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Summer is around the corner, and everyone on social media posts tips on packing a suitcase or the best travel ideas when traveling with little kids.
When you have dogs and little kids, things get even more complicated.
You have to figure out who will take care of your dogs while you are away or pack more stuff if your dogs are coming.
What to pack when you travel with young kids and dogs
It depends on the length - day trips, overnight, or gone-the-whole-summer kind of trips
and the type of your trip, e.g., camping trips, road trips, or hotel stay.
Sometimes I only take the basics such as food, collar, harness, and a leash, and sometimes Lola travels with almost as much luggage as my children.
Over the years, I have made a LIST* of travel items for dogs that make my life easier. I try to take things that are:
*See the list below
Tips for vacations with and without dogs
Think about how you will approach management in a new space to keep your baby safe. If possible, take management tools with you, rent at the destination, or order them to be delivered to your location, such as:
Check out the Dog Meets Baby Amazon Store for light and foldable travel crates, portable baby gates, playpens, and useful dog products. Some travel products are only suitable for smaller dogs or those who aren’t jumpy.
If family or friends’ dogs will be vacationing with you or you’ll be staying at their place, management tools and safety rules are even more important to keep the little ones safe. This blog post discusses holidays with family and friends, but the rules apply to summer trips, too.
You might be wondering, why do I need tips from a dog trainer on vacations without dogs?
Keep in mind that there may be an adjustment period for your dog when you return. Many children will have hit milestones while away, e.g., you leave for vacation with an immobile baby and return with a rolling or crawling child.
This was our case. I was away with the kids for two months, visiting my parents. I left with rolling babies and came back to Lola with two very active crawlers. Lola was very happy to see her human siblings but initially unsure about their movement. Both children were very interested in Lola and could now crawl up to her.
If your dog has not seen your baby for a while, it can be shocking to your dog. Adjust your management accordingly, and give your dog plenty of time and distance (aka Baby TV) to get used to your baby's new skills. You may want to reintroduce your baby with some safety precautions in mind.
Examples: baby in the stroller, baby holding something to prevent grabbing the dog’s fur, or baby in your lap. If you have a newly mobile baby, chances are you’ve been researching baby gates. If you’d like suggestions from other parents and me, here is a good list of short and long gates and playpens parents like and use.
If your dog actively solicits attention and approaches you and the baby, you can do some supervised petting. Remember that consent is fluid and little kids are unpredictable. We can’t expect them to follow directions reliably.
If you notice your dog is showing subtle signs of stress and seems unsure about the baby, it’s best to stop petting and redirect the baby to a different activity.
If your dog moves away every time your baby reaches or starts approaching your dog, it’s best to separate them and focus on nonphysical forms of affection. Watch my children demo blowing kisses, waving, and air hugging. Even young toddlers can play fetch with dogs if you have a fetch dog! Not sure how? Check out this reel to see how the little ones can have fun and keep the dogs busy.
Sometimes, a baby might suddenly be scared of a dog and need time to get used to the dog again. Grab this free tutorial, “Overcoming Fear of Dogs. A step-by-step plan to help your child feel safe around dogs", if the fear continues.
You don't need every item on the list below! I like to think of it as a helpful guide. Look and decide what items would be useful and make the most sense for your family when you travel.
Portable Indoor/Outdoor play yard or an exercise pen.
A portable travel gate is a lifesaver when you have a toddler. Since those are pressure-mounted gates, consider a Wall Nanny to avoid any holes.
03. Baby Delight
05. Wall Nanny
Portable Travel Dog Bed (rolls up for compact travel).
Soft collapsible crate or carrier.
09. Amazon Basics Soft Dog Travel Crate
10. Away Pet Carrier - Use this link to get $20 off your first purchase
A crash-test certified car harness, a car carrier, or a kennel.
11. Big Dog Seatbelt Company - DOGMEETSBABY for $10 off
Cooling mats or portable, battery-operated fans are perfect for summer trips.
Collar, harness, leash with a carabiner + poop bags.
14. Ruffwear - Front range dog harness + Reflective collar
A long (about 20ft) biothane line. Perfect for hikes in new environments.
17. High Tail Hikes - Use DOGMEETSBABY10 for 10% off
Dog tie-out stake - practical when you go camping but very important to teach young children ‘the dog is in the bubble’ analogy.
19. SÄKER Heavy Duty Tie Out Stake
Collapsible bowl, travel food container + pre-measured food.
20. Collapsible bowls (2 pack)
Pet water bottle. So useful for various types of trips.
23. Lesotc Dog Water Dispenser
24. Petkit Leak Proof Dog Water Bottle
Treats and a few favorite dog toys.
25. Pupford Freeze Dried Dog Training Treats - Use DOGMEETSBABY for 10% off
26. Charlee Bear Original Crunch
27. Chuckit! Ultra Tug Dog Toy
28. Ruffwear Hydro Plane™ Floating Throw Toy
Dog training treat pouch.
26. Paw Lifestyles
2- 3 puzzle toys. I usually pack a Kong, a Toppl, and a Soda Pup Puzzle Toy.
27. Classic kong
28. Toppl Treat Dispensing Puzzle Toy
29. Soda Pup Treat Dispensing Puzzle Toys - Use DOGMEETSBABY for 10% off
Chews. I like to pack a few bully sticks. Qwizl Dog Puzzle Toy can be used as a bully stick holder or a toy.
32. Pupford Bully Stick Dog Chew
Foldable snuffle mats are great for travel.
