When we first started traveling with a dog, it was not something most people did. Back then, most hotels did not allow dogs to stay in the rooms and airlines banished pet dogs to the cargo section of the plane.
Needless to say, traveling with a canine companion was difficult at best. But a lot has changed since then. The number of people who own a dog has dramatically increased in recent years.
Now, there are approximately 48 million American households that have at least one dog. In just the couple of years after the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, dog ownership increased by nearly 11%.
Many of these same people used to travel before getting a dog. Now that covid-19 restrictions are being lifted they want to be able to travel again. But now, they want to travel with their dogs.
In many ways this desire to travel with a pet is good, but it also has its downside. The good news is that more and more companies are recognizing this desire and stepping up to meet the demand.
The downside is there are more people competing for the limited dog friendly accommodations, restaurants and activities that are available right now.
Join us as we discuss our best tips on how to travel with a dog and how to avoid the hassles of vacationing with a dog.
Tips for Traveling with a Dog
Before we get started I need to point out that this is not complete list. These tips are compiled based on research and my own experiences traveling with our dogs. Your experiences may be different. But it’s a good starting point to think about what you need to do and how to go about planning your trip.
Before you go
1. Start planning early
The number one tip I can give you is to start planning early. The initial planning stage should begin at least 8 months in advance of when you want to go.
While it’s possible to plan a trip in a shorter amount of time, you will have less available options if you wait. Many hotels limit the number of dogs they will take at any given time, the same thing goes for airlines and train travel.
There are also a limited number of vacation rentals that accept pets, so if you wait too long to book, someone else will take your place.
I know this all too well from personal experience. There have been a few times that I started planning a dog friendly trip, but waited too long to pull the trigger. That resulted in us either not being able to go or we had to stay further away just to find a dog friendly hotel.
Though staying outside the area, you first intended to isn’t always bad. Sometimes you get to discover new places you would not have seen.
This happened on our trip to Newport, RI. We ended up staying about twenty-five-minutes outside of Newport, but that lead us to discovering the charming Historic Wickford Village. The village turned out to be a nice reprieve from the more touristy and crowded Newport.
2. Deciding where to go
You should start thinking about what kind of vacation you want to go on about 8 months in advance. This does not mean you need to book your stay at this time. But you should start researching where you want to go and how you are going to get there.
Some questions you should start asking yourself:
1. Do you want to stay close to home or travel abroad?
Staying in the United States is much easier than traveling with a dog to a different country. If you have never traveled with your dog before, I suggest you stay in the U.S., at least for your first trip.
2. What type of vacation do you want to go on?
- Are you looking for an dog friendly island vacation?
- Do you want you want to hang out on a beach? Here are a few dog friendly beach vacation places:
- Do you want an outdoor adventure?
- While many national parks have very strict rules regarding dogs. Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island is dog friendly.
- Maybe spend a week at a lake?
- Lake George is a very dog friendly place to vacation
- Lake Placid is also dog friendly
- Or you might prefer to explore a new city?
- Are you going on a group friends vacation or are you looking for a dog friendly family vacation?
Tip: Vacations that involve the outdoors are easier to include your dog in on the activities. But you can also find dog friendly cities to explore.
3. What is your budget?
How much you have to spend on a vacation will determine where you go and stay. The least expensive dog friendly vacations are either camping or visiting someone you know.
Vacation rentals can also be cost efficient if you choose to cook your own meals or share the expensive with another group.
3. Decide how you will get there
Once you have an idea of where you want to go, you need to decide how to get there.
Tip: Driving is the best option for traveling with a dog. However, it may not be practical for long distance or overseas trips.
If you are planning to go overseas you will need to fly. That is unless you are heading to England. Then you can take the Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 cruise from New York City to Southhampton, England.
If you choose to fly, you need to think about how your dog will fly with you. Some small dogs are allowed to fly in cabin with you in a carrier, but larger dogs will need to fly in the cargo hold.
Tip: Only a few airlines allow dogs to fly in cargo.
Flight pet policies
It is very important that you read and fully understand the airline’s pet policy. Each airline has their own unique pet policy. Don’t assume that just because one airline allowed your dog to fly in cabin they all will.
