Summer means sun, fun, and family vacations. For more and more travelers like us, that family vacation includes the dogs as well. Vacationing with your dog can fetch a lifetime of memories without unleashing potential travel problems if you take the time to plan and prepare.
Research Your Stops. Look for dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, and attractions both at your destination and along your route. A quick call to each can confirm the dog policy. If you have a Pit Bull-type dog, also research breed-specific legislation (BSL) as you plan your journey to make sure your dog’s breed isn’t prohibited at any destinations along the route.
Prepare for Cleanup. Your hotel deposit hinges on the condition of the room when you check out (and this is also true for rental RVs). Although your dog’s housetraining may be flawless at home, the scent of previous four-legged guests and other factors may lead to a dog mess. Be sure to travel with cleanup products.
Travel with Food and Water. Your dog’s food may take up some additional room in the luggage but the trade-off is well worth the space. Traveler’s diarrhea isn’t just a human ailment! If you have an extended trip in one location, consider a food delivery to your hotel or vacation house.
Don’t Pick Up Fleas and Ticks. So that your dog doesn’t pick up any unwelcome hitchhikers, plan on flea and tick treatment before you hit the road.
Make a Pre-Trip Vet Visit. If you’ll be crossing state lines or flying with your dog, talk with your veterinarian about the Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and any other paperwork required by your destination. If your dog isn’t already microchipped, your veterinarian can chip your dog (a quick and easy process) and you can register the microchip number to identify your dog if they should become lost. Also, ask your vet for a copy of your dog’s immunization record to carry along on the trip.
Play Tag. Even if your dog wears a dog tag, now’s the time to create a second tag with your cell phone number. If you have a high-tech QR tag, you can go into your record to add additional numbers like your hotel, veterinarian, or a family member back home. And for a truly high-tech touch, add a GPS tag so, in case your dog is ever lost, you can track them on your smartphone.
Plan for Dog Fun. Don’t just bring along your dog on vacation; make your dog a participant in the fun with stops at dog parks, beaches, and lakes along the way. A half-hour stop at a dog park along the drive will be a refreshing break for you and a way to burn off their pent-up energy.
Plan for the Unplanned. Although hopefully you won’t need an emergency veterinarian on your trip, a quick online search can help you compile a list not only of veterinarians but also of boarding facilities at your destination in case you should become ill and need help with your dog. Packing a simple dog first aid kit can also help with minor issues along the way.
Watch for the Heat. Never leave your dog in your car unattended; temperatures can rise to dangerous levels within just a few minutes. Heat can also be an issue on hot pavements (how would you feel walking barefoot at midday?) and even on sand.
Buckle Bowser! You wouldn’t put the kids in the car without seatbelts or car seats and the same goes for four-legged passengers. Small dogs are safer in dog crates or car seats while larger dogs can wear seat belts or harnesses. Not only does this protect your dog but it also ensures that your human passengers won’t be struck by a dog in the event of an accident.
A little bit of pre-trip planning can help you and your dog have fun on your getaway, enjoying time together in a new environment and bringing home precious memories. After all, that’s what a family vacation is all about, right?
About the Authors: Paris Permenter and John Bigley are professional travel writers and the authors of over 30 travel guidebooks. The husband-wife team is currently researching their next book, DogTipper’s Texas with Dogs, with their dogs Tiki and Irie. Paris and John publish DogTipper.com and DogTravelExperts.com; Paris also hosts the weekly Dog Travel Experts radio show on Radio Pet Lady Network.