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Dog Travel Checklist: What to Bring When Traveling with a Dog

Looking for a dog travel checklist so you can have a smooth vacay? Look no further!

I travel with my golden retriever Theo extensively. I’m a travel blogger and he’s my bestie, so I’m not leaving him at home (especially since, as digital nomads, we don’t have a home really).

I’ve traveled with him since he was a baby baby (I’m talking lil golden potato puppy small). And I’ve encountered basically everything that can go right, wrong, or shitty (literally!).

Let me help you avoid stress with this easy checklist to get you off on the right paw! Then you can enjoy your full family vacay without regretting bringing your dog with you.

To make sure you’re ready for whatever comes your way during your next trip with Fido or Fluffy, here’s a comprehensive dog travel checklist of all the must-have items you should bring when traveling with a dog. From essential health supplies to comfort items that will make their stay enjoyable, this list covers everything you need for a safe and happy journey!

Golden retriever puppy on a red leash with a pink ball in front of him in a park

Dog Travel Checklist at a Glance

  • Secure Collar
  • Current ID Tags
  • Digital ID Tag
  • Durable Leash
  • Long Line Leash
  • Doggy Seatbelt or Dog Carrier
  • Car Hammock/Dog Protector
  • Crate
  • Dog Bed
  • Microfiber Towels
  • Medications with Prescription Records
  • Vaccination Records
  • Dog First Aid Kit
  • Toys
  • Enrichment Toy
  • Treats
  • Treat Pouch or Fanny Pack
  • Food for +3 Days in Airtight Container
  • Collapsible Food Bowl
  • Water Bottle with Dog Attachment
  • Poop Bags
  • Brush and Grooming Tools
  • Disinfectant Wipes
  • Calming Treats
  • Car Sickness Medication
  • Recent Poto
  • Phone Number and Address of Vet Near Location
  • Winter Boots
  • Rain Jacket
  • Winter Coat
  • Head Lamp
  • Light Up Collar or Leash Attachment
  • Stain Eliminator
  • Febreeze or Other Car Odor Eliminator
  • Pee Pads
  • Local Laws and Bylaws Regarding Pets

Dog Travel Checklist in Detail

Secure Collar

You’ll want a collar that can’t pop off easily. In new environments, dogs will sniff around more and might pull at the leash.

Especially if you take your dog camping, hiking or to the beach, collars that are not securely attached can fall off.

I recommend a collar that buckles or has a strong clasp.

When in doubt, bring a back up.

Current ID Tags

Ensure your dog’s collar has their ID tag with their name and your address/phone number. If it has rubbed off over time, get them a new one.

Dogs that go missing far from home can be hard to find. Having that information on them can ensure your furry bestie makes it home to you.

You’ll also want to have your pet license if your local area requires one. For example if your dog has to be registered with your hometown and has a metal tag showing it, ensuring that’s on their collar.

Digital ID Tag

I prefer a digital ID tag to a standard one since my golden retriever is quite a rough player and we travel a lot.

These tags stand up to wear and tear a lot better. Plus the digital QR code can be scanned anywhere in the world – so I don’t have to worry about an out of date address or phone number.

And the ID tag includes his medical information, so if he was found and was injured, the vets could immediately learn about his health requirements (like his allergy to beef) and could care for him properly while they contact me.

Golden retriever on a red durable leash sitting on a mountain peak overlooking green trees on a hike

Durable Leash

The amount of people I’ve met while I travel who have had a leash break is crazy!

Theo’s had his leash since I first got him and it’s never even frayed – even when he’d chew on it or try to rip my arm off tugging on it in his teenage years.

Having a durable leash is super important when you travel so it doesn’t break.

There’s nothing worse than having to walk your dog through a new town by their collar because your leash snapped halfway through a walk! (It’s happened to me with my sister’s dog and their retractible leashes. It’s why I hate them now.)

