Road Tripping with Fido

Doggie closeupWhen you take a family vacation, should the four-legged members of your family stay behind? Not necessarily.

More than ever, travelers are bringing their furry “families” – dogs and cats – on vacation with them.

Fourteen percent of adults (29.1 million) brought pets on trips of 50 miles or more in the past three years.

Most people who travel with pets bring their dogs (78 percent of the total), but cats and even smaller creatures have made trips with their owners.

Traveling with pets not only allows you to enjoy getaways with your “best friend,” it also lets you save on the cost of kennels and pet care services, which can be pretty expensive if you are gone for a while.

So how do you bring your pet along for the ride and not put yourself (or your pet) through misery?

Flying can be stressful and dangerous for animals, and driving can be a more relaxing alternative. And once you’ve arrived, you’ve still got to figure out transportation for your pet. For help on that, check out public pet cab transportation in Pets on the Go.

If you’re taking a road trip, your pet will ride in the car where you can watch them, and you can pull over if there’s a problem. You can avoid dark and scary cargo holds or worries about how an airline handles your pet.

Even a road trip requires some preparation, though.

While you’re making up your own packing list and getting the car ready, make sure to include these steps:

  • Take your pet on some “practice” car rides before the trip. Some animals are uncomfortable in the car (or worse, get motion sickness), so a little preparation can save a lot of grief.
  • Bring your pet’s favorite blanket or towel in the car, as well as any other familiar objects you think your pet would enjoy. Little touches from home increase the comfort level for your pet and make it easier for him to relax.
  • Bring your dog’s vaccination records, since each state has its own requirements for what shots your pet might need.
  • Bring a first aid kit, tick removers, flea prevention, and an extra written prescription for any medication your pet is taking.
  • Bottle some of the water your pet drinks at home (even if it’s from the tap) and bring it with you. Water in a strange place might make him sick.
  • To minimize splashing, put ice cubes in your pet’s water bowl instead of water. The cubes will melt slowly, giving your pet cool water, but not enough to dump all over the car.
  • If you want to be sure of safety, look into a doggie seat harness that will keep your pet comfortably restrained while you drive. Unrestrained pets can be severely injured in an accident, or can cause collisions by distracting drivers. Check out Gadgets and Gear for Your Traveling Pets.
  • Don’t park in the sun, since cars get hot quickly and pets can overheat inside them in a matter of minutes. In some states (such as Florida), it’s illegal to leave your pet in a parked car for any length of time.
  • Watch your pet’s manners. A dog that has trouble with strangers or strange places is probably not the best traveling companion. You don’t want to spend your entire trip dragging Rover away from fearful fellow travelers and apologizing for his behavior.
  • If you plan to stay in hotels (as increasing numbers of pet travelers do), make sure your chosen hotel allows pets. You can check out our video about the best pet hotels here.
  • Try to avoid sedating your pet when possible, as sedation can make it difficult to tell if your pet is experiencing a health problem.

With a little planning, you can take a fun family driving vacation that includes the ENTIRE family, even the non-human ones.

Be sure to check out the The Complete Travel Detective Bible for more tips on trips with pets!

And don’t forget about our complete Pet Travel section.

By Erica Adams for

And if you have to leave your pet behind, check out these swanky Pet Hotels: Welcome to the (Luxury) Doghouse.