A dog looking out of a car window

4 PCS Pointers for Road Tripping With Pets


I adore my fur babies: Molly and Charlie, 6 and 8. They are part of our family. We like to travel with our dogs – day trips to the mountains, camping or home for the holidays. But we discovered before our last move that PCSing with pups can get very expensive, very quickly. We’re getting ready to move again this summer, and this time I’m applying some valuable lessons learned from our last move. Who said it’s impossible to PCS with your pets on a budget?

  1. Have a plan to keep everyone comfy. We bought a car topper – which I was totally opposed to. Rolling around with a giant box on the top of our car is not really my thing. But sanity wins over vanity, every time. We use this lifesaving gem to free up space in the back of the car and allow the pups to have their beds. We also make sure to pack things like a doggie bag, treats and toys, sanitary bags, plastic grocery bags, water bowls and a stack of towels and rags. You never know when you may need them.
  2. Have a plan on where to stay. Did you know that most commercial “pet-friendly” hotels are not friendly on your wallet, especially if you have more than one pet? We discovered during our last move that most campgrounds allow pets to stay at a fraction of the cost. Also, some chains have dog parks on site. Seek out campgrounds that have cabins; they are often well-appointed with bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchenettes, and allow space for your pets to roam at night when you stop to rest. Many camping cabins fall right in line price-wise with your per diem rate. Recreation.gov  is an online reservation system for many U.S. campgrounds and is a good place to start looking for your next place to stay. Note that not all campgrounds accept advance reservations. You may also want to consider staying at temporary lodging facilities on military installations. Many installations allow pets in their TLFs at a rate that is much cheaper than a commercial “pet-friendly” hotel.
  3. Know your parks. Like you, pups need to stretch their legs on long trips. One tactic we use to ensure our dogs and their humans get some fresh air on the road is to seek out state and national parks that allow pets. Note that not all parks allow them, and it is important that you look up the regulations for parks along your route before you drive 20 miles out of the way for a family day hike. Check out the National Park Service, state park service websites and the Bureau of Land Management for places to stop along your route.
  4. Use road trip and pet apps to help. A simple search for “dog park” or “road trip” in your app store can yield some pretty awesome results. Use technology to make your trip a little easier. Look for tools online or in the app store to help plan your trip and keep your pets happy while on the road. Bookmarking stops offline before you go can also be a lifesaver when you find yourself in an area with no cell service.

I hope these tips will help you, your kids and your fur babies plan an epic journey this summer, full of fun and adventure. Traveling with your pets does not need to be difficult. With a little preparation, it can actually lead to some great memories. Good luck!

Cassie Grainger
Written By Cassie Grainger
Marine Corps Spouse

Cassie has been a Marine Corps spouse for more than 20 years. She is also a family readiness volunteer and moonlights as a writer and editor.

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