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How to Plan a Dog-Friendly Vacation This Summer

A dachshund wearing sunglasses, buried in sand on a beach.

Going on vacation is exciting, except for the part where you have to say goodbye to your dog. But who says you have to say goodbye at all? Here are some tips for planning a dog-friendly vacation.

Let’s be honest, taking Fido on a trip is no easy feat. Taking a dog anywhere is sort of like taking a toddler, except that your dog can’t speak, isn’t allowed to go everywhere, and might be able to knock you over if she sees a squirrel.

Here are a few important things to consider before you take off with your pet.

Consider Your Location

A girl and her dog take a walk in the wild.
tommaso lizzul/Shutterstock

Whether you’re just taking a quick weekend trip or a month-long getaway, you need to pick a vacation destination that will work for your dog. This means taking two things into account: the general dog-friendliness of a location and your dog’s personality.

National parks and outdoor-focused locations tend to be the most pet-friendly. The National Park Service has an interactive map that allows you to see all the national parks that allow dogs in some capacity. Most campgrounds across the United States allow dogs as well, but it’s a good idea to visit the website or call ahead to ask about the pet policy.

Although a camping or hiking-focused vacation is a great plan for a pet parent, don’t count cities out. Some, like San Diego, Seattle, and Portland, are known for being very dog-friendly. People live there with their own dogs, after all!

Pet-friendly cities like the latter are sure to have lots of dog parks, beaches, and other areas for your pup to enjoy. BringFido is an app that helps you locate dog-friendly accommodations and things to do nearby. It also has a great list of 12 cities that are great for dogs.

Tap below to download BringFido:

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Keeping your dog’s personality in mind is important when choosing a location as well. If your dog is shy or startles easily, a big city like Seattle probably won’t be very enjoyable for him. Both of you will have a much better time if he’s comfortable.

Choose the Right Attractions

Three people walking with two standard poodles in Central Park.

Not only do you want your travel location to be dog-friendly, but your itinerary also needs to reflect your travel partner. For example, many national parks allow dogs but limit them to certain trails.

You’ll need to know where you’re allowed to be and how much of the attraction you can see with your dog. You can find this information on the National Park Service website.

Think about this in city locations as well. San Francisco, for example, is very pet-friendly, but you can’t take your dog across the water to Alcatraz.

For more ideas about where to take your vacation and what to do, check out The Ultimate Pet-Friendly Road Trip by Amy Burkhart. This guide lists some of the most pet-friendly attractions in each state.

Find Dog-Friendly Accommodations

A woman in bed with a Beagle dog in a hotel room.
Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock

Not all hotels or vacation rentals are pet-friendly. You can often use the filter feature of booking websites to find places that allow dogs. You should also check the fine print, though, as many places charge an extra fee for dogs and might even have a weight limit.

As a renter with a pet, it’s your responsibility to be a good tenant and keep your accommodations as clean as possible. Bringing your own dog bed is a good way to keep your pet comfortable and keep her (and her hair) off the furniture in your hotel room or rental.

This foldable dog bed is easy to pack and transport.

Think about the location of your accommodation as well. Unless you have long walks planned for each day of your vacation (like hiking through a park or sightseeing in a town), you’ll have to make sure that your pet still gets her daily walk.

Try to pick a location close to a dog park or walking path so that it will be easy to help your pup burn off her energy when necessary.

Plan How to Get There

A boy, girl, and golden retriever dog in a car.
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Driving to your vacation spot is going to be the easiest way to transport your dog in almost every scenario. Airlines have strict rules about flying with pets. Only small dogs are allowed to sit with you in the cabin.

Larger breeds have to be boarded under the plane unless they’re a service animal. This can be a scary, traumatic experience for your dog. You should avoid flying with large dogs unless it’s absolutely necessary.

If you have a small dog that you think will be comfortable flying, there are still quite a few rules that you have to follow. Most airlines require that your pet be well-trained enough to respond to commands.

He’ll also need to be up-to-date on all of his shots. A veterinarian will have to sign off on your dog’s health before he can fly. Check your airline’s pet policies well in advance of your trip.

Finally, small dogs have to be kept in a soft-sided carrier that meets specific size requirements. This pet carrier is approved for most airlines.

Road trips are usually much less stressful for you and your dog. But this method of transportation also means more downtime in the car for your dog to get bored.

Make sure that you schedule enough time for plenty of potty breaks and opportunities for your dog to stretch his legs. You can also give your pup some long-term chews in the car to keep him occupied.

There are plenty of other accessories that will make a road trip far less stressful for your dog, so be sure to get him a few of his favorite things.

Plan What to Do During Mealtimes

A girl and corgi dog on a picnic in a park.
Mostovyi Sergii Igorevich/Shutterstock

If you’ve never taken your dog on a long trip before, you might not think about the logistics of simple tasks, like meals. You can’t (or at least, you shouldn’t) leave your dog at a hotel or other accommodation alone, so meals can get a bit tricky.

One way to handle this is to order delivery or takeout for most of your meals. You can either eat in the car with your dog or take your food to a park. You might also consider renting a home or apartment with a kitchenette so that you can cook some meals.

And of course, don’t forget to pack enough kibble for your pup!

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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