10 Dog Road Trip Essentials for a Safe and Happy Journey

My favorite way of traveling with my dogs is road trips.

Travelling in the car with your dog is literally a choose your own adventure.

It can be done in one long day or, if you are lucky, you can take days or weeks to do it.

To make sure you and your furry friend have a good time when you hit the road to travel, be sure to bring these dog road trip essentials.

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UPDATED: October 15, 2023

Why I Love Taking Road Trips with My Dogs

We go on a lot of road trips for several reasons.

I appreciate road trips for different seasons of the year and of life.

During inclement weather

It can rain a lot in the spring and fall in Seattle, so a road trip is a good option for us when we feel the urge to explore but the weather is yucky.

In fact, fall is one our favorite times of the year to go on a road trip with the dogs.

Of course, summer is a great time for road trips too.

There is nothing like the feeling of hitting the road, windows rolled down and wind in your hair, listening to your favorite music, and looking over to see your pup’s smiling face adoringly looking back at you.

During times of illness or injury

Road trips are a great adventure alternative when one of the dogs is sick or their physical activities have to be limited.

While Gretel was on activity restriction due to her back injury, I strapped her in the car seat and took her for a ride so she could smell new things, see new scenery, and watch the hustle and bustle of the world.

I even took her camping in the later stages of her recovery by bringing her dog crate along with us.

Road trips are also a way to provide variety and stimulation for senior dogs that have mobility issues, are blind, etc.

It can be a cheaper way to travel in some cases

My first choice is always to bring my dogs with me when I travel.

Travel can get expensive with a dog, especially when you consider additional flight costs, pet fees at hotels, etc.

While it’s true that fuel prices have gone way up, it’s often still cheaper to travel by car so you can camp instead of getting a hotel and bring a cooler so you can reduce the “eating out” cost.

I prefer drive to a destination with my dogs when possible.

Our Recommended Dog Road Trip Essentials

I’ve been taking road trips with my dogs for over 15 years.

Over time, I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to me must have road trip accessories.

10 Must-Haves for a Safe and Happy Road Trip with Your Dog - advice from someone who has been doing it for 10 years!

Car seat cover

Buy a car seat cover, or at least lay a blanket over the seat, to protect your car from dirt and muddy paws.

A cover means you only need one “shake out” to clean your seats.

My favorite car seat cover, and the one we’ve used for 5 years (it still looks brand new) is the Kurgo Dog Hammock Car Seat Cover.

Safety restraint

Whether you choose a dog crate, barrier, tether, dog car seat, or harness, restricting your dog from moving freely around the car will reduce the potential for driving distractions.

In the case of crash tested restraints, they will also help keep your dog safe if an accident occurs.

Pet first aid kit

On the road, you may not be near a veterinary office so it’s good to have some supplies on hand to take care of minor issues yourself.

You can buy a first aid kit made for dogs or add extra supplies and dog-specific items to your own kit.

You can see an example of the pet first aid kit we bring on road trips with us here.

To be better prepared, take a pet first aid class so you know how to properly handle any illnesses or injuries that happen on the road.

PawNosh Firehose Travel Bowl with the Collegiate Peaks in the background

Water bowl and bottled water

The heat or air conditioning in the car can make your dog thirsty.

Be sure to offer your furry friend water at least every couple of hours on your trip to prevent dehydration.

My favorite dog travel bowl for use in the car has a sturdy base and a lip to keep the water from splashing out.

Food, treats and medication/supplements

You may be on the road, camping, or staying at a hotel when it’s Fido’s meal time.

Be sure to bring your dog’s regular food and treats so that new foods don’t cause upset stomach or allergies while you are on your adventure (or, in the case of special travel food, introduce it to them a week or two before your trip).

Also bring their medication and supplements to keep up the same heath routine as at home.

Leash and collar or harness

If your dog walks out to the car by themselves, these things could be easy to forget.

Be sure to throw them in your gear bag so your dog doesn’t get stuck waiting in the car while you are out having fun.

