(2018) The Ultimate Road Trip with Dog Checklist for Adventurers

As we prepared for a multi-year trip with Barley, we realized that we needed a road trip with dog checklist. A quick Google search yielded either minimalist road trip with dog checklists that hardly covered what Barley brings on an overnight, or multi-page checklists that included superfluous luxuries.

We needed a different road trip with dog checklist – one made for adventurers and international travelers.

A Few Premises to Make the Ultimate Road Trip with Dog Checklist

No two travelers are alike. There might be some ultra-minimalists who find our list excessive or doting pet parents who can’t believe we’ve missed our pup’s third jacket. This road trip with dog checklist is for families that fall in the middle.

This road trip with dog checklist is best for dog travelers who:

Small dogs might need more specialized gear as adventure buddies!

  • Plan on an extended trip. This checklist will be overkill if you’re just packing for an overnight trip.
  • Are relatively healthy. Dogs with health concerns might need to modify this road trip with dog checklist to fit their specific needs.
  • Aren’t extremely small. Toy sized dogs have some special needs in cold or wet climates. They also might need extra gear to stay safe in the car or on the trail, so use your judgement if planning on taking your Chihuahua to Chihuahua.
  • Are budget and space conscious. We’re not living in luxury, and we don’t expect you to be, either. The items on this list are probably already in your home and should fit inside a dog backpack or a regular duffel bag.
  • Are planning on adventuring a bit along the way. You can cut out some of the gear if you’re planning on a more city- and town-oriented road trip. However, much of the gear on this road trip with dog checklist is great to have if you’re planning on doing any hiking.
  • Are not moving to a new city. We’re assuming that this road trip does not include all of your possessions. If the purpose of your road trip is a move, you’re probably planning on bringing all of your dog’s possessions anyway!

Andrew insists that Barley should be able to carry his own possessions for El Perro Tambien. This goal might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s what we kept in mind while preparing for our trip. Obviously he won’t be carrying his crate! Regardless, we had to be smart and selective while making our road trip with dog checklist.

The 2018 Ultimate Road Trip with Dog Checklist

Packing lists can be pretty overwhelming. I find it’s easier to handle them if you break them down into mini lists. This also can help you visually run through the plan and note areas of concern. That’s what I did for you in the road trip with dog checklist. I want to make your trip as easy as possible!

The Basics

Really, you probably have all or most of these items with you whenever you leave the house with your dog. But don’t forget them in the whirlwind of packing before your big trip!

  • Collar & ID Tags: even if your dog doesn’t normally wear her collar 24/7, it’s a good idea to keep her collar and ID tags on her at all times. Ensure you’ve got both vaccination records and an identifying tag on your dog’s collar before you go. This is a legal requirement in some cities!
  • Leash: bring a good leash with you so that you can keep your pup safe at busy rest stops and comply with leash laws. We’re actually bringing 3 leashes for Barley on our trip: one four-foot leather leash, one eight-foot leather leash, and one thirty-foot long line.
  • Harness (optional): if you walk your dog on a harness, don’t leave it behind! We use the RuffWear Front Range harness.


It goes without saying that your pup will need sustenance along your trip.

  • Water Bowl & Jug: your dog will appreciate a drink break every few hours, so it’s smart to carry water and a bowl in your car as you travel.
  • Food Bowl: unless you want to share your bowl with Fifi (we won’t judge), be sure to bring a bowl for her food!
  • Storage For Food: many dogs aren’t trustworthy with a gallon ziplock bag full of food in the car. Barley sure isn’t! We invested in a little locking food container to keep Barley’s kibble safe. It might seem gimmicky, but it’s 100% worth it. Buy one before your trip.
    • Raw Feeders: if you feed your dog frozen or fresh raw food, be sure to come up with a plan for contagion and cooling on the road.
  • Food: either bring along enough food for the whole trip, or plan on doing a properly slow transfer from one food to another.

Safety Gear

Much of this sub-list is optional if you’re not planning on adventuring along your trip.

  • Foldable crate: this will make it much easier to feel comfortable leaving your dog unattended in a strange place. Many hotels and AirBnbs might even require that your dog stays in a crate when unattended.
  • Use your best judgement before leaving a life jacket behind!

    Life Jacket (optional): not all adventures mean you’ll need a life jacket, but this isn’t a bad item to own if your dog is going to be exploring rivers or oceans along your trip!

  • Booties (optional): again, not all dogs need booties. Barley only uses his booties for longer excursions on hot pavement, snow, salted roads, or extra-rough terrain. I usually tuck his booties into his backpack when we’re hiking in case the going gets tough.


Even if your dog is healthy as a horse, bringing along veterinary records and a basic first aid kit will save you lots of headache and worry down the road!

  • Paperwork: it’s smart to keep a copy of your dog’s health records, vaccine information, microchip info, and all other pertinent information stored on your phone or somewhere else safe. Keeping it somewhere safe will make it easier to deal with unexpected bumps in the road.
  • Heartguard: heartworm is no joke, and it’s important to bring Heartguard along on your road trip if you’ll be gone during the next dose. This is extra-important if you are going to heartworm heavy parts of the world.
  • First Aid Kit: most human first aid kits can be used to help basic cuts and scrapes for your dog, but it’s also smart to get a basic dog first aid kit for your trip. You can either purchase these or work with your vet to put together a basic kit. Be sure to triple check that medications are safe for your dog and aren’t expired before your trip!
  • Flea and Tick Meds & Shampoo (location dependent): if you’re traveling south, it’s a good idea to bring along medication and shampoo to get rid of any parasites that your dog picks up along your trip. Be sure to do your research on good products that will be effective yet safe for your pup.
  • Paw salve: this stuff is absolutely critical if you’re going to be out and about frequently with your dog. I often use this instead of booties when the terrain isn’t too rough.

Fun & Training

Your road trip with dog should be fun – so bring along some toys and do some fun training.

  • Some dogs couldn’t imagine leaving home without their ball!

    Frisbee, Ball, Tug and/or Squeaky Toys: bring along just a few fun toys for your dog. Since Barley is expected to carry all of his possessions with us on our trip, we’re just brining a few select toys. Bring durable favorites so that they last the trip!

  • Food Dispensing Toys (optional): I don’t believe in food bowls for dogs, though travel can make elaborate puzzle toys difficult. Bringing along just one Kong or Kong Wobbler will help keep your dog’s brain more engaged at mealtime, so I think it’s worth it!
  • Clicker & treat pouch (optional): I’m a professional trainer, so I always bring along a clicker and treat pouch so that Barley and I can keep learning and growing as a team!


Some things don’t fit into neat sub-lists, but still should fit into your bag for your trip. Don’t forget these items.

  • Grooming supplies: if you’ve got a long haired dog, don’t forget some basic grooming supplies. Barley will come home covered in burrs and dreadlocks if I don’t bring at least a brush and a pair of scissors. Bringing nail clippers and styptick powder in your first aid kit is a good idea as well.
  • Poop bags: just like in your own neighborhood, you should always be prepared to deal with your dog’s mess while on the road. Many areas of the world won’t have poop bag dispensers, so always bring your own!
  • Backpack: since we expect Barley to carry most of his possessions, a backpack was non-negotiable. We use Ruffwear’s Palisades pack to carry his gear. Again, not everything actually fits in this pack. We took careful time to build up his strength to carry a backpack through the Americas with us!

Did we forget anything?

Author: Kayla

Kayla is a biologist, writer, and web designer. She’s passionate about animal behavior, the science of habits, and anything outdoors.

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