Is traveling with dogs worth it? In my opinion, sometimes.
I have plenty of friends with dogs and everyone has a different opinion on it. I actually think it’s one of those things that comes down to personal preference and dogs’ temperaments more than anything else. I have friends with pups who literally snooze like cats all day and they happily sit in bags in planes or cozy up in the back of a car for a full day of driving. I have other friends with giant dogs who don’t do well outside of their normal environment.
For me, I think every trip requires a new thought process. I’m constantly evaluating, is this worth it for me and for the dogs. Honestly, most of the time, me wanting to bring the dogs is entirely selfish. I LOVE having them with me and absolutely feel gutted every time I have to leave them behind. But they totally prefer to hang out at a (reputable, obviously) boarding facility where they get 12+ hours of playtime and attention. Even though it’s expensive to board them, I know I’d gladly pay 5x the price to know they’re happy and healthy and well taken care of. And they come home so tired and happy– I always know I made the right choice to leave them behind.
I also have two dogs which makes things twice as hard when things are, well, hard. I can’t take two dogs on a plane, for example. I used to fly to Florida with Teddy and one time he chewed through the carrier and the flight attendant was screaming at me saying they were going to have to turn the plane around. I felt so horrible and all these ladies en route to Florida for the season were insisting they didn’t mind him in our row. After an agonizing four minutes, the flight attendant came back to say the pilot decided to keep flying– and then offered me a glass of wine at 7 am because I was so distraught. After that, I decided I would never attempt flying with a dog again 😂
I was thinking about this post while on the ferry to Nantucket and getting a few DMs asking for tips for traveling with dogs. The first question I always ask myself: is it going to be worth it. Kind of like kids, traveling with dogs require lots of planning, especially if you don’t have an extra set of hands. (Like you can’t just walk into a gas station with a dog– so someone would have to wait outside.)
As I mentioned before, it’s almost always better for everyone, especially my dogs, if they stay behind. But sometimes it is worth it. Like our week-long trips to Nantucket. Since I bring my car and rent a dog-friendly house, it’s not an inconvenience. They are great on the ferry– surprisingly better than the car even– and love being “on vacation.” Sounds nuts, but they totally go into vacation mode with lots of exercise outside, extra hands on deck for belly rubs, and a whole new environment to explore.
I also pack them their own tote bag when we travel and this is where preparation makes the difference. I try to plan for the worst and have everything close by on hand for when disaster strikes.
WHAT I PACK
– Rolls of doggie bags: I keep a roll of doggie bags on the leashes but then bring a handful more as backups. I keep one in my purse, one in the glove compartment of my car, and a few in the tote. Is there anything worse than finding yourself without a bag when you’re out with a dog? Ugh!
– Paper towels: We’ve been cutting back on our paper towel use. BUT when it comes to the dogs, I still use them. In my experience, dogs tend to throw up and otherwise just cause messes in the most inconvenient places. I always bring at least a roll with me for impromptu clean-ups.
– Old bath/beach towel: I always pack one old towel for both clean up emergencies and also to dry off wet dogs after baths and/or rain.
– Medical records: I’ve never actually needed to access these while on a trip, but I consider myself very lucky that that’s the case. I’m always nervous that something will happen and I’d have to take them to an emergency vet. I keep an updated copy of their medical records (including vaccine records!) in my email so I can access via my phone should an emergency come up.
– Extra dog food + bowls: I try to bring more than enough dog food with me just in case and I always bring their dog bowls with us. I don’t know why, but my dogs are picky and I think having their own bowls and the food they’re used to encourages them to eat more regularly.
– Frisbee + Tennis Balls: We’re not really into dog toys anymore. I hate them scattered around the house and pretty much everything gets destroyed within minutes. When traveling, I find that it’s also just one more thing to keep track of. I keep a frisbee in my car at all times (Teddy loves a frisbee) and then usually collect old, flat tennis balls to bring with us. Super easy and keeps them more than entertained.
– Hammock: Teddy hates the car and Hamilton doesn’t mind it. But both of them have the tendency to want to jump into the front seat to sit on someone’s lap. Who can blame them? I put up a hammock in the back seat though and that keeps them from distracting anyone behind the wheel. I’ve been putting their dog bed in the back seat lately too which they love to snuggle in for longer periods of time.
That’s pretty much the exhaustive list of what I find necessary to bring. It’s definitely important to find a balance of what you would need/want at any particular point versus having too many things weighing you down. Now that I’m typing this out though, I do think this is why I prefer to not travel via anything other than a car. I can leave the extra towels and dog bed, etc. in there when not in use!
As far as my additional tips…. you kind of have to reset your expectations too. You have to factor the dogs into every decision, from where to stay to how to get there to how long can you be away. If it’s going to be more stress than you’re willing to take on, I vote to not bring them and know they’ll still love you when you return 😉 But it can be pretty magical to bring a dog with you somewhere special if you’re willing/able to make it work!