Tips for Bringing Your Pet on Vacation

Lucy and Lily take a drive
Lucy and Lily take a drive. Photo: Colleen Peterson

If your kid is heading to camp, a summer vacation can be crucial to getting in some quality family bonding time. But for dog owners, the worst part about taking a trip is the time away from our best friends. Instead of leaving your four-legged family members at home, why not travel with them?

Taking pets on vacation, even for the weekend, can be a fun and rewarding experience. But there’s much to consider when planning a trip together.

First, choose a destination that is both dog-friendly and interesting to you. Websites like can help find accommodations for you and your dog. Most of these hotels charge some kind of fee for your dog to stay, but many also offer special activities like a daily “Yappy Hour” for dogs to socialize, as well as dog-sitting or daycare services. Amenities like this vary from place to place, so it’s good to check ahead and see what’s available.

Consider what your dog is capable of when planning and packing for a trip. Sightseeing outdoors or exploring a new city can be perfect activities with your dog, but some breeds will handle walking longer distances better than others, especially in colder weather.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your dog doesn’t get car sick before taking a long drive. Try getting him or her used to the car with shorter rides first, and never feed before driving.

A good car seat will improve your dog’s comfort on the road. The “Lookout” seat by Snoozer, for example, is tall enough to allow your dog to see out the window, which will reduce motion sickness. Adding a harness by a company like Rough Riders will keep Fido secure in his seat and safe in the event of an accident or hard stop. Make sure to plan breaks while driving and allow your dog to stretch his legs and take care of “business.”

If during your travels you want to go places where your dog definitely can’t, find a local sitter or doggie daycare to watch her. Bring a copy of your vet records for easy entry into a boarding facility, and spend some time researching the best places in the area before you go. Try to find a local person willing to watch dogs in their home.

Never, under any circumstances, leave your dog in the car while visiting a museum or restaurant, even in the shade with windows down. Heat exhaustion is among the most common reasons for emergency vet visits and a windshield acts as a magnifying glass for the sun, even in the winter. Dogs have a higher body temperature than humans, so they overheat much more easily. When dining, use outdoor seating and keep your pooch at your feet.

Accidents can happen no matter how careful you are, so plug local vet info into your GPS in case of an emergency. If your dog has a tendency to run off or escape, provides a GPS system that will track him or her in real time and text you the location so your dog never gets lost.

And when you go out, always bring fresh water, a collapsible or portable bowl, wet wipes and a supply of bags to pick up any waste. Responsible owners clean up after their dogs. Don’t be part of the problem, even if you’re out of town. Having a dog in public places and beaches is a privilege, not a right.

Ideally, you’ll want to find a good balance between walking and driving, so as not to overexert your dog. If that’s not possible, especially for smaller breeds, a dog stroller can make a big difference for long walks. It sounds ridiculous, but once you’ve used one, you won’t find them as stupid. Dog strollers allow your pup to lie down, keep warm and relax while you walk around, and they usually have fold-down canopies so no one can see inside. Just don’t be surprised if people look in and scream because they’re expecting a baby! Some strollers even convert to be pulled behind a bike.

Being prepared makes all the difference when taking our pets on the road. And remember, above anything else: For our dogs, it’s not important where you go—it’s going with you that matters.

Colleen Peterson is Red Cross–certified in canine first aid and CPR. She is the owner and operator of Petite Dog Care in Water Mill, a home-based dog care business for small breeds. Call 631-726-0183, email [email protected] or visit for more info.

Lucy on the road
Lucy on the road. Photo, Oliver Peterson
Lily and Lucy in their stroller
Lily and Lucy in their stroller. Photo: Colleen Peterson
A family vacation isn't complete without Fido! photo by
A family vacation isn’t complete without Fido! photo by

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