Gant’s Guide: Tips and Tricks for a Dog-Friendly Roadtrip

Usually, we fly with our dog, which we have down to a science. Book flight. Call airline to reserve a spot for Gant. Get health certificate ready. Carrier out. Treats. Done.

This time, we decided to drive across the country, since we are spending the entire Summer on the West Coast. We usually don’t have our car, so we end up driving an old ’91 Saab (Yes, a 26 year old car) my Stepfather still has that has no A/C and isn’t reliable over an hour commute. This way, we can bring a lot more stuff and have our car.

Planning a roadtrip is not an easy thing. You have to plan your destinations, make sure you’re not driving more than 10 hours a day (if you can do fewer hours, great, but we wanted to get to our location, so we mostly did 10 hour days), book places to stay, have ample music and podcasts ready, and a full gas tank to start.

Adding a dog? It gets a bit more complicated. You can’t leave the dog in the car while stopping to eat (I never would in the heat we encountered!), you have to make sure the dog gets fed and has plenty of water, make sure he gets a walk in everytime you stop, and most importantly, is welcome at the places you’re staying.

With a lot of planning, it was mostly easy, with a couple of bumps in the road. So, here’s our advice to make your roadtip as easy on you (and Fido) as possible.

1. Have the food, leash, a portable bowl, treats, and plenty of poop bags ready. Be sure all of this stuff is in a bag, or easily reachable in the back seat. You’ll be taking your dog out frequently, and the last thing you want to worry about is where you put that bag, stuffed in the back of the trunk.

2. Safety first! Make sure the dog is safely buckled/harnessed/covered in the backseat, in case you break suddenly. The last thing you want is Fido flying towards the front seats. I also like to put a blanket down, as our leather seats get hot, so this relieves the heat. Here are some harness suggestions. 

3. Book your pet-friendly hotels or airbnb’s way in advance. This was one of the more difficult things to do, but fortunately, more and more places welcome dogs. We decided on airbnb, because a) it’s cheaper, b) you get to explore the area, and c) you get that “home away from home” feeling, which will be less stressful on your dog. Make sure you mark the “allows pets” filter when searching for Airbnb places. Always contact the host in advance to double check they allow them too! Another important thing: Ask your host if they will watch or let your pet be by themselves while you go out to eat. While we tried our best to take our dog wherever we went, sometimes you really don’t know if places are dog friendly, especially in a new city. Only do this if you trust the host. I also always do verified super hosts, as they tend to have the best reviews and most credentials.

Beautiful dog-friendly airbnb in Fort Collins, Co. Complete with a deck and mountains.

4. Eat at rest stops along the way (if the restaurant doesn’t have outdoor seating). Like I said above, it’s really hard to find dog-friendly restaurants along the road. So, we would get take out, find a rest stop within 15-20 minutes of the restaurant, and eat there. Most rest stops are pretty big, with plenty of outdoor seating, including a dog park area, fresh water spickets, and clean bathrooms! It made it a lot easier. If you won’t be near a rest stop anytime soon, ask the restaurant if there is a park or outdoor seating nearby. Chances are, there isn’t one too far away.

Surprisingly, there are a lot of rest stops like this, complete with fast food inside, vending machines, tourist information, and plenty of outdoor seating. There’s even a dog relief area.

5. If you’re staying near a big city or downtown area, take the dog with you! A few places, like Fort Collins, CO and Evanston, IL, there was a pretty decent downtown area. So, we took the dog with us, thinking we’d find at least one or two places to eat. Thankfully, there was plenty of outdoor seating. One restaurant got our attention when they brought out the water bowl and said “here’s a table perfect for you!”.

(L): Stack’d Burgers in Pittsburgh, (R): Archetype Coffee. They even let our dog inside! And they make a mean hot chocolate!

6. Keep your dog hydrated! It was HOT out there, so we made sure he got water as much as possible. So fill up that bowl!

7. Find places to explore! You’re in a car for hours, not getting any exercise, so why not go on a little evening walk? Walk around your neighborhood, park, or wherever the mood takes you. During our stop in Pittsburgh, we found a nice little walking path, and ended up watching a local baseball game!

(L): Evanston Park in Evanstan, IL. Plenty of walking trails, water stations, and a beautiful lake. (R): Walking the paths of downtown Pittsburgh.

Do you have more suggestions? Sound off in the comments below!



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