Ideas for dog friendly road trips

The open road beckons us, just like wide open spaces beckon our furry friends to roam free. That’s why we’re gearing up for dog-friendly road trips this year. 

There are many travel options for dog-friendly road trips, but they demand careful planning to ensure you sleep in pet-friendly spots, walk where Fido (or Freya) can join you, and ensure safety over the road.

Let’s dig into dog-friendly road trips — how they work, the best trips to take, and ways to keep everyone safe.

Note: This article focuses on dogs because most pet travelers have canine companions, but the majority of these tips will also apply to #AdventureCats. Heck, even pet iguanas, micropigs, ferrets, and many other animal kingdom members can road trip with these planning tips. 

Couple on camping road trip with dog
Source: Dorde Krstic via Shutterstock

Things to think about for dog-friendly road trips

The key to a successful pet-friendly road trip is to properly plan for safety, stays, and stops. Let’s see how to do that:

Safety first

It’s never a good idea to let pets roam free in a moving car. Snag a crate or a pet safety harness to protect your pets from trouble along the road. 

Don’t leave pets unattended in your car, and tote lots of water to keep fur friends hydrated on your journey. 

And we know you’ve seen tons of photos of doggo hanging their head out the car window, but don’t let yours do that. It’s dangerous and dries out their eyes. 

Car time management

Your pet has more legs to stretch than you do. Plan extra stops to get them running around. Also, don’t leave furball unattended in your car. 

Roadtripping couple with dog
Source: Dragana Gordic via Shutterstock


Pack snacks for all living creatures on your road trip to keep everyone happy and energized.

Plan out dog-friendly hotels and restaurants

Autopilot™ is our pet-friendly road trip planner that can help you map out these stops. If you tell Autopilot™ that you’re traveling with pets, it’ll use data from over 38 million real-life road trips to find pet-friendly recommendations along your route.

It’s important to gather information ahead of time about any pet fees or other pet restrictions at lodging and camping along your route. Many hotels won’t let you leave pets unattended while you’re out for the day, so be sure to check that too. 

Restaurants can also be tricky due to health codes. Search for grub spots with outdoor patios, and always double-check if pets are allowed.

Veterinary needs

Ensure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date before the trip. Bring the vaccination card with you, as authorities may ask for it. 

Save your Vet’s number in case anything happens along the way, and scope out animal clinics anytime you stay in one spot for more than a few days.

Source: View Apart via Shutterstock

Ideas for dog-friendly road trips

Road trips are (usually) more fun when every living creature under your roof tags along. Here are some of the best ideas we’ve found for pet-friendly road trips:

Pet-friendly national park adventures

National park pet rules vary widely from park to park. Parks like Glacier have to protect their native species and guard against bear encounters, so pets are generally prohibited there.

On the other paw, Maine’s Acadia National Park is widely regarded as one of America’s most dog-friendly national parks, featuring over 100 miles of trails you can walk with your fur ranger.   

This all boils down to national park road trips being great for pets if you pick the right parks to visit. That’s why we put together this guide for enjoying dog-friendly national parks.

And here’s a road trip we built featuring all dog-friendly national parks:

Pet-friendly state park scampering

Pet-friendly state parks are excellent options for road trips that roam closer to home. Like national parks, pet rules vary from park to park on state lands. 

Here’s a road trip we put together with some of our favorite pet-friendly state parks:

Also, check out this guide on the best state parks in America to find a pet-friendly option near you.

Pet-friendly campgrounds

Where you stay can be one of the best parts of the journey, especially if you park at pet-friendly campgrounds that offer dog parks, nature trails, and more. Campgrounds and RV parks like these can enhance your road trip as you build lasting memories along the dog trails and around the campfire.

Woman with dog on road trip
Source: Nuva Frames via Shutterstock

Our pals over at BringFido built this guide to campgrounds in every state that offer fur-friendly amenities

Autopilot™ by Roadtrippers can also help you build a circuit that features the best pet-friendly stays along the way. 

Dog-friendly hiking and backpacking

Road trips and the outdoors go hand in hand. Tackling the trail with doggo in tow enhances the experience of reconnecting with nature. That’s why road trips with pet-friendly trail excursions are a fun bet.

Here’s how to safely hike with pets, and check out AllTrails’ list of the 10 best dog-friendly trails in the U.S. 

Dog-friendly car museums

For a slightly wacky (but fitting) road trip idea, check out these dog-friendly car museums along your route.

We can think of no better way to celebrate road-tripping than to make a pit stop at these spots honoring the bygone days of muscle cars, the adrenaline-pumping history of drag racing, and the origins of the automobile itself. 

And here’s another trip we put together featuring the coolest car museums in the U.S. (give these ones a call to check on dog-friendliness):

Dog-friendly small towns

If you’re road-tripping from the city, small towns are a splendid escape for you and your animal pals. The right picks feature fun history, spacious parks, cool culture, and dog-friendly vibes. 

Check out these guides we put together for small-town road trips in every region of the country. 

Autopilot™, our pet-friendly AI trip planner, can help with this too. 

Dog-friendly island hopping

America has a surprising number of inland and seaside islands. While you’ll usually have to ditch the car to head to the island itself (although some islands offer car ferries), road trips and island jumping make for a fun combination. 

Spots like Blennerhasset Island and Mackinac Island are inland lands that are nonetheless surrounded by water on all four sides. 

Blennerhasset is uber dog friendly, featuring fun trails, the dog-friendly Blennerhasset Hotel, and the pet-friendly Parkersburg Brewing Company.  

Mackinac Island is the iconic Great Lakes island where cars can’t roam, but dogs can. 

Seaside islands like Jekyll Island, GA, Block Island, RI, and the San Juan Islands in Washington are well-known dog-friendly trotting grounds. 

Woman with dog on road trip by the ocean
Source: Dirima via Shutterstock

Dog-friendly road trips are a breeze with proper planning. Pet-friendly trip planners like Autopilot™ can help take the guesswork out of this process by using info from real-life trips taken by real-life pet owners. We hope the tips above help you take a tail-wagging journey very soon.