Planning a vacation with a dog? Here's everything you need to know

Vacation with a dog
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Planning a vacation can be hard enough, but when you add catering for your fluffy family members into the mix, it can start to seem overwhelming. Luckily, going on a vacation with a dog is actually simpler than you might think. We’ve broken down everything you need to prepare in order to enjoy your time away, from finding dog-friendly accommodation to packing your pup’s suitcase with the essentials. 

Whether you’re planning an epic road trip by renting an RV (opens in new tab), or you simply want to enjoy a few days away in a quiet cabin, there are a few extra considerations you may need to consider. However, while it might take a little more work to have a vacation with a dog, there’s no better feeling than seeing your canine companion frolic on a beach or curl up at your feet on a beautiful summer evening.

Should you go on a vacation with a dog?

It might sound obvious, but one of the most important things to consider when planning a vacation with your dog is whether your dog will enjoy it. Just like humans, every dog is different – and what one might love, another might barely tolerate. 

For example, if you have a lazy couch potato that often ‘puts on the brakes’ whenever their walks stray too far away from home, you might want to consider whether a hiking holiday might be the right choice. Alternatively, if you have a sensitive dog that dislikes any deviation in their routine, you might find that they’re better off staying with an experienced friend or dog sitter instead. 

It’s also important to consider whether there are any ‘blind spots’ in your dog’s training. Is their recall bombproof, or can they be easily distracted? Are they reliably quiet, or can they often bark? Are they good at leaving furniture alone, or are they a serial chewer? 

While none of these things would necessarily mean your dog would have to be left behind, they are all aspects that would need management and consideration (and it’s also worth thinking about whether you want to give up your precious relaxation time to worry about stopping your dog from being loud or destructive!). 

However, that being said, there are many dogs that would not only tolerate the change to their routine, but would thrive in a new and exciting environment. It’s all about considering what’s right for both you and your dog. 

What to pack for a vacation with a dog

Maddie from the popular TikTok account @myboyrudder (opens in new tab) shared her top tips on how readers can pack effectively for their next vacation with a dog.

"These are the main things that I pack when going away with Rudder on vacation:

What the expert says…

Maddie, who also runs the Instagram account @myboyrudder (opens in new tab), says, “After many road trips, hotel & Airbnb stays with my dog, I’ve got packing down to a fine art. In the beginning I massively overpacked for him, thinking that he needed every home comfort. However, most of it ended up going unused! These days I keep his luggage to the functional essentials, knowing that I can always pick up as-needed items along the way.”

1. Travel Bag

I love this travel bag (opens in new tab) because it comes with collapsible bowls, containers for food, and plenty of functional storage to keep my dog’s belongings organized and easy to access. It even has a back strap so that it can be put over the best carry-on luggage!

2. Two-in-one Water Bottle

This water bottle (opens in new tab) with a built-in dog bowl is an absolute must. Any water left behind by your dog funnels itself back into the bottle, which means that none is wasted.

3. Travel Crate 

Most AirBnBs require dogs to be kenneled while you’re away. This travel crate (opens in new tab) folds flat and is easy to carry, quick to assemble, but also very sturdy. It’s also a great option for dogs you can’t trust on their own. I love using it with this crate bed (opens in new tab). (Another option is to use a baby gate (opens in new tab) to restrict your dog to a small area, such as a bathroom.)

4. Fold Up Snuffle Mat

This snuffle mat (opens in new tab) is light and closes up to be small. It provides easy enrichment activity and doubles as a slow feeder.

5. Bully Sticks

For longer trips, I’ll pack a few bully sticks (opens in new tab) to provide entertainment in the car. It's also a great way to provide an activity in a hotel if we are getting in late and won’t be able to go for a walk.

6. Long Line

It’s hard to come by fenced in areas at rest stops, so pack a long line! This way you can safely give your dog some space to stretch his legs and play. I like this one (opens in new tab) because it comes with a winder to prevent tangling.

7. Crash Tested Restraint

Perhaps most importantly, please restrain your dog when traveling by car. The ideal solution would be a crash tested crate such as a Gunner or Ruffland kennel. If you’re unable to accommodate a kennel, consider a crash tested harness (opens in new tab)."

Where to go on a vacation with a dog

Finding the right accommodation for both you and your dog is a key part of planning a vacation with a dog. One of the first aspects to consider is how far you'll need to travel. If you have a particularly active dog, or one that can experience travel sickness, then sticking them in a car for hours at a time might prove a little tricky. 

If this is unavoidable, then try giving them a nice long walk before you set off and plan in plenty of rest stops so that they can stretch their legs and have a toilet break. Meanwhile, if your dog experiences motion sickness, then talk to your vet to see whether they can recommend any medication. 

Vacation with a dog

While some dogs love new adventures, others might be thrown off by the change to their routine. (Image credit: Getty Images)

The next step in planning your vacation is finding suitable pet-friendly accommodation. Websites such as Booking.com (opens in new tab) and Hotels.com (opens in new tab) offer the option to select 'Pet-friendly' in their filtering system. Alternatively, if you're looking for a larger vehicle for a road trip, RVShare (opens in new tab) also has the ability to filter pet-friendly options through as well. 

However, it's important to remember that not all dog-friendly accommodation is equal. Some will allow pets to stay for free, while others will charge extra for the privilege. You might also find that some hotels will take a pet deposit to protect themselves against potential damages. Make sure that you understand what charges will be incurred before you book. 

It's also worth looking into what kind of facilities the accommodation might offer. Are there enough grassy spaces to give your dog the ability to relieve itself? Will you have easy-access to walks? Can you leave your dog unattended in your room if you need to? Make sure that there are no nasty surprises by reading up on your chosen accommodation's pet policy before spending your money. 

Prepare for any emergencies

While it's likely that you and your dog will enjoy your vacation without any unpleasant surprises, it's always worth preparing for the worst just in case. Bring along a dog first aid kit (opens in new tab), as this will provide you with the items you need to treat minor wounds, sprains and bug bites before you take your dog to the vet. Good dog first aid kits should include items such as dressings, tick removers, bandages, antiseptic and allergy medicine. 

It's also worth researching the locations you'll be visiting beforehand to find out where the closest emergency vets will be. While this might seem like overkill, you'll thank yourself for it if you have to make a sudden trip in the middle of the night. You might want to double check that your pet insurance (opens in new tab) is up to date as well, as this will help prevent any nasty financial surprises if your dog becomes hurt or unwell. 

Louise is Editor of Top Ten Reviews. With six years of editorial experience across print and digital brands, Louise has written for a variety of publications, including TechRadar and The Independent. When she's not checking comma placements and finding the best brands for Top Ten Reviews readers, you can either find Louise exploring the countryside with her camera or teaching her border collie puppy fun new tricks. 

With contributions from