Brachycephalic, snub-nosed, or mixed breeds of snub-nosed animals are typically not allowed to fly due to health concerns. Airlines also have restrictions on age, weight, height and breed types.
Tip: Airlines generally restrict the number of pets that are allowed on any one flight. Booking your trip early will give you the best chance of getting a dog friendly flight.
Also, you need to call the airline to book your flight and inform them you will be bringing your dog. At this time, you should discuss any necessary requirements and make sure there is space for your pet.
Before you consider flying with your dog
Before you fly with your dog, think about how your dog will fair. Dogs that are in cabin with you will need to remain in a carrier under a seat for the duration of the flight. If you have ever flown before you know that is not that much space.
Plus, the consistent engine noise might be very stressful for your dog. Add that to having to stay in a carrier for the entire time they are at the airport or in the plane the trip might be very unpleasant for your pup.
You need to balance your desire to go someplace far with how it will affect your dog. You might be better off choosing a vacation location you can drive to.
Driving with a dog
While driving can have its issues to, you are better off transporting your dog in a car. That way you can stop and take breaks as needed. Of course, it will take longer to get there.
Another reason to drive rather than fly is that driving is typically cheaper. So, if cost is a concern driving is the way to go.
4. Visit your veterinarian
It’s very important that you make sure your dog is up-to-date on all necessary vaccines. Check all the pet policies for where you will be staying, any places you plan to visit and the airline pet policy if you plan on flying.
Make sure to tell your veterinarian about all requirements in the pet policies and about any activities you plan on doing. Different activities will require different vaccines.
- If you plan to leave your dog at a doggy day care center, your dog may require additional vaccines to attend.
- Proof of rabies are required to enter most local, state and national parks. Hotels, airlines and states all require proof of rabies vaccines too.
- Hotels may require proof of flea and tick prevention. Some hotels will also require proof that your dog is parasite free.
In addition to making sure your dog is fully vaccinated, talk to your veterinarian to make sure your dog is physically and mentally capable to make the trip. Some older dogs may not do well on a long trip and dogs with anxiety may be too stressed to travel to new locations.
If your dog is not enjoying the trip, neither will you.
If your dog does not have a microchip you may want to consider getting it done. Unlike dog collars microchips cannot fall off or be misplaced. If your dog already has a microchip ask your veterinarian to check that it is still working and that the information is up to date.
Depending where you are going and how you are getting there you may need to get a Health Certificate for your dog. A health certificate is a federal document generated by a federally-accredited veterinarian that ensures a pet has met certain health criteria.
A Health Certificate is required when you fly with a dog for both interstate and international trips. Health Certificates generally need to done within a specific time period prior to the flight. Check with your airline to determine the exact timing.
If you are taking an international flight make sure to check the requirements for both the airline and the country you are going to. The requirements may be different.
Also, some countries may require lengthy certificate processes that can take several months to complete and may require you to quarantine your dog before leaving. To learn more about international travel with your pet visit the Department of Agriculture page on Pet Travel Guidance for Pets Traveling to Another Country from the United States
A certificate may also be required if you drive or take the train to another state with your pup. Thought the health certificate requirement may be waived if you are only visiting for a short period of time. The Department of Agriculture maintains a database of the state’s requirements but I would also check the states directly to make sure it is the most up-to-date information.
When traveling with a dog keep their medical documents in a safe place
Once you have gathered their updated vaccine records, health certificates and proof of flea prevention, if needed, make sure you keep it is in safe place where you can easily access it when you need it.
It’s a good idea to keep your dog’s records as both a digital copy and a hard copy in case one gets lost. Plus, some places may only accept an original copy.
Along with their medical records you should compile a list of emergency veterinarians’ numbers and locations for where you will be visiting. Plus, keep the number of your own veterinarian on hand in case you need to get in touch with them.
5. Deciding where to stay?
Next on your things to decide is where to stay while you are away. There are a few dog friendly options that are typically available in most vacation spots.
Camping is the most cost-effective accommodation. That is assuming that you already have camping equipment. The other cool thing about camping is that you might be able to find dog friendly accommodations right on a beach or lake.
