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How to make a roadtrip with your pet a success

Last Updated at April 6th 2022
Caravanning around Australia can be a rite of passage for many older people, but you may be wondering what to do with your beloved pet while you're off on a trip of a lifetime.

Key points:

  • Take your pet on a test run holiday to see how they cope with long drives
  • Include plenty of rest stops in your itinerary for your human and pet passengers
  • Some caravan parks and national reservations may not allow pets
Older woman with her dog on a caravan trip
You can bring your pet on your big retirement caravan trip if you put enough planning into the holiday. [Source: Shutterstock]

It can be tricky to find someone who is happy to take care of your pet for three to four months or you feel like your trip would be empty without your trusty dog.

Bringing your pet on a road trip can add additional challenges to your holiday that you have never considered before.

But instead of leaving Fido at home, put together a plan that will ensure you can enjoy your holiday with your handsome pooch.

Here are some helpful tips to make sure your caravan trip goes smoothly:

1. Visit a vet

Just as it can be a good idea to visit the doctor before you go on holiday to make sure you are in tip-top shape, you should be doing the same for your pets.

You want to make sure your pet is fit and healthy, collect any medication for your pet that you need, and your pet is up to date with vaccinations.

Since your animal is likely to be running around in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar diseases, you should make sure to do flea and worm treatments before you leave and make note of when you next need to provide that treatment again.

Lastly, make sure your animal has been microchipped with the right details. You should add those details to the national database, as your State/Territory database won't be available nationally.

2. Take a test run first

If you haven't taken your pet on a holiday before, it might be a good idea to see how they go with a day trip or short weekend away first.

This means your pet can get used to your car or caravan and you can get an idea of how your pet may cope with life on the road.

Going for a long drive can give you an idea of any unique habits that you haven't seen before or find out if your pet is a bit of a nervous nelly while driving.

Some people even park their caravan in their driveway and stay a night inside with their dog to see how they go. It can be a good opportunity to let your dog find the best spot in the caravan to sleep and provide any treats for being a good boy!

3. Reduce the risk of pet sickness

Who doesn't have a memory of sitting in the back of the car on a long drive feeling car sick or next to a sibling getting nauseous from the ride. Just like us pets can get car sick which can sometimes have a messy result.

There are a couple of ways to minimise the likelihood of your pet getting sick while travelling in the car, this can include:

  • Feeding your pet a few hours before you head off
  • Keeping your dog calm with soft music and a cool temperature through the car
  • Reduce anxiety by giving your pet a favourite toy or blanket with the smell of home on it
  • Have anti-nausea or anxiety medication on hand

Taking your pet on a short trip beforehand can give you an idea of if your pet doesn't do well in the car.

It can also be helpful to exercise your pet before you start driving, your pet will be a lot more relaxed and tired while in the car.

4. Add in rest stops to your trip

While adults are a lot better at letting you know when they need to use the bathroom on a long trip, it can be harder for a pet.

When you are travelling, it's a good idea to take regular stops - which can be a benefit to everyone in the car!

It gives everyone a chance to stretch their legs, go to the bathroom, and have a snack and some water. Your dog can have a quick run around as well!

These stops should be worked into your holiday itinerary as they can consume up time during your drive.

5. Safety first

When driving, it is important that your pet is safe and secure in the car. While everyone loves to see a happy dog hanging out the window with the wind in its ears, this is not the safest thing for your dog.

Letting your dog hang at the window can increase their risk of hitting an object outside of the car or the cold air at high speed can damage their ears and cause lung infections.

Some people like to restrain their pets in the car by using a short leash. This can be a helpful way to reduce distraction when you are driving or prevent your dog from jumping out a window because they saw something interesting outside of the car.

If your dog has a smooth trip with little issues, make sure to give it a reward afterwards to let the dog know it did a good job.

6. Never leave your pet in the car or caravan

Another important safety tip is to never leave your pet in the car or caravan unattended by itself.

It is well known that cars can get hot very quickly. Even mild warmth can result in heat stroke in a pet in less than 15 minutes.

The same can also be said for caravans. Your animal should always have fresh air moving through the vehicle, whether that is from a cracked window or the air con.

In general, most caravan parks will not allow you to leave any animal unattended because of concerns for the animal's safety and for disturbing the peace if the dog starts to bark.

7. Make sure your animal is up to date with training

Training can be a really important component of having a pet and can become extra handy when you are travelling.

If you are out walking with your dog off-leash, you need to know that your dog will listen to you when you yell "heel" or attempt to recall it.

If your dog easily wonders or finds the pull of the ocean a bit too strong, then you may need to make sure your pet is on a leash at all times.

It also ensures you won't lose your dog while out travelling and have to cut sections out of your holiday to stay and find your pet.

8. Make a small packing list for your pet

There is nothing worse than leaving something behind when you start your trip - and you don't want to do the same with your pet.

Whether it is a favourite toy, important pet medication or specific diet food, you should put together a list of everything your animal will need while travelling.

You should already have basics on the list, like a dog bed, water and food bowl, a range of leashes and harnesses, snacks, food, and toys. If it's a long trip, seat covers might be a great addition to the back of your car to save the car seats from mess!

Having these creature comforts for your pet can ensure that your caravan trip runs smoothly.

9. Know the road rules

Did you know you can get fines for not having your pet sit in the car properly?

It is illegal for your dog to sit on your lap while you drive in all States and Territories in Australia. In New South Wales, you can be fined for your dog causing the driver not to have full control of the vehicle - such as moving through spots in the car.

If you have a Ute, you need to have your dog tethered in the back, otherwise, this can also incur a fine.

All these road rules aim to keep drivers safe but are also important for your dog so they are not injured if there is an accident or to reduce their likelihood of causing an accident.

10. Look for pet-friendly accommodation and activities

Some caravan parks might not allow pets, make sure to double-check before booking a spot and to have a rundown of the rules for pet owners sent through.

The same can be said for national parks and reservations, which don't allow pets in a bid to protect the wildlife in that area. You may miss out on some attractions because of your beloved pet.

Instead, you should take the time to plan out attractions and activities that are dog friendly so you don't miss out on something that you had your heart set on visiting. Alternatively, areas you visit may have local pet sitters to look after your dog while you go to activities that may not be as pet friendly.

*Content created in collaboration with Big4 Holiday Parks

What trips have you taken your pet on? Tell us in the comments below.

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Living life on the road
COVID safe travel in Australia and overseas
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Travelling overseas later in life

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