posted on August 20, 2021

Road trip essentials for travelling with your furry companions

At long last, travel is restarting in Canada, and the open road is calling. With more time at home, many of us finally had the time to care for a pet and eagerly added them to our families to break up the monotony and enrich our lives.  

In fact, the pandemic saw an explosion in pet adoption across Canada, so much so that pet shelters struggled to keep up

Now that the world is reopening, pets and their owners are adjusting their routines, and dogs in particular are experiencing separation anxiety now that their best friends are returning to their offices. Whether you became a pet parent during quarantine or have owned a cat or dog for years, many of us would prefer to bring our pets along on a road trip now that we have the chance.

Travelling with a cat or dog on a road trip means you won’t need a pet sitter and provides you and your pet with the opportunity to bond on an adventure together. 

Maybe you’ve never planned a road trip with a dog before, or think that travelling with cats in the car is too stressful to consider. Not to worry! Here are our top tips and strategies for a “purrfect” road trip that will keep tails wagging.

1. How to travel with a dog

Brimming with energy and loyalty, dogs are irreplaceable companions that make every day an adventure. Here are our top tips for preparing to travel with your dog — from what to bring to navigating long distances and cross-country drives with your best friend by your side.

Road trip essentials when traveling with a dog

Bringing a dog on the road requires some extra travel accessories to make your adventure a smooth one. Here are our must-have dog travel accessories:

Dog travel crate or carrier

To keep your pup safe in the event of an accident, and to avoid distractions while driving, invest in a crate that can comfortably accommodate your dog and can be safely secured with connector straps. Other factors such as portability and material should come into play when making this decision, so don’t forget to research before picking the best travel dog crate for your furry companion.

Food and water

Offer your dog food and water often while travelling, and pack enough to last the trip. Collapsible food and water bowls are a great option for car travel and can be easily packed, popped out at rest stops, or tucked into a bag for day trips and hikes. Another great option are no-spill food and water bowls, designed to minimize splashing and spilling while keeping your pets hydrated on the go.

Toys and treats

Give your pooch something to chew on. Kong toys filled with treats are a great option to keep your dog entertained while on the road. When looking for the perfect car ride dog toy, save yourself a headache by avoiding the ones with squeakers or any noise making attachments.

Leash and poop bags

Keep your dog leashed at rest stops to avoid getting separated while they explore the scents and sounds of a new area, cleaning up after them as you normally do. Remember to leave no trace, and if you think trash cans will be scarce along the way, a portable dumpster is a simple and eco-friendly option to invest in.

Blanket or towel

A towel is ideal for keeping your dog comfy in their crate, and also comes in handy for drying off after a spontaneous dip at the beach.

Health records and contact information

Bring your dog’s medications, vet records, and vaccinations with you in case of cross-border travel or in case of an unexpected vet visit while on the road. Add a tag to your dog’s collar with contact details and travel information in case you get separated.

Car cleaning supplies

Travelling with your dog can get hairy (literally), and even the best-behaved pup has the occasional accident. Invest in a car vacuum and a seat cover to avoid lingering fur and dirt, and assemble a clean-up kit with gloves, paper towels, a lint roller or brush, wipes, and plastic bags. To tackle odors, try a pet-safe carpet shampoo or baking soda.

Road trip planner: the itinerary

Q: How do I plan a road trip with my dog?

A: Figuring out how to travel with a dog means planning ahead and prioritizing your dog’s health and safety. If your dog isn’t used to life on the road, it’s a good idea to prepare them with shorter car rides beforehand. Keep your dog in a crate secured to the back seat to protect them in case of an emergency. Plan your stops thoughtfully and book all accommodation in advance for a smooth ride.

Q: How often should I stop?

A: How often to stop on a road trip with a dog comes down to your dog’s potty routine. Plan to stop every 2 to 4 hours to avoid accidents, opting for more frequent stops if your dog is young or not used to car travel. 

Q: How can I find pet friendly hotels for my dog?

A: Knowing how to find pet friendly hotels on a road trip means doing your research and booking everything ahead of time. Use search filters and contact hotels directly to confirm that they allow dogs if it’s not obvious from their website or social media, and seek out word-of-mouth recommendations from other dog owners to find the perfect roadside digs for you and your pet.

Q: Does my dog need a passport to travel?

A: It depends on how far you’ll be travelling. For a dog-friendly cross-border road trip, your dog will need specific documentation to travel. Canada doesn’t have an official “passport” for dogs, but the following information is required to travel into Canada and across provinces:

  • Owner’s contact information
  • A description of your dog (including name, species, breed, and date of birth)
  • Veterinarian’s details
  • Rabies vaccination certificate

Microchip details, a photo, and other health treatment records may be required depending on your destination. Look up the requirements in the country or province you are travelling to and check with your vet to ensure your dog has everything you need before departure.

How to travel long distance with a dog

Planning a cross-country road trip with a dog is all about setting a pace that fits your dog’s energy levels. Keep in mind that exploring can tire out your dog, and long periods in the car might make them restless. Balance your schedule and stick to your dog’s normal routine as much as possible. For example, providing exercise before a long stretch of driving will make your dog more likely to enjoy a backseat snooze instead of feeling cooped up and antsy. Set a relaxed pace at each destination, allow time for rest, and keep your dog cool and hydrated on all your adventures together. 