Long Line Leash

In new areas, a long line leash is a great idea, even if your dog is great with recall.

I like to let my dog get used to new areas before I trust him off leash – and it gives me time to learn what kind of hazards there might be. We’ve nearly come upon bears before and have encountered many coyotes. If he was off leash and further ahead of me, that could have been a big problem. But since he was on the long line, he was very close and I could address the hazard easily.

It’s also a good idea for cities without off leash areas. I’ll tie the long line to a tree and play fetch with him just around the tree.

This was a tip I learned from my service dog trainers when I lived in downtown Ottawa and the dog parks were too dangerous for us to go to. I’d tie Theo’s leash to a tree at one of the many parks and we’d play fetch or tug safely. He didn’t even notice he was on the leash after a minute!

I recommend a 30ft leash to start, but if possible upgrade to a 40 or 60ft leash if you trust your dog and know they need the space – like Theo does with fetch.

Doggy Seatbelt or Dog Carrier

In North America, if you are in a car accident with your dog in the vehicle, they legally cannot access your car until the animal control team arrives. That means paramedics cannot give you life saving support until your dog is secure.

BUT if they have a seatbelt attachment or are in a carrier, paramedics can help you since the dog is restrained.

Not only this, but it can save your dog’s life too!

I know a number of people who have been in accidents, or just had to stop suddenly, and their dog hit the windshield. Luckily, they all survived. But it’s not something I want to risk ever with my boy.

So get a doggy seatbelt, a seat divider, or a dog carrier for smaller dogs to ensure both of your safety in the car.

I use this simple attachment that clips into the seatbelt holder of basically any car (I’ve tried in it like 13 rental cars so far and it always works), and clips onto his collar like a leash.

Car Hammock/Dog Protector

This one isn’t for safety but for sanity.

When you travel with a furry friend, your car will quickly become covered in fur and drool. We all know how annoying it can be to clean it out – and if it’s a rental car that you have to turn back in… not fun!

That’s why I love hammocks for the backseat of cars. It saves your car from the fur and drool, help keep your dog off of the seat (a must for leather ones to prevent tears), and can be easily removed when it’s time to clean up.

My favorite is a waterproof variety that I found on Amazon. It ties around the headrests of the front seat and the back, so Theo is safely secured and I don’t have to worry about salt stains or mud prints on the backseat. Plus it folds down pretty small (about the size of a towel), so it’s easy to travel with.

Chihuahua in a portable dog crate wearing sunglasses


Dogs who are crate trained need their crate wherever they go.

And most dogs need them to fly as well if they’re large.

So invest in a strong crate that can fit in your car (I made this mistake with Theo’s first one!).

Many hotels will not let you leave dogs on their own in the room. But if you have a crate, they tend to make an exception.

I love the metal crates that can fold down flat. But if you’re checking your dog under the plane, you’ll want on with opaque sides.

Or you can get a travel crate.

This one is great, but ensure you practice with your dog at home first, as dogs can chew their way out (or if they’re like Theo, they learn how to unzip them somehow. Honestly my dog is too fricken smart!).

I got the XL and it fit easily into the backseat of SUVs but wouldn’t fit in a 4 door car as easily.

Dog Bed

This is a nice to have, not a must. But a bed can help make your dog feel more at home in strange places, and offer comfort for long drives.

I typically get a thin bed so it’s not too thick to pack. You can even use a thick towel or a blanket.

But having this sense of home for a dog really helps. It also keeps them comfortable.

I use Theo’s blanket as his “place” when we travel as well, so I can answer doors without him racing towards the delivery person when he smells my Indian takeaways.

Microfiber Towels

These are great for cleaning up after your pup or drying them off after a swim.

They’re super absorbent and really quick to dry, so you don’t have to keep a ton of wet towels in the car.

I usually have two on hand at all times so I can rotate them. One is his “clean” towel and one is his “I just ran through a muddy field” towel.

