The Ultimate Dog Packing List — What to Pack for Your Pet

Dog Packing Checklist for Traveling

Written by Teresa Bitler on

Teresa Bitler is an award-winning travel writer specializing in adventure, culture, and history. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Way, Sherman’s Travel, and many other high-profile outlets.

Packing for any trip involves planning for the adventures you expect to have. That can be challenging enough when it’s just you, but if you decide to bring your dog, it becomes even more complicated. Dogs need more than just food, water, and treats to have a fun and safe trip. Here’s what to pack for your dog on vacation, no matter the adventures you have planned.




Planning ahead is crucial when traveling with your dog to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip for both you and your furry friend. Whether you’re heading out for a weekend or packing up your life for a big move, here's how to plan ahead effectively:

  • Make dog-friendly travel arrangements: Research and book pet-friendly accommodations, including hotels, vacation rentals, or campgrounds, well before your trip. Ensure that the places you plan to visit, such as parks, restaurants, and attractions, are also pet-friendly. Additionally, check airline or transportation regulations regarding pet travel if you're flying or taking public transportation.
  • Acclimate your dog to traveling: Gradually acclimate your dog to traveling by taking them on short car rides or practice trips to familiarize them with the experience. This helps reduce anxiety and stress during longer journeys. Consider using a pet carrier or seat belt harness to keep your dog safe and secure in the car.
  • Get them vaccinated: Ensure that your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and preventive medications, especially if you're traveling to areas where certain diseases are prevalent. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if additional vaccinations or health precautions are needed based on your destination.
  • Pack essential supplies: Bring along your dog’s travel essentials, including food, water, bowls, medication, leash, collar with ID tags, bedding, toys, and waste disposal bags. It's also a good idea to pack a first aid kit for your dog in case of emergencies.
  • Plan rest stops and exercise breaks: Plan regular rest stops and exercise breaks during road trips to allow your dog to stretch their legs, relieve themselves, and stay comfortable. Research pet-friendly rest areas or parks along your route where your dog can safely run and play.
  • Consider their comfort: Consider your dog's comfort during travel by bringing along familiar items such as their favorite blanket or toy. Create a cozy space for them in the car or at your accommodations where they can relax and feel at ease.
  • Follow pet-friendly etiquette: Respect pet-friendly rules and regulations at your destination, including leash laws, waste disposal policies, and noise ordinances. Be considerate of other travelers and pet owners to ensure a positive experience for everyone.

By planning ahead and taking the necessary precautions, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable travel experience for you and your beloved canine companion.



Whether you plan to overnight out of town or explore a national park over a week, some items are essential regardless of your destination. Make sure you pack with a plan -  you’ll need things like food, bowls, and an extra leash on your dog packing list. Before you leave on a trip with your pet, make sure you have the following items stored in a large bag.

So, what do I need to travel with my dog? Here is a dog packing list you can follow to ensure you’re well-prepared for wherever your adventure takes you:

  • Bowls for food and water
  • Food (a roll-top shoe bag makes an excellent storage container)
  • Any medications your dog takes
  • Treats, kept in a small bag or tote
  • Toys to keep your dog occupied
  • An extra collar and leash
  • Brush or comb
  • A recent photo of your dog, in case you get separated
  • Blankets or old towels for your dog to lie on
  • Dog waste pickup bags
  • Grooming wipes to keep your dog clean
  • Your dog's microchip number and the phone number of the monitoring company
  • Travel bed
  • A foldable travel crate, if your dog uses one
  • Seatbelt harness 


A dog and two women get ready to stand-up paddleboard


You should have a first aid kit for your dog whenever you travel with them. Start with a human first aid kit and add essentials for your dog, or you can purchase a pet-specific kit. Either way, the American Kennel Club recommends your kit should include the following:

  • Canine first aid manual you can reference
  • Gauze
  • Non-stick bandages
  • Adhesive tape
  • Cotton balls
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Antibiotic spray or ointment
  • Milk of magnesia (consult with a veterinarian for proper dosage first)
  • Digital thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezer for removing splinters and ticks
  • Magnifying glass

Place these first aid essentials into a sturdy bag along with your pets’ medications. The bag should also include soap and a bottle of water to disinfect wounds, a soft muzzle (even the sweetest dog can bite you when wounded), old blankets or towels, and your veterinarian’s phone number (in case you lose your phone or its battery dies). Always make sure your dog’s regular treatments, such as flea or worming, are up to date before you leave on a trip.



