When Chuck and I began thinking about driving to Chicago and back with Maggie, it seemed like a fun adventure for all of us. And it has been – for the most part. With some caveats that I wish I’d know about/realized before setting out. I don’t know that it would have changed our plans but forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes. So here are some of the things we’ve learned:
- Less is more: 5 hours a day in the car is a long time, for both humans and dogs. But for a 17-month old puppy it’s extra hard. We have learned that 3 hours a day in the car is a better maximum.
- Factor in play time for the pup. Most of the days on the road were focused on our activities. But we also carved out time each day to search out either a dog park or other play place for Mags. And most towns of any size have a dog park – a lot of them were really, really nice, too! Google works best for finding dog parks, IMHO.
- Watch out for “pet-friendly” hotels and their fees. Some chains like our favorite, La Quinta Inns & Suites have no pet fee, which is awesome! We’ve learned it’s best to call (versus book online) so they know you have a dog and they get you in one of the rooms they’ve set aside for pets. Some hotels will say they charge a reasonable-sounding $25/day but then they add a one-time non-refundable cleaning fee (these seem to range from $50-$100). Ouch!
- Get a good app for your phone. Our favorite app is BringFido, which lets you enter a location and then look for pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, services and more. It’s been really accurate. You can book hotels through the app, but like I mentioned, we’ve been calling as it just seems all around safer (but be careful – it’s pretty easy to accidentally book a room with the BringFido app – I know because I did just that and ended up with two reservations).
- Take some waterless shampoo and a brush with you. Maggie rolled in poop in Springfield, and if we hadn’t had the waterless shampoo to least reduce the stink, I’ don’t know what we’d have done.
- Bring booties and get your dog used to them. It has been HOT in OK, TX, NM and AZ – hot enough to burn Maggie’s paws. We have a pair of silicon booties that work really well on how asphalt, and we’ve made use of them – Maggie is only 25 lbs, but after lugging her around for a while she can seem a lot heavier.
- Bring a crate – even if you don’t think you’ll need it. We have a collapsible, soft-sided one and brought it along at the last minute. Good thing – when we one to the Meteor Crater they weren’t dog-friendly, but if you had a crate, you could leave your dog at the front desk. Maggie is crate-trained – while she doesn’t really like it much anymore, she does know the drill and was fine for the two hours we spent touring the crater & its museum.
- Bring copies of all vaccination records (especially rabies and bordatella). If you plan on any doggie day care or kenneling, you’ll need them! We scanned Maggie’s and put them in Dropbox, so we could always make extra copies as needed.
- Understand that traveling with your pet is a lesson in compromise. There are lots of places you just flat out can’t bring a pet – and national parks (most of them anyway) are high on that list. We had thought about visiting some presidential museums on the trip – but the logistics of what to do with the dog made it impractical. So it goes.