Black dog sitting next to a suitcase in the back of a hatchback

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Best Tips to Vacation with Your Dog

I strongly believe that pets are part of the family, so it makes sense to include them on your family trips. We have 4 dogs so I KNOW how intimidating it can be to even think about taking your dog (or dogs) on vacation. It can be very stressful thinking about bringing your pup to a new place and hoping that you haven’t missed any important details when you are planning your trip.

I promise that traveling with your pup isn’t as scary as it seems, especially with these tips for taking your dog on vacation. This guide will break down everything you will need to consider when you are planning a dog-friendly trip. From choosing a destination and deciding on where to stay and how to get there, we will make sure you don’t miss a step!

couple sitting with 4 dogs under a natural rock arch

Are you looking for a supportive space to ask questions and share ideas with other dog owners that want to travel with their pups, we invite you to join our Facebook group for Traveling Pet Owners.

Dog carrying a 'pup memory passport' in its mouth. There are close up shots of the pages in the book showing where to enter info and place photos

For a fun and unique way to record your favorite adventures with your dog, take a look at Remington’s Pup Memory Passport. $1 from every passport sold will be donated to World Vets!

Should I take my dog on vacation?

The most common question from pet owners starting out is whether they should even consider taking their dogs on vacation.   Though I love the idea of a world where dogs travel with their owners everywhere, it is important to take the time to consider if you SHOULD in fact bring your dog with you on your next trip.

Medium size dog sitting in car

Pros and cons of taking your dog on vacation

As much as I love traveling with my dogs, there are definitely pros and cons to bringing them with me on vacation. It’s a good idea to review the benefits and costs of taking your dog on each individual trip before you make a final decision.

husky smelling a display in a beer museum

Pros of a Dog-friendly Vacation

  • You get to have your furry best friend with you
  • Save money and stress from boarding them or finding a responsible pet sitter
  • Your dog gets to experience new things
  • Your dog gets great socialization and training time
  • Good bonding experience

Cons of a Dog-friendly Vacation

  • Not everyplace or everybody is dog-friendly
  • There are additional pet fees at some accommodation sites or attractions
  • Potential added stress on you and your pup
  • Your itinerary needs to revolve around your dog

Every season will also have it’s own unique challenges to consider when traveling with your pup. For more details on how best to prepare depending on the time of year, we have put together the following posts:

Consider Your Particular Dog’s Needs

Even if you may be ready and willing to bring your dog on your next adventure, it might not be the best situation for your pup. One of the most important things as a pet parent is to set your animal up for success. This way you and your dog will enjoy more positive and less stressful experiences on the adventures you do decide to take together.

Behavioral Concerns:

Be honest about any behavioral issues that your dog may be dealing with. Do they struggle with high anxiety or any type of aggression issues? Do you know what their triggers are? If you know what situations your dog may struggle with, you can decide if you will be able to successfully avoid or be prepared to help your dog deal with any issues that may come up.

dog laying on its side on the ground

When you are out and about with your pup, don’t hesitate to take a break with your dog so they can decompress if they seem to be getting overstimulated. Humans aren’t the only ones that can use downtime! (Honestly, I have used my dogs as an excuse to leave an area for some quiet time when I need a break!)

Species Requirements

Another thing to keep in mind when you are making your dog-friendly travel plans is the TYPE of dog that you have.  Some canine species have special needs and requirements that you will need to keep in mind when planning your vacation.

Dogs with flat, ‘smashed’ noses like pugs can not fly because the change in air pressure is not safe for them. You will also want to avoid booking any flights if your dog suffers from anxiety.

2 pugs; one brown, one black sitting in the grass next to each other

Some breeds of dogs are also more sensitive to extreme temperatures than others. For example, huskies and Chow Chows tend to struggle in high heat but greyhounds and chihuahuas don’t do well in very cold temperatures. Knowing what your dog can handle will help you decide on the time of year and the type of activities you want to plan for your trip.

Husky in snow, chihuahua on the beach

Not every trip will be ideal for your pup and that’s okay! As much as we love having our dogs with us, we know that sometimes it is best for them to stay home. If you decide that it would be best for your dog to have a pet sitter instead, we have put together a guide to help you set your pet sitter up for success.