The downside of camping is public bathrooms, some campsites are close together eliminating any privacy and your dog will always need to be leashed unless in a tent or RV.
2. Dog Friendly Hotels or Motels
There are thousands of hotels and motels that now allow dogs to stay in the room with you. Hotels will most likely cost more than the cost of a campsite but you will have privacy, your own bathroom and you will be able to let your dog walk around the room without a leash.
Tip: When looking for a hotel room make sure to check the pet policies. Hotel policies will differ from one hotel chain to another. Even hotels that are part of the same chain might have a different policy based on location.
Also confirm what the pet fee is. Pet fees can vary from hotel to hotel. Some charge a single fee for the entire time you stay there. Other may charge per night or per pet per night.
3. Vacation Rentals
Vacation rentals have become a popular choice for many people who are traveling with a dog. It has been our go-to vacation accommodation for as long as we have been traveling with our dogs.
Renting a dog friendly vacation home will give you more space to spread out, allowing your dog to move around without having to be on a leash.
If you choose a vacation rental that is directly on a lake or private beach your dog will be able to enjoy those activities with you.
Another benefit of a vacation rental is that you will generally have less issues with noise.
What to bring when traveling with a dog
Part of the secret to traveling with a dog is to make sure you bring everything that you need. Here is our list of things you should bring.
- Flat dog collar with up-to-date dog license, rabies tag and ID collar.
- Six-foot leash. You can also bring a retractable leash, but many towns and parks require a dog to be on a leash that is not more than six feet long.
- A dog harness if you use one.
- Travel bowls for food and water
- Dog food – don’t assume you will be able to pick it up at your destination. If you don’t want to carry a lot of food. Have at least a day or two’s worth.
- Chews and treats
- Medications your dog may need
- We bring our own travel bed for our dog
- Flea and tick prevention
- Pet first aid kit
- If you have a dog that it prone to matting like a mini Goldendoodle, make sure bring a brush and comb.
- Pack one or two of their favorite stuff, like toys, or a blanket
Tips for Traveling with a Dog in a Car
The easiest way to travel with a dog is by car, but not all dogs love to be in a car. Here are a few tips to make a car ride with your dog easier.
1. Take a test drive
Unless you regularly take your dog for car rides you don’t really know how they will react. Don’t wait for the trip to find out. Before planning a car trip, take them out to see how they fair. Our dog loves coming along on our vacations, but becomes needy in the car.
If you have a dog that doesn’t like the car, start slow with a lot of short trips to fun locations, like to the park or for a hike. Then slowly increase the amount of time in the car. Over time they will associate the car with good things.
2. Secure your dog in the car
For your safety and the safety of our dog, they should be restrained while in the car. This can be done either with a crate or a safety harness that connects to a seat-belt. Whichever you choose make sure that they are crash tested for safety.
3. Give them a boost
Smaller dogs may benefit from being able to look out the window. Look for a top-rated safety booster that is secured to the seat and you can secure your dog in it.
4. Don’t allow dogs to ride with their head out the window
While most dogs love to ride with their head out of the window, they can get seriously hurt by debris or during an accident.
5. Don’t feed your dog right before the trip
Eating shortly before the ride can lead to an upset stomach.
6. Give them air
Make sure the car is well ventilated. Check where your dog is staying in the car to ensure that fresh air can flow to them.
7. Make plenty of stops
Don’t forget to stop along the way to give your dog, and yourself, the opportunity to stretch out their legs, use the bathroom and get some water.
Tips for Traveling with a Dog on a Plane
- Make sure to carefully read the airline’s pet policy, then follow it. I have heard many stories of people unable to catch their flight because they didn’t follow the policy.
- Double check the size requirements for the pet carrier. Some airlines are very strict with how a dog is transported.
- Make sure your dog fits comfortably in the carrier
- Get your dog used to the carrier before you need to use it on a plane.
- Line the crate with a pee pad in case of an accident
- Make sure your dog has access to water. If they are staying in-cabin, bring along a collapsible water bowl.
