How to Pack For a Road Trip With a Dog

A photo of a golden retriever looking out the car window to portray a road trip with a dog

Summer is widely known as the most popular season for road trips. Although late spring and early fall are also great options due to cooler weather, summer has its unique appeal. This is when families are more likely to be out on the road together. Speaking of families, are you thinking of bringing your canine family member along? 

With so many dog-friendly restaurants, rentals, and destinations available nationwide, having a road trip with a dog is easier and more fun than ever before. In our article, How to Prepare for a Road Trip With Your Pet, we talked about tips for a seamless road trip with a dog. 

In this article, we will deep dive into what you need to pack when planning a cross country road trip with a dog. 

What’s in This Guide?

What to Pack for a Road Trip with a Dog

Going on a road trip with a dog can pose a lot of surprises, especially for pet parents that are doing so for the first time. The first thing to remember is that there are some differences between planning for a long drive and planning a cross country road trip with your dog. As covered in our article on how to prepare for a road trip with your pet, traveling across the country may require paperwork for your pup. Traveling to a different state may also require added dog vaccinations

Once you’ve got paperwork and vaccinations settled and your veterinarian has given your dog one last wellness exam for the road, it’s time to get packing! 

Make sure these items make it into the suitcase before leaving home:

1. Collar and Leash

Pack a well-fitting harness and a quality leash. You might even bring a backup leash in case the first one breaks or gets lost. If you plan to do activities such as camping or picnicking, consider packing a tether you can attach to your dog's collar to allow them the freedom to roam safely. 

In addition, if you’re going on a dog-friendly hike at any point, it’s recommended to use a strong and secure full body harness with a belly strap. Strong harnesses with a belly strap will allow pet parents to securely pull their pup out of harm’s way or assist in lifting them over difficult hiking terrain. 

A harness and leash, one of the things to pack when going on a road trip with a dog

2. ID Tags, Microchip, (& Maybe Even a GPS Collar)

As pet parents ourselves, we at Sploot understand that pet parents may need safeguards or fail safes in case of separation. For more peace of mind when road tripping with Fido, pet parents must securely attach their dog’s ID tags and get their microchip tested. 

Your dog’s ID tags need to have updated information, especially your contact number and address. That way, you can be contacted if you and your dog get separated at any point. 

As for your dog’s microchip, have your veterinarian check the chip before you head out into the open road. Microchips are designed to last for your pet’s entire lifetime. In some rare instances, however, microchips can stop working. 

To have a complete failsafe in case of separation, some pet parents may opt to get a GPS collar for their pups. These are especially useful for long-distance trips and hiking. 

3. Dog Bed, ThunderShirt, & an Old Shirt

Give your dog a home away from home by packing their favorite dog bed and blankets. Items that smell and feel familiar can help your dog be relaxed and comfortable wherever they may be. 

If your dog tends to get anxious, observe their reaction to a ThunderShirt, days or weeks before your trip. Thundershirts are designed to relieve anxiety and promote better sleep — it could be a great item to pack in your suitcase if you have an anxious pup that responds positively to it.  

Another way to relieve a pup’s anxiety while sleeping in unfamiliar places (e.g. dog friendly hotels) is to add one of your old sweatshirts to their bed. Even washed old sweatshirts will carry your scent — and the scent of a pup’s favorite person makes them calm and happy. 

Note: Particularly anxious dogs may not respond to ThunderShirts and comfortable, familiar beddings. If this is the case with your dog, ask your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication that you can bring for Fido. 

A dog bed, one of the things to pack when going on a road trip with a dog

4. Seat Covers

Protect your car's interior from dirt, claw marks, and hair on a long road trip by putting waterproof covers on your seats. This way, you won't have to worry about paws dirtying your car's seats — especially after making pit stops, playing at dog parks, or returning from hikes. Quality seat covers can also help keep your dog more comfortable.

5. Travel Crate

You'll likely need to leave your dog unattended at your hotel or rental for brief periods during your trip. A crate provides a safe and secure place to keep your dog until you return. It prevents them from accidentally getting loose, having accidents in the room, or damaging property. Also, a collapsible travel crate is easy to pack in the vehicle for a road trip.

6. Toys

Pack several types of toys to keep your dog entertained and stimulated on a road trip. Toys that hold treats can help combat boredom during long drives, while freezable toys can help dogs stay cool on hot days. The comfort of familiar toys will also help your dog relax and acclimate to a new place.

7. Food, Water, & Bowls

Make sure to bring your dog's bowls, and stick to their regular feeding schedule and routine. Pack enough of your dog's regular food to last the duration of the road trip, plus a few extra days. That way, you won't run out if plans change or your return travel gets delayed by weather or other unexpected events. 

It is also recommended to bring a water source for the drive, such as a gallon jug of water, in case pit stops are few and far between. 

8. Disposable Bags (& Maybe Some Pee Pads)

Bring plenty of disposable dog bags for picking up poop. Cleaning up after your pet is good dog owner etiquette, and in many places, it's the law. Carry a roll of bags at pit stops, on hikes, at the beach, or anywhere else you and your dog may stop for a break.

If your dog is trained to use pee pads, you can also carry some in the car just in case there will be long stretches of road where you can’t make a pit stop. This is especially helpful for senior dogs or dogs that have problems holding their bladder. 

A poop bag, one of the things to pack when going on a road trip with a dog

Quick Reminders on How to Road Trip With a Dog

A well-stocked canine travel bag isn't the only thing you'll need to prepare before going on a road trip with a dog. Here are a few quick reminders before you get going:

Schedule a Veterinary Wellness Exam

Your veterinarian can make sure your dog is up-to-date on their vaccinations and administer boosters if any have lapsed. Your veterinarian will also provide proof of vaccination, which you might need to show during your travels. During the visit, you can also have your dog’s microchip checked.

The pre-trip wellness exam for your pet is also an opportunity to give your dog a once-over and ensure they don't have any physical problems before leaving for your trip. Veterinarians can also provide any needed anti-anxiety medications for pups that need them.

Find a Veterinarian at Your Destination

Research veterinarians at your end destination and take note of their contact information. This way, if your dog gets hurt or sick on your trip, you'll know where to take them. 

Plan Lots of Breaks

Make sure to take breaks during your road trip with a dog. Plan to stop at least every 2-3 hours at rest stops, visitor centers, gas stations, or local attractions to let your dog go to the bathroom, drink water, and take a walk. You might even research dog parks on your route so your dog can run and stretch their legs. 

Note: If you're traveling with a puppy or senior dog, you might need to stop more frequently because they might not be able to hold it as long. Pee pads may also be helpful. 

For more tips on how to road trip with a dog, check out our article, How to Prepare for a Road Trip with a Dog

Final Thoughts On Taking a Road Trip With Your Dog

By following our tips, planning a cross country road trip with a dog is easy. Pack all of the above essentials to have a seamless and enjoyable experience. As a final reminder, make sure to choose pet-friendly destinations for your road trip so that Fido can take part in the fun!

If you have questions regarding vaccinations, anti-anxiety medication, traveling with a senior dog, and so on, we're here to help!

Sploot Veterinary Care is a primary and urgent care clinic with daily appointment availability. Schedule a wellness exam before you go on a road trip with a dog to ensure that your pup is at their healthiest condition, ready for a fun adventure! We can also provide needed proof of vaccinations if your travel destination requires it.

Book an appointment today at one of our multiple clinic locations. Till next time, we’re with you every pounce of the way!