Road trips make the best vacations, and traveling alone with your pet gives you special time to bond. The excitement of choosing a destination, packing the car, and hitting the open road is thrilling!
But, while solo outings are delightful, traveling alone with a pet requires some additional preparation. Whether your road trip buddy is a dog, cat, hamster, or bunny, these tips will keep you both safe and happy on your next excursion.
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Tips for Traveling Alone with a Pet
1. Plan Your Route
Once you’ve decided where to go, 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 attractions, restaurants, and dog parks that you’ll be passing by. Note any interesting options where you and your furry travel buddy can take a break from the car.
Determining the number of miles you can cover per day depends on your preferences. If you like to mosey and take in the sights, 100 miles may be far enough each day. If you’re more intent on getting to your destination, you might drive 400 miles or more.
Your smartphone app allows you to check driving times and alert you to any road construction you might encounter.
2. Make Reservations
If your trip involves overnight stays, don’t leave your accommodations 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 your reservations. Also verify that they have not changed their pet policy since you booked your stay.
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 and if you’ve had to make any adjustments to your route or schedule.
4. Invest in Road Side Assistance
Before any 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.
5. Prepare Your Travel Buddy
Whenever your pets are in the car, you’ll want to pack some basics. Always include their current vaccination records and recent medical history. In addition, you’ll want a spill-proof bowl, comfortable pet bed, and a toy or chew for entertainment.
Finally, to keep you both safe, pets should be buckled up while you’re driving. Trying to wrangle Fido while he hops into the front seat, or catch Fluffy as she saunters across the dash, is too dangerous when you’re driving.
READ MORE ⇒ Packing an Overnight Bag for Your Dog
6. Post Your Emergency Instructions
Write out your emergency instructions, put them in an envelope marked “In Case of Emergency,” and tape it to your dash. If something should happen to you while you’re traveling, the first responders will be able to quickly contact someone for you and get your pet cared for until you can recover.
7. Where to Eat
Packing food from home is always the best way to ensure you’ll have something delicious to eat along the way. But stopping for lunch or dinner 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.
8. Restroom Breaks
The biggest question most solo travelers grapple with is what to do about restroom breaks. Leaving a pet alone in the car while you use the bathroom isn’t ideal, so plan stops 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 big-box retailers like Lowes, Home Depot, Home Goods, TJ Maxx and Hobby Lobby are pet friendly and have public restrooms. Just be sure to ask before bringing your pet inside!
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 it’s 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 air conditioning or heat running.
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 may violate the law in some jurisdictions, as it could encourage auto theft. However, for the 3-5 minutes it takes to use a restroom and return to the car, I’m willing to 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.
10. Stick to the Schedule
When traveling alone with a pet, maintaining his normal schedule will help reduce any anxiety he may be feeling. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you of his feeding, bathroom, and exercise routine, and be prepared 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.
12. Carry Safety Devices
Using a safety whistle, pepper spray, or taser can deter unwanted advances from strangers, dangerous dogs, or predatory wildlife. It’s a good idea to keep one or more of these devices handy when you’re traveling on your own.
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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