Where and How Often To Stop on a Cross Country Road Trip With Dogs

road trips with dogs

This article is a part of our On The Road series, sponsored by Kurgo and Tall Tails. I adopted my dog, Nora, in 2016 from One Tail at a Time in Chicago. She was a rescue from Alabama, a state with a high euthanasia rate. As we come up on our five-year anniversary this summer, we’re celebrating with the ultimutt road trip. Follow along with our yappy trails as I take Nora on a solo road trip to see the ocean. P.S. Save 25% at Tall Tails with code NORA25, and 20% at Kurgo with code NORA20.

You never knew that “On The Road Again” was a duet between Willie Nelson and your pup, but it’s starting to feel that way. While taking less breaks means getting to your destination a bit faster, it may not be the best idea for the sake of your bestie. Read on about where and how often to stop on a cross country road trip with dogs! 

Why Stop?

Pupper can’t ask you, “Are we there yet?” a million times, but he also never learned how to tell you, “Ma’am, I need to stop right now before I turn your backseat into a urinal.” Besides letting your dog potty, it’s also important to keep him hydrated (even when physical activity is limited), so these breaks are a great chance to give pup some water.

Think about how you feel after hours in the car… a little stiff, achy, and in need of a good yoga session. Your pup probably feels the same way. Stretching out is good for both of you, especially if you plan on doing some physical activities later! 

How Often to Stop

There’s no tried and true answer for the question of how often to stop, but maybe ask yourself, “How many Big Gulps have I had?” and then think about how hydrated your pup is too. There are so many factors to consider–your dog’s age, their bladder, hydration level, and level of activity. Many veterinarians agree that a stop every 2 to 4 hours for about 15 to 30 minutes is a sweet spot. 

Where to Stop

Don’t mind if I doo! | Tiffany Tran

As you drive through the great expanse of the American highway system, it may be easy to just want to stop along the road, but for pup’s safety and yours, always make sure you’re in a secure area! Here are some stop ideas for a cross country road trip with dogs.

Rest Areas

You’ve probably seen ‘em along the highway, especially in what feels like the middle of nowhere, but there are plenty of rest areas along the major highways. Rest Area signs are always marked in blue. There are typically bathrooms for humans, vending machines, and oftentimes, pet areas so your pup can relieve themselves. While some pet areas are nicer than others, nowadays you can even look up reviews of rest stops online. 

Our favorite rest stops were in Montana, with beautiful, winding hikes right next to the rest stops.

Local Dog Parks

For the parent with the social pupper-fly, public dog parks in cities on the road are a great way to let her get her ya-yas out! A quick Google search of “dog parks in ___” city will lead to plenty of results. Bonus: It’s a great way for you to explore new places with your dog. 

Gas Station Breaks

If you have to stop anyway, might as well take the time to let your dog do a *big stretch*. As a Nervous Newfie, I personally like to fill up on gas every time I hit half a tank (every 2-3 hours), which is about when I should give my dog a break anyway. You never want to walk too far away from your vehicle (and never leave it unsecure!), but if the gas station has a grassy patch or some sidewalk, I’ll let my pup take a sniff and a pee if she needs to. 

This may not be ideal for all gas stations, especially if they’re busy, it’s dark out, or there’s no place to safely walk your dog! 

Hiking Trails

What better excuse to explore some of the most beautiful spots along the road than to take a driving break? Great resources like All Trails can point to great trailheads that are on your route. You don’t have to summit a mountain, but a shady stroll through a forest is a great way to let your dog stretch out and potty, and also sniff all the new smells as some enrichment so she’ll be better in the car for the rest of your drive! 

Tourist Attractions

Let’s be honest, this country can be weird, and that definitely includes the tourist attractions. Marked with a brown sign on the highway, lean in and explore the weird, and maybe get a pic or two for the ‘gram. Not all attractions are dog-friendly, so do some light research beforehand.

What are your favorite places to visit while on the road? Bark ‘em out in the comments, and tag us with #SidewalkDog on your road trip this summer! 

Featured photo: anvel

Tall Tails got their start in infant bedding, so you can rest assured that every product is crafted from durable, non-toxic materials and designed for easy cleaning. This means they’ll keep looking smart and stylish wherever your pet’s “dreamy place” might be. And you’ll feel good knowing your precious pet is happily napping in the most baby-safe bed, blanket, or throw you can find.

Safe and enjoyable travels for you and your pet are Kurgo’s passion. As the founders put it, “We never create a product unless we think it solves a real need, is original or a major improvement on what’s on the market, and can stand the test of time.” Their products come with a lifetime guarantee, which means you’ll never have to leave your BFF behind.

Sidewalk Dog’s mission is to help dog parents spend more time with their puppers by discovering and sharing activities they can do and places they can go—together! Sniff out our award-winning newsletter and Instagramthen check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

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