Three Tips for Happy-Dog Road Trips

Maximize space by minimizing potential hassles

Our dogs have made nearly every road trip we've ventured on. From western Montana to Nashville, TN, to Lisbon Falls, ME to Connecticut, to North Carolina, to Washington, DC and Ocean City, MD, to Nashville and back to Connecticut. They logged a lot of miles. They're both gone now, running around on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge .

Dogs aren't too picky about traveling with you, they're typically happy just to go along, but there are some things you need to think about to make life better for Spot.
Here are a few tips:

1. Get a small dog
Do as we say, not as we do. Our heroes were a German Shepard and a Great Dane/German Shepard mix (see wookie in the left column). Big dogs are big fun, but they're a big pain in the neck on a road trip. They eat big amounts of food, which takes up big amounts of space in a small vehicle (anything but a Ryder truck is small compared to a big dog). Everything about big dogs is big. It's very hard for us to recommend against a big dog, but if you're looking for a road trip dog, go small. Look at the dogs that truck drivers travel with: little guys. Assuming you've already got a dog, we're certainly not going to recommend trading down, so you'll have to change the strategy: think of big ways to reduce your space needs.

2. Ice cubes are a good way to water the dog while driving
Ice cubes don't spill, and if they do, Ol' Rex can chomp them up before they melt. Place them in a wide shallow dish that won't tip over in the back of the van, and Fido can chomp ice cubes while laying down. You'll typically already have ice cubes in the cooler, so if you water the Woofer with them, you won't need to spend the floor space on water jugs; Sparky'll appreciate the spare room.

Ice cubes aren't a substitute for properly watering Frisky, you still need to give her plenty at the rest stops, but it's a good way to reduce the stuff you stuff in the minivan, and it's a nifty way for Snuffy to pass the time.

3. Residence Inn and Cracker Barrel
I rack up a lot of Marriott rewards points traveling for work, so I like to stick within the system; aside from that though, Residence Inn is one of the few family-friendly hotel chains that allows dogs. There's a free breakfast bar, which has nothing to do with the dog, but makes the family trip a heck of a lot easier (and cost effective). Consider how much breakfast costs: $10 for each adult, $7 for each kid, 15% tip (with two kids, that's 1/3 of the price of a hotel room) and the time invested...

Cracker Barrel doesn't allow dogs, but the parking lots are very, very big, and they usually have decent sized trees so you can pull around far in the back, find a shady parking spot with a private grassy area to walk Poopsie. Tip: when in the south, order fried catfish with beans n' greens. When in the north, don't. Go with the meatloaf and mashed potatos.

What rest areas and/or accommodations have you found to be especially dog-friendly?

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