Ultimate Packing Checklist for Traveling With Your Dog.
Packing Tips

The Ultimate Packing Checklist for Traveling With Your Dog

Though hitting the road with your furry best friend as copilot is the best, leaving home with your dog poses more than a few challenges. For starters, there are the concessions you’ll have to make along the way. Planning marathon drives followed by a night at a hotel or vacation rental? You'll need special gear for both the car and for your overnight accommodations. How about long, leisurely dinners and hours of shopping or museum-hopping? In fairness to Fido, such activities must be limited. But if you’re okay with compromise—and if your dog isn’t very young, very old, or a complete creature of habit—it’s time to start packing. Our comprehensive checklist and product recommendations will give you a leg up.

Your Packing Checklist for Traveling With Your Dog

Travel Essentials

French Bulldog laying in bed.

Because your dog’s well-being matters, it’s important to carry updated health records plus a first-aid kit in case an emergency arises. That said, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. To keep Rex healthy on the road, pack any meds he commonly needs and stick to his regular diet as much as possible: sudden dietary changes can upset the system and this is no time to deal with doggy diarrhea. Unless you use a popular and easy-to-find brand of food, take a supply. Tote some water from home, too, along with portable dishes. For the sake of your pet’s mental health, prepare a “mobile home,” complete with familiar bedding and toys. Since dogs instinctively find comfort in den-like surroundings, a crate makes sense. If you don’t already have one, look for a sturdy, well-ventilated model that’s large enough for your pet to comfortably stand, turn, and lie in.

Items for the Car

Long-haired dog in the trunk of a car.

Driving (rather than flying) is the preferred way to travel with pets…provided you show some restraint. Letting your fur baby loose in a moving car creates unnecessary distractions and, in the event of an accident, is dangerous for all concerned. Small breeds can simply stay crated, while larger ones can be secured with seatbelt extensions, car hammocks, or barriers that essentially turn the backseat into a cozy kennel. Although it’s recommended that dogs remain leashed at pit stops, it’s still important to outfit yours with ID tags with his name and your contact info in case he bolts (GoTags sells customizable stainless steel versions with up to eight lines of text); microchip implants and GPS trackers provide high-tech alternatives. If you absolutely must fly, get a thumbs up from your vet first, then be sure to use an airline-approved carrier and follow all related rules carefully.

Items for the Hotel or Rental

Pug lying on the back of a couch.

There’s no shortage of dog-friendly lodgings today, but no matter where you stay you do have to act responsibly. Common sense dictates you don’t bring a flea-infested animal with raptor-like, upholstery-shredding nails into a hotel room or vacation rental. Common courtesy demands more. So pack grooming wipes (or just plain ol’ paper towels) to clean off muddy paws, a brush to pick up shedded hair, and, for pets prone to hopping up on the bed, old sheets to serve as slipcovers. A stain remover is also handy in case Scout leaves spots in her wake. With unpredictable puppies—as well as older dogs who forget their housebreaking lessons when anxious or excited—bring super-absorbent potty pads. Aside from protecting floors or bedding from mishaps, these multi-purpose products can double as crate liners and even pet placemats. A quick spritz of air freshener on departure will score you bonus points with hosts.

Special Accessories for the Beach, Heat, Boats, Cities, or Hiking Trails

Husky-Mix dog standing in front of a mountain landscape.

The remaining must-haves depend largely on where you’re going and what you plan on doing once you get there. This is when accessories come in. These doggy add-ons are adorable, yes, but each one serves a practical purpose as well. Say you’re exploring a big new city: a hands-free sling will prevent tiny dogs from getting trampled by crowds, and keep his tender paw pads from concrete sidewalks that are too hot or too cold. Dogs who prefer ruff-ing it on hiking trips, on the other hand, will benefit from grippy, water-resistant boots (these are also great for older dogs who slip around on tile or wood floors), while life jackets (complete with grabbing handles) are a smart addition for beach trips, kayaking, rafting, or any other outing involving water. If your vacation will spend a lot of time in the sun, do your pooch a favor with a sun-protective cover-up or water-activated cooling vest.

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