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Whether you fancy a well planned out itinerary or the spontaneous weekend getaway, trippin’ of any sort can be rather difficult when you have four legged responsibilities at home. These 6 tips for traveling with your dog will help keep your sanity in check when making the big decision to take your fur-babies along for the ride.
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More than a dozen years ago we kicked off this travelin’ thang with a grand attempt at a springtime camping adventure in Kings Canyon which dramatically fell through when Mother Nature stepped in with a wicked storm washing out the park roads and our dreams of outdoor adventure.
With my birthday fast approaching and the gloominess of cancelled vacations hovering over us like a black cloud of despair, we turned our frowns upside down, gave the finger to well planned out reservations, grabbed a AAA guidebook, shoved the dog in the back seat and took off for Grand Canyon National Park.
By the time we made it to the Grand Canyon gateway we had located some pet friendly lodging that had room for us and our 90 pound Weimaraner so we hastily declared ourselves a success and started exploring.
Come to find out, you can’t take your dog on most any hiking trails in the National Parks and some of these so-called villages around the parks can have few eating establishments open past 6pm in the shoulder seasons.
We made note of these strange non-Californian problems while we survived on little more than convenience store junk food and energy drinks. But soon after relegating ourselves to driving tours and visitor centers, a kindly ranger hooked us up with the details on where Blu could get her paws dirty and we could catch some spectacular views. So unless your planning on some legit hiking down into the canyon, there are truly some great stops along the rim where pets are welcomed.
Blu joined us on many more trips during her fifteen and a half years on this planet, most of them to our wonderful National Parks. Often times these parks are so large that the driving tours are really the best way to see the whole thing and since we could never stomach leaving her behind at home, driving became our favorite way to travel. But we had to get some extra sh*t together and plan a little more carefully to include our girl.
Tip#1: Schedule Trips in the Cooler Climates and Off Seasons
Car travel can be more comfortable in the cooler seasons and if your dog isn’t the bootie wearing type, the ground is much cooler and you won’t end up nursing blistered paws.
Plus during the off seasons lodging establishments may be more willing to accept larger dogs as many enforce weight limits of 40lbs or less, especially during prime summer travel when they have no problem selling rooms. Always check the specifics of the dog-friendly policy and then ask anyway.
Blu never got uncomfortably hot riding in the backseat of the FJ with its small dark porthole style windows but if you’ve got normal unshaded windows consider a static cling widow film or a movable sun shade with suction cups. We actually picked up two for ourselves since our front windows are way bigger and it sure sucks cookin’ in the sun when your driving 400 miles in a day and somehow the sun is perpetually on your side.
Tip#2: Keep on track with your pets regularly scheduled meals and definitely Do NOT feed them junk food while on vacation
Junk food is a vacation staple but it’s only for humans, unless you enjoy trying to get your sea-sick pooch to vomit inside the bag after her first 90 minute ride on a ferry boat. It’s harder than you think.
Blu refused to shove her head into a readily available trash container so we had to think fast and give up the bag with the massive snickerdoodle cookie from the Pike Fish Market in Seattle. She didn’t mind yaking all over our cookie and I’m pretty sure her evil plan was to steal a bite when she was done. Of course this happened while we were waiting in the vehicle line at customs crossing into Canada.
No junk food, just don’t.
Tip#3: Store dog food inside an airtight container with it’s original packaging intact
On the way back into the US, Blu handled the boat ride just fine but we learned an expensive lesson. A US ban on goat meat was in effect and because we had emptied her dry food into an airtight container we could not prove that it was not goat meat so we had to “donate” it in Canada and buy a whole new bag back in the US. Luckily we were able to find her brand of sensitive skin food at a local pet store but this could be a problem for more specialized foods or picky eaters.
Tip#4: Don’t forget the doggy gear! Your pooch needs a few things to be comfortable and not become a whinny backseat beast
Doggy harness with seatbelt attachments, cozy blankies and comfy orthopedic beds for the backseat are a must as are portable water and food bowls. Don’t forget to tuck the unused seat belts away, no one likes laying on one of those.
Bring a throw blanket to cover up the furniture if your pup is also a couch princess.
One year we drove 1,000 miles to Yellowstone National Park for a little wintertime frolicking in the snow so she also got a pair of fleece jackets and a new extra large collapsible crate. Two jackets because she’ll need one to wear while the other dries. That packable kennel will do double duty by allowing you to leave your pooch feeling safe and protect your wallet while your away. Most hotels won’t allow you to leave your pet unattended but more spacious properties might but you certainly don’t want to deplete your vacation fund replacing that couch your dog destroyed while you snuck out for a snow mobile tour.
Tip#5: Check out the Dog Lover’s Companion book series for California and the Pacific Northwest
We’ve used both for road trip planning and they’ve got some great tips for lodging, pet-friendly things to do in these areas and general guidelines for safe pet travels. Sure the internet is full of amazing info but we found lots of specialized resources in these books that simply wasn’t available online. If you can believe it, not every business has a website, go figure. Make sure the info is current as policies change but so far we haven’t run across anything out of date.
Tip#6: Regular bathroom breaks and leg stretching required
If getting in and out of your SUV is becoming cumbersome for your elderly fur-baby consider purchasing a folding ramp. We did and it added years of travel with our old lady. As time progressed it became apparent that she struggled getting up into the truck so instead of leaving her home we bought a ramp and taught her how to use it. Now stopping for potty breaks wasn’t such a chore and she was getting the regular exercise she needed on our long drives. In her last years when she became housebound in our upstairs condo that same ramp helped her get up onto her beloved couch.
Blu road tripped with us for thousands of miles through California, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and even Canada. She made us feel safe traveling around this crazy country of ours and we wouldn’t have done it any other way.
Christmas 2014 was our last “staycation” with Blu. We took those last two weeks and spoiled her silly as she quickly declined losing her ability to walk but never losing her sparkle. She was the rambunctious light of our lives and went out in a spectacular flurry of hamburger parties and junk food heaven. We miss her everyday and hopefully one day we can bring ourselves to welcome another puppy into our lives but for now we may just cross over to the dark side with a little kitteh’ since the thought of trying to replace Blu seems outrageously impossible. #DoCatsEvenTravel?