A majority of American families consider August as the last chance to get away before school starts, anticipating a fun-filled time of enjoyment for all. Maybe…maybe not…if you have seen National Lampoon Vacation, you understand how the best laid plans can go awry. “This is no longer a vacation…it is a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun…we’re all gonna have so much fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our smiles.” Avoiding the pitfalls of a stressful vacation requires some advance planning, and dog caregivers need to decide whether to take the family pet along, or leave her home.

Where you are going, your mode of transportation, how long you plan to stay, what you plan to do, and the temperament of your dog are all factors to help determine whether you decide your pet goes along or stays home. The most important thing to consider about traveling with your dog is how accustomed he is to the type of travel you will be doing. Even dogs that are well behaved at home can have difficulty in a new environment, and your dog doesn’t understand that he should behave as a guest, and may surprisingly behave in ways that are unacceptable.

Most vacations require leaving the pet alone for extended periods of time, and dogs are seldom comfortable left alone in a strange place. Even with the best of care and attention, some dogs are homebodies and never become good travelers, which means that your wonderful vacation can become a National Lampoon sequel. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will your dog be welcome at the vacation destination? (If you are staying in hotels. be sure to alert them in advance that you are bringing a four-footed guest.)
  • Will your dog enjoy the trip or would he be happier left home?
  • Is your dog in good health, both physically and emotionally? If you decide that it’s a go for your dog, you need to prepare to make the adventure as smooth as possible:
  • Take him for a veterinary check-up and obtain a health certificate and documentation of inoculations. Ensure he is up-to-date on vaccinations and has current identification, with a recent photo, and contact information for you, and your vet, just in case he gets separated from you.
  • Use a pet carrier or crate large enough for her to stand up, turn around, and stretch out. No NOT allow the dog to roam free inside the vehicle! Driving without your dog restrained is an accident waiting to happen. (If your dog is not accustomed to a crate, start acclimating her to it for several weeks prior before the trip.) If you don’t have room for a crate, there are a number of tethering devices that can be used as an alternative to a crate.
  • Plan to make regular stops at rest areas along the route to stretch and take a potty break. Do not allow your pet off leash at rest areas. No matter how well-trained he is, this is a new experience and an accident could happen.
  • NEVER, under any circumstances leave her alone it a parked car. It takes only minutes for an animal to develop heatstroke.

Every dog needs his own suitcase packed with essential dog things:

  • Be sure to include his familiar bedding. We suggest not washing his favorite blanket. It will have the scent of home on it.
  • Don’t forget dog food. For special diets, take extra along in case you can’t find it along the way…if you use canned food, take along a can opener if it’s not in pop-open containers. Include bowls for water and food, and any grooming tools you might need. Be sure to have an extra supply of any meds or supplements – just in case you are gone longer than planned.
  • We suggest using bottled water. Water differs in different areas and may contain minerals that could create stomach upset.
  • A basic dog first aid kit including a first aid book would come in handy in case of a minor injury.
  • Clean up bags – responsible pet caregivers always clean up droppings!
  • And then there are toys. Take along his favorite ones from home, even though you will probably splurge for new ones.

Taking your dog with you on vacation has its challenges, but it can be a wonderful experience for both two-legs and four-legs. The better prepared you are, the fewer surprises, there will be, resulting in a rewarding adventure and happy moments. American adventurer, Peter Kulkkula, founder of August as American Adventures Month, encourages everyone to enjoy the byways, waterways, highways, and skyways of America to experience great adventures and create awesome memories for both two-legs and four-legs.