Traveling with a dog is an incredibly rewarding yet sometimes overwhelming adventure. It’s nice to have a constant companion who is excited about all the new places and smells, but it’s frustrating when you’re unable to bring your four-legged friend(s) along—unfortunately, not all places are willing or able to have dogs. Below are some tips for planning road trip activities with dogs that are sure to make your next adventure more enjoyable for you and your pup(s).

Road trip with dog
Credit: Tim Peck

8 Great Tips for Planning Road Trip Activities with Dogs

1. Have Dogs Up to Date with Necessary Paperwork

The majority of campgrounds and dog parks require that your dog is up to date on all its vaccinations and that you have their paperwork as proof. Have your veterinarian email your dog’s vaccination records and save the files on your phone—ensuring the records are always close at hand.

You don’t want to risk not being able to camp or let your dogs play somewhere because you don’t have the right paperwork.

2. Start with a Trip Close to Home

Before embarking on your big journey—like a cross-country road trip—consider taking a smaller, two- or three-night adventure closer to home. Start with somewhere you are familiar with and have been before. It’s less intimidating to work out the kinks in a place where you’re comfortable.

Small, close-to-home trips provide a great opportunity to test out the types of places and hikes you plan to take on your road trip. 

3. Know How You and Your Dog Like to Adventure

This may seem obvious, but when you’re road-tripping with your dog in the car, you generally don’t have the option of leaving them behind. This means compromising between the activities you enjoy and the favorite pastimes of your four-legged adventure hound.

For example, if you love drinking cappuccino in cute coffee shops, but your dog is passionate about playing in the park, you’ll want to plan on getting your coffee to go and sipping it somewhere that your dog can play.

4. Do Your Research

So many people love traveling with their dogs that there’s an abundance of information about it available. From books to blogs, spend some time learning from those with experience road-tripping with their dogs to pick up everything from travel tips to pet-friendly locations like campgrounds, restaurants, and stores.

Happy dog ready to ride on a road trip
Credit: Tim Peck

5. Look Ahead at Locations

Make a list of everywhere you’re planning to visit and the activities of the most interest to you. Knowing the must-visit locations and must-do activities makes planning easier and helps ensure you make the most out of your trip.

Not every activity on your list needs to be dog-friendly. However, identifying the times when you’ll need to leave your pup behind in advance makes it much easier to make accommodations for them. Which brings me to…

6. Plan Ahead of Timne for a Dogsitter/Doggy Daycare

It’s common to find dog sitters and doggy daycares near large destinations with lots of visitors. Dog sitters and doggy daycares are great options if you have a day planned that your dog can’t join, like a trip to a National Park (many parks have strict restrictions on pets).

Dog sitters and doggy daycares are valuable resources to traveling pet parents, but they can book up fast, especially during the busy season—be sure to book in advance to secure a spot for your pup.

7. Arrange Essential Activites

It’s not just National Parks that pose challenges when traveling with your dog(s). Activities like grocery shopping can create logistical issues on the road. If you have a quick errand to run, like to the grocery store or pharmacy, plan it for the mildest part of the day—usually, early in the morning or late in the afternoon—so you can get food or grab a prescription without worrying about the well-being of your pup(s) left behind in the car during your quick trip inside.

8. Be Willing to Change Plans

Sometimes the weather sucks and rules change. In other words, even the best-laid plans can go sideways. Go with the flow and adapt your plans to accommodate the unforeseen. It’s surprising how often needing to deviate from your plans leads to the most amazing adventures!

Puppy ready for their first road trip
Credit: Tim Peck

Why Road Tripping with Dogs Rules

The point of a road trip is to have fun. You don’t have to center every activity around your dog(s) and not every destination is perfect. That said, careful planning ensures the best possible experience for you and your four-legged travel partner(s). If things don’t go exactly to plan, no worries, just traveling with their human is sure to make your dog’s tail wag and butt wiggle.