My girlfriend Kaitlyn, our best friends and our dogs on a hike to Moore Cove Falls, NC.

Finally taking that adventurous road trip with your dog you’ve always dreamed of? We took the same leap earlier this year. 2020 has made traveling rather difficult, so we decided to drive when we took a road trip to North Carolina. We planned the trip with our best friends and had a socially distant mountain getaway road trip with our dogs. As excited as we were, road trips with dogs can feel so daunting.


When prepping for our trip, I constantly googled things like “best tips to travel with dogs,” “road trips with dogs tips,” etc. However I never found an article that really met my needs! We have a blended puppy family, meaning our two dogs did not grow up together, plus they’re both female and constantly challenging each other in their own pup hierarchy. You can imagine our worry, packing them in the back seat of my Honda Civic and praying they get along for the 12 hour journey. So, from experience, here are the biggest takeaways from that road trip with our dogs to make that journey as painless as possible.

photo of us during road trip with dogs destination location
Julie, Kaitlyn, Ella and Gracie at Moore Cove Falls

1. Make Sure Your Dog is Comfortable with Short Road Trips / Car Rides

This is tip number one for a reason! What’s he BEST thing you can do for your dog before sticking them in the car for 12 hours? Make sure they know what it’s like to be in a car. If you can teach them that the car is a comfy place, they will feel much calmer! When I first got Ella, she was two months old and never had much experience in the car. I worked on it with shorter trips to local restaurants, then longer trips to visit family across the state, etc. I reinforced the car as a positive place to be with treats every time she got in, also. She became a pro puppy passenger in no time!

2. Give Your Dogs Their Own Space in the Car

Introduce your dog to their own spot in the car, and get them familiar with that spot in your introduction car rides. Both Ella and Gracie know their spot in the car with us is the backseat, whether the front passenger seat is open or not. An easy way to get them used to their spot is to place their beds, favorite blankets, toys and other comfort items there. We placed both pups beds in the backseat, along with peanut butter filled bones (they go crazy for those and it keeps them busy!) and they had no problems. For long road trips with dogs, this tip gives them comfort knowing the spot is all their own.

dogs on road trip in backseat
Ella (left) and Gracie (right) in their backseat spots chewing on their bones.

3. Plan for MANY Bathroom Breaks On Your Road Trip with Dogs

This one seems like a given, but you really need to take the bathroom breaks into account when calculating trip time. We had driven from Orlando, FL to Asheville, NC previously without the pups, so we had a good idea of where to and where not to stop along the way. For 12 hour road trips with dogs, you should we stop about every 2 hours and let the dogs do their business. This made them much more comfortable along the way, and much calmer.

One of my main concerns with so many stops was losing one of them (maybe a bit of paranoia but better safe than sorry). So we got them both these AMAZING harnesses in addition to their collars, and they made controlling them so much easier! The harnesses are on them in all the images in this post! They were so comfortable and the dogs loved them just as much as we did. The harnesses are made by DOCO and linked here: https://amzn.to/37pns3R

4. Bring Tons of Treats, Food, and Water

Plenty of water is always a necessity, whether at home or out with your dog. We brought a 50oz thermos full of fresh water and refilled it with water along the way. We also had collapsible food containers that we used as their food and water bowls. The bowls came in handy, because of their varying sizes. We used the smaller one for Ella, the larger one for Gracie, and the largest for their shared water bowl. The collapsible bowls saved space in an already packed car while allowing us to keep the dogs hydrated and full. The bowls we used are linked here, super cheap for a set of 4 : https://amzn.to/3mu9oKu.


Along with their bones filled with peanut butter to keep them busy, we found peanut butter flavored CBD treats. I highly recommend CBD dog treats for at home or during a trip. Always do your research and buy from trusted sources, ours were from Pet Releaf, found on Only Natural Pet.com.

5. Find a Pet-Friendly Place to Stay

It’s always important to find pet-friendly accommodations when traveling with pets. We found the best pet-friendly Airbnb in the mountains of Sylva, North Carolina. The Airbnb had a big yard for the dogs to run around while we sat on the back porch. The Airbnb also had enough space in the home for us to place the dog beds in a comfortable spot. Just as with familiarizing your dog with the car, familiarize them with their home for the next few days. Allow them to wander around and sniff every nook and cranny. Show them where their familiar items will be placed. Once you find the best spot for their bowls (usually the kitchen), and their dog beds, make sure they know.

Ella gets uncomfortable in new places and will hold her business for a day or two if she’s nervous. We let her investigate the Airbnb a lot and she used the bathroom the same day we arrived.

6. Enjoy Yourselves!

If you enjoy your trip, knowing you’ve prepared, your pup will relax too! We pulled together all our supplies, planned the trip, made them as comfortable as possible and had a blast! The dogs enjoyed the hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains just as much as we did. Preparation takes the pressure out of any situation!

Julie Klein
Julie Klein

Julie is an Adventure + Elopement Photographer currently living in Florida with her girlfriend Kaitlyn, dogs Gracie and Ella, and cat Riley. A lover of the Blue Ridge Mountains and all things natural and earthy, she loves to share her adventures and lifestyle tips. For inquiries contact her here.

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