Planning a Dog-friendly vacation

Now that you’ve decided that you CAN bring your dog with you on your next vacation, it’s time to start planning! This means that you will need to decide where, when, and how long you would like to go. You will also need to figure out how you will get there, what you will be doing, and make sure you have everything you will need to make the trip go smoothly.

Brown and white dog wearing a blue backpack. He is in front of the Washington Memorial in D.C.
(Remington on a trip to Washington D.C.)

Picking a Dog-friendly Destination

When choosing your dog-friendly destination it will be important to verify that you will be able to find pet-friendly accommodations and activities. Remember, it’s your dog’s vacation too so it’s important to include them in your activities. This can help a lot with the stress of being in a new place and will prevent them from undesirable behaviors due to pent-up energy. Even if you plan to spend most of your time hiking, it is still a good idea to find one or two pet-friendly indoor places in the event of severe weather.

Learn about the area

It is also a good idea to do a little research about the place you plan on traveling to so you know what you and your dog may have to deal with on vacation. This includes the average temperature and type of weather in the area so you know if you will need to bring coats, towels, rain gear, etc.

small dog wearing coat

Find out what wildlife you may encounter

Another thing that you will want to investigate is what kind of wildlife (especially predators) live in the area. This way you will know what to look out for and if you may need to take any extra precautions.

Alligator in the grass next to a path
(Alligators can easily climb fences)

 Here are a just a few examples:

  • If you have a smaller dog, you will want to find out if there are any birds of prey that live in the area, so you know to keep a closer eye out on your dog when they are outside.
  • In an area with bears, you will want to be extra careful not to leave any crumbs around your tent after feeding your dog dinner or treats.
  • For any tropical vacations, it is important to know that alligators can climb fences so if you are renting a place near the water, you should always do a quick scan before sending your dogs or kids out into the fenced-in yard.
  • If the area is home to venomous snakes or scorpions, you will want to prevent your pets from exploring nooks and crevices where those types of animals could be resting in.

Research toxic plants, nuts, etc

Toxic plants and toxic nuts are other categories that you will want to take the time to learn about, especially if you have a dog that likes to eat things. Many dogs like to eat grass or chew on branches and nuts, so it is helpful to know which plants are not safe for them to ingest.

Wooden sign that say "Poison Ivy" next to poison ivy that is growing up a tree

Eating unsafe items is not the only concern during outdoor adventures. It will also be helpful to know if you should be on the lookout for plants like poison ivy which will also help you and your dog avoid a potentially uncomfortable experience.

Dog-Friendly Transportation

When choosing the mode of transportation for you and your pup, there are several options to choose from. You can drive, fly, take a train, etc. and each of these options has its own ups and downs.

Driving with your dog

Frankly, with most dogs, it will be easier to take a road trip to get to your destination. When you have your own car, you can control when you stop for bathroom breaks, meals, and even simply take a break from being in your vehicle. Your dog will also be more relaxed because your vehicle is familiar to them. Here is a list of helpful dog road trip supplies to make the road trip more enjoyable for your pup.


Unfortunately, driving long distances will take much longer than simply hopping on an airplane but many owners find it worth it because it makes their dog more comfortable.

Flying with your dog

Airlines have recently changed their pet policies in part because of several incidents that have occurred during flights. If you are considering flying with your dog, I highly suggest that you make sure you are up to date on all current animal restrictions. 

Jack Russel in an airport with a small suitcase by a window. There's an airplane in the background

Often, if you choose to fly with your dog, your dog will have to fly in the cargo section of the plane. However, flying JSX with a dog will give you more options so you can even have your pup in the cabin with you as long as you are willing to pay extra.

The plus side of flying with your dog is that you will spend less time trying to get to your destination. The downside is that it can be a stressful experience for both you and your dog and will involve extra paperwork on your part to verify that your dog is up to date on vaccinations and is healthy enough to go on the flight. Some breeds are not recommended to fly at all due to health concerns.

Other dog-friendly transportation options

Depending on where you are, you might also have the option to take a bus, train, or even boat to get to your destination. These can be fantastic alternatives to driving if your dog can handle being in a potentially crowded space. Unfortunately, many of these options may also make bathroom breaks more difficult or even impossible for some lengths of time so be sure to do your research and plan ahead.