It’s also a great idea to throw a spare leash in the car in case yours gets misplaced or you run into a lost dog.

My favorite leashes are made of biothane – a waterproof webbing that feels like leather and cleans up easily on the go if they get wet.

Our favorite biothane leashes for small dogs are from High Tail Hikes.

Poop bags

There are “scoop the poop” laws in most urban areas, in parks, and on designated hiking trails. Don’t forget to throw in enough bags for your whole trip.

My favorite brand, and the one’s we’ve used for years, are the EarthRated dog poop bags.

They are thick, durable and made of recycled materials.

Dachshund sporting a digital ID Tag from PetHub.com

Current identification tags

A pet ID tag is a must. A simple engraved tag will do but consider a digital ID tag that you can update on the fly.

Digital pet ID tags contain a QR code, or serial number, that points people to a website where you’ve provided travel information and multiple contact numbers.

With all of the information you can list “on” a digital ID tag, and the fact you can update your location and contact information as many times as you want on the fly, people that find your pet can easily track you down on the road.

Some tags, like PetHub ID Tags also have the number of a 24-hour lost pet hotline on the back.

If you are unsure if you need a digital pet ID tag, check out this article.

Proof of vaccinations

Proof of vaccination will be required if you need to drop Fido off at a daycare or a kennel while you go explore where dogs aren’t allowed, like on trails in most National Parks.

Even if you plan to only go places your dog is welcome, vaccination records are good to have if there is a natural disaster or in case your dog gets in a fight with another dog.

Your camera!

Road trips are a blast so you’ll want photos to document you adventures to share with friends and family, share on social media, and so you can look back on your memories for years to come.

My favorite camera is the Sony a6600 but some cell phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, can capture great photos too.

Final Thoughts

I love to see people venturing out with their furry friend to see new areas of the country.

Road trips are a great way to explore because you can do then during bad weather, if a dog is ill or injured, and they can even lower your -travel-with-dog costs.

Whether it’s your first time taking a road trip with your dog, or you are always seeking new tips, I hope my recommendations help you and your dog have a safe and happy adventure.

Related article: 3 Crucial Things to Know when Visiting a National Park with Your Dog

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m a Dachshund sitter, President of the largest social Dachshund club in Washington State, a dog trainer in training, and I’ve been a Dachshund owner for 20 years. I have over 150,000 hours of experience with the breed. When I’m not working, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.

10 Comments

  1. We always travel with our four girls. We are currently planning a trip out west for the summer, planning on hitting southern Colorado, Moab and then northern NM on the way back to Texas. We always take our portable stairs for hotel bed access and a portable pen to set up a yard or to secure decks and patios.

    We will have to drive through Arches National Park because we don’t want to leave the girls but there are plenty of hikes in the area that allow pets! I’m doing my research now so we will have a plan of where they are welcome and where they aren’t.

    1. We love all of those states 🙂 You’ll have a great time. We’ve been to Moab several times but only once with the dogs. Negro Bill canyon is a great hike with dogs. I think most trails there are fair game as long as they are not in Arches or Canyonlands. Choose wisely though and keep alert, many trails are super popular with mountain bikers and many of the trails are actually jeep roads.

  2. We travel in a motorhome. No question of dogs being allowed in hotels! Because of the large volume of air in the motorhome plus vents and fans, in all but the hottest climates the dogs are fine being left inside. Plus we love being able to take our house to back woods spots.

  3. I would add a coat or sweater for your dog, in case weather turns chilly, and a blankie from home that they can burrow in for comfort.

    1. Yes, a jacket is a must almost no matter where you travel. It can get cold at night in a lot of places even if it warm during the day. I can’t believe I forgot to put that on the list.

  4. We have two rescued doxies, both 12, and both tweenies who love to go for rides and look out the window. So you recommendation for a booster car seat that would be long enough for doxies? So many are square and don’t fit their long bodies well!

    1. We use the large Snoozer Lookout Car Seat. Chester and Gretel both fit in there just fine.

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