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The Cheapest Way to Travel with a Dog

What is the cheapest way to travel with a dog? If you said road trip, you’re probably right.

Taking a vacation with your furry friend can be a blast, but you also don’t want to break the bank with fees and travel restrictions. 

Traveling by car with your pup is definitely the most budget-friendly way to explore the United States, but there are also ways to save money with other modes of transportation! 

I have experience traveling by plane, train, boat, and car with my golden retriever, Theo. 

So I’ve figured out how to save money on each method of transportation so each dollar spent on the adventure can stretch even further!

Let’s explore some of the cheapest ways to travel with a dog.

Travel in comfort and style whether you are on the go, in your car, or talking a walk with Sherpa Original Deluxe Travel Pet Carrier.

brown dog with his head out of car window

Cheapest Ways to Travel With a Dog: Ground Transportation

By far, the cheapest way to travel with a dog is using ground transportation. 

Some buses and trains offer affordable transportation for you and your pet, but an epic road trip with your pet will save you the most money.

Car Travel with a Dog 

Using your own vehicle is not only the most economical way to travel with your pet but there are also some other awesome perks:

  • You don’t have to worry about pet fees or luggage restrictions. 
  • You get to plan your route (and take some excellent detours) 
  • You can make stops, take walks, and pack more toys for your dog. 

But you should take a few things into consideration while traveling in the car with your pet.

  • Does your pet get motion sickness? Plan to bring medicine to help ease any discomfort. 
  • A carrier is the best way to transport a dog in a car for their safety. The carrier gives your pup their own dedicated space and calms some anxiety. 
  • Leaving your dog in the car for any length of time is dangerous! Pets can overheat in a vehicle even if the temperature is 60 degrees outside.

Using Ridesharing Apps with Your Dog

Rideshares like Uber or Lyft are convenient and inexpensive ways to get around a city. These companies do allow pets to travel in their vehicles with some restrictions. 

The Uber Pets option offers pet friendly rides for an extra fee of $3-6 USD. 

Lyft riders should contact their drivers to request to bring their pets. It’s up to the Lyft driver whether pets are allowed in the vehicle.

These restrictions only apply to non-service animals. Service dogs are permitted to ride with their owners.

Bus Travel With a Dog

Major bus lines, including Greyhound, Jefferson Lines, and Trailways, allow service dogs for passengers with disabilities but do not allow emotional support animals or pets.

However, Peter Pan bus lines allow pets to travel with their owners. The company allows 1 dog or cat under 25 lbs per person in a carrier.

Train Travel with a Dog

Amtrak is the main passenger train line in the USA, and, in 2023, it does permit pets to travel for a fee on some routes. Pets must be less than 20 lbs and remain in a carrier while onboard. The trip should be 7 hours or less. 

Make sure to arrive at check-in 30 minutes early and have your paperwork (including your pet’s vaccine records) ready. 

Also, pets must always travel with their humans. Amtrak never allows pets to be shipped or checked as baggage. 

There are smaller train lines in each state, many of which also allow pets onboard. Check your travel route to see if any of these trains allow pets. 

Many international and local train lines in Europe allow pets of various sizes. Some require a carrier or a muzzle on your pup, while others ask for an EU Pet Passport. The EuroStar (a fast-speed train from England to France) only allows service animals.

brown siberian husky with owner wearing glasses sitting while waiting with many people

Public Transportation with Your Dog 

Once you are at your destination city, how will you and your pup navigate around town? Using public transportation is a simple and cost-effective way to enjoy exploring the city. 

Here are a few pet friendly public transportation options: 

City Bus – Most city buses around the USA welcome pets onboard. They are required to be in a carrier or leashed and must sit either on the owner’s lap or on the floor. Larger dogs may require an extra fee, but often small dogs are free. 

There was even a Seattle dog who rode the bus to the dog park each day!

Subway – Dogs can ride on city subway trains in New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco. 

The New York MTA pet policy states that a pet must be “enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers.” This requirement leads to some people getting creative with the type of container they use to stow their pets. 

You can enjoy using the subway with your pup, just keep them safe and respect your fellow travelers at the same time.

Ferry – Dogs can ride for free (on leash) on most ferries. But on fast-speed ferries, dogs typically must be in a carrier.

brown furry dog wearing a white sun glasses

Cheapest Ways to Fly with a Dog

Cheapest Pet friendly Airlines 

Cheap flights with pets are hard to come by, but some airlines offer reasonable fees to fly with your pup. 

You can book flights with pets on a variety of airlines, but Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Frontier are ranked best for price and safety.

