Road Trips: Traveling with a Pet

Happy Thursday!  Before I head off to a morning of painting drying racks, I thought I would do a quick Throwback Thursday post.  Here is a look back at our epic road trip from North Carolina to Utah last summer – with the dog!

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Two adults, two kids, and an enthusiastic golden retriever “puppy.”  2200 miles, three days on the road.  Twice.  That pretty much sums up our road trip this summer from North Carolina to Utah and back again this summer.  Quite frankly there were times in the planning where I thought it was going to be torture.  In the end, it all went fairly smoothly and most of it was even enjoyable.

Road Trip Tips for Traveling with a Pet

So what are the biggest concerns when taking a pet on a long trip?  Our first consideration was where she was going to travel.  She’s big and she’s energetic and her “manners” just aren’t where we want them to be yet.  We have a big gaz-guzzling SUV (because I like the extra space and flexibility, and in Utah we needed something that could handle the snow) so it made sense that the dog would ride in the back.  We debated about leaving the third row seats home but were glad we kept them as we made good use of them quite a bit while we were on vacation.  We also knew that we wanted to take her crate with us so we decided to prop it between the second row and the folded-up third row seats, figuring it would act as a good screen to keep her in the back.  In our trial run in the driveway she showed no indication of trying to get past it.  On the road, before the sun was up and we had gone less than 20 miles we had pulled over TWICE to deal with the dog.  We had put her in the back and she was whining and pacing and wanting attention and pretty soon she had found a way around it and was in the kids’ laps.  Fine.  We just pulled out a leash and tied it to one of the metal rings in the back.  Mistake in that the leash was too long and she was once again in the kids’ laps.  Ok.  We got out a different leash, making sure she had only enough length to stand up and lie down.  She was still agitated and we thought we would have to stop a third time but eventually she did calm down (10 minutes?  20 minutes later?)  And we were surprised at how well she did for the rest of the trip, even showing she was happy to jump into the back of the vehicle at rest stops when we thought she would be anxious to stretch her legs and run around longer.

Tip #1 – make sure your pet has a safe place to ride and is restricted well enough not to bother/hurt passengers if she gets agitated.

Tip #2 – do a trial run and make sure you actually get out on the road to work out the kinks instead of just staying in the driveway.  That would have been a good idea 😉

