10 Best Vacation Tips: How To Travel Stress-Free With Your Dog

*This post originally appeared in April, 2014, and I am reposting in lieu of the upcoming holiday.

If your family is like mine this is the time of year you are discussing and planning for your spring and summer getaways.  You’re probably also thinking about how to travel with the kids and dog for a smooth trip with the least amount of stress on everyone.

My family’s upcoming vacation involves a day-long road trip and we’re taking our dog Toby with us. In fact, the biggest reason we are loading up the car and hitting the roads this weekend is so that he can travel with us to enjoy the fun we are planning.  Traveling by car is the simplest and most affordable way to take our pet with us, but being in a vehicle with him for several hours at a time makes me apprehensive.  Sometimes he’s been well-behaved in the car, and other times not so much. Plus I know from experience, when we finally reach our destination he will be unfamiliar with his new surroundings and everyone will be a stranger to him — hence anxiety and barking.

To help ensure a safe, relaxing and enjoyable vacation with our little guy, I have gathered a list of top 10 best tips for traveling with him that you may find helpful also, with some excellent advice from dog trainer Cesar Millan.

1. Crate your dog and don’t feel bad about it!
Crating your dog keeps him, the driver and passengers safe. Be sure to exercise him and give a potty break before you put him in the cage. Remove any harmful items or loose collars from the crate that could get tangled on the door latch or choke him. Use a positive voice and let him enter on his own. Visit and praise him to ease separation anxiety.

2. Driving with your dog
Not only will a crate keep your family safe it prevents your dog from becoming a projectile if you stop fast. Don’t feed him a lot prior to travel or while moving. Don’t leave him in a parked car, especially when it’s warm out. Even with the window slightly down the car can quickly turn into a sauna and your dog will get overheated.

3. Travel time-outs
Be sure to pull over periodically and exercise him, allow for additional potty breaks, and provide fresh water. Only give small snacks while traveling. Feed a full meal at least six hours prior to travel.

4. Taking your dog on an airplane
I would have to work up some courage for this type of travel, but if you are brave enough to do it check with the airline for their rules first. Many require a health certificate. Crate him before entering the chaos of an airport. Do your homework beforehand, you don’t want any surprises once you arrive.

5. To medicate or not to medicate your dog
Meds are not recommended.  Medicating your dog may start a pattern of reliance. Cesar Millan says, “You possess all the tools to keep your pet calm with your voice, attitude, and body language.”

6. Keeping your dog calm during travel
Make sure you bring items that are loved by your dog, like his favorite blankie or toy, to comfort and relax him. Also try rubbing a small amount of lavender oil in your hands and give him a deep tissue massage from the beginning of his spine or base of his head.

7. Staying in a hotel with your dog
Does the hotel you’re considering allow pets? Pet-welcoming hotels will be prepared for your visit and can even recommend parks, hikes, and other dog-friendly activities in the area.  Google hotels and places to stay, then call to ask questions and confirm their pet amenities and rules.

8. Exercise will keep him relaxed
To avoid barking or aggressive behavior when around new people, be calm and assertive and show him you have everything under control. Speak and move in calm, steady motions.

9. How to enter the hotel room with your dog
Enter first. Get the dog to stay where he is. Don’t let him wander around or he’ll assume control of the situation. While you are calmly settling in and unpacking he is waiting. The only one who should move in the room is you—until you are ready, then you initiate activity. It’s important that your scent be everywhere in the room before he is allowed to roam.

10. Exploring a new place
Being away from home means exciting adventures abound for you and your dog. New sights, smells, sounds, and potential food items can distract you both. Make sure you’re vigilant wherever you go about what’s around, especially in the area of things your dog could ingest. And, around the holidays, there may be a lot of lights, decorations, and snout-level treats that can be distracting or dangerous for your pooch. Keep an eye on him and the new place.

I  hope these practical travel tips put your mind at ease like they have mine, because everyone deserves a fun and relaxing vacation, including the pooch!



  1. Well-Groomed Home says:

    Great tips! We are planning to take our dog to the family reunion this year; this list has a lot of good reminders.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: