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The Complete Guide to Vacationing with Your Dog [Plus Top 6 Travel Destinations]

Key Takeaways

  • Traveling with a dog is fun and hassle-free if dog pet owners do all the necessary preparations as well as practice travel etiquette.
  • Pet travel preparations include vet visits and paperwork, research, trial runs, packing essentials, and more.

You could probably list some reasons to leave our dogs behind when we go on vacation, but have you ever imagined sunbathing with your dog at the beach? This article is for you. Dive into my ultimate guide on traveling with your four-legged friend, infused with insights from dog pros.

3 Reasons to Travel With Your Dog

Why travel with your dog, you wonder? 

  1. Dogs’ lives are fleeting. That two-week getaway for us feels endless to them. They’d treasure every moment by our side.
  2. Every journey makes your pup more composed, boosting their travel etiquette.
  3. From personal experience and fellow dog-travelers: the hassle preparing for a trip with them is worth it.

So, from pre-trip nerves to post-holiday blues, we’re gonna tackle all aspects of vacationing with your pup. I’m going to reveal six must-visit spots in North America for every dog-lover!

Preparing for the trip

Vet Visits and Paperwork

A vet checking a dog.

Alright, let’s talk about the less glamorous but extremely important side of travel: paperwork and vet visits. Now, I know it sounds as fun as a Tuesday morning at the office, but bear with me.

First things first: Book an appointment with your vet. Ensure your pupper is fit as a fiddle for travel. And, while you’re at it, confirm that all her vaccinations are up to date. Trust me, you don’t want to be THAT person fumbling around for vaccination records. So, snag copies right from your vet!

Now, if you’re thinking of going cross-state or international, Ooh là là, Fido à Paris! Make sure you grab a health certificate from licensed vets.

Also, ever thought of microchipping? Think of it as giving your dog a tiny, rice-sized bat signal! This nifty little electronic chip goes under the skin of your pup’s shoulder blades. And get this: if ever Sir Barkalot decides to go on a solo adventure, this chip, which can be scanned by vets or animal shelters, could be your ticket to bringing him back home. It’s affordable, and mostly painless (he might just think he’s getting a pinch!). Trust me, it’s a game-changer.

Now, if you’re more old school, don’t forget those ID tags. Slap your latest phone number on there and attach it to his collar. And speaking of collars, smart collars like Fi can help you track your pupster in real-time. I highly suggest investing in one!

Lastly, and this is crucial, make sure have all the paperwork to waltz back into your homeland without a hitch.

Research and Planning

Now, let’s dive deep into the ‘Where’s Waldo?’ of pet regulations. I know, thrilling, right?

When you’re thinking of a destination, remember that different places have their own set of pet rules, and sometimes, they play favorites with breeds. So make sure your dog’s breed isn’t on their naughty list. And, while you’re playing detective, get to know local customs and rules too.

Here’s a hot tip: If you’re all about vibes and relaxation, think about going off-season. It’s less hustle and bustle, which means you and your pup can take long walks without getting jostled.

Jet-setting internationally? Check for things like paperwork, quarantines, and other “not-so-fun-but-super-important” entry requirements. Some countries have breed-specific lists because they think other dogs are “too cool” for them.

Now, where to sleep? Hotels? Airbnb? A charming little campsite? Whatever floats your boat, ensure it’s pet-friendly. Pro tip: Filters are your friend. Use them on booking sites to land the dreamiest doggy digs. Remember to ask all the questions about fees and size limits, and book that perfect stay.

Road-trippers, listen up! Your drive needs to be less ‘Thelma & Louise’ and more ‘101 Dalmatians’. Chart out a route with stops your pupper will love: think parks, rest areas, and some good old stretch-and-sniff spots. And hey, watch out for any potential hazards.

For jet-setters, know this: most airlines are a finicky bunch. Does your pup cozy up under the seat or fly high in cargo? And always opt for direct flights—less layover drama for your fur kiddo. Service animals are often allowed to fly in the cabin but check with your airline first as well as the International Air Transport Association.

Finally, if you’re using trains, buses, or rental cars, it’s time to get chummy with customer service. A quick call ahead will save pet owners a world of surprises later on. A lot of buses, unfortunately, don’t allow pups. So, check with the company.

Trial Runs

Roll up those sleeves, team; it’s time for the dress rehearsal. Let’s not thrust our puppers into an epic road trip or transatlantic flight without any prep, right? It’s like expecting someone to run a marathon without so much as a jog around the park!

Start with those mini car trips. Maybe a drive to the local dog park or a whirl around the block. The aim? Make it fun! Think treats, their favorite toy, and some soothing music, perhaps Adele! Her songs put me to sleep, so maybe not the best choice for me, but her voice is incredible. We want our pups to associate the car travel with ‘Yay!’ and not ‘Nay!’

A dog inside a crate at the back of a car.

Next up, crate training. If you’re thinking, ‘Why?!’, imagine a cozy, snug little den for them. It’s not a prison; it’s a place for them to feel safe, and it’s actually the safest space for them in a moving vehicle. Start slow and let them warm up to it. A toy here, a treat there, and voila! You might just find them lounging in it out of choice.

Last but not least, let’s talk about boarding. You’re probably scratching your head, thinking, ‘I’m taking them with me, so why boarding?’ Aha! You’ll see why, but for now, just trust me. Try leaving your furry buddy at a plush doggy daycare for a short stint.


Time to channel your inner Mary Poppins because it’s packing time! And no, sadly, you can’t just snap your fingers and have everything in the bag. (I’ve tried. Doesn’t work.) So, here’s ‘Doggy Suitcase 101’.

First things first, let’s play safe: have 30-90 days’ worth of your pup’s medication and prescription grub. And just in case little Max has a midnight emergency, keep your vet’s digits on speed dial!

Going for the Boy Scout badge in preparedness? Put together a doggy first-aid kit. I’m talking gauze, adhesive tape, scissors, and yes – a rectal thermometer. Don’t make it weird. Throw in some styptic powder in case someone gets too excited with their new vacation chew toy.

Next up, the poop-a-palooza kit. Collapsible bowls, potty pads, good ol’ poop bags, wipes, and the absolute essential: puppy pee pads.

And for food? Pack the regular grub, some tasty treats, and bottled water. Pack according to your pup’s dietary restrictions, if any. We aren’t letting little Kourtney Kardachshund go glamping without her all-organic meals, are we?

Hands holding a blue dog leash.

Now, accessorize! Leashes, harnesses, snazzy collars with those shiny ID tags, a smart collar like Fi, and a backup leash.

This is important: Pack comfort items! Those toys they can’t live without, blankets smelling like home (or you).

Last but certainly not least, your dog’s personal records. We’re talking vaccination records, health certificates, and contact info—keep it all in one spot.

Remember, this is more than packing. This is an adventure in a bag!

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

  1. Time the Meals Right: Ever gone on a wild rollercoaster after wolfing down a triple-decker burger? Let’s save our furry friends from the nauseating spin-cycle, shall we? Don’t have a feast session right before or during your travel. No one wants a car barf situation.
  2. Zen Mode On At All Times: Your dog’s like a mini-psychic. If you’re chill, they’re chill. Exhale the stress; inhale the adventure!
  3. Do Some Pre-Trip Workouts: Give your pup a good romp before the road trip. A tired dog is a chill dog, and trust me, you want a chill dog in the car. Speaking of cars:
  4. If You Are Rollin’ in the Car: Let’s buckle up our buttercup! Whether it’s a secure crate or doggie seat belt, make sure they’re safe and not doing a dramatic re-enactment of Fast & Furrious. Ventilation is key, so roll those windows down a little bit, but not enough for them to jump out. Make sure to NEVER, and I mean NEVER, leave Sir Barkington alone in the car. A car sauna is not a thing. And as for rest stops, every 2-4 hours would be ideal. And if you’re traveling with a puppy, you may need more stops. Think of it as their little ‘Leg-stretch & Potty Party.’ – each an adventure of its own and never a chore!

    Got car sickness? Well, some dogs do too. Be prepared with water, bowls, and paper towels. And remember our first commandment—no big meals before the trip!
  5. If You Are Taking to the Skies: Airline-approved carriers are a must. And hey, if they allow, pop in food and water bowls for an in-flight snack. Whenever you can, opt for direct flights. No one likes layovers, especially your dog. If there is one, hunt down those pet relief areas.

