If you have a car and a debit card, then road-tripping with your dog during quarantine might be right for you! Back in March, most U.S. states came to a screeching halt as a global pandemic began to spread across the nation. Many employees were thrust into remote work conditions. As a result, quarantine restrictions forced people to stay at home, putting a huge, indefinite pause on their social lives.  

While there have been many negatives associated with the pandemic, one positive effect has been a major increase in pet adoptions. It has given new dog owners a reason to get out of the house and exercise — by walking their four-legged friends. Fast-forward a few months: Thanks to low gas prices and the ability to maintain social distancing, one in three people plan to take road-trips with their dogs during quarantine. On these trips, many will be accompanied by their new four-legged family members. Since my boyfriend and I travel year-round in our RV with our beloved dog Casey, we’ve learned quite a few lessons along the way. If you’re considering a road trip vacation this year, we’ve got some tips to share. 

Road-Tripping With Dogs During a Quarantine

Road-trip space planning

Before we hit the road full-time, we put our most valued possessions in storage, sent things past their prime to the dumpster, and only packed what we needed. Turns out, this was the best decision we could have made. We’ve learned a lot about how much space is enough space. Road-tripping with our dog has helped us learn and grow.

Now, watching Casey, it’s interesting to see he can fit himself into practically any spot he wants — usually near us, and the closer the better! When you’re negotiating travel space, don’t try to fit everyone into the smallest vehicle possible; that usually makes for a miserable trip. Be sure whatever you travel in has enough room for both your two-legged and four-legged travel companions to be comfortable. No one will regret the legroom, even if it costs a bit more to rent a van or RV. Most definitely don’t forge to outfit your rig with these fun car accessories!

Road-trip rest and relaxation

After being cooped up in your home for months, you’ll probably want to jam your road-trip full of all the activities you haven’t been able to do since March. But even if boredom feels like your worst enemy, remember that you’ve been under considerable stress, along with the rest of the world, for the last several months. Try to avoid the do-it-all temptation, and instead focus on rest and relaxation. 

Learn a lesson from your dog on this one. Most dogs love to nap at various times of the day, so take a cue from your furry buddy and use any opportunity to ease your stress. Chances are, you’ll still be encountering plenty of restrictions in different states and cities along your route. You might want to check ahead of time to see what’s open and what’s not, but don’t stress it once you hit the road; just take things as they come. 

Road-Tripping With Dogs During a Quarantine

Road-trip hygiene

We have to give dogs credit: They bathe themselves. Most prefer to do it without water. Unfortunately, we humans need water to clean ourselves, and summer travel may pose new challenges if facilities along the road are still closed to the public.  

Remember to pack plenty of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to clean both your hands and any surfaces in your vehicle you’ve touched. These can help you keep clean at least until you can reach a place with running water and really scrub down. With COVID-19 still spreading, now’s not the time to let your guard down when it comes to hygiene.

Road-trip entertainment

I’m not saying our precious furry friend ever engages in destructive behavior such as gnawing on shoes, shredding toilet paper (yikes — the thought!), or hiding items under the bed to keep busy. But you know some pets do these things to stay entertained.

Pack enough toys and chewables for your dog and some fun activities for the humans, as well. Board games, cards, and crafts are good choices for downtime. Also, plan outings that don’t involve interacting with other people. Find places to go hiking, swimming, or canoeing. Have you ever considered driving barefoot as a bucket list item? (It’s so liberating!) When you get creative, the entertainment possibilities are endless.

Man, woman, dog on top of car

Road-trip social distancing

To help limit the coronavirus spread, it’ll be important to continue social distancing practices.  All of us need to keep masking up, almost certainly for the rest of 2020. It’ll get old, but it’s important. For a little inspiration, consider how dogs manage social distancing: They bark at anyone unwelcome who gets in their space.

You don’t have to bark and scare people.  You can be assertive about maintaining your distance when people infringe upon your personal space. Usually, they’re just excited to be around other people and forget the guidelines. A simple “please” and “thank you” goes a long way when you try to politely distance yourself.

Road-trip skills

Pets generally have plenty of spare time and usually put it to good use, so we try to follow suit. During our road-trip stops, we’ve been able to teach Casey some neat tricks to divert his attention from digging into garbage containers or grabbing snacks from the pantry. (My favorite: He can fix his own leash when it gets tangled up!) If you research tricks to teach your dog during your trip, it’ll be fun for both you and your buddy.

While you’re at it, try to learn some new things, yourself. Start with finding ways to untangle yourself from technology. Unplug for a while; you’re on your dream road-trip vacation! Instead, try to master a new water sport, learn how to catch fish, or discover methods for shooting photos in urban and rural settings.

Road-Tripping with a dog, people and coffee

Road-trip detours

One thing the pandemic has taught us is the need to be flexible in the face of uncertainty. But this isn’t a bad thing. Casey, like many dogs, gets distracted. We might be walking along a path when a smell or sound catches his interest, diverting us from our chosen course. Before we know it, we can find ourselves heading a different way than we’d planned.

At first, this feels frustrating. But then, suddenly, we’re looking at a beautiful lake or seeing an animal we’ve never come across before! Unexpected detours along the road-trip can put us in the right place to catch life’s little moments we might otherwise overlook. If you’re open to detouring spontaneously along the way, definitely do it. 

Road-tripping this summer might feel a little unconventional. But take a few lessons from your favorite furry guy (or gal). You might find 2020’s adventure to be your best vacation year yet.


Molly Barnes is a full-time digital nomad, exploring and working remotely in different cities in the US. She and her boyfriend Jacob created the website Digital Nomad Life to share their journey and help others to pursue a nomadic lifestyle.