- Scope out where the pet relief stations are at both the arriving and returning airports. If they don’t have one scope out the nearest exit.
- Get to the airport a little earlier than normal to make sure you have time to get through all the check points.
- Bring cleaning supplies in case of an accident.
- Pay attention to the weather along the trip. Federal regulations prohibit transporting live animals in the excess baggage or cargo holds if the animal will be exposed to temperatures that are below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit for more than four hours during departure, arrival, or while making connections.
Tips for Staying in a Hotel with a Dog
Here are a few dog friendly tips for staying in a hotel. For more tips check out our post Hotel Stays with a Dog: 23 Tips, Tricks and Hacks
1. Make sure you understand the pet policy
Before making your hotel reservations carefully review their pet policy. You want to look for things like:
- How many dogs are allowed per room?
- What size dogs do they allow?
- Do they have breed restrictions?
- Where are dogs allowed?
- Do they have a set number of dog rooms? If this is the case make sure to book early.
- Are there extra charges for bringing a dog, like a cleaning fee?
If you have any questions about the pet policy make sure to get the answers before booking.
2. Call ahead
If you are booking a room on-line, call the hotel to let them know you are bringing a dog. They should note that on your reservation.
3. Request a room away from other people and dogs.
When booking, request a room that is away from other people and dogs. Some people prefer ground floor rooms so they don’t have to deal with the elevator or stairs. I prefer a second-floor room in the back near the stairs.
4. Dealing with hotel noise
Leave the television on in the room to muffle outside noise so your dog will be less likely to bark when people are walking by your room. Another option is to bring a white noise machine.
5. Dog proof the room
Before allowing your dog loose in the room, check to make sure there are no hazards that could harm your dog. This includes items like wires from lamps, food left behind under the furniture or worst, medications that were accidentally dropped and not found.
While you’re checking for hazards also look for previous damage. If you find any let the front desk know to avoid being charged for it.
Tips for Staying at a Vacation Rental when Traveling with a Dog
As I mentioned above dog friendly vacation rentals are our preferred choice of housing for week long vacations. Plus, if you book a dog friendly house that’s are right on the beach or lake you don’t have to worry about finding dog friendly beaches or lakes to bring them to.
Here are our best tips for staying at a vacation rental.
1. Look around for a pet friendly vacation rental
You might be tempted to go online and pick the first pet friendly vacation rental you find. But you should spend a little time comparing your options. Not only may you find a place that suites you better, you may also find that the vacation rental you want can be found cheaper elsewhere.
All rental agencies that help homeowners market their homes charge fees, but the fees vary. You will find that some homeowners will market their home through multiply sites.
2. Search locally
Not everyone wants to go through the hassle of dealing with renters. Many people prefer to hire a local real estate agency to manage their homes.
In addition to looking at the big online vacation rental sites like VRBO and Airbnb, look for local real estate offices that offer short-term vacation rentals. They generally show up on the google maps section of your search results.
3. Read the reviews
When you find a rental you like, read all the reviews you can find. These reviews will give you a clearer picture of what the rental is really like. Sometimes the owner’s description of the place does not match the reality.
4. Contact the agent or owner before booking
Before I actually book a rental, I like to reach out to confirm that I can bring a dog and to ask any questions I may have. At this time, I tell them a little bit about who is coming and about our dog.
This is a good time to ask about what rules they may have about pet dogs to make sure you can follow them.
How they respond will give you an idea of what they will be like to deal with.
5. Dog proof the home
Most vacation homes that allow kids or dogs are already setup to host them, but you still want to go through the house to see if there are any hazards you need to be aware of. Remember all dogs are different.
Bring gates so can block off areas that might be a hazard for your dogs. Another option is to bring a crate for your dog to stay in when you are out.
Don’t know where to go with your dog? Here are some ideas for dog friendly vacation locations:
We hope you found our post “Traveling with a Dog” helpful
If you know of any other tips please add them to the comments below.
Traveling with a Dog Resources
- Pet Ownership Statistics – The Zebra.com
- Travel safely with your pet by car, airplane, ship or train – Humane Society U.S.
- Traveling with Pets – Center of Disease Control