So you’re looking to hit the road with your dog now that you’re location independent, but are wondering how do I get started? Or you’re wondering how it’s possible to even travel with your dog?
I’m Gema, a Latina Dog mom and creator of OG_PetVida, and I’m here to help you get started. I met Charly in the Blogging Boot Camp by Jannese Torres and am pumped to guest post for them. I’ve been traveling with my furchild for almost 8 years now. We’re true aventureros or as my dad likes to teasingly call us callejeros!
Onyx has a traveling spirit just like me and LOVES road trips. However, when we first started out, he’d join me running errands and then trips to the dog park and hiking trails. Right away he showed how much he enjoys car rides. Some dogs it takes some more training, especially if they feel nervous or get car sick. It’s important to start out slow. You’ll want to make your dog comfortable and trust you that you have their best interest.
Once I knew Onyx really liked car rides, we started taking longer drives together. I’d go to the next town over to their farmer’s markets and then started out with 1-day trips that were 3 hours away. One of his first trips was to Washington, D.C. when we lived in the Hampton Roads area in Virginia. The next one was Raleigh, N.C. Then came a trip to Nashville which was 11 hours! Shortly after, we moved to the Nashville area which brought us closer to Chicago. So those 8-hour drives to Chicago were done a few times when we lived in Tennessee.
In getting more of these road trips in, I learned I could drive about 5 hours before Onyx needed a potty break. I also learned how he signaled he needed a potty break. He does a soft, low cry letting me know it’s time for number 1 and when he needs to go number 2 urgently, he taps on the window. Oh, and he’s learned how to lower the window in the front seat, so I always need to keep an eye on that because he tends to lower it when we slow down to 40 speed limit haha.
Recently, we got back from being on the road for about 3.5 months. We traveled up the California coast, the PNW, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and back to California. This was a road trip with my sister. However, we flew to California and back to Chicago. This year was the first time Onyx has traveled via air. He’s now traveled via air three times.
Road travel versus air travel is so different. The prep is different too. Since I started out with road trips, I always packed what I wanted to take. When flying via air, one is limited. Unless you’re open to checking in two bags. I wasn’t about the check-in my bag life until Onyx started flying with me and now, I’m seriously considering checking in two bags…ah dog mom life.
Prepping for Road Trips with Your Dog
Things I have in my car to make the ride comfortable and safe for Onyx are the following:
- Doggy car seat
- Blanket and toy
- Seat protector cover
- Window sunshade protector
- An extra doggy seat belt
- Extra leash and harness
- Doggy water bottle
- Doggy sling carrier
- Travel bowls
- Food and treats
- Poop bags
- Carabiner clip
Some dogs love the sunshine on them and sunbathe. Onyx does not, hence, the shade protectors. I got these on Amazon for about $10. My car has leather seats, so I use a seat protector cover. These range in cost from $15 and up. When I first started out, I laid out a towel and blanket. Travel with your dog does not need to be expensive. You can start out with what you have and then purchase these types of things later.
For example, the first doggy car seat I bought Onyx was only $25. This year I upgraded after 5 years. However, I did road trips with Onyx for 3 years before I even learned about doggy car seats. I’d put a harness on him and leash him in the front seat and used the leash handle to put the seatbelt through and have him clipped in. He wasn’t the type of dog that would jump around in the car, but he liked having the window down and when he learned how to lower it, I knew I needed to clip him in somehow for safety and peace of mind. The dog market has grown exponentially and there so many products out there. The seatbelt clip used to cost $30 and now you can find two of them for $10 online.
I like big carabiner clips. They are very useful. I clip one to the leash handle so I can use it for multiple purposes such as clipping Onyx to the inside of the door (when you open your car door, you’ll see the metal ring) while I’m getting things and I’m not ready to put him in the car yet because I need to wipe him down first. Or when we go on hikes, I can be hands-free and clip him to the ring on my backpack. Sometimes I hang the dog poop bag from the carabiner.
There are things on the market such as hands-free leash and poop bag clips, but again, when you don’t need to spend the money there are other cost-effective ways of doing things. Not to say I won’t eventually buy the hands-free leash (I did have one and my sister lost it on the trip) and those cute poop bag holders eventually.
When Onyx was younger, I made sure he got plenty of exercise before a long car ride. Now, I just need to take him on a 15-minute walk and he’s good to go. As you travel more and more with your dog, you’ll get to know what is needed.
