Traveling with your dog – Part 1

This is part 1 of a 3 part series, written collaboratively by Bob and Susan Ryder.

Spring is in the air, which means summer is not far off and, if we are lucky, it’s summer vacation for many of us.

Getting Kayla settled before we set up camp in Zion.

Our family enjoys camping, which always include our yellow lab, Kayla. With Illinois as home base, we’ve taken her on trips as far away as California, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and South Carolina.  Whether you’re a camper or not , you may decide to take your dog with you on road trips, and if you do it’s best to be prepared before you leave your driveway.

We have some helpful canine travel tips to offer that we’ve learned over the years.  Whether it’s for a weekend or a longer get away, we hope you’ll benefit from our experience of multiple road trips with our dog.

Before you hit the road:

*There’s nothing worse than loading up the car and heading off for a long-awaited family vacation, only to discover your dog is carsick all over the back seat sixty miles from home. So make sure your dog can handle long car trips well before you leave town. Take you your dog on several “practice runs” of varying time/distance, and if your dog does experience car sickness, consult your vet about possible remedies, or consider alternate arrangements to allow your pup to stay at home.  Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations about good boarding kennels and pet sitters.  (There are some important details to consider in choosing care givers for your pet.  We’ll offer information on that subject in a later post.)

*Speaking of the vet, we get print-outs of all of Kayla’s most recent vaccination and other health records to take with us on the road. We do this in case she has to visit a vet while we are away, and some kennels require them for short-term boarding and/or grooming. Also, we make sure she’s up to date on all of her vaccinations. If one will expire while we are away, we make sure she gets it before we leave, even if it’s a bit early.  Again, check with your vet to make sure this is appropriate for your pet.

*If you’ll be staying in motels along the way, make sure you are familiar with chains that accept dogs in the room. Don’t wait until you are tired from a long drive to start looking for a motel, as many don’t allow pets and you could be searching for a while in the wee hours. (Yes, we share this from experience.) We do one of two things; either we call ahead and reserve a room at a motel we know accepts pets (make sure to mention the breed and size of your dog as some only accept dogs under a certain weight), or we plan to stay at a chain we know allows pets.  Motel 6, La Quinta Inn, Drury Inn, and Holiday Inn Express tend to have pretty broad acceptance policies, as do many Super 8’s and Day’s Inn (though not all, so make sure you check with the location(s) where you plan to stay, and whether they have a weight limit).  Some motels will allow pets on an individual basis.  Travel guides and internet searches can help you know where you will be welcome with your pet before you leave home. (For example, AAA guides list which motels allow pets, and there are many pet-travel websites that list them as well, such as

*If you’ll be camping, make sure you know the rules for dogs in campgrounds before you arrive. Many private and public campgrounds allow pets, but require them to be leashed at all times. We have discovered that National Parks allow leashed dogs in parking areas and paved walkways, but many won’t allow them on hiking trails. Zion National Park has a 2 mile paved trail on which dogs are allowed, and they are welcome in their campgrounds. Grand Canyon allows dogs on the paved “Rim” trail, but not on hikes down into the canyon. Bryce Canyon allows dogs, but only in cars and in parking areas. However, Red Rock Canyon in the Dixie National Forest (near Bryce) allows dogs not only in campgrounds, but also on all of their hiking trails (as long as they are leashed).

Our advice is to find out before you go by visiting web sites or calling ahead so that you aren’t disappointed by the restrictions when you arrive.  Of course, whatever the policies, it’s important to set a good example – have extra bags to scoop the poop, keep your dog leashed, and prevent unwanted greeting s with other visitors and their dogs.  A bottomless pocket of tasty treats for positive reinforcement in novel places is always a great idea.

Next up in Part 2 of “Traveling with your Dog”What to bring along with you.

Find Posts by Topic