You can wash them in a hotel sink and have them dry by the next day!

Medications with Prescription Records

Keep your pup’s medications with you, and make sure you have records of their prescriptions.

This is just in case anything happens to them during the trip and you need to get them looked at by a vet or purchase more medication.

If you’re moving between countries, you’ll need the prescription bottles just like you do with human meds. I always keep Theo’s allergy meds and his heartworm in their original boxes or containers with the prescription attached so anyone can verify what they are.

Let’s be real: pet meds are too expensive to have to chuck them at a border crossing!

Vaccination Records

Speaking of border crossing, you’ll need vaccination records if you’re taking your pup abroad.

Some countries require all shots to be up to date and for rabies in particular. So make sure you have all the records with you – it will save a lot of time!

Rabies are particularly a concern, so I always keep his vax records in a folder that travels with us. I keep it in my backpack even on hikes – cause you never know!

Have multiple copies so if you ever have to hand them over, you aren’t without one.

Dog First Aid Kit

Theo and I hike a lot, so I always have a doggy first aid kit on hand. You can get them at most pet stores or off Amazon.

Mine has a lot of bandages, eye and ear wash, disinfectant, ointment for cuts or abrasions and things like that.

It also has tick removers and tweezers if I ever find a tick on him (which happens more than I’d like to admit).

I also have Benadryl in my kit in case he has any allergic reactions or bug bites.

I carry silver spray as well which is said to be a disinfectant that helps keep things clean and works on even things like ear or eye infections. I’m not a vet, but mine recommended it and so far it’s worked for us!

It’s the least I can do for my little buddy!

Since we tend to do long hikes and he’s over 65lbs, I know that if something happened to him, I can’t carry him all the way back. This ensure both of our safety and comfort.

Plus, it can save me vet fees if I just need to bandage his leg – but delaying doing so could result in infections and the need for serious medical intervention.


Toys are a must!

Just like a kid, your dog needs entertainment.

I bring a few toys on every trip – usually at least one ball, one stuffed toy, and one enrichment toy.

This gives us some variety and allows me to play with him differently to get his energy out.

Enrichment toys like wobble feeders, snuffle mats, or kongs are especially great if you need to leave your pup alone at your lodging.

When it’s allowed, I’ll leave Theo to do non-dog-friendly activities like skydiving or hot air ballooning. He’s a great boy, but I still feel better if he has something to do. So I’ll load up his kong with peanut butter or fill up his snuffle mat before I head out.

My new go to is a Toppl from West Paw (I use the XL and L stuck together) with frozen peanut butter or yoghurt inside (or not frozen if you don’t have a freezer).


And of course, TREATS!

Treats are a must – no matter where you’re going.

I always bring Theo’s favorite treats, as well as some training treats. Training treats are great because they’re small and low in calories, so he can have more of them without ruining his diet.

Having some high value treats helps too. Stinky fish treats are Theo’s favorite and ensure that even in stressful situations or new environments, I can get his attention.

Besides, if I’m on vacation eating all sorts of delicious foods, he should get to, too!

Treat Pouch or Fanny Pack

I always bring a treat pouch or fanny pack. (I use a fanny pack because I live in leggings and have nothing to attach treat pouches to.)

This is great for carrying treats, poop bags, extra toys, and even his leash if needed.

It ensures Theo knows I have stuff for him, and ensures I never forget his poop bags in the wrong jacket or something.

Food for +3 Days in Airtight Container

Did you know dog food can go moldy?

I learned that recently and immediately stopped just rolling up his food bag to carry with us, or dumping his food into a trash bag to shove in my backpack.

You’ll want to bring extra food for your dog in case there are delays in your travels. It’s hard on their stomachs to switch food suddenly so having extra ensures you don’t get a travel delay and a dog with rocket butt!

If you are going to be long term traveling like Theo and I do, I recommend researching the food in the new place ahead of time to see if you can get the same brand. If you can’t, bring enough of the food they’re used to so you can slowing wean them onto a new one while you’re away.

