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How to: travel with a puppy

How to: travel with a puppy

One of the biggest reasons why I didn’t get a dog earlier was because I traveled so much. I didn’t feel like it would be fair to a dog if I was constantly gone, and I (selfishly) knew it would be both more expensive to travel with a dog AND more of a hassle to coordinate dog-sitting while I was gone. All of that said: I’m so glad that we introduced a pup into our traveling life! So far, most of her travels have been limited to weekends away in the New York region (and one fancy plane trip down to Austin), and she’s become a regular pro at road trips and hotel life. Gertie the pug visits The Time Nyack Hotel

However, one giant caveat when it comes to maintaining our travel lives with a puppy: we’re really lucky to have so many dog-loving friends who are more than happy to take care of Gert when we’re on a non-dog-friendly vacation. Although it’s always a bit of a logistical challenge to figure out schedules and coordinate an Uber to drop off a pup, her belongings and a crate, we’re very grateful that we’ve never had to kennel her. Although she’s definitely had a few Manhattan stay-cations while we’ve been somewhere tropical, Gert has grown into an excellent traveling pug! Here are a few of the lessons we’ve learned along the way (note that we have a small dog, so we can’t speak too much to traveling with a dog who isn’t quite as portable):

Gertie the pug in the Berkshires

Think about what will make it a dog-friendly vacation

We live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in a very urban neighborhood, which means a lot of early-morning and late-night elevator rides for leashed walks on loud streets. When we incorporate Gertie into our weekend-away planning, we try to think about places that might be a little different for her (and maybe a bit of a rest for us)–aka lakehouses with backyards and boutique hotels landscaped with plenty of grass. Traveling with a dog makes a busy weekend in another city a little less enticing–we’ve been much more enamored with outdoor escapes.

Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills, New York

Be flexible with your schedule, and schedule less

The biggest thing that I’ve had to get used to when it comes to traveling with a dog: we can’t do nearly as much in a day. We can’t just wake up early, leave the hotel room and spend the entire day exploring. We have to work in morning and evening walks, perhaps one or two dog-friendly activities, and then figuring out a stretch of time when she can be crated in the hotel if we want to do something that’s not dog-friendly. It takes a little more flexibility and a general understanding that the pace might have to be a little slower.

Gertie the Pug at Salt Lick BBQ in Austin, Texas

Seek out dog-friendly activities, and double-check whether dogs are allowed

When we were in Austin, we did a bunch of research on what we could do with Gert: it led us to an actual “smushed face paw-ty” put on by a local dog group, a low-key hike next to the Colorado River, lots of cafes with breakfast tacos and outdoor seating, and plenty of parks. However, one of the biggest bummers was finding out that Hamilton Springs is not dog-friendly: I had assumed that dogs would be allowed on the hiking trail, but a bit of online research before we left made it very clear that they were NOT allowed. It’s definitely easier to travel with dogs in summer/good weather: not only are there more outdoor activities to partake in, but many restaurants become dog-friendly once they have sidewalk seating available. Gertie the Pug at Four Seasons Austin

Bring along a bit of comfort

We’re super committed to crate training, and part of the reason is that it makes it way easier for Gert to travel. No matter where we go (or whatever friend she stays with), she has a very comfortable little den to relax in. Even when we went to Austin, we just took advantage of Amazon Prime and had a crate shipped out to the hotel to use during the five days we were there. They’re not very expensive, and it was worth it to be able to leave her in the hotel room a few times when we wanted to go out for dinner or drinks. Of course, she still gets a chance to relax on the plush hotel beds!

Pug in Love Thy Beast Bag

Get them acclimated to all kinds of travel

Basically as soon as we brought Gertie home (at 12 weeks), we started taking her around the city so that she’d get used to being on the loud subway and the motions of a car. We usually hold her in our laps, and she now immediately falls asleep whenever she’s in transit. And as soon as we decided to fly with her to Austin, we bought a TSA-approved travel case and started taking her around the city in it so that she’d get used to it. The plan worked: she falls asleep as soon as she’s tucked into her carrier, whether it’s under a seat on a plane or on a crowded subway.

Scribner's Catskill Lodge near Hunter Mountain

Find a dog-friendly hotel or rental house

BringFido.com is a super helpful resource when it comes to finding dog-friendly hotels. However, most hotels will ask for a non-refundable dog cleaning fee. We’ve found that most house rental places have been pretty understanding and flexible when it comes to bringing a dog, and rarely have we been asked to pay an extra deposit. That said, we have a small, city-bred dog who’s used to existing inside–it definitely becomes more difficult with larger dogs.

Gertie the Pug on the East River Ferry

Prepare to pay more

Although the world is becoming more and more friendly to people traveling with their (spoiled) pets, there are still limits. As noted above, hotels will generally ask for a non-refundable cleaning fee. Jetblue charges an extra $100 per flight to fly with a pet who’s not a service dog (although the airline is super dog-friendly, and even features an pet roof at their main hub at JFK). Amtrak generally charges an extra $25 to travel with a pet in a fully enclosed carrier. And it’s not unheard of for taxis or Ubers to refuse service if you have a dog! And in general, it’s often way easier to take a taxi to the train/parking garage instead of dragging a pug and all of her paraphernalia (including a collapsible but heavy crate)–another expense!

Maison Bergogne antiques in Narrowsburg, New York

Although traveling with a dog can be an extra expense and challenge, we’ve always had so much fun taking her with us! If you need some traveling dog inspiration, here are all the trips we’ve taken Gertie on so far:

What are your tips or lessons learned for traveling with a dog? 

p.s. how to raise a puppy in New York City

  • Liza McArdle

    This was super helpful since I haven’t traveled with my pup yet. Curious about the crate though. Did you just buy a new one to ship to Austin and then leave it there? Looking at the price, it does appear to be cheaper than it would be to somehow pack yours up and pay a baggage fee to the airline (and then have to lug it everywhere.) That’s something I hadn’t thought about.

  • camorose

    Yeah, we shipped it and left it there. We figured $25 was well worth it–especially since we didn’t check bags and it’s a hassle to drag to cabs or through the airport with all of our stuff!

  • Jenna Thomas

    We LOVE taking our furbaby on vacation! On the rare occasion that he can’t come with us and our friends can’t take him, we’ve had excellent luck with Dogvacay–even becoming friends with our most recent dogsitter! We tell Copper he’s going on a staycation 🙂

  • camorose

    I have a few friends who love dogs (and who often dog-sit Gert) who have joined Rover, which is a similar thing for dogsitting and dogwalking! I feel like it’s a great way for doglovers to hang with dogs without all of the expense and commitment!