Where to Stay with a Dog While on Vacation

When looking for a place to stay with your dog during your vacation, ultimately you will have the same basic choices as you would normally have. You can book a hotel, a vacation rental, go camping, or stay with a friend. Here are several things to consider when selecting where you will be staying with your dog to give you the most positive vacation experience.

Dog-Friendly Hotels/Motels

The most important part of booking a hotel or motel for your trip is to make sure that it really is dog friendly. There are several websites and apps that can help you find pet-friendly accommodations. These can be helpful BUT I highly suggest you always call to verify the information. I’ve heard multiple horror stories from people using popular sites to book a pet-friendly room only to arrive and be turned away because the hotel has since changed its policy, or the information had been wrongly reported.

Front double doors to a hotel with two planters on either side

The hotel may also have breed and size restrictions along with a cap on how many animals they will allow per room. Some businesses will also charge you extra fees if you have pets with you. However, some hotel chains like Red Roof Inn or Motel 6 do not have a pet fee (though again you should verify any restrictions or changes in policy).

Staying in a hotel or motel means that you will have access to a room with 4 solid walls and temperature controls which is great! The downside of course is that the constant noise and activity that happens in a place like this may be overstimulating for your pup. If you are worried about an upcoming hotel stay, take a look at our tips on taking your dog to a hotel post.

Camping with Your Dog

Taking your dog camping can be a fantastic way to vacation with your dog. There tend to be fewer restrictions in campgrounds than in pet-friendly hotels and vacation rentals. Camping also tends to be the most budget-friendly option when booking a place to stay.

Large blue and grey tent on grass next to a pathway. There are bushes and tress in the background
(Tent set up away from other campers)

The downside of course is if you are tent camping, you will be at the whims of nature which can be uncomfortable if you are not prepared. Take a look at our tips for taking your dog camping to help prepare for your next camping trip.

RV camping with your dog will give you many of the bonuses of staying at a hotel without the stress of high activity outside your room. Unfortunately, buying an RV is a large investment though you may be able to rent one that will allow you to bring your pets with you.

Small Rv with bikes on the back driving by a lake

Dog-friendly cabins and vacation rentals

Booking dog-friendly cabins and other types of vacation rentals have some of the same drawbacks as finding dog-friendly hotels. Be aware of what pet restrictions the rental has in place and what additional pet fees they charge for.  However, you will have more privacy and freedom than in a hotel and more comforts than if you go tent camping.

two small log cabins

Staying with your dog at a friend’s house

Staying at a friend’s or family member’s house often can be the best option because you won’t be as worried about dealing with strangers. Your dog will be able to pick up on the fact that you are more comfortable too.

It can be a bit more stressful if the house you are staying at has pets of their own, especially if your dog hasn’t met them yet. I firmly believe in being as prepared as possible for the ‘worst-case scenario’ which in this case would be your dog not getting along with the other animals in the home. For this reason, I suggest bringing along a crate and even a baby gate to help keep the animals separate and keep everyone safe.

Dog Travel Supplies

When bringing your dog on vacation, there are some supplies that you absolutely should never leave home without. This list will go over the standard items you should have with you to meet the basic needs of your pup and to be properly prepared in case of an emergency.

If you are a checklist person like me, sign up for our weekly newsletter and get access to all our checklists (including packing lists!) and templates in our Freebie Library. You will also get a special member-only discount at our Etsy store!

Handsfree Leash– I love this leash because I can adjust the length and it leaves my hands free for other things while we are out hiking or running

Standard Leash– I also bring a standard leash for when we are in crowded areas or to use with the stake tie out.

Water: Bring a container that you can refill. You can also pick up gallon jugs of water from your local grocery store.

Portable Water bottle– there are multiple types, find one that works best for you

Portable bowls:

Poop bags

Reusable Diapers: These come in handy if your dog likes to mark or if they tend to pee in excitement or when they get nervous. These are great if you are staying in a rental, hotel, or someone else’s home.

First Aid Kit– you can buy one ready-made and see our guide for a DIY Dog First Aid Kit to find out what else you may want to add to it.

