How to prepare for a road trip with your dog


What’s better than hitting the highway with Fido and letting them share in all the fun of your travels? 

Not much, we’d say. That said, you obviously want to prepare responsibly for a pooch-powered road trip so it’s as safe and enjoyable as possible for your 4-legged bestie—and as stress-free for you!

Here are some road-ready tips for road-tripping with a dog (or 2—we definitely recommend imposing an upper limit!).

Dog being examined by a vet

Preparing your pup

  • Take your road-tripping companion to the vet before your road trip. You want to make sure your dog is in good health and up to date with shots and medications before striking out. Inform the vet of your destinations in case they have any specific recommendations for things to bring or precautions to take.
  • If you haven’t already, consider micro-chipping your dog ahead of a trip, in case they get away from you and lose their collar.
  • If you’ve never really road-tripped with your dog before, don’t jump into a multi-day, multi-state adventure right off the bat! Test some day trips and then weekenders so you can acclimate your pooch to the routine and identify potential issues while you’re nice and close to home.
Dogs in a crate on a road trip.

Preparing your car

  • High-quality crates or dividers used in combination with safety harnesses or high-quality doggie car seats can lessen the chance of your dog suffering serious injury in a crash or rollover. Never transport your dog unconfined and free-roaming on a road trip: You’re putting them and yourself at risk.
  • This is a prerequisite of any road trip, dog-enhanced or not, but give your car a thorough inspection ahead of your journey, or bring it in to your favorite mechanic. You want to make sure everything’s in working order to minimize the risk not only of vehicular mishaps but also of being stranded far from home with Bowser while waiting for repairs (though we admit nobody calls their dog Bowser these days). Not sure where to go? Consider a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility. 
Dog drinking from a portable dog bowl.

What to bring

  • Bring along plenty of water for water-less stretches of highway, and for the chance your dog’s sensitive stomach doesn't agree with the water supply at your destination(s). A collapsible water bowl is also highly recommended for quenching your pup’s thirst on the go. You may also consider bringing the supplies necessary to boil or treat water in case you’re traveling in remote country and using natural water sources.
  • Take some doggie documentation with you. That includes your pet’s up-to-date medical record as well as a recent photo, in case you lose track of each other and need to advertise for a lost pup on the road. 
  • Bring not only current medications for your dog but also extra supplies of them, just in case your trip’s unexpectedly extended for whatever reason.
  • Make sure you have a doggie first-aid kit on hand. It should include such essentials as hydrogen peroxide, a saline wash, bandages and tape, small scissors, a thermometer, booties, an emergency blanket, Benadryl for countering allergic reactions, and a muzzle and/or other restraining equipment. If you’ve had a kit awhile, double-check its contents before leaving to make sure you don’t need to replace or re-up anything.
Man and his dog in Sequoia National Park.

Route planning

  • Needless to say, not all destinations are as dog-friendly as others. It’s irresponsible to bring your dog to a place where it’ll be confined to the vehicle or your room the whole time, unless you have absolutely no choice. Keep in mind that many U.S. national parks don’t allow dogs on trails, though they’re often welcomed in campgrounds and parking lots. 
  • The same applies to accommodations as well. You can search for dog-friendly lodgings or campsites (plus general attractions and even restaurants) at the AAA Pet Travel resource page. Find out ahead of time if there are any size or breed restrictions.
  • Make sure you stop every few hours for at least a half-hour walkabout and pee break. Depending on your dog’s energy level and physical needs, you may need to do more frequent breaks. It’s always best to research your route ahead of time and identify good spots—such as dog parks and rest stops—for this purpose.
  • Prepared for adequately, a road trip with your dog can be outrageously fun, even downright unforgettable. Don’t forget to take plenty of pics along the way, and hey—have a tail-wagging good time!

AAA can help you travel with your buddy

Find pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, attractions, and campgrounds along your route or close to home with the AAA Traveling with Your Pet page.

Pet travel resources


Save on pet supplies with AAA

Spot Pet Insurance lets members save on eligible vet bills with a special 10% AAA group member discount. Learn more

Petflow gives AAA members 25% off a one-time order of $150 or more. Learn more

Petflow not available in Hawai‘i.

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