Woohoo! PCS road trip! Load up the car, the kids and the pet. Before you get everyone buckled in, hit pause to make sure that your furry friends are ready to make the journey.
6 Tips for Bringing Your Pet on Your Cross-Country PCS Road Trip
Plan Your Route
Decide which way you’re going to be going and take into account when you are traveling. During the summer months, going through the desert and deep south can be pretty hot. Going the northern route during winter might get chilly. While these factors don’t need to alter your trip, you should take them into consideration for pit stops and water breaks.
Book out your hotels in advance. Many hotels are pet-friendly and offer military discounts. However, a lot of hotels also charge significant fees for your pet to stay. La Quinta welcomes cats and dogs for free. Many Starwood and Marriott brand hotels are pet-friendly too.
Try to be reasonable about the distance you can really cover each day. Then look for hotels at or around that target distance.
Pick Out Pit Stops
During your road trip, you’re going to need to stop a few times a day. As you are traveling, try to check out your preferred route for good places to stretch everyone’s legs. Look for parks, state-maintained rest stops and similar places.
Keep in mind that pets cannot ever stay in parked cars. So food breaks need to trend more toward take-out and away from sit-down restaurants.
The same is true for longer stops on the route. Your major attractions should be places that are dog-friendly, have boarding facilities nearby or where you have a hotel room.
Many pets are awesome on the road. Some are exactly the opposite. If you are concerned about your pet’s behavior or health on your road trip, pay your vet a visit. Also get refills of any medication, just in case you are caught in between prescriptions on the road.
You can ask about calming remedies to help with anxiety. You can also get information about best practices for food, water and keeping your pets cool.
If you are traveling with a non-traditional pet, your vet will be the best resource for you.
When you are traveling with a pet, it’s important to always secure him when the car is in motion. Use a pet seatbelt or place your pet in a kennel during travel. When using a kennel, it’s best to also secure this in your car.
To keep your pet hydrated, freeze water into their bowl or a pet bottle. Offer small amounts of food during travel, but don’t overdo it to avoid carsickness.
Before your big trip, take a few smaller trips to prepare. End at the dog park or another favorite spot. Offer treats and praise.
Loading the Car
When you’re driving, think about the seating arrangements and what you need to pack. Since you are PCSing, you will be loaded down with a bunch of your personal belongings and several suitcases.
Keep your pet’s essentials in an easy-to-access location and pack your hotel stay things in one bag that you will always be taking in with you. Only pack enough, plus a day or two, of food and treats for your pet. You can always buy more food on the way but will need all the extra space you can get during trip.
Remember to stash a few of your pet’s favorite toys in the kennel or in their designated space. This can give your pet something familiar to play with. It can also help occupy and calm your pet during the journey and in hotels.
If your children will be eating during the trip, make sure that the food is pet safe. Chances are good that they will drop or “share” a few bites with Fido or Fluffy along the way.
Pro tip: keep plastic shopping bags in your car for potty breaks.
During Hotel Stays
When you arrive, make sure you are upfront about the pet staying with you. If you try to sneak an animal into a non-pet-friendly hotel, and they find out, there will be a hefty cleaning fee. The same can be the case even at pet-friendly places if they place you in a non-pet room.
As you move your essential things into the room for the night, try your best to team up. One adult can take the dog for a walk or sit in the room with the pet while the other adult ferries the luggage and kids.
Ask at the front desk about safe walking routes and places to avoid. You should also clarify whether the hotel has a pet waste disposal area or bags. If not, use some of those shopping bags.
Do your best to keep the pet noise to a minimum, especially at night. If your pet makes a mess, clean it up as best you can.
If you are planning to be out of the room, make your pet comfortable and secure. For pets that are noisy when you leave them alone, think hard about the hotel’s pet policy before you leave. Or try out ways to curb the noise before you leave.