I love road trips. Obviously. What I love the most is that every road trip is an adventure and it’s never the same even if you travel the same route. Since 2015, I have travelled alone across country with my dogs. I’ve learnt some things along the way and I’d like to share them with you here. Or if you’re looking for some gift ideas for the road tripper and their dogs, check out this list here for the things that we all want but may not get for ourselves.
Planning a Road Trip
Preparing for your road trip can be as in-depth or on the fly as you like. However know that bringing a dog, or several, will involve more planning. The way I look at it, the road trip is my idea so I should make it as fun for them as I possibly can.
If your dog is new to travelling in a vehicle, make sure you spend some time getting them used to being inside a car. If they’re not used to being in a crate but they will be for long distances, start introducing it early on so that it becomes part of the car experience. If you want them secured by a harness, they should get used to wearing it around home before strapping them into the car. Above all, make the car a fun place.
Be Ready to Bug-out
I have a backpack that is always ready to go with the essentials like a hair brush and elastics, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste (and floss because one day I may actually remember to use it), and 2-in-1 shampoo. All I have to do is throw in some clothes and I’m good to go. I’ve even been known to keep a weeks worth of socks, underwear, a few T-shirts and a pair of convertible pants in my bag just to make it easier to go.
My travelling wardrobe consists of convertible pants (the lower section zips off so I can go from pants to shorts), some T-shirts, a merino wool zip-up, and a rain jacket. Layers are the name of the game. Running shoes and a pair of sturdy sandals take me anywhere and everywhere.
At the end of the season, my tent and fly get unpacked and stored in a large plastic tub but during the camping season, it all stays next to my front door so it’s quick to throw in the car.
Check here for more on my essential gear.
Keep Things Accessible
Nothing sucks more than wasting time scrounging around for your travel gear. I have my regular gear in one closet and the more specialized backpacking gear in another. Since the dogs travel light, the only gear they really need is their collapsible bowls. Three stay with my gear and one large large bowl for water stays in the car.
Stuff for The Dogs
I have up-to-date copies of the dog’s vaccination records in an envelope in my glove box. That way I always know where they are it and makes crossing borders that much easier. I also keep a copy in my bag along with copies of my documents, just in case. A reusable grocery bag has a permanent spot in my truck containing spare leashes and collars, a tie-out with clips on each end, extra rope, and bungees. It’s not all dog-related (unless they want to bungee off a picnic table) but it’s all in one place so I don’t have to unpack my trunk to look for it. Really all they need is their bowls and a tie-out.
The dogs have a wide variety of blankets and foam pads to keep them comfortable and warm. It also protects the floor of my tent and acts as an extra barrier when the temperatures drop. The pads are kept with my gear and the blankets are usually scattered around the living room so it’s quick to grab them and dump them in the backseat of the car. I like to put a Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest that I use as a base and an old closed cell pad that I bought years ago which goes on top, then an old flat sheet, topped with their microfibre blankets and a down camping comforter. Yes that may be a little bit of overkill but when you’re travelling with senior citizens, they are more susceptible to cold and dampness which means that if they get sore overnight, they will be too sore to go for any hikes the nest day.
The Value of Tetris
When you drive a small car, you become a master at maximizing space. Until I started using the floor of my backseat, I had a hard time fitting everything in the trunk. Now I keep the dog’s sleeping pads rolled up in the gap behind me, which extends the backseat to give them a bit more space and frees up valuable trunk space. I’m a big fan of using bins to help keep things organized and dry.
The Road Experience
Once you’ve got your car all packed up and you have an idea about where you’re going, the fun can really start. The more preparation you put into your trip, the easier you’ll be able to deal with any issues that may arise.
Where You To
Hardcopy maps are great to have but I’ve learned that they can be hard to find. I’ve also noticed that street names on maps aren’t always the names on the street signs which can make navigation a real treat. Maps like the ones with iPhones or Google Maps are great but only if you have service and they send you to the right place so you can’t always turn on the app and turn off your brain as I have been known to do from time to time. If you’re worried about going through data, what I’ve done is input the destination and then once underway, turned my phone to airplane mode.
A Roof Over Your Head
One of the biggest things I learned was that hotels and motels can be great for the night or an absolute nightmare. I’ve noticed they like to advertise on websites like Expedia or Hotwire and they’ll have one thing listed about pet fees (like there are none) but then you get there and lo and behold, there’s a pet fee. The easiest way to avoid this is to call before you book to confirm whether there is a pet fee or pet deposit. Yes it’s an extra step but it can save you hassles when you get there.
Camping is our preferred way to spend the night as it is often considerably cheaper but some campgrounds have restrictions about how many dogs are allowed and they may have some places that are off-limits. It’s usually a safe assumption that they will not be allowed on beaches or if they are, dogs have to be on leash so it’s worth clarifying when you book if you have water babies like I do. Sometimes you end up camping on the side of the road like we did in Arizona.
I recently discovered Airbnb and it can be a great alternative to commercial places so don’t let dogs stop you from using that as a possible resource. Which brings me to my next point…
Talk to The Locals
They are a wealth of information! I have found some amazing scenery and great food by talking to a living, breathing human instead of always relying on online review apps. They have also been able to point me in the direction of places where the dogs can run off-leash which is a bonus when you’re travelling.
Sometimes Just Stop
I find the urge to capture every moment can be the biggest stressor of travelling. There seems to be this feeling that if it’s not on Instagram it never happened. I know because I’ve been there as I’ve been caught up in trying to get the perfect photo only to find that it was affecting my enjoyment and appreciation of where I was. Do yourself a favour and put the phone or camera or GoPro down and just experience where you are. Scratch a few dog ears, give a little cuddle, and take a moment of gratitude. I promise you won’t regret it.