Airline Pet Fees Comparison

# of dogsCost: Main CabinCost: Cargo
Southwest Airlines2 (in same carrier)$95 (refundable)N/A
Delta Airlines1$95Delta Cargo
Frontier Airlines1$99N/A
Alaska Airlines2 (in same carrier)$100$100
American Airlines2$125Military only

In Cabin Vs Cargo: Which is Cheaper? 

The location of where your dog flies will depend less on cost and more on availability. Most airlines no longer allow dogs to fly in the cargo of an airplane, and there are weight and size restrictions for dogs to fly in the main cabin. 

In most cases, if dogs are too large to fly in the main cabin, they must be shipped by air transport. This does not apply when flying with service dogs

If your dog is small, it is cheaper to pay for them to fly in the main cabin is more affordable than having them shipped. Just remember that each airline requires pets to be in carriers that fit under the passenger seat. 

Your dog’s health and safety are important to consider when flying. Air travel in the main cabin is much safer for your pet than in cargo. If your dog is flying cargo, choose direct flights that you are on, notify the captain, and have your pet fly on an empty stomach.

black and white service dog with curly fur wearing a black and red leash

Flying with Emotional Support/Service Animals

A service dog or emotional support animal is permitted on airplanes. The airlines may require written documentation. Your service dogs should wear appropriate identifications, such as a harness or vest, and certification should be current.

Flying with a large dog in the cabin as a service animal means that dogs must stay in the leg area of your seat. If there is availability, airlines are supposed to give bulkhead seats to people with service animals.

girl wearing a green shirt with her brown and white dog inside a dog carrier riding a train

Cheapest Pet Transporters (Ship your Dog)

Typically, people do not use pet moving services for vacations, but if you are relocating to another country or have an extended stay, you should know the cheapest way to ship your pet. 

There are two forms of dog transport: ground transportation and cargo air shipping. These transport options are not the cheapest pet shipping options, but it can be worth it!

Ground transportation is typically the cheapest way to ship a pet. You can have your pet sent to another state using ground transportation. The cheapest way to transport a dog to another state is by using your own vehicle, but professional drivers can transport your dog and take care of them during the journey.

For overseas pet transporters, Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines are the only commercial airlines that allow pets.

If you want to ship your pet overseas or across the country, you must contact professional pet transport services, which will handle customs, health certificates, and travel logistics.

girl and black dog inside a white and red tent camping by the lake with view of the mountain

How to Find the Cheapest Pet Friendly Accommodation 

Lodging during travel is a huge part of your budget, so finding pet friendly accommodations can get pricy quickly. Here are some of the cheapest pet friendly places to stay while you travel with your dog. 

Camping & RV Rentals 

Camping is one of the cheapest pet friendly options. Boondocking is off-the-grid camping on public lands, such as Bureau of Land Management land, and it’s free. Tent camping is another one of the cheapest options that typically costs $5-30 USD per night. 

RVs are also an excellent option for traveling with your dog. Your pup will feel right at home, and you can travel comfortably!

Vacation Rentals

Booking an extended stay at many pet-friendly vacation rentals can save you money in the long run. 

There is usually an additional pet cleaning fee included in the rental price. But with more room and laundry available, vacation rentals make traveling with a dog easier and can be less expensive than a hotel. 

Hotels

If you are traveling with your pet, there’s a good chance you will stay in a hotel at some point.

Hotel pet requirements can be inconsistent and expensive. Here are some ways to help avoid extra pet fees at hotels:

  • Book hotels where pets stay free such as Red Roof Inn, Kimpton, and Virgin.
  • Understand the pet policies for each hotel. Each hotel will have different charges, such as a non-refundable deposit or a cleaning fee. Know what you’re getting into before you book.
  • Follow the pet guidelines for the hotel. Hotels will charge more fees for damages incurred by your pet. Make a note of the condition of your hotel room at the beginning of your stay. 
  • You should let the management know if there is any damage before so your pet is not held responsible after.
white dog by the open door way. There is a mat and cactus on a brown pot outside beside 2 suitcases

Money Saving Tips for Traveling with a Dog

1. Prepare Supplies in Advance

Carefully preparing for your trip will save you money in the long run. A dog travel checklist is a great way to ensure you have everything your dog needs for the vacation.

Your pup will need their own Pet Passport and travel documentation for overseas travel.

2. Get a Vet Check Before Travel

Plan a vet visit so they are up to date on their vaccines and get a copy of their health records. 

You will need this if your pet is flying, but it’s also good in case of an emergency. Fill any regular medications your pet takes so you don’t run out during your vacation.

3. Invest in Pet Travel Insurance 

Pet travel insurance is designed to cover your pet while traveling, and it could save you a lot of money if your pet experiences flight interruption, lost luggage, or medical emergencies during your trip. 

