Road trips make the best vacations, and traveling alone with your pet gives you special time to bond. With these tips, you’ll be prepared so you and your furry travel buddy both enjoy the ride!
The excitement of choosing a destination, packing the car, and hitting the open road with your best friend is thrilling! But traveling alone with a pet requires some additional preparation.
Whether your road trip buddy is a dog, cat, hamster, or bunny, you’ll need to plan ahead. Where will you eat? Are there places where your pet can accompany you into the restroom? What happens to your pet if you become ill or get injured? These tips will help you get all your ducks in a row!
Tips For Traveling Alone With A Pet
1. Plan Your Route
Once you’ve decided on a destination, the next step is to plan your course. The GoPetFriendly.com trip planner is a great place to start, allowing you to map the route and identify pet friendly accommodations, restaurants, attractions, and dog parks along the way.
Next, determine the number of miles you want to cover per day. The distance you’re comfortable traveling depends on how many stops you want to make along your route as well as your driving style. If you like to mosey and take in the sights, traveling 100 miles might be far enough each day. If you’re more intent on getting to your destination, you could drive 400 miles or more.
Using your smartphone app, check driving times and note any road construction you might encounter. Then note the locations where you’ll plan to spend the night.
2. Make Reservations
If your trip involves overnight stays, don’t leave your lodgings to chance. You don’t want to pull into a hotel after a long day behind the wheel to find they’re completely booked.
And, just before you begin your trip, call again confirm their pet policy and your reservations. Sneaking your pet into a hotel that’s not pet friendly isn’t worth the risk when you’re traveling alone.
3. Share Your Itinerary And Stay In Touch
Once your plans are squared away, be sure to share them with a friend or family member. Give them your planned route and the telephone numbers of the places you’ll be staying.
Throughout your trip, be sure to keep in touch with at least one person. Let them know where you are and if you’ve had to make any adjustments to your route or schedule.
4. Invest In Road Side Assistance
Before your road trip, have all routine maintenance completed on your vehicle. And consider signing up for a roadside assistance plan. If you get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car, it’s better to have reliable help you can call anywhere in the country.
5. Prepare Your Travel Buddy
To keep you both safe, your pets should always be buckled up while you’re driving. Trying to wrangle Fido as he hops into the front seat or catch Fluffy while she’s sauntering across the dash is too dangerous when you’re driving.
Securing your pet in a seat belt harness or carrier will also protect them in a car accident, and keep them from slipping out an open door when your back is turned.
Whenever your pet is in the car, you’ll also want to have some basics along. Always carry your pet’s current vaccination records, a first aid kit, a spill-proof bowl and plenty of water, and a toy or chew for entertainment.
6. Post Your Emergency Instructions
Write out your emergency instructions, make a copy, and put both in envelopes marked “In Case of Emergency.” Include your pet’s vaccination information, the name and phone number of his veterinarian, and the contact information of the person you’d want to take care of him. Tape one envelope to your dash and keep the other one in your bag so you’ll have it with you when you’re not in the car.
If something should happen to you, the first responders will be able to following your instructions to ensure your pet is cared for until you recover.
If you use a digital ID tag for your pet, you can also include these emergency instructions in his profile so it can be easily accessed by anyone caring for him.
7. Restroom Breaks
The biggest challenge most people traveling alone with a pet face is what to do about restroom breaks. Renting an RV or camper with a bathroom solves that problem! But if that’s not an option, try stopping at places that will allow you to to take your pet with you to the restroom:
- Pet retailers like Petco, Petsmart, and independent pet supply stores
- Veterinary offices
- Many retailers like ACE Hardware, Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, Home Goods, Lowes, and TJ Maxx are pet friendly and have public restrooms. Just be sure to ask before bringing your pet inside!
8. Where To Eat?
Packing food from home is one way to ensure you’ll have something delicious to eat along the way. But stopping for lunch or dinner (or both!) is a nice way to get a break from the road and experience the local food scene.
Find restaurants with pet friendly seating using GoPetFriendly.com, or call in a take-out order and find a nearby park for a picnic with your pup.
9. Leaving Your Pet In The Car
You may need to leave your pet alone in the car for a few minutes to use the restroom or pick up food. If so, these steps will ensure your pet is safe and comfortable:
- Park in the shade.
- Place a sunscreen across the windshield to block sunlight and to make it more difficult for passersby to see inside the car.
- Use a spill-proof bowl and give your pet access to plenty of fresh water.
- If the weather is warm, use a cooling mat to give your pet a comfortable place to lay. Keeping the mat inside a cooler with some ice until you need it will make it even chillier for dogs and cats with heavy coats. You can also also use a portable travel fan to increase the circulation inside the car.
- If you’re concerned your pet could be stolen from your vehicle, place her in a pet carrier or collapsable crate with a lock on the door.
- If the weather is hot or cold enough to put your pet’s health at risk, carry an extra key or use a remote-start system to leave the car running with the air conditioning or heat on while the car is locked.
Always set your parking brake and engage the child locks on the windows when leaving your pet in a running vehicle!
Note: Leaving an unattended vehicle running might violate the law in some jurisdictions. However, for the 3-5 minutes it takes to use a restroom and return to the car, I prioritize my dog’s safety over getting a ticket.
- Anytime you leave your pet alone in the car, set the alarm on your phone for 10 minutes and be sure you’re back to the vehicle before the alarm goes off.
- Put a note on your dash or in a window that says, “I’m inside using the restroom. The car is running with the A/C (or heat) on. If you think my pet is in distress, please call my cell phone at 000-000-0000.”
10. Stick To The Schedule
When traveling alone with a pet, sticking to his normal schedule will help reduce any anxiety he might be feeling. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you of his feeding, bathroom, and exercise routine, and plan to stop and sniff the roses.
11. Be Smart And Trust Your Instincts
Coming home safely is the most important part of any road trip, and there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that happens. Keep your doors locked while you’re driving, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Choose stops that are populated and well-lit, and trust your gut. If something feels sketchy, get back in your car and leave.
To avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention, dress casually, leave expensive jewelry at home, and trade your purse for a fanny pack or money belt. It’s also a good idea to keep any cash you’re carrying in multiple locations.
The first time you do anything it can seem daunting, and traveling alone with a pet is no exception. Share your best solo travel tips in the comments below. You just might encourage someone else to give it a try!