My dogs are my family. I take them everywhere. And when I moved from the West Coast to the East Coast in 2008, I planned my whole trip based around the comfort of my dogs. I researched flights and other ways to ‘ship’ them, and never found anything I was comfortable with. So, I decided to drive. Sure, it would have been easier, faster, and maybe even cheaper to fly, but I knew my dogs would be much happier and less stressed to be traveling directly with my husband and me in a car.
And I was right! They settled right in like they were seasoned world-travelers and were so excited to see all the places we stopped to explore. They forced us to stop and stretch our legs much more often than we would have otherwise, which actually allowed us to see more of the country than we thought.
But all four of us were cooped up in a car for many, many hours a day for five days, so we learned a few valuable lessons along the way.
1. Stop Often – For everyone’s sanity, it’s important to stop every 2-3 hours to give everyone (two- and four-legged alike) a chance to stretch their legs and get some fresh air. A simple walk around the block can cure a lot of pent-up energy.
2. Create a Safe Environment – Whether you choose to use crates, dog beds, blankets, dividers, or something similar, make sure that the environment you create for your pets is safe and comfortable for them and for you. Dogs should be able to rest comfortably with familiar smells around them (we used their dog beds and blankets from our bedroom) and shouldn’t be able to access the driver.
3. Stay Content – Dogs can sense our moods, so we found it was important to make sure we were relaxed and happy during the drive in order to keep them relaxed and happy. This meant being well rested and well fed, as well as creating a comfortable space to sit for those long hours in the car.
4. Research Pet-Friendly Places – It’s difficult to find safe, clean and inexpensive places to sleep when you are on the road. It can be exhausting and stressful when you are ready to stop for the night, but fail to see any hotel signs that say those magical words – ‘pet-friendly’. Doing some research even the night before can save a lot of headache. This is also true for places to eat and explore. We never wanted to leave the dogs in the car while we went into a restaurant to eat or walked around a new area. Pet-friendly places with outdoor seating were always lucky finds.
We made that same cross-country trip in 2010 when we moved back to the West Coast and because they were so used to traveling and because of the lessons we learned the first time, it was another successful and happy trip.
Even though we are now settled back on one coast, we still travel with our dogs often. They go with us on day trips to the beach and weekend trips around the Pacific Northwest. We can travel as a family, and that makes everyone happy. And inevitably, it is always an adventure.
Our Guest Blogger – Heather Reynolds is a pet lover and internet journalist at Trupanion, North America’s fastest growing pet insurance provider. Trupanion offers a simple, customizable pet insurance policy with no payout limits and 90% coverage of veterinary bills. Enrolled pets receive lifetime coverage for diagnostic tests, surgeries, and medications if they get sick or are injured, with no incident, annual or lifetime limit. Heather is owned by an Italian Greyhound named Ava and a Spaniel mix named Jackson. She enjoys taking them to dog parks, on hikes around the Pacific Northwest, and to the pet-friendly restaurants in her city.
Contact Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org.