4. Plan a Pet Friendly Travel Route 

Keeping your pet in mind when you plan your trip can lower your expenses. Here are some low-cost, pet-friendly travel tips:

  • Plan stops at parks or dog parks along your travel routes.
  • Choose low-cost or free activities to experience with your pet, such as hiking nature trails, taking a walking tour of the city, or swimming in a lake.
  • Research pet friendly cities. Some of my favorites are Colorado Springs, CO, Hot Springs, AR, or Savannah, GA, and beaches like Mile Rock Beach in San Francisco or Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island, GA.
woman with blue backpack and hiking attire standing on the rocks by the lake with her brown dog on red leash while staring at the mountains on the other side

FAQs About Cheapest way to travel with a dog

What is the difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal?

The difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal is the training and task of each animal. A service dog is trained to perform tasks that help an individual with a disability. An emotional support animal provides comfort but does not perform a certain task for a disabled person.

What are some cheap pet friendly activities to do while traveling?

Some cheap pet friendly activities to do while traveling include:
– Hiking
– Swimming
– Taking a historic walking tour
– Bike rides
– Check out street art in a new town

How expensive is flying with a dog?

The expense of flying with a dog depends on which airline you choose. The cost is typically between $95-$125 per pet or pet carrier. You will also need an airline-approved pet carrier to stow your dog, which can be an added expense.

Can I buy a plane ticket for my large dog?

You cannot buy a plane ticket for a large dog. There are only 2 airlines that allow passengers to buy an extra seat for a dog: Jet Blue and United. Both require the dog to be in a carrier that meets airline requirements and weighs under 8kg.

Final Thoughts: Cheapest Way to Travel with a Dog

You can have a fantastic trip with your dog and stay on a tight budget. 

Using your own car and camping are two of the cheapest ways to travel with your pup, but you can also avoid unnecessary expenses by getting pet travel insurance!

You should also research airline fees before flying with your dog (P.S. Southwest Airlines has the lowest fees). 
If you need some pet friendly vacation ideas, check out these awesome dog friendly beaches or plan a hiking trip to the mountains!

Travel in comfort and style whether you are on the go, in your car, or talking a walk with Sherpa Original Deluxe Travel Pet Carrier.

Read More Travel with Dogs Tips!

Dog Travel Planning Guide

🐶 How do you travel with a dog?

You can road trip, go camping, fly (depending on your dog’s size), go for day trips, and even live in an RV or motorhome with your dog! I’ve done all of the above with my dog, Theo.

✈️ How to travel with a dog by plane?

Check the airline requirements, if you’re flying with a large dog you’ll need to book far ahead, get a travel crate or carrier, and make sure your pet is up to date on their vaccinations. And don’t forget to bring along a leash, collapsible dish, and plenty of treats! (Read more)

🚗 How to travel with a dog in a car?

Get a seatbelt or car-friendly crate, a seat protector, and a few toys to keep your pet safe and comfortable. Bring along items like a leash, pee pads, treats, collapsible bowl, and some calming treats for anxious dogs. Take frequent potty breaks (I recommend every 2 hours minimum).

🧳 What should I pack in my dog travel bag?

I always pack a collapsible bowl, back up leash, 50ft long leash, Toppl food toy, plenty of dog food, and a few toys for my pup when we go on our travels. It’s important to have all the essentials packed before you leave home since it can be difficult to find pet-friendly stores in some locations. (Read more)

📝 What paperwork do I need to travel with a dog?

The paperwork you need will depend on where you’re going. You will always need your dog’s veterinary records and their vaccine status. You may also need an international health certificate, titre test, and even a spay/neuter certificate.

🐾 What is the best travel dog crate?

This collapsible crate is great for local travel and road trips. For plane travel, I recommend this hard crate for large breeds and this carrier for small breeds.

📍What is the best way to travel with a dog?

It depends! The best way to travel will depend on you and your dog. Small dogs will have an easier time with plane travel. Large breeds are better for long term trips to minimize plane time, or road trips.

🛌 Best dog travel mat?

This non-slip, water-proof, easy to wash travel mat is my go to!

✈️ What’s the best site to buy cheap flights?

To find cheap flights, I recommend Skyscanner.

🏨 What’s the best site to find cheap hotels?

To find cheap hotels, I recommend Booking.com.

Or stay for free with Trusted Housesitters!

🚗 What’s the best site to rent cars abroad?

To find cheap rental cars, I recommend Discover Cars.

🚗 What’s the best site to find tours?

To find epic tours, I recommend Viator.

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