Prepping for Air Travel with Your Dog
This can be its own blog post! So much to share about air travel as I’ve just started traveling with Onyx via air this year. I can only share my experience in flying with a dog that’s under 25 pounds and can fly in-cabin. I don’t know much about traveling with a bigger dog that would need to travel in the cargo area. Important things to do and have when wanting to travel via air with your dog:
- Vet Visit – make sure your dog is up to date on necessary shots and in good health; I suggest getting a certificate of health. Some vets charge extra for the certificate. Ask ahead of time.
- Call the airline you are seeking to book your flight with and ask about the pet fee; it varies from airline to airline. Some are more dog friendly than others too.
- Airline approved pet carrier
- Doggy sling carrier
- Doggy male wrap
- CBD treats
- Arrive two hours early to the airport
Having your dog up-to-date and ensuring they’re in good health to fly goes without saying so I’ll skip over to calling the airline. I’ve only flown United with Onyx and have had good experiences thus far. They’re not rated as the most pet-friendly airline, but I haven’t had any problems. In fact, they’ve been very accommodating. When I am looking to book my flight, I call the airline to make sure the flight I’m looking to book has not reach the pet limit and I’m good to book Onyx too. It’s $125 pet fee one way.
There are a ton of different airline approved carriers in the market and they range in price from $25 to over $200. I bought 5 different carriers ranging in different price levels that looked similar to each other. I noticed Onyx liked being able to see from the sides and disliked the ones in which he couldn’t, so I chose a carrier that is mesh on both sides. It also needed to be sturdy. We both didn’t like a couple of them that were too soft and not as stable. I spent a good amount of money on the carrier, but it serves other purposes too. It also works great as a doggy car seat and doggy backpack.
I got Onyx acquainted with the carrier by leaving it out for him to sniff and hop in. I’d put treats in it, and he’d go in and get them, but not stay in it very long. I used it to take him shopping with me at TJ Max and Marshalls (both very dog-friendly stores) and practiced with having the carrier closed by taking him with me to the chiropractor. By the time it was time to fly out to Los Angeles, he was comfortable with the carrier.
As a traveler that liked arriving to the airport one hour before my flight (no checked bags), it’s a must to arrive 2 hours before your departure when flying with a pet. You get in line to check-in at the desk, it takes a bit longer going through TSA, and in case you need to head to a pet relief area you want enough time to get to your gate. This last time I arrived 1 hr and 45 minutes at LAX before my flight departure and got to my gate 20 minutes before boarding.
Financial Costs to Consider When Traveling with Your Dog
There are costs associated to bringing your dog along with you on trips. When I first started, I had minimal costs. I used to travel to visit family, do day trips, camp, etc. It’s important to consider your budget and plan ahead. What kind of travel do you want to do? Can you take your dog with you to those places? Will you need to find doggy daycare or pet-sitter for when you do some excursions? As a nomad, will you be moving often (like every week or so) or staying in one place for a few months before moving onto the next location?
I take all of this into consideration. Onyx is the type of dog that does not like staying with strangers. I take him everywhere with me. I plan according to what I can do with him. Costs to consider when traveling with your pet:
- Hotel/AirBnB pet fees
- Doggy daycare
- Air travel fee
Since I’ve never taken Onyx to doggy daycare nor used pet sitter services, I cannot speak on those services. Air travel pet fees vary from airline to airline and range from $100 and up. I’ve learned just because a hotel says dog-friendly, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a pet fee. It can range from $0 to $150 pet fee, and it can be a one-time fee or a per night fee. Most dog-friendly hotels post this info on their website, but if you can’t find it, I suggest calling the hotel and asking if there’s a pet fee and if it’s a one-time fee or per night fee.
Hotel pet fees have been the biggest expense when traveling with Onyx. It adds up! But it’s also an expense I’m prepared for now. This is something that wasn’t within my budget a few years ago, but I started a savings and checking account for Onyx almost 6 years ago. I started small only putting away about $25 per month and gradually increased it over time. Now I have an emergency fund for him, travel fund, and regular expenses for his food, treats, toys, etc.
I can go more into the finance aspect in another post because I have A LOT to share about traveling with your dog. I could write a whole book on this! My blog is launching soon in which I’ll go more in-depth on traveling via road versus air, pet friendly travel itineraries, pet friendly hotels and pet fees, prepping for trips, financial costs, dog gear I use, and meal prepping. I’ll be sharing my journey in being a Latina dog mom living an alternate lifestyle. In the meantime, you can find me on IG at OG_PetVida.