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!

Woman in car with dog in backseat

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 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.

Road map showing pet friendly stops along the Great River Road from Minneapolis, MN to New Orleans, LA

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.

READ MORE ⇒  Questions to Ask BEFORE Booking a Pet Friendly Hotel

Woman sitting on a bed in a pet friendly hotel looking at a computer with a cat on her lap

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.

Travel Like a Pro: 8 Questions to Ask When Booking a Pet Friendly Hotel |

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.

working dog - bulldog dressed up like construction worker on white background

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.

Black and golden Cocker Spaniel dogs in back of car

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.

READ MORE ⇒  Packing An Overnight Bag For Your Dog
What To Pack When Traveling With Your Cat

A bag with all the essentials your dog will need to go on an overnight trip.

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!
Man walking a dog in a wheel chair in a farm supply store

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, or call in a take-out order and find a nearby park for a picnic with your pup.

Dog friendly patio at Marion Hose Bar in Jim Thorpe, PA

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.”

READ MORE ⇒   Where Is It Illegal to Leave Your Pet Alone in the Car?

Tips for Traveling Alone with Pets |

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.

Brindle dog in the back seat of a car on a cross country road trip

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!

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  • I just came across this site, thank you so much for the tips. Next Spring I will be traveling 2300 miles with my best friend. My husband recently died and I want to go home. But home is a long way from here! Thought about having a traveling partner but honestly I feel Boo will do better with just me. So we will hit the road next year. Scary but yet I know this is right for us.

    • Hi Boo’s Mom! I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s passing and understand your fear at facing a long road trip on your own. Traveling by yourself with a pet can appear overwhelming at first. But I know from experience that it’s not a scary as it seems. Perhaps try taking a few shorter road trips between now and next spring to build your confidence for the longer trip. Also, this post I wrote years ago might help >> Wishing you and Boo safe and happy travels!

      • Thank you so much Amy. I very much appreciate your words of wisdom and your kindness. I’m going to check out the link your provided.

  • Last night I was in a rush getting ready to leave my house because I didn’t feel safe but I didn’t want to leave my dog. This wasn’t the article I was really looking for but it gave some really helpful tips in regards to the Pet-friendly places and handling taking care of both myself and my dog while on the road. <3

    • I’m glad we could help, Jaime. Thanks for your note, and I hope you and your dog are doing well!

  • Last summer I traveled alone from Phoenix to San Francisco and Santa Barbara with my little dog. Planning the route was so important! Yeah, the desert is hot in the summer, so our stops were mostly at Petco. My dog is small enough to carry with me for quick rest area breaks. Hotels and food were easy, but the bathroom dilemma was definitely my top concern. It sure felt good to relax with family at dog friendly beaches!

    • Thanks for sharing you’re experience, Sandi! I’m so glad that you and your pup were able to enjoy the family vacation together. Safe travels!

  • I’ve traveled quite a bit with my doggos, including the entire pack of 5! I’m thinking of driving the PCH, however flying to California with my guys isn’t possible; they are large. Do you have any recommendations for the route and duration I should keep in mind for the trip from north Florida?

  • Great tips! I am getting ready to travel 2.5 days alone with my dog. Have the pet friendly hotel reservations and all the rest stops marked on my route. Need to make the sign for the window.

  • I’m on a trip with my dog for the first time. We are traveling 1,745 miles. crossing 5 states. The bathroom dilemma has been the hardest but working out so far. Day 1 lol She did great.

    • That’s wonderful, Julie! Things get easier as you settle into a routine that’s comfortable for you both.

      I know that first time out can be a little daunting, but try to enjoy it as much as you can. This is your first road trip together! So, don’t forget to take some photos, because you’ll always remember this one. Safe travels!

  • LOL . My note when I leave the pack alone in the car reads, ” We are not abandoned. Our mom is inside taking care of human business. The a.c. is on, and we’re listening to Jimmy Buffett on SiriusXM. Thanks for checking on us! P.S., if you see our mom inside, tell her to bring snax!”

  • Category: Road Trips, Travel Tips / Tagged with: Health and Safety