How to Travel with a Dog Cross-Country

Have you tried going on a long trip with your dog? Was it stressful or exciting?

Despite being dog owners for several years, many remain unaware of how to travel with a dog cross-country.

If you want to try this nerve-racking experience with your dog, we’ll provide you with the best tips on how to travel with a dog cross-country and more.

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Travel with a dog cross country

Why You Should Travel with Your Dog

Traveling with a four-legged friend has its pros and cons.

If you are debating whether to take them with you on your next adventure, here are three reasons to say yes.

Your Dog Will Make You Feel Safe

Your dog will protect you and your belongings throughout the trip, especially if they are guard dog breeds. 

They will watch your hotel room, bark at suspicious strangers, and even guide you on walks. 

Your dog is the best security guard you can have.

It Will Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone

Even some of the most expert dog owners think it is complicated to travel with a dog. 

While that is true, it will also challenge your perceptions. Finding pet-friendly hotels and restaurants can be a positive experience if you allow it to be. 

If you want to have worthwhile moments with your dog, exert a little effort and have fun with it.

Your Dog Improves Your Social Life

A dog is a great conversation starter.

If your dog encounters other dogs on the street and respectfully greets them, the owners automatically greet each other too.

If your pooch is a comedian, other people will find them cute for rolling around and doing tricks. Residents will approach you and ask if they can play with your dog. 

Overall, your dog is a great way to meet locals when traveling.

How to Travel with a Dog Cross-Country

Now that you’ve decided to tag your dog along, here are the most important tips for traveling with them cross-country.

Make an Appointment with Your Vet

Whether it is required or not, you should get a check-up before traveling cross-country with your dog.

This will ensure that your pet is in a healthy state and is fit to ride, fly, or cruise.

It’s also going to be helpful for unexpected requirements like health and vaccination certificates or other documents. 

Certain tests and procedures that your pooch might undergo include vaccinations, blood tests, and check for parasites.

Vaccinations are a no-brainer. All dogs need them to lessen their chance of getting exposed to diseases. Rabies vaccination is the most important.

Blood tests can determine the number of rabies antibodies in your dog’s blood. It can also show if your dog has other diseases.

Lastly, take note that a dog infested with parasites is not allowed to travel. So, you need to get rid of all internal and external pests in your body first.

Try Out Short Trips First 

Once your dog is cleared for travel, try taking them on short trips first. This will be beneficial especially if you’ll be driving cross-country.

Some dogs get hyperactive when inside the car. See how they react and behave so you know what needs to be fixed.

Check their body language to determine whether your dog is fearful, anxious, or relaxed. 

Whatever the case is, train your dog to like car rides with positive reinforcement techniques.

Trying out short trips also lets you ensure they have ample ventilation in the car. You can also determine what time to feed them before going on a trip.

Create a Doggy-Safe Space

For long drives, it’s not ideal to have your pup ride shotgun. We also don’t recommend letting them sit on your lap or other people’s.

This is dangerous and even illegal in some states.

Giving your dog a safe space in the backseat will not only keep them secure but also happy and comfy during the trip. 

Consider a booster seat like Kurgo’s Car Pet Booster Seat if you have a small dog. They can stay inside the box relaxed as they see the view by the window.

Kurgo Rover Booster Dog Car Seat with Seat Belt Tether
Active Pets Dog Back Seat Cover Protector Waterproof Scratchproof Hammock for Dogs Backseat Protection Against Dirt and Pet Fur Durable Pets Seat Covers for Cars & SUVs

For large dog breeds, sick dogs, or senior dogs, try Active Pets’ dog Back Seat Hammock

This cover protects your car seats while also providing a wide space for your furry friend.

Choose Your Accommodation Wisely

Always make a reservation in advance. Do your research on whether the place allows dogs or not.

There’s no harm in being spontaneous but making reservations will save you a lot of time and energy. 

If they do, check if certain sizes or breeds are not allowed. 

Even if you’re only pitching a tent, the open area or the campground may prohibit dogs from staying. Also, check if the area is too crowded.

Some hotels allow dogs but have strict rules. And not all their rooms are available for dogs, so make a reservation in advance.