33. Paw 5 Dog Snuffle Mat + AWOOF Pet Snuffle Mat
Dog lick mat. It is light and perfect for spreading PB, yogurt, wet dog food, etc. You can serve it to your pup at room temperature or pop it in the freezer for a few hours.
36. Poochie Bells or a Tell Bell. I would only pack them if your dog is trained to use a bell to let you know they have to go potty.
37. DO NOT PET vest. Not a good idea if eye contact is triggering for your dog as many people will be staring at your dog.
Rain gear. If your dog doesn’t like getting wet, and the rainy weather is likely, pack them a raincoat.
Thundershirt - applies gentle, constant pressure to calm anxiety, fear, and over-excitement. Some people swear by it, and some notice zero difference. If it works for your dog, take it.
Life vest - if your dog accompanies you on boats, kayaks, SUP, or will be swimming in rough currents, strong waves, or a large body of water where they may get tuckered out, a life vest will keep your pup safe.
Dog boots - If you plan on hiking with your dog, get them a pair. Recently my dog Lola injured her paw on a hike. She has been wearing a cone for two weeks now. I so wish she had worn those boots. Dog booties also keep their paws safe from hot roads in the summer.
42. QUMY Dog Shoes
42. Ruffwear Grip Trex™ Dog Boots
43. Hands-free leashes are useful when your hands are literally full. You are pushing a stroller, holding your toddler’s hand, carrying a bike your toddler wanted to ride but changed their mind. Great for jogging or hiking. Many parents use and love them (though they are not for every dog-human combo!).
Medical/ Vaccination Records.
Your dog’s medication + pet first aid kit + a tick remover. Don’t forget any monthly additions such as heartworm or flea & tick preventatives.
I highly recommend the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Pet Service website (US) if you travel with your dog internationally. It can be a complicated process with multiple deadlines.
Have a digital and a paper copy of your dog’s vaccination records.
Pediatrician at Karabots Pediatric Care Center, West Philadelphia, a CHOP Care Network primary care practice. Mom to two toddlers and founder of Resilient Rascals.
Traveling with young children can feel like a lot! Having some health essentials handy will help you feel calm + confident in handling a medical emergency. Here are some tips to help you prep for your trip.
Keep these handy before you leave - you can jot them down, take quick photos, or keep my Travel First Aid Printable Checklist with you.
1. Your Child's Weight. In case of any health issue or emergency, children's medications are based on their weight. Knowing this before you leave can save you precious time.
2. Medications or Allergies. Make sure you know your child's dose of any medications they take, and also write down a list of their allergies to have on hand.
3. Nearest Emergency Room or Urgent Care. Hopefully, you won't need it, but it's good to know where the nearest hospitals are just in case of an emergency (it saves you some frantic googling in the moment and helps with trip planning).
4. Your Child's Insurance Information. It's good to have a copy or photo of their insurance card handy.
Dr. Gans' Healthy Baby Bundle has everything parents need in one place - tips for children's most common health conditions (fevers, breathing problems, coughs + colds, rashes, etc.) and first aid checklists to help parents confidently handle pediatric health emergencies.
Safe Beginnings First Aid is the leading provider of infant and toddler-focused first aid, CPR and car safety workshops and courses for parents in North America.
Have a plan for safe transportation
Whether you’re flying or driving to your destination, having a plan for safe transportation is key.
The FAA agrees that all passengers, including infants and children, are safest on planes when restrained. If you can purchase a seat for your little one, consider bringing their car seat onboard. If you’re not driving on the other end (think bus travel to a resort, for example), a CARES airplane harness is a great solution to keep toddlers safe on the plane when a car seat isn’t needed on the other side.
If you’re traveling to a different country without your family’s personal vehicle, it’s worth looking into whether your car seat is permitted to be used while visiting or if you’ll need to arrange to use a local car seat.
Look at pictures before you go
Vacation homes and hotels are meant for relaxing, not for stressing out over safety! However, some families have been surprised to find their accommodation may have real hazards present for their little ones: unblocked balconies, open staircases, or easy access to pools or open water by a child, to name a few. Get ahead of the potential issue by looking at photos of the accommodations before you go. If there’s any doubt, call the property and ask! The more informed you are, the lower the chance of unpleasant surprises meeting you on arrival.
Baby proofing on the go
It goes without saying that we can’t bring drills and hammers with us on vacation and start babyproofing accommodations that aren’t our own. Still, there are so many great portable gadgets on the market that are non-invasive and won’t cause damage to your accommodation. I personally love the DOOR WING for travel because it can take the place of multiple devices: a door lock, a pinch guard, or even limit access to a room the way a baby gate across a door frame would (since it’s adjustable, it works on almost any door, making it great for the various doors you’ll come across on your travels). Consider bringing along some plug protectors for outlets, and if you’ve got a baby or toddler, bringing a playpen is “clutch,” as the kids say (crucial). A playpen gives you a safe space for your little one without fear of them getting into something unsafe, so you can grab a shower, get yourself together, or just take a breath!
Look under the beds
Alright, this one’s a bit gross, but hear me out: the number of times you’ll find something under a hotel bed when you take a quick peek will surprise you. We don’t love doing it, but get down on your hands and knees and look under the bed for hazards (put down a towel if it makes you feel better!) Remember, the floor level is eye level for crawling babies and playful toddlers (and dogs!), and if they see something there, they’ll likely go for it. Have a glance for anything that could pose a risk (coins and batteries being the most common) and remove them.