    If your vet gives the nod, anti-anxiety meds are cool. But say NO to respiratory-dulling sedatives.

    Again, remember collar tags, leashes, and even allergy warnings—make your dog the most identifiable jet setter.

    And if your fur buddy is in cargo, make sure they have the VIP treatment: cage covers, climate control, and priority unloading [1].
  6. If You Are Doing a Little Public Transport: Train or Bus: Remember to book in advance—trust me, this will help you get the perfect spot for the little one. More importantly, check if the bus even allows pups—a lot don’t. If they do, know your crate and pet carrier rules, and maybe even scout for a posh pet compartment.

    Also, keep the journey short and sweet, and don’t forget those cleaning supplies. Because, you know, sometimes, poop happens.

At the Destination

  1. Give a Royal Tour: Arrived at your lavish suite or cozy Airbnb? Give your pupster the grand tour. Let them sniff around, mark some mental territory, and if space permits have a mini fetch session. But remember, no 3 AM bark-a-thons. Neighbors have ears!
  2. Do a Hazard Check: Before little Daisy claims the couch as her throne, do a hazard check. We wouldn’t want her to find any leftover goodies or hazards from the last guests.
  3. Behave, Both of You: Always be a paw-some guest. Adhere to local pet etiquettes like leash laws or the universally acknowledged scoop-the-poop protocol. Oh, and minimize those midnight howl concerts. If you need tips, check out my article on how to train your dog to be calm.
  4. Set Up the Home Away From Home: Hotels can be a tad overwhelming, so why not transform them into a familiar, comfy space? Set up a little corner with their bed, favorite chew toy, and maybe that blankie that smells like home. If they are feeling particularly homesick, a snuggle on the bed (in their posh PJs to avoid the fur festival) might just do the trick.
  5. Stick to the Routine: Even if you’re sipping a piña colada by the pool, make sure Charlie gets his kibble on time and has those regular sunset strolls. Familiar routines are the belly rubs of the soul.
  6. Be Prepared: Know where the nearest pet ER is. Vacations are for fun, but it’s always good to be prepped for unexpected tummy upsets or paw injuries.
  7. Avoid Foodie Faux Pas: You might be tantalized by exotic treats, but don’t let your doggo dive into unfamiliar foods. Local delicacies? Yum! Vocal hound hinds? Not so much.
  8. Set Up a Safe Haven: Need to step out for a quick coffee grab or lobby run? Set up a mini safe haven for your dog in the bathroom with comfy blankets and some water. Think of it as their own en-suite mini suite! In a new place, they tend to feel more comfortable in a smaller room. If you have to go out for a whole day without your pup, it’ll be best to find a doggy daycare or boarding nearby. This is why I said it’s important to get them used to it before traveling with your dog.

Stepping Out for the Adventures

  1. The Pre-Dining Dig
    Before showing up at the coolest café in town, do a quick online sweep. A surprising number of joints now offer al fresco spaces fit for a furry feast. Why settle when you can both savor the flavors?

    Just as you’d book in advance for a hot date, some establishments appreciate a heads-up when a four-legged foodie is joining. And remember, some spots have a ‘pet-quota’. So, ring them up!

    Hot pavements aren’t the runways we want our furballs walking on. Keep paw wax handy. Think of it as their snazzy shoe sole protector. ‘Musher’s Secret’ is like the Louboutin for paws.
  2. At the Restaurant
    Remember to flaunt your petiquette! A lightweight towel placed under Mr. Wags prevents the age-old water and food slip-n-slide. Elegance? 10/10.

    Whether it’s sparkling for you or still for Sparky, make sure there’s water on the table. Collapsible bowls? Canine couture at its best!

    If your dog gives you the “puppy eyes” for a bite, counter with some boiled chicken or scrambled eggs. Nom-nom without the harm-harm.
  3. Strolling and Exploring
    Spotted a green patch nearby? It’s a great pre and post-meal stroll zone for your pup. Stretch those legs, sniff fresh air!

    And if you’re exploring uncharted territories, remember to take a screenshot of the map or download the map of the area for offline use. A good ‘ol printed map would be a great thing to have if you know how to read it. The point is, it’s a jungle out there, don’t get lost!

    And tread with care. Watch out for nature’s sneaky adversaries like foxtails or burrs. They love to hitch a ride in fur, paws, or ears. Tweezers? Your unsung hero.