What to pack for your dog when camping isn’t that much different than what you should pack for a hotel-based vacation. However, since you’ll be outdoors, you’ll want to bring along a few extra items:

  • Dog bed (or old towels) so they don’t have to sleep on the ground
  • Lightweight sleeping bag to keep them warm if you’re camping where temperatures are likely to drop significantly at night
  • Dog boots, especially if you intend to do a dog-friendly hike
  • Rain jacket for short-haired breeds
  • LED light for your dog’s collar for better visibility at night
  • Dog life jacket if boating, kayaking, or swimming
  • Backpack to store collapsible dog dishes, first aid supplies, and essentials while hiking  


A border collie lounges in the bed of a pickup truck with Migrate Duffels


If your travel plans include a flight, you have additional considerations over a standard road trip. Small dogs that can fit under the seat in front of you can travel with you in the cabin. Generally, a soft-sided crate works best for in-cabin flights. Larger dogs will be required to fly in durable crates in cargo. Check with your airline before travel to make sure your crate complies with cargo requirements. To get through airport security faster, ensure your dog's travel essentials are easily accessible and comply with airline and TSA regulations. Whether your pet travels in the cabin or cargo, make sure you have the following:

  • Bowls (attached to the crate if in cargo)
  • Blanket or old towels your dog can lie down on
  • Something that smells like you
  • A favorite toy (if allowed by your airline)
  • Absorbent mats to draw moisture away on long flights

Traveling with your dog can make your vacation all the more fun and memorable. But, just like any trip, the secret to success is preparation and planning. Our handy guide to road trip tips with your dog has even more advice to make it even easier to head out on the open road with your furry friend.



​​Choosing the right luggage when traveling with your dog is crucial for a comfortable and stress-free journey. Opting for a dedicated pet travel bag is an excellent choice as it provides specialized compartments and organization features specifically designed for dog travel essentials.

These bags typically include compartments for food, water, bowls, toys, medication, and other essentials, making it easy to keep everything organized and accessible during your trip. Using a pet travel bag can streamline the packing process, reduce the risk of forgetting important items, and ensure that your dog's needs are met while on the go.

Additionally, having all your pet supplies in one convenient bag simplifies the process of navigating airports, train stations, or other travel hubs, allowing you to focus on enjoying your journey with your canine companion. Just make sure your pet travel bag complies with the airline luggage sizes imposed by your chosen airline to avoid any additional fees or complications at the airport.


A woman and dog on a beach with a duffel bag


How do you pack dog food for travel?

Packing dog food for travel requires careful planning to ensure your furry friend's nutritional needs are met throughout the trip. Weigh out the amount of food your dog will need for the entire journey, including any potential delays or unexpected circumstances. 

Store the measured portion of food in an airtight container to maintain freshness and prevent spillage. To make your luggage lighter when packing dog food for travel, consider using lightweight packaging options for your pet's food, such as resealable bags or collapsible containers. 

Additionally, consider packing individual meal portions in resealable bags or containers for easy feeding on the go. If traveling by air, be sure to check airline regulations regarding the transportation of pet food to avoid any issues during security checks or boarding.

Should I pack extra supplies for my dog on a long trip?

Absolutely. Packing extra supplies for your dog on a long trip is highly recommended. Bringing additional food, treats, and medications ensures you're well-prepared for unexpected delays or emergencies. It's always better to have more supplies on hand than to run out while away from home, especially if you're traveling to remote areas where pet supplies may not be readily available. 

Additionally, bringing along familiar items, such as your dog's favorite toys or blankets, can help provide comfort and familiarity in unfamiliar surroundings, reducing stress and anxiety for your furry companion. Packaging extra supplies and familiar items ensures that your dog stays happy, healthy, and comfortable throughout your trip.

Can dogs sit with you on the plane?

Yes, typically, dogs can accompany you on a plane if they are small enough to fit in a carrier under the seat in front of you. Many airlines have specific regulations regarding the size and type of carrier allowed, so it's essential to check with your airline before booking your ticket. 

Some airlines may also offer the option to purchase an additional ticket for your dog if they do not meet the size requirements for in-cabin travel. However, this option is less common and may vary depending on the airline's policies. If you plan to travel with your dog, familiarize yourself with the airline's pet travel guidelines and make arrangements to ensure a smooth and comfortable journey for you and your furry friend.

How can I prepare my dog for travel?

Preparing your dog for travel involves gradual acclimation and providing familiar comforts. Start by introducing short trips, gradually increasing the duration, to get your dog accustomed to traveling. Familiarize them with their travel crate or carrier by letting them explore it and associate it with positive experiences. 

Bring along familiar items such as their bedding or favorite toys to provide a sense of comfort and security in new surroundings. Following a dog travel checklist will also ensure that you don’t forget any necessities. Maintain a calm demeanor to help alleviate any stress your dog may experience during travel. With patience and positive reinforcement, you can help your dog feel more confident when embarking on journeys together.