Solo Road Trip Safety: 10 Tips for Traveling With Your Dog

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.

All you need is your car, your dog, and the open road. Okay…maybe some food, a full gas tank, and some things on this packing list, too. (P.S. Buying travel supplies? Save 20% at Kurgo with code NORA20). We know you’re busy planning all the sights you’ll see and the fun things you and your bestie are gonna do, so we’re here to drop a few safety tips for you! Check out these 10 tips for traveling alone with your dog—because the best solo road trip is the one where you get to your destination.

1. Plan Your Route

We’re not here to cramp your wanderlust style or anything, but we *are* suggesting that you don’t pull a Christopher Columbus and end up on the wrong continent. With a map in the palm of your hands, it’s easier than ever to get a ruff idea of your route. Plan to pick out a few spots for you and pupper to explore in advance so you can find the best dog-friendly accommodations and activities nearby. This will also let you have fun adventure games along your route, like finding the diner with the best fries or the wackiest landmark. 

P.S. While we love phone apps, Fido’s lack of thumbs make it hard for him to be your navigator. We think he’d prefer a paper map so he can help you out in case your battery runs out or you lose signal in remote areas.

2. Make Reservations

…Or at least plan your accommodations! While you and I love your dog, not every hotel or Airbnb host is the most welcoming to four-legged guests. Traveling with your bestie may make it a bit harder to find a place to stay, so while you’re planning your route (see tip 1), make some reservations. If you’re playing it loose and cool with your itinerary, make sure you book places that have flexible cancellation and rebooking policies. 

Planning to car camp? Read reviews online of the rest stops on your itinerary or park near other car campers for peace of mind. If a place gives you the heebie-jeebies, there’s no shame in tucking your tail and moving on to the next spot, especially if you’re flying solo. 

dog sleeping beside parked car
I was promised a road trip, not a road nap. | Shen Liu

3. Carry Basic Car Tools

Channel the lessons you learned in high school driver’s ed, and think about basic car maintenance. Do you remember how to put on a spare tire? Which cables do you connect to your battery to give it a jump? Dog forbid you need to use ‘em, but you should be prepared just in case. While you can look up any tutorial on Youtube nowadays, necessary tools like a spare tire, jumper cables, or air compressor will probably be difficult to Amazon Prime from the side of the road.

4. Have Roadside Assistance

Even if you carry all the tools you may need, some things may just be out of your league. While services like AAA may be an investment, having a helping paw will sure be worth it if your car breaks down. Fluffy is a princess and hates waiting, so the speedy service will be a dogsend—not only by getting you back on your way sooner, but also so you don’t have to deal with her diva attitude anymore.

Check your car insurance policy or credit card perks to see if it’s a service you already pay for!

5. Share Your Location

You may be sharing your adventures on Instagram, but real time updates may provide more peace of mind than latergrams. Provide a rough itinerary of your trip to a trusted family member or friend so you can check in when you meet certain milestones on your travels. Using an app like Find My Friend will also share your GPS location, so they can see if you haven’t moved in a while and they can get you help if needed. 

Here’s a tip within a tip: look into a GPS tracker for your dog. Since pup should be with you while on the road, your family member can keep tabs on you by checking the tracking app. And if your dog decides to take a vacation from your vacation, you’ll be better equipped to crash his party.

Ok, but this is a necessity. | Philip Hawkshaw

6. Pack Light

One of the advantages of driving long distances alone is that you have room to pack everything you need plus the kitchen sink. But do you really need Bingo’s diamond encrusted collar on this trip? If the answer is no, maybe leave it at home. Think about what you’ll actually need for you and your dog and pack light. While you hate to think about it, car break-ins are totally possible, and nothing cramps a solo road trip more than losing your stuff.

If possible, hide your valuables in separate spots so in your car in case someone does break-in, you don’t lose everything at once.

7. Stay Alert

While jams from your AirPods may feel like a must when you’re walking your dog around your Airbnb or on a hike, opt to listen to the sounds of nature and stay alert for possible danger. Muggers are a possibility, but so are wild animals or maybe even weird traffic patterns in unfamiliar cities. 

Your pup may seem like a potato most of the time, but she does have some innate canine skills like sharp hearing and an impressive sense of smell. If you see your dog tense up, follow her lead and assess what’s going on around you. 

8. Bring Enough Food and Stay Hydrated

We doubt your dog would let you forget breakfast, second breakfast, and snack time, but in case someone needs to say it in human language, don’t forget the food! Staying on routine is important to keep your dog comfortable, especially if he has a sensitive tummy, so feed him his regular food. And don’t forget to feed yourself! Snacks are important to keep your energy up, but also so you don’t have to stop in places that are too unfamiliar. Plus, in more remote areas you’re driving through, there may be no food options at all.

In a similar vein, be sure to stay hydrated. You may think that you’re doing little activity while in the car and don’t need as much water, or you want to cut down the number of potty breaks, but dehydration is ruff!

9. Keep an Eye on the Gas

Remember when we said, “All you need is your car, your dog, and the open road”? Well, your car needs gas to get you where you’re going. Our recommendation is that you fill up every time your car gets to around half empty; depending on what car you drive and how fast, it may vary, but half empty should happen around 2-2.5 hours of consecutive driving. Take the stop as an opportunity to let pupper get in a *big stretch* and relieve himself from all the road snackies and drinks. 

10. Trust Your Instincts (Or Your Dog’s!)

This trip is all about bonding with your dog and growing together, so pushing some boundaries may be necessary. But if a situation seems sus, then the best thing to do for yourself is to remove yourself from the situation. Your dog is great at determining when something is off, like bad dates, bad movies, and especially bad situations. Respect your vibes, and listen to hers as well. Don’t force her into a situation she doesn’t want to be in.

If needed, queue up 911 on your phone. We also would recommend carrying basic safety tools like pepper spray or a safety whistle on your solo road trip and make sure you know how to activate them. 

Always Be Prepared When Ridin’ Solo 

Try as we might, life always has a way of throwing  something unexpected our way. While a solo road trip is going to be the bonding trip of a lifetime for you and the pupper, it’s definitely important to remember some smart safety tips. With a little caution, the right stuff packed, and a fun itinerary of things to see, you’ll be all set for this new adventure with your dog!

Featured photo: Jamie Street

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.

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.

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 Instagram, then check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

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