I have been taking my dogs on car trips with me for years. I've taken them on a 4-day trip to a cattle ranch in Montana. Last year, my hubby and I drove to Bend, OR and spent 5 days camping and hiking with them. I've taken them on a 3-day tour around the Olympic Peninsula. We've been on many more trips ranging from a few days to a week.
I am currently planning a road trip from Seattle to Las Vegas with the dogs. I am attending a dog friendly conference there in May so we're taking the opportunity for an adventure road trip. Along the way we will camp and hike at places like Smith Rock State Park and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. We will also drive through Death Valley National Park for some sightseeing and photo opportunities. The trip is 2 months away but I am already really excited.
During many years of taking adventure road trips with my dogs, I have learned a lot. If you're planning a road trip with your dog, these tips will help make it more enjoyable for both of you:
- Identify the dog friendly hikes, restaurants, and campgrounds along the way and map out your route ahead of time.
- Remember that different states may have different rules for dogs on public lands. For example, dogs are allowed on State Park trails in Washington State but not in a lot of State Parks in California. In addition, California law states that "A rabies certificate or dog license may be required to bring a dog into a State Park".
- Just because a trail says that dogs are allowed, doesn't mean that it is suitable for you dog. Try to find online trail reviews to confirm that the trail is appropriate for the size and physical condition of your dog.
- Check to see which, if any, recreation passes or fees are needed to park at trailheads, and parks, and buy them ahead of time online if possible.
- Your dog may need more breaks than you do. Calculate your daily drive time and plan for at least one 10 minute potty, leg-stretching and water break for every 2 - 3 hours of driving. We like to break up long driving days with a hike.
6. Winter and early spring are some of the best times to visit tourist destinations and avoid crowds. However, some roads and parks are under seasonal snow closures so always verify they are open ahead of time.
7. If you see a campground on the map you plan to stop at, double check that it will be open. In addition to seasonal closures, some may be closed for other reasons. For example, the North Lake Tahoe campgrounds I looked at are closed for construction during the 2014 spring and summer seasons.
8. Check to see if you need to make online reservations for the campgrounds you plan to stay at. Even if the online reservations are full, you still may be able to stay there. Many campgrounds have a few walk-in tent sites that are open on a first come, first served basis. Usually you don't know if walk-in sites are available until you get there though so always have a plan B.
9. You are not allowed to sleep in your car in some campgrounds. Be prepared to arrive during daylight or set up your tent in the dark.
10. Even if a restaurant says it is dog friendly, always call ahead to confirm.
Some people like the spontaneity of heading out on the open road with no plan. Before I had dogs, that was my typical road-trip style. However, after traveling with my dog, I found it best if I did some basic planning. To get my "spontaneous" fix now, I build some extra time into the trip that allows me to stop at a landmark, take a short hike, or to take a different route on a whim.
I think taking a road trip with your dog is a very rewarding experience. I love looking over at the happy faces of my pups while cruising down the road. They remind me to stop often for breaks and to check out little towns and landmarks along our route. They make it easier to meet locals because most people are willing to strike up conversations with a stranger if they have a dog. Traveling with them does place some restrictions on what I can and can't do but it also brings opportunity and surprises that I might not have otherwise.
Visit Jessica's blog for more tips and adventures for dog owners.