The Pet Parent’s Guide to Planning a Dog-Friendly Vacation

Bringing your furry friend along on vacations can make a great trip even better. Dogs can make excellent travel companions, particularly for outdoorsy adventures. In addition, there are several reasons that you may want to bring your dog on your vacation, including if you’re going to be gone for an extended period, you want some built-in companionship, or if you’re traveling to dog-friendly locations.

However, dogs do require a little more planning and consideration than your average passenger. This guide can help you plan for traveling as safely and easily as possible with your pet.


small dog standing on a map sniffing a toy airplane next to a compass

You’ll want to decide whether you’re bringing your dog along on your vacation before you start making any big plans. Doing this will allow you to make changes or plan for accommodations before you’ve booked anything, which can save you time, stress, and money. 

Find Pet-Friendly Destinations

You may have to put in a little more research to make sure both you and your furry friend have a fun and comfortable time. Making sure that there are pet-friendly places to stay, places to eat, and things to do at your destination will be key. After all, you don’t want to bring your pet along just to keep them cooped up in the hotel for the entire trip. 

Some places that you think would be dog-friendly might have unexpected restrictions. For example, at some national parks, dogs are only allowed on specific trails. This could be for conservation efforts, or simply for safety reasons, as there is wildlife in national parks that may not get along with your dog. 

Other places may have specific dog-friendly hours. For example, the Las Vegas Strip only allows animals from 5 a.m. to noon. However, the city of Las Vegas itself is host to 11 dog parks for you and your furry friend to spend the afternoon or evening. 

If you’re going somewhere highly populated with a puppy, or a dog still in training, you may consider getting a harness or soft muzzle to prevent incidents with strangers. Remember, even if you’re in a dog-friendly place, you’re still responsible for your dog’s behavior. 

Modes of Travel

smiling dog with head out the car window driving through the desert

There are several different modes of travel that you could take during your vacation with your furry friend. These could be primary modes of travel that get you to your destination, or secondary modes of travel that help you navigate the city or town. It’s important to understand the rules for traveling with pets on any form of public transport and to bring along anything you might need for an extended car ride. 

Road Trips

Road trips can be one of the most convenient ways to vacation with your dog. As it’s your private vehicle, you can take as many stops as you’d like, and you don’t have to follow any guidelines. To have a safe and comfortable road trip with your dog, you will need:

  • Water and food bowls; 
  • A leash and harness for outdoor breaks; 
  • A blanket or seat cover; 
  • Treats or other positive reinforcement.

Long drives can be hard on dogs, as they can get antsy from sitting too long. Be sure to know the cues that your dog needs a break — not just for the bathroom, but for fresh air and exercise as well. Viewing these stops as moments to take in the scenery around you, take pictures, or go exploring can be a great way to get the most out of them, while still catering to your pup’s needs. 

Air Travel

The way you travel with your dog on a plane will largely depend on their size. If your dog is small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of you, then they can ride in the cabin. If this is the case with your pet, you’ll want to have:

  • Food and water; 
  • Potty pads or other clean-up materials;
  • A blanket or toy that will calm them; 
  • A leash or harness. 

If your dog is not small enough to be considered carry-on, they will have to ride in the cargo hold with the luggage. You will need a hard-sided, well-ventilated kennel to fly your pet in the cargo hold for their safety. 

While the cargo hold is the more dangerous option for pets, as it is not as regulated as a cabin, it may be the only option for large dogs. If you do have to place your dog in the cargo hold, try to book shorter flights, even if you have to change planes multiple times, to give your dog some fresh air. 


Other modes of transport you may take during your trip include:

  • Trains and subways;
  • Amtraks; 
  • Long-distance buses. 

In addition, you may also utilize taxis and Ubers for short-distances. Before making any assumptions, you’ll want to look up the pet policies for any of these modes of travel you plan on taking during your trip. To get around these restrictions, you can plan to travel to somewhere highly walkable, such as New York City, or rent a car for the duration of your trip. 

What You Will Need to Bring

grumpy dog on an overstuffed suitcase with clothes coming out

A packing list can vary depending on your destination and mode of travel, as well as the specific needs of your dog. For example, if your pet takes any medications, you’ll need to bring enough for the entirety of your trip. 

Additionally, you’ll want to be mindful of traveling with anything that may be restricted by planes or public transport. You can check these restrictions ahead of time and purchase some of these items at your final destination if you’re unable to travel with them. 

If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll want to be mindful of things that may be confiscated by customs. This will vary from country to country, but you should be able to find this information online. 

Packing Checklist

The following list includes the basics that you’ll need to travel comfortably and safely with your dog. For ease of access, you’ll want to keep this bag with you while traveling, either as a carry-on or place somewhere else similarly accessible: 

  • Leash and/or harness;
  • Collar;
  • Medications; 
  • Vaccination records;
  • Food and water dishes; 
  • Travel crate;
  • Treats;
  • Toys;
  • Potty bags and pads. 

