Our oldest kid, Izzy, has been on over 20 road trips in her life so far from quick two-hour trips to Wisconsin to day-long 8-10 hour drives to Kansas or Ohio. Her first road trip was before she even turned a year old! It was an 11-hour drive that we split in half and stayed overnight in between being on the road. Izzy has always been an amazing road-tripper because we started her young and she is easy going when it comes to travel or new places.
Our other two pups, Hudson and Mylah, looked up to Izzy the first time they were road tripping with us to our favorite lake in Wisconsin. Lake Geneva, where we frequent throughout the year, is only about an hour and a half to two-hour drive depending on traffic. Hudson struggled with road trips a lot at first because he has always had bad separation anxiety. We tried so many things from holistic calming therapies to sedatives and ultimately time was the best medicine. It took him about four years to fully adjust to road trips and realize that we weren’t abandoning him when we went on road trips. He still isn’t perfect when we go on road trips, but we’ve learned what to bring to help him, or we get a babysitter for him because ultimately he loves his home more than anything.
Road trips with Mylah are an entirely different situation/struggle as well. Because of her health issues, traveling with her has become less frequent. It is too risky for us to bring her on long trips or to new states and cities without the access to her doctors, emergency vet and holistic vet who are a 10-minute drive from our home. Other than bringing her to Lake Geneva, we opt to keep Mylah home with a babysitter for her safety and health.
Whether it’s a long road trip with Izzy or a shorter drive to Lake Geneva with Hudson and Mylah, I’ve learned so many things from the time we began road trips to now.
Here are my dog road trip tips:
1. ONLY bring essentials. When we first started road tripping, we’d bring multiple beds and two crates, dog bowls, etc. It became overwhelming, and we wouldn’t use half the things we’d bring. Instead, we now only bring two steel dog bowls and one collapsible dog bowl. One steel bowl specifically for water, the collapsible bowl for water in the car and one we clean and reuse one steel bowl for food.
2. The size of your car matters. We used to road trip in a small Ford Fusion… with three dogs. It was insane. We upgraded to an SUV, and it was the best decision we’ve ever made.
3. Bring a first aid kit with your dog’s health essentials. For instance, for my dogs, our first aid kit includes betadine for wounds/paw cleaning, ear cleaner if we go to a lake, Neosporin, vet wrap, and an ice pack at a minimum. When we travel with Mylah, we bring her Karo syrup, glucose meter, insulin, syringes and additional food.
4. A dog travel kit can be worth the investment. My brother gave us this dog travel kit last Christmas, and it has been awesome! We have always had a collapsible dog bowl in the car, so it was nice to have another one specifically for travel. We pack most of our dog’s items in this pack; it has been awesome for our road trips! Ours is similar to this one.
5. Curbing boredom on long road trips. We bring bully sticks, pig ears or something fun to chew on for halfway through the trip.
6. Research the area you are going to. This is especially important if you are traveling with a dog with health issues and need to know the closest vet/emergency vet. It is also important for pit bull type dogs (sadly). A few counties, towns or cities have breed bans or restrictions, and it is important to avoid these areas.
8. Invest in a travel dog bed. This bed stays in our car and goes everywhere with us. As I mentioned in #1, we would bring everything, and it was SO unnecessary. Now we travel with one dog bed that is water proof, cleans very easily and is something familiar to them. It is also big enough for two of them to fit on.This and this one are similar to the one we got off Amazon a few years ago, it fits perfectly in our car.
9. Keep it safe when you’re driving. We actually bought a pet guard barrier to keep our three in the backseat of the car and separate the front from the back. It ensures they can’t jump up front when we are on the road. If we travel with just Izzy, we don’t need it since she is pretty good at staying in the back.
10. Try to relax. The calmer you are, the calmer they will be. Don’t stray from your normal routine too much before you leave. If you have a high-energy dog, exercise them before starting the road trip, and the opposite for lazy dogs. We’ve learned a lot about our kids because of road trips, and we’ve had a ton of fun too!