12 Tips to Get Your Pet Road Trip-Ready

There's no need to leave your furbaby at home this summer. Here's how to get your pet ready to hit the open road.

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Make It Easy to Find Your Pet

American Humane estimates that 10 million pets are lost each year in the U.S. On the off chance that your pet dashes away on a road trip, make it easy to find your furry friend. Talk to your vet about having a microchip implanted in your pet. If your pet has a microchip, be sure the associated contact details, like your cell phone number, are accurate. The same goes for the ID tag on his collar. It's also wise to have a current photo of your pet.

Pack Medical Records

Get a copy of your pet's medical records, including the dates of his vaccinations, to bring with you on your road trip. Your pet should be current on all of his shots, including Bordetella and rabies. Ask your vet if additional vaccinations are required for your dog or cat based on where you are traveling. If your furry friend receives monthly treatments for heartworm or fleas and ticks, pack up those meds too.

Gear Up for Your Big Trip

Pets can require a lot of gear, like food and water bowls, chew toys, a litter scoop, pet food, leashes, doggie bags and treats, so pack a separate bag just for your furbaby. If all your pet's gear is in one place, it will be easier to find what you need when you want to hydrate or entertain your pet. For longer road trips or trips where your pet may spend more time outside, consider pet-safe sunscreen and calming supplements.

Set Up Pet Care on the Road

It's not fair to leave your dog or cat unattended in the car for long periods of time. This can cause your pet to become anxious and unsettled. It's also unsafe to leave your pet alone in the car when the weather is warm, even with a window cracked open. If you can't take your pet with you, like on many hiking trails at national parks, book a spot for him at a kennel or ensure he is well-situated in a pet-friendly hotel room.

Manage Car Sickness

Just like humans, pets can be prone to car sickness. To help avoid this, feed your dog or cat several hours before you plan to drive to ensure there is some digestion. Also, get your pet active and moving so your furry pal is rested and relaxed before you hit the road. This can help mitigate any nerves and anxiety your pet may experience ahead of the drive.

Give Him Some Space

Don’t drive with your dog on your lap, and don’t try to squeeze your kitty onto the back seat between your duffel bag and the drinks cooler. Instead, give her a dedicated space in the car that’s comfy and is enough room to spread out and relax. The more space she has, the less likely she’ll be anxious and whimpering throughout the ride. Help her settle into her space in the car as best as you can before you get on the road.

Make Sure Water is Available

At home, your pet’s water bowl is always available and usually full, but that’s not the case when out of the house and on the road. Set a water bowl on the floor of the back seat in a place that can be easily accessed by your pet while you are driving. When away from the car, always carry a collapsible bowl and a full water bottle to ensure your pet stays hydrated.

Don't Forget About Bathroom Needs

When you pull over at a rest stop for a bathroom break, take your dog out for a walk and a potty break. He’s got business to do, too. Fortunately, most rest stops along the highway have plenty of green space for a walk. As for cats, place a small litter box in the back seat so he can take care of his needs on his own time. Don’t forget to bring litter and a litter scoop, too.

Crates Can Make Your Pet Feel Safe

Many hotel chains, from budget-friendly La Quinta to more luxurious Kimpton Hotels, are pet-friendly, making it relatively easy to travel with your pet. Many even offer doggie bags, plush beds and special treats. However, for pets who feel anxious in new environments, a collapsible travel crate can make your pet feel more safe and at ease in a new setting. Consider using a crate in the car when driving with pets that are especially nervous.

Research Pet-Friendly Locations

Know ahead of time which hotels, restaurants, parks and beaches at your next stop are pet-friendly. This can save a lot of time hunting them down once you arrive. Look to sites like Trips With Pets and Bring Fido, which make it easy to find stops along the way that are pleased to welcome your dog or cat. You can also find vets, dog sitters, even pet salons and dog bakeries, on these pet-friendly websites.

Keep Your Pet Restrained

If you choose not to crate your pet while driving, plan to restrain your pet in some way while on the road for his safety and your own. It’s not safe for your pet to roam freely about the car, regardless of how fast or slow you are driving. Visit your local pet store or go online to purchase a seat belt (often referred to as a safety harness) to be worn by your cat or dog while in the car.

Do a Test Run (or Three)

Before you head out on a road trip, get a few test drives with your pet under your belt to make sure he feels safe and comfortable. Start with a short drive then go a little longer each time to grow a positive association with the car, rewarding your pet each time for calm behavior. Try to replicate the road trip feel as best you can, so if you’ll be crating your pet while on the road, place your dog or cat in a crate during each test run.