Bringing Our Dog on Road Trips: Six Things to Consider

February 3, 2018

We take a lot of road trips in my husband’s Jeep Wrangler. And every time we plan a trip, we have to decide whether or not we should bring our dog on our road trip. Roxy, our nine-year-old rescued Australian Retriever, loves going with us, but not every trip is as dog-friendly as others. Roxy has been on many road trips with us. She’s made countless trips to see my husband’s family in Indiana. She’s been to Colorado, Arizona, and Utah (and all the states we drove through to get to those places). Deciding whether or not to bring a dog on a road trip is not always a simple task.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of good family or friend dog-sitter options. If we don’t bring her along, she ends up being boarded at a dog kennel. It’s a kennel she’s familiar with (as she goes there weekly for “doggie day care”), but it’s still stressful for her when she stays there for awhile. She was a wreck after two weeks of boarding during our trip to Europe a couple years ago.

To decide whether or not to bring her, it’s pretty simple: we bring Roxy along if the pros (for her and for us) outweigh the cons. Obviously there are many different kinds of dogs, and whether or not your dog can come on a road trip depends on a lot of variables. Here are some factors we have considered before deciding whether to take our dog on our road trips. The thought process might help you, too.


Related Reading: For a great list of tips to master family road trips, check out the Top Ten Tips for Mastering a Family Road Trip from Travel with a Plan!


Here are the factors that make our dog a good road trip pet:

1. Her size

Roxy is about 50 lbs. She takes up some room in the cargo area of our Jeep, but it’s workable.

2. Her temperament

Roxy is a very mellow dog. She loves being with us, and she loves riding in the Jeep. She does have a little anxiety when she knows we’re packing up the Jeep or when we stop the Jeep, as she doesn’t want to be left behind, but her behavior more annoying than anything else. Also, unless you drive up to our house in a UPS truck, she’s not prone to a lot of barking or growling as a rule. She’s also not hostile to other dogs or people. Once in awhile an overzealous puppy will annoy her, and she might try to nip at them, but again, it’s manageable. She also doesn’t freak out if we leave her alone in a vacation rental. She has no problem relaxing, as you can see in this picture from one of our trips to Moab


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But here are the challenges with bringing our dog on road trips:

3. Her physical condition:

Roxy is nine years old. She has bad hips and knees. As a result, she can only get in and out of the Jeep with a large set of collapsible steps. Plus she’s probably not going to be able to join us on as many hikes as she used to.

4. Her impact on our packing space

Her cumbersome steps only fit in the cargo area of the Jeep, which is also where she rides. It’s easiest to get her in and out of the cargo area from the back door. That means that we can’t bring our bike rack and bikes along for our next road trip because, if we do, we can’t open the back door wide enough to get the steps or her out of the back of the Jeep. In addition, she and her gear (her steps, food, medicine, treats, bones, poop bags, leash, bed) take up a fair amount of our cargo area, which limits how much of our gear we can bring along. Usually that’s not a huge issue as we’re pretty light and efficient packers, but it’s still an issue we have to plan around.

5. Lodging

Obviously we have to stay in dog-friendly hotels along the way, and in dog-friendly vacation rentals at our destinations. Thankfully it’s not too hard to find pet-friendly accommodations, but it generally does add some expense in the form of pet fees. All of the extra pet fees we end up paying are probably equal to the costs of boarding her, so bringing her along really doesn’t save us money.

6. Her impact on what sights we can see along the way

For example, we are currently planning a road trip where we are driving through Kansas City. We won’t be able to easily leave her alone in the Jeep while we quickly stop to see such exciting sights as The World’s Largest Shuttlecocks (which is a thing…I can’t wait to feature this in an upcoming blog post!), as she gets anxious when alone in the vehicle. It is also a challenge to bring her to national parks. Once we stopped at Mesa Verde National Park on our drive from Estes Park to the Grand Canyon. My husband and I had to take turns hanging out in the Jeep with her, as she couldn’t be on the grounds.

But wookit dat face! How can we leave her home?



And so on our upcoming road trip back to Moab, Utah, Roxy is making what could be her last vacation road trip with us, depending on how her health holds up. Fingers crossed that the joy she feels for being with us outweighs any difficulties for her.

But as for our children’s guinea pigs…they’re out of luck.


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bringing our dog on road trips


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