Cost also varies. A quick search will let you know that Airbnb rentals include pet fees, but other places may incur an additional fee or deposit.

Plan a Pet-Friendly Route 

If you’re driving cross-country, the route must be dog-friendly in a way that it is the quickest option. 

If your dog doesn’t like road trips, take the shortest route possible.

But you also want to make sure there are regular rest stops in case your dog wants to take a break from the air pressure in the car or to pee.

Your furry friend has to stretch their legs, sniff their environment, and run a little. Rest stops also allow them to treat their fatigue. 

Once they have burnt off some excess energy you can hit the road again.

You can also stop to let them explore dog-friendly surroundings. Driving cross-country with your dog is a fun experience, so make the most out of it.

Check if there are off-leash dog parks, beaches, and walking trails along the way that your dog will love.

Watch for Motion Sickness and Other Health Issues

If your dog pants in the car, it is likely that they are experiencing motion sickness. This is normal for puppies and even preventable if you feed them two hours before the ride.

Like us, they can also experience altitude sickness. Give them time to adapt and introduce new activities gradually.

Other symptoms of travel-related health issues include shortness of breath, vomiting, whining, and drooling.

Always offer plenty of fresh water and rest.

Consider Air Travel Regulations for Dogs

You may also research in advance the regulations for air travel. 

There are rules on the size of your pet, the breeds allowed, and the dimension of the carrier. 

Booking direct flights in the morning or evening when the temperatures are lower during the summer is recommended if your dog will be traveling in the cargo area.

But during winter, we suggest booking direct flights midday.

Cargo areas are not properly ventilated, so your dog might get too hot or too cold.

Travel cross country with a dog

What to Pack for Your Dog’s Cross-Country Trip?

Don’t forget to bring all the essentials when traveling with your dog.

Get these items together a week before the trip.

Dog Crate

You will need a dog crate whether or not you will crate your dog in your car.

Some hotels require this even if they have pet-friendly accommodations.

We like the MidWest Home Dog Crate. It comes in various sizes to make it suitable for all dog breeds.

It features a single-door folding metal that is durable, along with a divider panel and a tray.

Bed and Blanket

Your dog will become more comfortable sleeping in an unfamiliar place if you bring their favorite bed and toys with you.

A blanket can also help them stay warm or cover any furniture in the hotel that your dog will be using.

Check out Furrybaby’s Premium Fluffy Fleece Dog Blanket. It’s perfect for cold nights so your dog won’t shiver during bedtime.

It comes in eight sizes and 14 adorable colors. This blanket is made of soft fleece to avoid furniture scratching in your hotel room.

Your dog’s bedding is important even when you’re not at home.


All of your dog’s vitamins and medications should be packed as well. 

Don’t forget the vaccination and medical certificates.

Waste Bags

Eco-friendly dog waste bags from TVOOD Dog Poop Bags will help you pick up after your dog along the way.

Leave no waste wherever you go. It’s a sign of respect to the locals.

Extra Leash

Most tourist destinations will require your dog to be on a leash that is six feet or shorter. 

IYoShos’ 6-Feet Dog Leash with comfortable padding so you can get a tight grip on the leash while walking around the destination. 

It’s perfect for dogs of all sizes since it has a clip hook and nylon rope that can withstand even the most stubborn fur babies.

But a longer one like the Mycicy Dog Training Leash is highly suggested if you plan to hike with your dog.

Their leashes are available from 15 feet up to 50 feet. It’s made of nylon rope woven for strong dogs who need to be trained.

Food, Water, and Treats

These things are self-explanatory. Bring your dog’s favorite food so feeding will be convenient.

Try using water dispensers, like this MalsiPree Dog Water Bottle, that is travel-friendly to avoid spillage. 

A Picture of Your Dog

You probably have a lot of these pics on your phone. However, it’s more convenient to have at least one printed copy.

You might get separated from your dog, so make sure you have a clear image to show locals and the police.


You probably won’t do a full groom on your dog during travel, but it’s always important to keep them clean and protected from germs and viruses.