Golden retriever lying on a microfiber towel beside a collapsible red dog food dish for travel

Collapsible Food Bowl

These space savings bowls are a live saver! I always have one with us for dog-friendly travel so it had to be on this checklist.

This bowl is rubber – so it’s not great for puppies who may eat it. Supervise them to ensure they don’t destroy it.

But because it collapses, it means it doesn’t take up much space.

It’s so much easier than traveling with metal bowls or just using a bowl from an Airbnb kitchen (cause let’s be real they don’t want you doing that).

Water Bottle with Dog Attachment

This one is a game changer.

Just like us, dogs can’t survive without water – but it’s not always easy to carry enough for both of you! That’s where this attachable water bottle comes in. It fits on your own water bottle, and allows you to share your drink with your pup!

I actually carry a separate water bottle for Theo since he drinks so much. And this makes it easy not to waste water on a long trail where he’d let half of it pour out as he drinks.

It cups the water so it create a little bowl with the silicone attachment.

Poop Bags

I never forget to bring these when I travel. Whether on a plane or in the car, I need something to collect Theo’s number twos!

And those always make it onto our checklist – no matter what.

I usually bring a few extra rolls too, just in case.

Brush and Grooming Tools

It’s common courtesy to ensure your dog is clean for wherever you’re staying. I always wash and groom Theo before our trips.

While you can often find portable pet wash stations with shampoo, you can’t always. And for a shedding dog like Theo, he need regular brushings.

I carry a slicker brush with us, his nail clippers, and a dog electric razor (cause the dude has some serious butt fur that needs to be kept in check).

Remember: don’t groom your dog in hotels or Airbnbs. Groom them outdoors so you don’t leave a ton of fur everywhere.

Or if you must groom them inside, clean up after yourself.

Muddy golden retriever on a hiking trail looking very pleased with himself

Disinfectant Wipes

These are a must-have travel companion for any pet parent.

I use these to wipe down Theo’s paws after he goes for a walk, or before he gets into bed. We also use them to clean up any messes that might happen in an Airbnb or hotel room.

I always keep one of these packs in my fanny pack or backpack when we travel.

They even make dog friendly ones that can be used between washes to keep their fur clean – which is especially good if you’re somewhere camping or living that van life with low water supplies.

Calming Treats

Travel can be stressful for dogs. Luckily, calming treats can come to the rescue!

These treats are available basically everywhere – but be careful not to get cannabis ones and transport them between countries and some places have really strict anti-cannabis laws.

I use hemp treats for Theo when he’s stressed and if we’re doing a big trip.

Car Sickness Medication

If you’re traveling by car, you may need to have something for your pup in case they get a little queasy.

I used to always carry travel sickness medication with me just in case Theo needed it. Luckily after his first couple trips, he was totally fine.

But I also try and keep calm music on, make sure the aircon is on but not cold – and we stop often for him to have potty breaks.

These meds can also help for dogs going on planes (but not beneath the plane).

Recent Photo

It’s always a good idea to have a recent photo of your pup with you while you travel.

That way if they do get lost, it’s easy to show people around the area what they look like and help them find their way back home.

Let’s be honest though, all of our camera rolls are just full of photos of our pup anyway.

Phone Number and Address of Vet Near Location

No matter where we go, I usually have the number and address of the nearest vet in my phone.

Just in case Theo gets really sick or injured while we’re away, it’s nice to know that there is a place where we can get help as soon as possible. Plus it takes some stress off knowing that you’re prepared for anything.

If you’re at a hotel, ask the concierge for a recommendation.

I’ve never needed to use it, but just having it makes me feel safer.

Winter Boots

If you plan to travel anywhere that gets cold, you’ll need to make sure your pup has some winter boots with them.

This is especially true for long car rides and hikes where their feet may freeze in the snow or get cut on sharp stones.

