Road-Tripping With a Dog? Here's How to Have Fun and Save Money

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  • Pick up your dog's vaccination record and medication before you leave.
  • Get pet insurance to avoid costly veterinary services.
  • Plan ahead to find roadside stops and overnight accommodations that are pet-friendly and free or cheap.

Strategic use of a rewards credit card could make traveling with a pet easier and cheaper.

Traveling with your BCF (best canine friend) can be more enjoyable and budget-friendly than leaving the dog behind, especially on longer trips. If you take your dog with you and drive, you'll avoid spending on overnight care or doggy airfare, and at the same time prevent the stress that some dogs experience when they don't know where their human is. Before you hit the road, check out our money-saving tips for road tripping with a dog.

Check in with your vet before you leave

You might have to produce a vaccination record to take advantage of certain services while you're traveling, such as doggy daycare on days when you plan activities that aren't pet-friendly. Getting pet medication on the road usually requires an office exam for a fee in the city where you are. If the vet is heavily booked, you might even pay a rush fee.

Avoid those costs. Stop by your vet's office to get a copy of your dog's shot record and an ample supply of any medication they might need while you're traveling.

Get pet insurance

You can't predict when or where your dog will get sick or injured. Whether you're at home or on the road, pet insurance can help protect you financially when your dog needs costly care.

Expect the unexpected -- ID your dog

No one plans for their dog to get lost, and your dog may be even more likely to go AWOL when you travel. In an unfamiliar environment, a dog may be extra motivated to jump over a fence, dig a hole under it, or pull some other kind of Houdini move to escape its confines. They may be trying to figure out a way to get home or look for you. 

At the very least, be sure your dog is wearing a securely fitting collar and an ID tag with your cell phone number on it, even if your dog is microchipped. Make it really easy for a Good Samaritan to reunite you.

A lost dog not only causes heartache. It can also cause wallet-ache. If your dog is rescued by a local animal shelter, there's a good chance you'll have to pay fees to get them back. Many shelters will charge you an impound fee and a licensing fee, both of which are significantly higher if your dog is unaltered. 

Drive hungry

Some road trippers like to restrict their food and water intake so they'll be able to make fewer stops. Whether you're comfortable with that travel strategy or not, consider your dog's biological functions. You might go light on food and water until you wind down for the night. A dog who eats and drinks a lot will need to take the usual amount of relief breaks. 

A potentially worse consequence of traveling full is that a dog who gets carsick can make a big, smelly mess. A sick dog is likely to affect your zen more than your bank account balance, but could also delay your trip or force you to make an unplanned trip to the store for cleaning supplies. If it's really bad, you might find yourself ponying up for professional detailing.

Stop at dog-friendly truck stops

When you stop for gas and snacks, choose a location where your dog can safely stretch his legs and take care of business. 

Most of the 560 Love's truck stops have dog areas. TravelCenters of America has dedicated pet areas at all locations. There's a truck stop in Sacramento that even has a dog wash (the 49ers Travel Plaza). To find out more about pet-friendly truck stops along your route, check out the handy roundup we found on the Commercial Truck Trader site.

Find dog-friendly places to stay

If you've got the right gear, reserve a campsite. Most KOA campgrounds allow dogs (although some have breed restrictions). 

If your idea of camping involves a big-screen TV and a comfy bed, many hotels allow pets. The trick is to find the ones where pets don't significantly increase the cost of your room. 

  • Kimpton hotels: Dogs of any size are allowed, with no fee or pet deposit. Kimpton offers a long list of luxury pet amenities. Save up your points using the annual fee free IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card and get the fourth night free when you cash them in for a stay.
  • Red Roof Inn: Most locations allow pets for no additional fee. Use a travel credit card that awards bonus points for hotel purchases.
  • Marriott Element Hotels: All locations allow small and medium-sized dogs for no additional fee, and provide amenities like a loaner dog bed. Use a branded Marriott credit card to earn points and get perks like free wifi and late checkout. The Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card has no annual fee. Several other Marriott Bonvoy credit cards have an annual fee but offer a free night certificate among other benefits.
  • Motel 6: Pets stay for free (the Studio 6 line of hotels charges a $10 per night pet fee).
  • La Quinta: Some locations allow pets for a modest additional fee.
  • Best Western: About half of Best Western's locations are pet-friendly. They charge a small nightly fee. The Best Western Rewards® Mastercard® will get you early check-in and late check-out.
  • Extended Stay America: Pets stay for a modest additional nightly fee.

Call ahead to reserve your room because sometimes only a limited number of rooms are available to guests with pets. Also, some hotels have restrictions on size, breed, or number of pets. All hotels will expect your pet to behave well and you to clean up after your pet's calls to nature.

If you use a hotel credit card you might get extra amenities and loyalty points. Alternatively, using any card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points can help you earn points toward free stays at thousands of small and big name hotels.

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