Tip #3 – plan/pack for as many eventualities as you can.  We pretty much devoted an entire backpack to things for the dog.  We measured out her meals ahead of time and put them each in plastic baggies (we left the big bag of dog food home and bought a new one once we were in Utah since we would be spending 3 weeks there and knew she would eat most of while we were there).  We of course had food and water bowls, leashes, a brush, poop bags, toys, dog treats, and a case of bottled water.  We also made sure to get her a brand new bone and bring her favorite chew toys to keep her busy in the back and at night in the hotel.  We discovered that she doesn’t want to eat much when we are on the road and the chew toys and bone got almost no use but it’s better to be safe than sorry.  She did drink plenty and since we still give her some peanut butter in her Kong at bedtime every night we figured she wouldn’t exactly starve.  Our daughter would also feed her the small treats over the seat when she was being particularly calm in order to encourage the good behavior.
Tip #4 – at rest stops Divide and Conquer.  It didn’t take us long to figure out a system for dealing with the kids and the dog at rest stops.  Since it was very hot, we didn’t want to leave the dog alone in the car for even a short amount of time.  So I would take the kids in to the restroom while my husband would get the dog out and let her walk around and take her own potty break.  When the kids and I were finished we would give the dog some water and the kids would give her some love while the husband went to the restroom.
We used the same method when stopping for the night, though it was a little harder.  The husband would usually go check into the hotel and the kids would either go in with him or stay outside with me while I walked the dog.  And here’s where it got hard because the dog loves to meet people and likes to get right up in their space and she’s big enough that for the most part we don’t trust the kids’ strength to control her if they really needed to.  Sam would bring a luggage cart back out with him and we would re-latch the dog into the back while we unloaded the luggage from the top of the vehicle, usually while dealing with excited and fully energized kids while we, the parents were nearing the end of our patience for the day.  We got through it though, with Sam taking the leash while we walked into the hotel and the kids “helping” me get the luggage cart where we needed it to go.  Once we were settled in the room one of us would go for take out.  Then I would ususally take the kids to the pool to work off some energy while Sam took the dog for a long walk or if the hotel had a fenced in area for pets he would throw the ball for her there.
Tip #5 – research and book hotels ahead of time.  When we drove out here four years ago with just the kids we took the “we’ll stop when we feel like we need to and just find a place as we go” approach.  That doesn’t work so well with pets.  Many hotels don’t welcome pets and the ones that do often charge extra for pets and have restrictions as to the size of the dog and things like what entrance you can use with a pet (they usually want you to enter and exit only through the back/side door).  And not all hotels are created equal – the first night the “pet room” we got was well, gross.  It was dank and smelled funky and the carpet looked clean but felt wet, as if they steam cleaned it but it didn’t dry completely and we insisted the kids not walk on it without their shoes.  I’m sure there are a number of good chains, but we quickly decided on one we are comfortable with and stuck to it for the rest of the trip.
Tip #6 – roll with it.  I mean this in all senses of the phrase, good and bad.  Everyone is better off when you deal with things with patience and try to see the humor in things when they go awry.  For instance, as the sun was getting lower in the sky on the first day, Bambi started getting really fidgety and loud.  Once she had settled in originally she had ridden most of the trip without incident and it hadn’t been that long since our last stop so we knew she probably didn’t need a break yet.  I think it was Sam that spotted the patch of light being reflected onto the ceiling of the car just out of her reach that she was trying to get at.  See, she loves chasing the light from flashlights or what I used to call “Tinkerbell” as a kid – the reflected light that bounces off watches or mirrors when the sun hits it just right.  And the angle of the sun had found the screen of a cell phone that was sitting on the console causing a band of light to reflect onto the ceiling and drive her nuts.  It didn’t take us long to figure out that as long as we kept the reflective surfaces covered from about 6-7 PM she would be able to remain calm.

On the other end of that, our dog is very friendly and loves people and she’s “a pretty dog” so she gets a lot of attention.  At one busy rest stop when the husband took the kids inside first I didn’t make it more than 10 steps from the car with her before they got back because multiple families with kids asked to pet her and it was so much fun to watch the kids and make small take with the adults.  At another rest stop a guy we ran into said he trains service dogs and noticing my focus on trying to keep Bambi sitting nicely while he petted her he ended up giving us a mini dog training/tip session.  Despite the desire to get to our destinations as quickly as possible, the entire exprience was more fun because we took the time to enjoy the process, the sights, and the people we met along the way.

The highest point on our journey – elevation 8640

We had to do the whole thing over againa few months later when we moved back to Utah.  And yes – all these trips worked perfectly that time around too!  I’m interested though:  Do you have any tips/tricks for traveling?

*This post is part of a series you can see the other parts here:

1:  Road Trip Activity Binder

Linking to:  Your Turn to Shine, Thursday Favorite Things, BFF Open House, Pin Me Linky Party, Snickerdoodle Sunday, Merry Monday, Blog Hobnob Link Up, Sundays Down Under, Tutorials and Tips Link Party, Something to Talk About, Idea Box, Made By You Monday, Lou Lou Girls,

10 thoughts on “Road Trips: Traveling with a Pet

  1. Hil says:

    Stopping in from Merry Mondays – Our doggy seatbelt was a great help in keeping them restrained so they couldn’t roam, get into things, and would be safe (and keep us safe) in a car accident. We also found farmers markets when we travelled, dog gets a walk we get frsh snacks! Great tips thanks!

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  2. TwoCrochet Hooks says:

    appreciate the tips and tricks and hearing about your travel. We have put off making a long trip with our Macy, afraid of how she would react all though she LOVES to make short about town trips. Now I feel better prepared to take her with us when we head out to the mountains! Thanks for sharing with us at Snickerdoodle!

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