I use Muttluks for Theo and love them. They’re reusable and he can’t burst his nails through them. Plus they actually stay on, even after a 3 hour hike in 4ft of snow in Ottawa!

Rain Jacket

If you’re travelling somewhere that’s wet and rainy, a rain jacket is a must.

I got Theo a bright yellow one so he can be seen easily when we go out walking in the rain. Plus it’s super cute and keeps him dry even on the longest of hikes.

It’s a smart idea to use on as well so hotels and Airbnbs like you better. Bringing in a giant, wet-smelling dog isn’t exactly going to make them your friend.

Winter Coat

If you plan to travel somewhere cold and snowy, a good winter coat is essential.

Get one that will protect your pup from the wind and snow as well as keeping them warm.

I got one certified to -20C for Theo since we got for long hikes in Canada all the time in winter. While he never seems to be bothered by the cold (I swear he thinks he’s a husky), I know that -30C temps for too long aren’t good for him.

Plus the bright red makes him visible even in a Truckee snowstorm!

Head Lamp

Headlamps are always a good idea for travelling with your pup at night.

It’s usually dark and you need to be able to see where you’re going. Plus if your pup gets lost, the lamp can help people find him easier.

I got this one from Amazon that I can slip over my hat and it has adjustable settings so I’m not blinding people in the city, but I’m not in total darkness in the countryside.

Light Up Collar or Leash Attachment

Just like I have a light up head lamp for me, I got one for Theo so he’s visible in the dark.

Reflective gear works in cities with headlights, but in the countryside they aren’t really helpful.

I use a light up collar for Theo that has a red glow and even a flashing setting.

When I used to puppysit in Zwettl, Austria, I used a flashing attachment that can go on their collar or leash, so I could spot the border collie off leash racing around the fields.

Stain Eliminator Spray

A stain eliminator spray is a must when travelling with an adventurous pup.

Theo loves to get muddy, so I always have this on hand in case he rolls around in something smelly or leaves paw prints all over the rental car (oops! This is why I now use a car hammock).

It’s also good for a puppy who may not be 100% potty trained, or my sister’s 16 year old Havanese who can’t control her bladder anymore.

I use Nature’s Miracle and it works like a charm to get anything out.

Febreeze or Other Car Odor Eliminator

If you travel a lot with your pup, you know that they can leave a mess in the car.

Febreeze and other odor eliminators are great for getting rid of any smells before you turn in the rental or leave your own car.

I keep a small bottle in my bag so I can spray it right when we get back from hikes where Theo has gotten wet – like when he dived into a mud puddle then into the San Francisco Bay at the beach.

Pee Pads

Puppies and small dogs definitely need pee pads on trips! You can put them in their crate or carrier to ensure no messes.

It’s also a great idea to have on hand if you’re in an area that you don’t feel comfortable taking your dog for a potty walk in the dark. Put one down in the bathroom for them to do their business before bed or at 4am (if like Theo, your dog doesn’t get time differences).

Then spray some odor eliminator and rub the area with disinfectant.

Local Laws and Bylaws Regarding Pets

Always check local regulations for dogs before you arrive anywhere.

Are dogs allowed off leash? What’s the protocol with bars and restaurants? What vaccines does your dog need to have?

In North America, they’re pretty similar. But abroad, they can vary greatly.

Stay safe by being sure of your rights with your dog.

Girl crouched down beside golden retriever puppy on hiking trail

Conclusion: What to Bring Traveling with Your Dog

Traveling with your pup is a great way to spend quality time together and see new places.

But make sure you’re prepared with the right items. Things like a leash and a collar may seem obvious, but an enrichment toy and a light up collar can be life savers you wouldn’t have considered!

Remember: almost everywhere has a pet store now. So if you forget something, you can always get it when you’re abroad. But it may be more expensive.

Happy travels to you and your fur baby!

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

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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