Going on Trips with Fido (and other Pets)

When you take a trip that’s going to last over night or longer, and you have pets, you are faced with a decision to make.  You’ve either got to find somewhere for your pet to stay or take your pet with you.  If you don’t have a family member or friend that will watch your pet for you while you’re gone, you’re faced with finding a kennel or pet hotel to put your pet into until your return.  Anyone who has boarded a pet will know that it isn’t a budget friendly thing to do.  The frugal thing to do is to take your pet with you on your trip whenever possible.

Taking trips with your pets can be just as cringe-worthy for those without any experience in doing so.  When we went on a week-long trip recently, I was more nervous about taking our dog with us than I was about any other part of the trip.  The longest trip we’d ever taken the dog on was a two-hour ride, and the trip we were taking was an 8-9 hour trip followed by another 7-8 hour trip the next day and then doing it all over again at the end of the vacation.  There was even a hotel stay on the way and one back.  When it was all said and done, there was very little to worry about with the dog.  He was a champ! (that’s him below)  I thought I might share a few things that I learned about traveling with animals with you.

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  • Hotels.  I had this huge preconceived notion that there were very few hotels that would allow a dog in the hotel.  I was kinda wrong.  While many of the nicer hotels don’t allow pets, many of the more budget friendly (not dives) hotels will usually allow a pet for a small nightly deposit or fee.  Some, like Kelly Inns, are extremely pet friendly and allow pets for no charge.  If you know what city you are going to end up in for the night, do a little research and find a pet friendly hotel ahead of time.  Then make reservations.  We did this on our way to our destination.  On the way back, we didn’t know where we were going to stop, but I was able to use the browser on my smart phone from the road to find and make reservations at a pet friendly hotel.  Once you’re in the hotel, remember that your pet is in a strange place and will likely experience some anxiety if you all leave the room without your pet.  If your pet doesn’t handle anxiety well, plan to leave your pet in your car while your away from the room.  Many of the pet friendly hotels will have policies against leaving your pet unattended in the room because animals that have anxiety problems tend to take it out by chewing and digging.  Both are bad for hotel furniture and carpet.
  • Riding Room.  Your pet is going to need somewhere to sit.  Don’t overpack to the point where you have to push and shove so that your dog can sit on top of the pile of luggage.  If you wouldn’t be at least slightly comfortable riding there, neither will your pet.  Different pets will have different requirements.  In our case, we took a big comfy blanket and laid it out in the back of our Suburban for a bed for our dog.  He then squeezed himself in between the two child seats on the bench seat and rode with his backside on the seat and his head on the console between the two front seats.  Once you’ve taken a few longer trips with your pet, you’ll likely get a feel for where he/she likes to ride and be able to adjust accordingly.  Once we figured out our dog wasn’t going to ride in the back on the blanket, we just made sure he had a path from the back to the seat without climbing over all the luggage and left it at that.
  • Food and water.  Most importantly, make sure you bring plenty of food with you.  If you’ve got the room, bring a bowl too that you can just leave out in the car or in your hotel room.  Everybody’s schedule is likely going to be a bit screwed up, so your pet might not adhere to it’s normal eating schedule.  Water is a bit trickier since it’s a bit harder to contain and still make available.  What we found to work pretty well is to have a bowl and a large bottle that we could cap to hold the water.  Whenever we stopped, we’d pour a bit of water into the bowl for our dog to drink then could pour out the extras from the bowl back into the bottle or onto the ground and not have to worry about spills.
  • Entertainment. If you’ve ever traveled with kids, you know that entertainment for the trip is of utmost importance.  It’s not as important for pets, but it can be very helpful.  Bring along a few of your pets toys for him/her to play with at your destination.  A favorite chew bone for in the hotel, and a ball to fetch at our final destination for instance.
  • Potty breaks. Unless your pet is really, really good about telling you when it needs to relieve itself, you’ll want to schedule regular breaks for a quick walk.  Our dog is pretty good about this and is used to going 4-8 hours without going outside during the work week, so he was pretty good on our trip.  He’s also a big dog, so has a larger capacity than some smaller pets will.  If your pet is asking outside frequently at home, he/she will likely still need breaks during your trip that are nearly as frequent.  We found that anytime we stopped for gas, taking our dog over to a grassy area did the trick.  Most interstate rest areas have an area to take your pets to.

Taking trips with pets can be a stress inducing idea, but if you take the proper precautions, it can also be very rewarding.  It can also be easier on the pet that would have to stay at a boarding kennel otherwise.  We’re glad we took our dog with us.  I know he enjoyed being with us and playing up in the mountains with us.  As an added bonus, he turned out to be a bit of entertainment for the kids too.  Just like anything else, planning can make or break your trip.  So take the time to plan ahead, and take your pet with you on your next trip.

Photo Credit:Thatedeguy on Flickr

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