Other things that you may consider bringing, depending on your destination and the needs of your dog, may include boots or protective footwear, a soft muzzle, and a sweater or jacket. 

Traveling Internationally With Your Pet

cat staring out an airplane window over the ocean

If you’re planning on traveling internationally with your pet, you may need to have certain documentation for them to be admitted into the country. Each country may have different requirements, however, you can generally expect the following: 

  • Negative rabies tests; 
  • Vaccination records; 
  • Proof of registration; 
  • Pet Passport.

Let your vet know as soon as possible if you intend to travel internationally with your dog. They can help you compile all the necessary documents, blood tests, and other health sign-offs. Additionally, some countries may require proof of microchip for your pet to be admitted, so you may need to arrange for this procedure if your dog isn’t already microchipped. 


small happy dog sitting in an open suitcase on a chaise lounge

Finding somewhere that’s comfortable for both you and your pet can make a huge impact on your vacation experience. Not all hotels and lodgings are pet-friendly though, which means you’ll want to research places to stay before you arrive at your final destination. 

Hotels and Motels

It’s important to note the difference here between pet-friendly hotels, and hotels that allow service animals. Service animals have to be registered with ADA — this excludes ESA animals and pets

Most pet-friendly hotels still have some restrictions on pets in public places in the hotel out of respect for other guests, like swimming pools, hot tubs, gyms, and game rooms. Make sure you are aware of these policies or you may be subject to a fine.

Hotels that are pet-friendly may or may not also have extra “pet perks” that make the stay easier or more convenient. Pet-friendly three-star hotels usually offer pet perks,  like a complimentary water bowl and bed. Four-star and five-star hotels are typically where you will get the most pet perks as well as more luxury-level offers.

Private Accommodations

Another way to find pet-friendly accommodations is to utilize private rentals. These listings are usually managed by individuals or a vacation rental company. The listing will usually state whether pets are allowed, what restrictions they have, and what pet amenities are available, but it is always good to call and confirm. This can be extra beneficial for traveling with more than one pet, or if you’re worried about your pet disturbing other guests. 

Some pet-friendly hotels may have a pet fee on top of the room price. However, some vacation rentals may have this already calculated into the price of the lodging, which can make budgeting easier. 

Etiquette for Lodging with Pets

Wherever you’re lodging with your pet, it’s important to follow certain etiquette, so that you don’t disrupt other guests or incur fines for damages. Some pet etiquette for staying in a hotel include: 

  • Always clean up after your pet and be prepared for accidents;
  • Try to keep your pet active and stimulated to deter any destructive behaviors;
  • Don’t leave your pet alone in the room or suite for extended periods without a crate;
  • Don’t leave your pet unattended in public spaces, even outdoors;
  • Make the hotel room a comfortable, positive place by playing and giving attention.

Another good practice when staying somewhere with a pet is to tip the housekeeping or host before you leave, in case of any damage or extra cleaning efforts that might be needed. 


dog sitting on the ground next to two people at a table

Most restaurants will advertise whether they are dog-friendly, and many who don’t allow pets inside may allow them on their patio or outside dining areas. If this information isn’t posted on their website, or outside their establishment, you can ask the host if they are dog friendly. 

When taking your dog to a restaurant, be sure to bring treats or something for them to chew on and stay engaged with. This will prevent them from disturbing you, or other diners. Dogs may get excited by the smells in a restaurant, so if possible, you may prefer to sit outside with your pet to minimize this distraction. 

Another way to minimize distractions is to dine during the off-hours. This way, the restaurant is less likely to be full of new noises, smells, and people that may provoke a reaction from your pet. 

Pet-Friendly Directories and Resources

sleeping dog with a human holding an iPad next to a laptop on a couch

Below, you can find other resources for traveling with your pet. These include directories of pet-friendly establishments, as well as tips and best practices that can help you plan you and your dog’s next vacation: 

  • GoPetFriendly: GoPetFriendly is a pet travel blog. It can provide you with tips for traveling with your dog, as well as inspire travel destinations for your next vacation. 
  • Pet-Friendly Restaurant Directory: This directory lists several restaurants, wineries, coffee shops, and other eateries that are pet friendly across the U.S. This can be a great tool to reference while on your trip, looking for somewhere to eat. 
  • Pet Travel Resources from The American Kennel Club: The American Kennel Club is an authority on pet ownership and maintenance. These resources include tips, tricks, and lists of things you may need for your trip. 
  • Pet Travel Tips from the ASPCA: The ASPCA is another authority on pet ownership, and has resources and tips for traveling with your dog. They may even have specific tips for traveling with a rescue or dog with trauma, as an advocacy organization. 

Bringing your dog on your vacation can be a great option for many reasons. Dogs can be an essential part of your family, and they’re not here forever — as such, it can be incredibly rewarding to fill their lives with joy and adventure. With a little extra preparation, you can make your next vacation accessible and enjoyable for your furry friend. 

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