High Reward Dog Treats – you want to make listening to you worth it for your dogs

Recall Whistle (if you use one- it doesn’t have to be expensive-just loud)

GPS tracker: A GPS tracker can be a life-saver in the event that your dog gets lost on vacation. This is especially important because they will be in an unfamiliar place and may have trouble finding their way back to you. A GPS tracker can help you find your dog quickly so you can make sure they stay safe. There are several different brands out there but personally, we use a FitBark GPS tracker which works off of the Verizon network.

Dog Travel Insurance

Did you know that some travel insurance plans offer bundles that will cover your pet too? If you don’t have regular pet insurance, you may want to consider adding them to your travel insurance policy.

Travel Insurance Master can help you find the perfect travel insurance plan for your whole family. AIG is one company that has a Pet Bundle option that you can choose to add on. This bundle covers trip interruption and cancellation in the event your vacation needs to be cut short or even canceled due to a critical illness of a pet. It also helps cover medical expenses and pet care in case they get sick or injured on vacation. For more information, check out our post about Travel Insurance for Dogs.

Travel Insurance Master: Researching travel insurance options can be overwhelming. Travel Insurance Master's trusted algorithm recommends the best travel insurance for your travel needs to you can spend more time planning your vacation.

Preparing Your Dog for Vacation

After your dog-friendly vacation plans have started to come together, it is also important for you to start getting your dog ready for vacation. Before your trip is the best time to make sure that your pup is up to date with any recommended vaccinations and medical care and that all of your contact information is up to date. It is also a great idea to brush up on some basic behaviors to get them ready for their upcoming adventures.

Medical and Microchip information

It is very important to make sure your pets are up to date on their vaccines and other medications like Heartworm and Flea/tick prevention. Depending on where you are going, you may be required to bring proof of certain vaccinations.

Tick warning sign on a tree in the woods

You may also want to consider vaccines that are not normally offered in your area depending on where you are traveling. One example would be a Lyme disease vaccination if you will be hiking in an area where Lyme disease is more prevalent. The Bordetella vaccine is recommended if your dog will be in close contact with other dogs.

If your pet has any health issues, make sure you have enough medication to last the duration of your vacation. If they are older, it can be beneficial to bring something like Carprofen in case they appear to be sore after the day’s activities. Allergy medications are also great to have on hand because there is always a chance that they may encounter something that they are allergic to.

Array of pet medications on a shelf

One of the most important but overlooked things you should do before traveling with your pup is to make sure your contact information is up to date on their collar AND their microchip. You might even want to have your vet check to make sure the chip is still accessible during their annual checkups.

Behaviors to Train for Your Dog-friendly Vacation

There are several behaviors that you will want to make sure your dog has down before you leave on vacation. Remember that you will be taking your dog into an area that you cannot control, and these 4 behaviors will help to keep you and your pup safe while you are away from home.

Loose Leash Walking:

Adventures with your dog tend to be much more enjoyable if your dog is trained to walk nicely on a leash. This way you can always see what they are up to, and you don’t get irritated because they are constantly pulling you. Personally, I prefer a 4-6 ft leash so I can always keep an eye on my dogs.

Two brown dogs walking on nicely on leash. They are on a paved path.

Even though you may be tempted to let them explore using a retractable leash, remember that you may not be able to see what they are getting into. Retractable leashes can also get caught up in things like underbrush, cause injury, and even break. They are also known to cause injuries to people who accidentally get too close to the lead when their dog is on the move.

Leave it:

This is one of the most important behaviors for your dog to know during any adventure. This is a necessity for the times that your dog comes across things that they should avoid during your trips. It is always easier to stop your dog from getting things like discarded trash or animals (dead or alive) versus trying to take them out of their mouths.

black squirrel

Drop it:

I know that there is no way you will be able to watch your dog the whole time on your walk. You are out there to relax and enjoy your surroundings too. ‘Drop it’ is great in situations where your dog grabbed something, and you need them to let it go. I quickly learned the importance of this behavior when Remington found a decaying squirrel as a puppy, and it took 3 of us to get it out of his mouth!

