Bring a Pet First Aid Kit

pet first aid awareness month

You never know when you’re going to run into trouble. If you have a pet first aid kit on hand, you can be more prepared if disaster strikes. In your pet first aid kit, you might include:

  • scissors
  • adhesive tape
  • saline eye solution
  • absorbent gauze pads
  • antibiotic ointment
  • alcohol wipes
  • an extra supply of his medicine, supplements, and dog food
  • 3% hydrogen peroxide (in case you need to make your dog vomit)

Additionally, if your dog gets motion sick/car sickness, pack anti-nausea drugs and antihistamines. Just make sure you ask your veterinarian which ones are best for your pooch and how much to give them each time he’s acting sick. Keeping your windows rolled down a few inches should also help with the motion sickness.

Save Space: Take Portable Food and Water Bowls

When you’re creating your road trip planner, you might not think about how much space you’re going to have in your car. If you’re going on a long trip, it’s likely packed to the gills. Save some room and bring collapsible food and water bowls that you can easily store as well as hook onto your leash for walks.

Never Keep Him in a Hot Car

dog left in a hot car

A dog-friendly road trip is not dog-friendly at all if you leave him in a hot car. If it’s warm outside, your car can quickly heat up. Even if it’s just 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the car can become intolerable for your dog.

On the flip side, temperatures lower than 35 degrees Fahrenheit are unsafe, too. If you’re going on a road trip with your loved one or friend, ask them to stay with your dog or walk them around when you have to leave your car. This is a good time for your dog to pee and poop and get a drink from his water bowl as well.

Make Frequent Potty Stops

Normally, dogs need to pee every four to six hours. However, when you’re on the road, your dog may become dehydrated more easily and drink more water to make up for it. This means he’ll need frequent potty breaks.

It’s a good idea to pull over at a rest stop and stretch frequently, too, so you can stay alert behind the wheel. When you need to refuel at a gas station, let your dog out for a little bit. Your pooch will appreciate getting a little walk and exploring different places along the way.

Don’t forget to pack extra poop bags for those bathroom breaks!

Find Local Dog Parks, Dog-Friendly Trails, and Dog Beaches

dog on the beach with a ball

When making the perfect road trip planner, don’t forget to find dog-friendly destinations and fun pit stops. For instance, you could log onto BringFido to locate nearby pet-friendly restaurants, dog parks, and dog beaches. You could also check out GoPetFriendly, which has suggestions for things to do with your dog along the road, such as going to the Grand Canyon in Arizona or a campsite in Colorado.

If you’re going cross-country, you could visit national parks and national forests – just make sure they are dog-friendly before booking your reservation. Since there are wild animals running around state parks, you should keep your dog on a short leash at all times and not veer off the people- and dog-friendly hiking trails.

If you’re going to be hiking when it’s getting darker out, putting a reflective vest on your pup is a good idea. You could also put a hiking backpack on your dog to ensure he gets enough exercise and is sufficiently tired out before hopping back into the car.

If you are visiting watering holes, get a dog life jacket for safety. The best dog life vests will have adjustable straps and sufficient padding for a secure fit.

See if you can plan your gas station stops along your route where your pup can stretch his legs, too.

Have a Copy of His Medical Records on Hand

Just in case there’s an emergency, you should bring along a copy of your pup’s medical records. It’s a good idea to store them on your phone and have hard copies because you could end up in an area where you have bad cell phone service.

The medical records should include a list of vaccinations your dog has gotten, which may be necessary if you’re staying in an Airbnb or other pet-friendly accommodations that need to see them. Make sure you save your primary veterinarian’s phone number so you can get in touch with any questions.

You may also want to think about staying in areas where there is at least one pet hospital nearby so that you can get emergency treatment should something happen.

Tip: Consider getting a microchip with updated contact information put in if your dog is prone to ‘pulling a Houdini’.

Find Pet-Friendly Accommodations

dog in a bed

There are a number of hotel chains that provide pet-friendly accommodations for you and your canine best friend. They include Aloft Hotels, Best Western, Comfort Inn, Clarion Inn & Suites, Courtyard Marriott, Holiday Inn Express, Red Roof Inn, and Sheraton.

When searching for a pet-friendly hotel for your cross-country road trip, you should click the “pets allowed” option on sites like and TripAdvisor to filter out the results. Some dog-friendly hotels may even provide a dog bed for you!

Even if a place is dog friendly, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be a pet fee. Keep an eye out for these fees in their pet policies so there are no surprises when checking in. Be sure to clean up messes that have been left behind before checking out.

road trip with dogs infographic

Ensuring Your Doggy Road Trip Goes Smoothly

Prior to hitting the road, make sure you follow these travel tips and create a pet-friendly road trip planner prior. Take frequent breaks, hydrate, pack his favorite toys, and overall, keep your dog safe. Then you can pretty much guarantee that you and your furry friend are going to have an amazing time together out on the open road.

For a packing list of key items to take with you, check out:

14 Essential Items to Bring on Your Next Road Trip With Your Dog