Alexander Westerman

Introduction

Road trip with my dog across the United States

Road trip with my dog across the United States

Los Angeles to New York and back to Los Angeles. Two 35-day road trips with my dog Felix.

Instead of flying from Los Angeles to New York and then back again, like a normal human being, I decided it would be fun and bonding experience with my dog, to go on a road trip across the United States to see some sights with my little buddy.  

The road trip with my dog was an absolute blast. Mostly it was fun, and at other times it was extremely nerve-racking. In this article, I take you through our journey and then lay out my go-to tips to make your next cross country drive with your dog a stress-free success.

Essential tips

If you’re in a rush, here are my essential tips to keep in mind when going on a road trip with your dog:

  • Plan your trip to control every detail that you can. 
  • Overpack. From cleaning supplies to dog toys.
  • Watch out for car sickness. 
  • Take plenty of breaks. 
  • Learn where all the dog parks are where you will be staying. Before you set out on your drive for the day, go to the park, and when you end the day of travel, go to a park. 
  • Train your dog on shorter trips. 
  • Make sure your dog is healthy. 
  • Make sure you have a first aid kit. 
Road trip with my dog. At the Alamo
Felix at The Alamo

Planning the cross country road trip with my dog

Our round trip cross country road trip started in Los Angeles, California, and would take us over twenty-seven states, half a dozen national parks, several bourbon distilleries, civil war sites, the unforgettable Civil Rights trail, many museums, tons of restaurants and bars, friends and family houses, and quite a few unplanned walking pitstops for Felix, and would finally end up back home in Los Angeles. 

This indeed was the road trip of a lifetime.

Prepping for life on the road

Before we hit the open road, preparation was in order! I knew I was going to be traveling for at least 50 days, and I also knew that driving across the country with a dog would bring its own set of problems.

From a simple pit stop for gas to unloading Felix’s supplies at the hotel, everything is more complicated when you have a dog with you.

I had a positive attitude about the trip, but being in the car for nearly two months is hard for anyone, let alone a dog and a year and a half-dog at that. I knew that I needed to be prepared. If anything, I needed to be overly prepared.

Road trip with my dog. At the St. Louis Arch
Felix at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri

Packing for the road trip with my dog

I started packing for Felix with the basics. At the very minimum, I knew I needed enough dog food to last three weeks, a bed for Felix to sleep in (in the car and the hotel), toys, blankets, bowls for water and food, and cleaning supplies just in case.

I quickly realized that I was either drastically overpacking or that the “very minimum” supply count was high!

Here’s a full list of everything I packed for my dog for the cross country trip:

  • His travel bag (I love the extra-large opening of the Ruffwear Haul Bag)
  • Food bag (Easy and durable – Ruffwear Kibble Kaddie)
  • Bed
  • Water and food bowls
  • Toys
  • Elk antler (Felix’s favorite treat)
  • Treats (because we love them!)
  • Training treats (reinforce good behavior)
  • Cow hooves
  • Bully sticks
  • Grooming supplies (shampoo & wipes)
  • Cleaning supplies (for your car)
  • Extra leash
  • Extra collar with dog tags
  • Poop bags (extras – lots of extras!)

Once we were packed and ready to go, we set off from Los Angeles to New York and back again. The car was fully equipped with all Felix’s essentials and dog treats that anyone could ever need.

How to prepare better

Before my trip, I thought I was overpacking. I thought there was no way I would need to use all of the things I brought. In hindsight, I can see that I was wrong.

Being prepared helped me get through the issues that popped up. From Felix getting sick to running into bad weather, I was ready to cause I had the supplies I needed. 

Road trip with my dog. At Very Large Array
Felix at the Very Large Array, made famous by the 1997 movie Contact. Located in central New Mexico on the Plains of San Agustin, between the towns of Magdalena and Datil, ~50 miles west of Socorro.

Here are some must-haves for a cross country trip with your dog.

Treat your dogs like first class

You want your dog to feel as comfortable as possible. Bring a bed that they’re satisfied with, and throw in one of their blankets for extra comfort! If you have the room, give them the full back seat. Doing so will let them walk back and forth between windows, stretch, and relax. 

Food & Treats

Overpack on the menu. It’s better to have extra than to run out! You never know where the next pet supply store will be located. Make sure you have the food that your dog is accustomed to.

Bring your dog’s favorite treats. Going on a road trip with my dog was going to be a challenge. Driving a long distance was going to be tough on my dog; they deserve a treat. And a happy dog will make you happy. 

Food & Water Bowls 

These are obvious, but I like to bring a travel set of collapsible bowls to save room. 

Pro-Tip

Always ask the front desk about local dog parks or off-leash adventures. Also, be sure to check if the dog park you intend to visit is open to visitors. A number of parks we encountered required permits to use the parks.

Toys & Chews

Your dog is going to get bored. Bring some toys they can play with while you’re driving. Bring some safe chew toys for the road to let them burn off extra energy. Your routine is going to be off, way off; they’re going to need an outlet! 

Bad weather gear

It rained in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia, and a few other states, and having Felix’s jacket and bunches of cheap terry cloth towels to dry him off was a significant plus. 

Pro-Tip

Always ask the front desk about local dog parks or off-leash adventures. Also, be sure to check if the dog park you intend to visit is open to visitors. A number of parks we encountered required permits to use the parks.

Looking back on the road trip with my dog

Staying in different parts of the country, to varying types of hotels showed me how different the standards could be for various establishments. From welcoming luxury bags and walking trails to a mini turf patch in the middle of a cold city, pet-friendly meant two vastly different things in both locations.

I’ve realized now that the key to a worry-free cross country trip is to do the research ahead of time and be prepared for everything that can come your way. 

Make sure your dog is up to date on all shots and vaccinations. If you’re planning on hiking in areas outside of your home location, it’s good to make sure you have the right flea and tick medication that could help prevent issues down the road with your dog.

Pro-Tip

Always ask the front desk about local dog parks or off-leash adventures. Also, be sure to check if the dog park you intend to visit is open to visitors. A number of parks we encountered required permits to use the parks.

I hope my story helps to get you ready for your next long-distance drive with your dog! It’s easy to get stressed on the road. Remember to relax and enjoy the trip! 

Happy trails and tails. 

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