Not every place you wanna visit may allow your bestie, but here’s a pro tip: if you’re nice and friendly to the staff or the security in charge, a friendly request might open up an outdoor terrace for your pup to chill.

After the trip

I know, I know… Post-trip blues are real, and sometimes, getting back to your daily routine can be quite a task. But if you just traveled with your pup, I suggest getting these 4 things out of the way so both of you can relax.

A couple snuggling a dog in the middle.
  1. Vet Victory Lap
    Fresh off the plane, train, or automobile, make a pitstop at the vet’s office. Especially if you’ve been globe-trotting, it’s super important to ensure your buddy didn’t pick up any unwanted international souvenirs—like parasites or the sniffles.
  2. Unpacking Priorities
    Now, when you’re unloading that mountain of luggage, remember your pet’s meds and chow take top billing. They’re VIPs – Very Important Parcels.
  3. Sanitize the Safari Gear
    Your dogs travel arsenal—crates, squeaky toys, bowls, those leashes that have seen better days, and even the car seats—deserve a spa day. Sanitize them to make sure no unwanted travel bugs tag along.
  4. Home Sweet Home Routine
    We’ve all had those post-vacay blues, and guess what? So can your furball. Help them settle back into the groove with familiar routines, their favorite treats, and all the love. If Sir Woofs-a-Lot seems a tad glum or anxious, keep an eye out and offer extra cuddles.

Pawfect Holiday Spots in North America

Let’s quickly uncover the pawfect holiday spots in North America, where both you and your furry friend will have the best time!

  1. Asheville, North Carolina
    Think royal estates and riveting trails. The Biltmore isn’t just breathtaking; it’s a canine carnival! With street art to admire, farmers markets to browse, pet-friendly diners, and the panoramic beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains to hike and camp, it’s a doggy dreamland.
  2. Kanab, Utah
    The heart of Kanab beats with the love of the Best Friends Animal Society, a beacon of hope in the no-kill animal shelter movement. And their hotel, Best Friends Roadhouse? Designed keeping in mind every wiggle and wag.
  3. Dog Mountain, Vermont
    As the name suggests, it’s an Eden for your pooch! Encompassing 150 acres of pristine nature, art, and affection, it stands as a testament to dog-centric events and unbridled joy.
  4. Bar Harbor, Maine
    Breathe in the fresh mountain air while treading the trails of the dog-friendly Acadia National Park. And as day turns to dusk, set sail on boat cruises around the serene Frenchman Bay.
  5. Northern Arizona
    Witness the grandeur of the Grand Canyon South Rim with your buddy by your side. With inviting campgrounds and accommodations like Yavapai Lodge, it’s a place where nature embraces nurture.
  6. Bend, Oregon
    An ode to the outdoors, Bend offers the promise of adventure with its trails, rivers, and public spaces that extend a warm welcome to every furry friend.

And a shoutout to the honorable mentions—the sunny beaches of San Diego, the metropolitan allure of Vancouver, the southern charm of Charleston, and the bustling streets of Indianapolis. Truly, every place holds a story waiting to be written with paw prints.

Top 2 Travel Tips With Dogs—From The Pros

Here comes the golden grains of advice:

A man packing a suitcase as his dog watches.
  1. The Pre-Sniffed Suitcase
    We’ve discussed the comfort of homey scents—those cozy blankets or doggy beds. But if your bags are already overflowing, here’s a trick up my sleeve. Pack your pet travel essentials a bit early and let them take long, curious sniffs of the suitcase. When they finally encounter it in a hotel room miles away, it will seem like an old friend, a slice of home in unknown terrains. No additional items required!
  2. Symphony for the Soul
    Ever noticed how a soulful tune can put your heart at ease? Well, it’s not just a human thing. Treat your pup to a carefully curated playlist—think calming melodies, a symphony of serene tunes. Research indeed points towards genres like classical music having a pacifying effect on dogs. No scary death metal, ok?

While preparation is key, embracing the unexpected defines an adventure. Things might skid, rain might pour, and plans might derail. But hey, isn’t that what adventures are made of? With your best friend by your side, even glitches become giggles.

If there’s something I overlooked or you have any hot tips, share in the comments.

Until our next escapade, keep those tails wagging!

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