Solo travel is one of life’s great pleasures, and it’s made even more fun when your pooch can come along.
However, if you want to explore the world with your furry pal, you’ll need to do a lot of preparation and planning beforehand.
You can’t be as spontaneous when you have a canine companion, and if you’re crossing borders, one innocent misjudgment could place you both in a difficult situation.
Planning your trip in advance, while keeping your dog’s needs in mind, is the best way to ensure a great travel experience. Check out these six tips for solo travel with your dog and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
1. Consider Whether Your Dog is Suitable for Travel
Before packing your suitcase and hitting the road with your pooch, take the time to consider whether your pup is cut out for travel.
Are they anxious or reactive by nature? Do they get upset when their daily routine is disrupted? Or are they getting older or suffering from health issues?
You should ask yourself all these questions and more before deciding to travel with your dog. Not all dogs will enjoy the constant changing of surroundings that comes with travel, while others may struggle with disruptions to their routine.
If you’re unsure how your dog will react to travel, it’s best to do a short trial run first. Take your pup away with you for an overnight stay or weekend break to see how they get on before committing to a longer trip.
2. Plan Your Trip Ahead
A popular travel quote is “travel is about the journey, not the destination”, and this is especially true when traveling with your dog. Before heading off on your adventures, make the time to plan your route in detail – with the needs of your dog in mind.
If you’re traveling by car, you should choose an itinerary that has plenty of dog-friendly stops on the way, so you can punctuate the journey with shady walks and toilet stops. Your dog will be much more relaxed if they have frequent opportunities for a leg-stretch and some fresh air.
You should also make a note of all the vet clinics and pet supply stores along the way, just in case your pooch needs some medical help during your trip.
If you’re flying with your dog, triple-check the airline and arrival country requirements before you book. The last thing you want is to turn up at the airport with the wrong size of airline carrier or a missing vaccine stamp on your dog’s paperwork.
Airlines are very specific about which carriers are allowed, including requirements as minor as the bolt material and locking mechanisms. You should also check whether your dog is small enough to come into the cabin, as the hold can be an extremely stressful experience.
Most airports have areas where you can walk your pup and allow them to relieve themselves before boarding – so be sure to factor this time into your travel plans.
3. Pre-Book Dog-Friendly Venues
While more venues are pet-friendly nowadays, you cannot assume the next hotel on your route will allow you to bring your pooch. Being stranded with nowhere to stay is bad enough when you’re on your own, let alone when you have your furry pal.
To avoid this situation, make sure to research dog-friendly hotels and restaurants along your route and book well in advance to avoid disappointment. Some hotels may offer pet-sitting services, too – so you can nip out for essentials and leave your pup in safe hands.
The good news is that there are many dog-friendly hotels in Costa Rica. You’ll need to search for the area you’re visiting, but some examples include:
- Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica (Papagayo.) This hotel allows pets of any size for no additional fee, making it an excellent choice for larger dogs.
- Hotel Poseidon Y Restaurante (Jaco.) Unlike the Four Seasons, this hotel only allows dogs up to 15kg, and you’ll need to pay a small deposit.
- Casa Conde Hotel and Suites (San Jose.) This hotel allows dogs up to 20lbs with a daily refundable deposit.
4. Bring All the Essentials
Whether you’re traveling by air or overland, you’ll need to bring lots of supplies to keep your dog happy and healthy during the journey.
For road trips, make sure there’s plenty of space in the car to bring everything your pup needs and keep it within easy reach for your rest stops. Items such as a crash-tested travel crate, collapsible water bowls, poop bags, wipes, snacks, blankets, leashes, and harnesses are essential, and I recommend you also bring a comfy bed (The Dog Clinic has some good travel options,) their favorite toys and a first aid kit.
If you’re flying with your dog in the cabin with you, be sure to bring comfort items such as toys, blankets, absorbent pads, wipes, snacks, and a collapsible water bowl. If your dog is anxious on the plane, you may want to bring a calming supplement recommended by your vet.
5. Keep Copies of all Your Documents
If you’re planning to cross borders, you’ll need to have all your dog’s health and vaccination records ready. These are checked by border officials to make sure your dog is healthy and won’t bring any diseases into the country.
Countries have different entry requirements, so it’s crucial to research these thoroughly before traveling. Some countries will require a rabies vaccination and blood test results to prove it. If you arrive and you don’t have the correct documentation, your dog could be taken away and placed into quarantine.
Alongside the original documents, make sure you make several copies and keep them somewhere safe. Officials will usually want to make copies of the documents, so if you have some ready, this will save time and make the entry process much easier.
It’s a good idea to have some copies saved digitally, too, so you can still access them should the hard copies get lost or damaged.
6. Make Use of Dog-Friendly Travel Apps
Essentially everyone is online nowadays, so you’ll likely plan your vacation with your smartphone. Aside from browsing websites for information, you can also download dedicated dog travel apps to help you make the most of your trip.
Some of my favorites are:
- Bring Fido – this app lists nearby dog-friendly venues.
- Pet First Aid– run by the American Red Cross, this app tells you where the nearest emergency veterinarian clinics are and provides easy instructions to help you deal with an emergency.
- All Trails – this app lists more than 50,000 trails with maps and reviews. You can filter the search to locate dog-friendly walks nearby.
There you have it, my top tips for solo travel with your dog.
Organizing a trip with your pooch maybe a little more difficult than going it alone, but if you do your research and plan well in advance, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy exploring the world with your best friend!