Travel Tips

16 Tips for Cross County Road Trips With a Dog

In case you don’t follow us on Instagram (which you SHOULD), in the past year we may have been better off calling ourselves the “Roadtripping Newlyweds”. If it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert on something, we’re probably getting close to that based on all of the long drives we’ve done. If you’re doubting our expertise, here’s where we’ve been (keep in mind all of this is within the past 12 months): 

  • Aug/Sept 2018 - We embarked on a 5,000 mile drive from our house in California up to Seattle, east to Banff, back down through Montana and Idaho, and back home. 

  • Sept. 2018 - We drove on a “mini” 1,100 mile road trip to hike the narrows in St. George. Worth it! Do it!

  • Dec 2018 - Also on the shorter side, we drove 2,100 miles to Tempe, Taos, and Aspen. All so pretty during the holidays!

  • Apr/May 2019 - We drove from our house in Costa Mesa to Savannah (GA) and up to Pittsburgh, then headed home. Just over 6,500 miles. There were plenty of stops and potty breaks. 

  • Jun 2019 - Had a quick trip to Carson Valley, Lake Tahoe, and Bend. It’s weird that a 2,000 mile trip now feels like nothing.

  • July/Aug 2019 - We just returned from a nice “little” drive to Kalamazoo, Michigan. 5,800 miles in 19 days. Not the furthest, but definitely the greatest mileage per day. Woof


Did we mention that we’ve had our bernedoodle, Sally, with us on these drives? And that we’ve done 3 of the 5 in our compact Toyota Prius? Pretty ridiculous!

We get pretty excited when we’re home…

We get pretty excited when we’re home…

Family photo!

Family photo!

She loves the car!

She loves the car!

With all of that in mind, it’s safe to say that we’ve learned a few things. 

Here are our 16 tips (in order with the most important first) for a massive road trip with a puppy in tow. 

  1. Leave early - This is our most important tip if you are a road trip rookie. Specifically on the days of your big drives (300+ miles), get up as early as possible for your drive. You’ll be sleepy, but trust us - you’ll wake up. To us, there is nothing worse than leaving somewhere at noon, and having to end the drive and arrive at your destination in the dark. On the contrary, if you leave before the sun rises, you’ll probably arrive at your destination mid-day, with plenty of time for a nap (praises!) and to start exploring. 

  2. Pack right - You’re going to be taking your luggage in and out of the car A LOT, so you want luggage that is durable, lightweight, and easy to move around. For us, that is our American Tourister bags, along with a couple of backpacks (Bobby has a Lowepro Camera bag and Alli has a Herschel backpack). Oh, and we of course have a little tote for all of Sally’s things! :) 

  3. Optimize your vehicle’s layout for humans - This is a big one for comfort. For us, that means knowing where everything is at all times. The car is packed the same way, so that you could ask me right now (a week after our last road trip) where I keep my computer, sunscreen, Sally’s food, Alli’s bag… it all has a place. This is your second home, so it will make it much easier if you piece it together effectively.

  4. And for dogs - Speaking of second home, you have to have your fur baby’s safety and comfort in mind when you’re going on a long drive. For safety, we have a harness that hooks Sally in (a pet seatbelt), but also allows her to be mobile in the backseat. For comfort, we have a backseat bridge that extends the backseat so there’s no gap, giving Sally a lot more space. Lastly, we have a dog hammock that drapes over the whole backseat and makes it all one consistent surface. Yes, we are those dog people. And yes, Sally loves us.

  5. Stop frequently - Aside from having to use the restroom, get out and move a little. Having Sally with us may seem like an inconvenience, but she actually forces us to get out and run around every hour or two. 

  6. Have your thing - If you’re traveling with a partner, there’s only so much you can talk about. For us, we listen to audiobooks together, talk about anything and everything, play with Sally, and we always run out of things to say. Other than music, we each have our own thing in the form or unique podcasts that the other person doesn’t really care for. For Bobby, it’s the Fantasy Footballers. He knows it’s kind of nerdy, and he loves it. For Alli, it is the Morning Toast. While we each do our own thing, the other person naps (although Bobby is totally a “Toaster” now, and Alli’s never been more proud.). 

  7. Take your wallet out of your pocket (Bobby) and throw on your comfy pants (Alli) - You’re going to be sitting for awhile, so make it as comfortable as possible. Don’t worry about how you look - just wear whatever you’re most comfortable in! (Also in the comfort category, for this last trip we bought these sun shades and it was a TOTAL gamechanger. Nothing is worse than trying to take a nap and having the sun beating down on you the whole time.)

  8. Hydration > Caffeine - While coffee will definitely do the trick during those early morning drives, it should not be your solution whenever you get sleepy while driving. We’ve found that staying hydrated (with water), is actually the best thing we can do on our road trips. Yes, you will have to pee more. But you will absolutely feel better that night and the next day. Trust us on this one! 

  9. Pack light - Assuming you’re driving through the US or Canada, pack as light as possible. You can pick up anything you need along the way, and there are plenty of laundromats to keep your wardrobe fresh.  

  10. Nap - When you’re sleepy, stop driving and take a nap. The end. 

  11. Decide your absolute maximum mileage for the day (and stick to it) - Also important. If you want to get to a spot 500 miles away but think maaaayyyybe you can get 100 miles further, then decide that no matter what you will stop if you get to the 600 mile destination. If you keep playing the, “Oh let’s just drive for another hour” game, you’ll put yourself at risk for dangerous fatigue or a speeding ticket. Not worth it.

  12. Be a tourist while on the road - Seven Magic Mountains, Car Henge, the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, Wall Drug, etc. There are countless strange roadside attractions. Whether you plan them out, or see a sign that it’s a mile up ahead, you won’t regret making the stop (even if you’re making fun of it as you leave). 

  13. Research your route - The shortest distance may not be the fastest. The scenic drive may be the most beautiful drive you’ve ever set your eyes on. Or the “scenic drive” is pathetic. Do some research on where your driving, beyond your endpoints. 

  14. Be honest - Unless you’re traveling solo, this just means to be honest about when you don’t want to drive any more. Or, when you shouldn’t drive anywhere. Bobby always wants to set personal long distance driving records (currently he’s gone 575 miles with a couple potty breaks), but sometimes he has to give up and hand over the keys because he’s sleepy. Know your limits and communicate with your partner. 

  15. Pace yourself - What we mean here is pace yourself over the course of the trip. If you’re whole trip is two weeks and 4,000 miles, don’t drive 800 miles on 5 different days. Spread it out. If we ever have more than 2 days driving 300+ miles, we take at least 1 day off. 

  16. Cruise control is your friend, but be smart - Bobby LOVES cruise control. But he only uses it when there’s barely any traffic, and early on in his drives. It’s a little risky if there are other cars, or if you’ve been driving for awhile. Just because your foot isn’t on the gas doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay attention… 

Can you see the sunshade on the left? Game changer…

Can you see the sunshade on the left? Game changer…

Lot’s of pretty drives! And nice naps!

Lot’s of pretty drives! And nice naps!

Lots of stops for goodies :)

Lots of stops for goodies :)

Lots of gas station stops (We call Sally “Stinker”)

Lots of gas station stops (We call Sally “Stinker”)

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