2. How to travel with a cat

Cats aren’t big fans of changes to their environment, so it can take a little extra effort to keep them comfortable and relaxed on the road. From the right packing list to how to travel with a cat litter box, these are our must-do’s for travelling with your feline friend.

Road trip essentials when traveling with a cat

Packing practical accessories and surrounding your pet with familiar objects and smells will help keep your kitty comfortable and happy on your adventure.Here are our top accessories for car travel with your cat:

Cat travel bag or carrier

The best cat kennel for car travel is one that is well ventilated and easily secured to the vehicle. Choose a carrier that is small and cosy, but with enough room for your cat to stand up, turn around, and stretch. If your cat tends to claw and scratch, a hard plastic carrier is a good choice.

Food and water

Stock up on enough food and water for your trip, but be aware that your cat may not settle in for a snack until they are comfortable with their surroundings. Collapsible food bowls are easy to pack and clean, making them perfect for feeding your cat on the road, at your hotel, or anywhere in between.

Toys and treats

Pop a catnip-filled toy into your cat’s carrier to keep them entertained and soothe any anxiety. Treats packed with calming vitamins and proteins are another great option to soothe your pet in the car but always check with your vet first about what is best.

Leash and harness

Cats tend to bolt when spooked by unfamiliar situations. With a leash and harness, you can let your cat out of its carrier at rest stops or on outdoor excursions without the worry of getting separated. Try harness training your cat before your trip to make it a stress-free process on the road.

Litter box

Travelling with a car litter box might seem tricky, but it’s an absolute necessity with a cat on board. Litter boxes that fold flat are easily stowed and perfect for car travel. It’s also a good idea to line your cat’s carrier with “puppy potty pads” as a backup in case of accidents.

Health records and contact information

Bring your cat’s medications and vet records with you in case of an unexpected vet visit, and add a tag to their collar with your contact details and the address of your final destination as a precaution in case you get separated.

Road trip planner: the itinerary

Q: Do cats travel well in a car?

A: Not always. Some cats travel better than others, and it depends on your cat’s unique temperament and whether or not they are already used to car travel. To cut down on stress, get your cat used to their carrier in advance of the road trip. Practice at home by leaving the carrier out in the open for them to investigate, carrying them inside it for short periods of time, and reward them with treats. This way, the carrier will be a familiar and cosy space for your cat to hang out in while in the car.

Q: What do I need to travel with my cat?

A: Knowing how to travel with a cat comes down to knowing your route, along with your cat’s own preferences and quirks. Prepare your cat in advance by getting them used to the car, as well as their carrier, leash, and harness for ease of travel.  Be aware of their unique stressors and the best remedies. Pack essentials like food and water, a secure and comfortable carrier, vet records, favourite toys and blankets, and of course the all-important litter box. Book hotels in advance and confirm that all accommodation is cat-friendly.

Q: How do I travel with my cat’s litter box in the car?

A: There are a few strategies for how to travel with a litter box. As any cat owner knows, cats need the mood to be right before they do their business, so bring a brand of litter and a style of litter box that your cat is used to. The fewer changes, the better. Portioning the litter into resealable bags allows you to use only the amount needed during roadside stops and prevent a mess. When you arrive at your accommodation, set up the litter box first, as some cats may not use it until you’re settled in, even if it’s available in the car. Rinse out the litter box before departing each day, and store it in a separate bag to prevent bacteria from spreading. 

Q: How can I find pet-friendly hotels for my cat?

A: Hotels that allow cats are less common than those that allow dogs, so be sure to do your research and book ahead. Check the hotel’s reviews and social media posts for mention of travelling with cats, ask for recommendations from other cat owners you know, and contact the accommodations directly to make sure that cats are allowed.

How to travel long distance with a cat

Your cat’s comfort level is important when working out how to plan a long road trip, and especially how to travel with cats in the car long distance. Cats are territorial and prefer to know the lay of the land. Get your cat used to their carrier before you leave, and allow them to check out the supplies you’ll be bringing with you so the contents of the car are familiar to them. On the road, take it slow. Fewer days on the road balanced with longer driving days will allow your cat time to get used to its surroundings as you travel and help them feel less stressed. 

Need a ride?

Are dogs allowed in rental cars? Not always, unfortunately. Finding car rental companies that allow dogs or cats can be a challenge, and pet owners are used to long searches and being hit with extra fees and surcharges. 

Thankfully, we are not a rental car company and our hosts often want to welcome your best friend on board! 

When booking a car on Turo, you can enjoy pet-friendly cars from hundreds of hosts across Canada. Simply use the “pet friendly” filter to find the perfect car for you and your co-pilot, whether your pet is joining you for a cross-country odyssey or a short weekend escape. From drooling to shedding to unexpected spills, driving with a pet can get messy; to avoid cleaning charges at the end of your trip, don’t forget to clean up the vehicle before the drop-off (or make your life easier by opting for the cleaning extra, if offered by your host).

Browse pet-friendly cars in Canada