Grab a dog-friendly soap so you can disinfect any wounds they might get during the trip. You also want to bring a dog towel since they’ll get dirty while camping.

WashBar Natural Dog Shampoo Bar - Natural Bar Soap and Dog Shampoo for Allergies and Itching and Sensitive Skin, Easier to Use Than Liquid Pet Shampoo with No Plastic Bottle Waste, 2 Pack

WashBar is a natural shampoo and soap bar that is suitable for allergies, itching, and sensitive skin.

A brush like Pet Craft Supply’s Self-Cleaning Slicker Brush will also come in handy if they go hiking and their fur picks up tiny debris.

Pet Craft Supply Self Cleaning Grooming Slicker Pet Brush for Cats and Dogs Short Long Haired Fur Small Medium Large Metal Pin Bristle Comb Undercoat DeShedding DeMatting Detangler Puppy Kitten
Emmy's Best Pet Products Dog Sun Skin Protector Spray - Safe for All Breeds with No Zinc Oxide - Pet Protection and Moisturizer for Skin, Coat, Nose, Ears - Non-Greasy, Waterproof, Soothing

Lastly, bring a doggy sunscreen like Emmy’s Sun Skin Protector if you’re going to be in the sun. 

How Much Does It Cost to Travel with Your Dog?

While it is beneficial and fun to travel with your dog, the fees can be expensive even before you leave home. 

Before Traveling

The preparation includes going to the vet, micro-chipping your dog, and probably giving them a professional flea bath despite knowing how to groom your dog at home.

This flea bath is important especially if you’ll be staying in a hotel.

Consumer Reports states that these pre-traveling activities can cost you over $60. 

Take note that this information was last updated in 2019, so the payments are probably higher now. 

Mode of Transportation

The cost of traveling depends mostly on the mode of transportation.

Driving cross-country usually does not have pet fees if you have your car. It’s also rare for car rentals to include this type of payment.

In contrast, taking your dog with you on your flight will cost around $125 if your pooch will stay in the cabin. You’ll also need to have an airline-compliant pet carrier here.

If your dog is too big for the cabin, they will have to travel as air cargo. This costs several hundred dollars.

If you’re traveling by train, the cost is about $26 for dogs who weigh less than or equal to 20 pounds.

Meanwhile, kennels on cruise ships will charge you $800 to $1000.

Hotels, Motels, and Vacation House

Aside from the cost, the policies of hotels should also be considered. Pet fees range from $20 to $100 per night.

Remember that not all hotels are pet-friendly despite welcoming them in their place.

FAQ Traveling with a Dog

Can I Use Dog Sedatives for Car Travels?


Not all dogs are comfortable riding in a car. They feel nauseous, stressed, nervous, and agitated.

Dog sedatives are a type of drug that reduces brain activity and therefore allows your dog to stay calm inside the car. 

Using sedatives can be a tough decision. If you’re planning to administer these drugs to your dog, be guided by the precautions for using dog sedatives.

What is the Best Way to Travel in a Car with Your Dog?

The best way to go on a car ride with your dog is by letting them stay in the backseat safely.

Because we protect ourselves by wearing seat-belts, then our furry friends should too. Doggy seat belts and carriers are some items you can try.

Find out more tips on traveling in a car with your dog to ensure their safety and enjoyment inside your vehicle.

What Preparations Should I Make for Flying with my Dog?

Before going on a flight with your pup, make sure to look up your airline’s restrictions on weight limits, crate size, travel fees, and breeds.

Some airlines do not accept dogs in the cabin, so they’ll be left in the plane cargo separated from you. Pet potty stations are also important.

There’s a lot of work to do before traveling with your dog. Even more when you’re already on the trip.

Prepare your flight with your dog in advance to avoid problems during the trip itself.

Have a Safe Trip!

Traveling with your dog cross-country might sound intimidating and challenging. But it can be easier if you prepare in advance.

If you’re driving cross-country, make sure your dog is trained to like car rides.

Get a pet check-up in advance and check for health issues before leaving. Make your reservations earlier so you’ll have peace of mind along the way.

If you want your dog to make the most out of their vacation, we have a list of what you can do with your dog on vacation.