Brown dog holding a hotdog in its mouth

Emergency Recall:

This is THE most important behavior that you can train your dog before you take them out into the world. If you drop the leash, the leash breaks or you choose to let them explore away off-leash, you NEED to have a way to get them to come back to you. Make sure your recall cue can be heard from a distance.

Brown and white dog running towards camera
(Emergency recall is when your dog instantly comes to you, no matter what they are doing)

Once you master the basics, you can also start working on other behaviors to make other aspects of your trip easier like getting cute pics of your dog on vacation for your scrapbook or Pup Passport.

Physical training for your dog-friendly vacation

Another thing that often gets overlooked is the physical training you and your dog can do to prepare for your upcoming dog-friendly vacation. Depending on what your plans are, there are different things you can do to prepare yourselves to help your trip go smoothly.

Physical training will be more important if your travel plans involve long hikes or hikes in drastically different landscapes. Remember that you AND your dog will benefit from training for longer and more difficult hikes. You can do this by finding areas to walk that will closely mimic where you will be traveling to. Walk on a beach if you will be traveling to sand dunes, or hills and stairs if your trip will be taking you to mountains. This is also helpful to us humans. Sudden changes in physical activity are tough on everyone.

Brown dog in the mountains

In case of emergency, you will need to be able to physically carry your pup to safety. Whereas the emergency harness mentioned above will make it easier, you may want to consider doing some strength training to ensure that you will be physically able to carry your dog in some manner if they are sick or injured.

Quick Tips for Traveling with Your Dog for the First Time

If you are traveling with your dog for the first time it can be overwhelming. Here are some quick tips to help you on your way!

Small white dog sitting in the passenger seat of the car
  • For your first overnight trip, I suggest only going away for 2-3 days and staying closer to home. This way there is less pressure because you don’t have to worry about making sure you have everything with you and it’s a great way to dip your feet in the water and learn what you and your dog need to work on before your next adventure.
  • Bring a crate. Even if you end up not having to use it, it is a great backup tool if you end up needing to use it. I do not recommend using it as a punishment. Our dogs don’t typically stay in crates when we aren’t home, but we will use them if we have concerns that our pups may damage things that are not ours, need to be separated from other animals in the home, or if we think they may harm themselves. It is always better to be prepared.
  • No matter if you are camping or staying in a hotel, try to get a room or campsite that is in a low traffic area. This will help your dog be less overstimulated by a constant flow of strangers around their temporary home.
  • Practice makes perfect! Give you and your dog plenty of grace. Traveling with your pup is a learning experience for both of you. Each time out, you will learn a new trick or hack to make your next trip even better.  You will start to learn a lot about what your dog likes, doesn’t like, and what they can and can’t handle which will make you an even better pet parent to them!
  • Set your dog up for success! Ultimately as pet parents, it is up to us to make sure that our dogs (and the people/animals around them) are safe. This means paying attention to our pup’s cues and not forcing them into or making them stay in situations that are overly stressful or dangerous to them. Always do what is best for your dog!

Cheapest Way to Travel with Your Dog

The cheapest way I’ve found to travel with your dog is by spending your vacation outdoors.

  • Camping is easily the cheapest accommodation after you make the original investment in camping gear. If you are adventurous enough, you can even camp for free in most parks in the backcountry.
  • Hiking is great because it is low-cost (usually free) and will ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise and the opportunity to smell all sorts of new things.
  • Road tripping will save you money because you will not have to pay for an extra ticket or fees for your pet and you will be able to easily bring all of the supplies you and your pup will need instead of having to buy or rent it when you arrive at your destination.

If you are looking for more ways to save money on your upcoming trip, we also have a post about low-budget travel tips.

Start Traveling with Your Dog!

Though it may be scary at the beginning, it is worth the effort to be able to share your travel experiences with your dog. Just because your dog may not be ready for a particular experience at first, does not mean that they will not be able to go with you in the future with a bit of practice. I hope you get great use out of these tips so you can be confident enough to start taking your dog on vacation with you. I promise your trips will be even better when you know that your pup is enjoying their new experiences!

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About Author

Animal and wildlife enthusiast that currently owns four dogs, loves to travel, and try new things while saving as much money as possible!

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