I’ve written several posts about the dog gear we bring with us on trips, and how we pack it for car and airplane travel, but when Gigi Griffis (who writes The Ramble, and whose posts about her current trip across Europe with Luna, her Schnauzer-Yorkie mix, have frequently been featured in past Chloe’s Clicks) asked if I’d like to contribute to a collection of posts about packing for dog travel, I happily agreed. Things change over time, after all — new products come out, and new habits arise, and this is a fine opportunity to let you know about them. I’m looking forward to hearing Gigi’s packing tips, as well as those of Sonja and Stefan, the human team behind Montecristo Travels (Monte’s a remarkable dog, but the packing is surely done by his bipeds!). Links to their posts, which I haven’t yet read, are in the last paragraph.
Some things have not changed: This is still Chloe’s comprehensive packing list, and I always run an eye over it before I call myself ready to go. I add new things to it, as they arise, but I don’t take things off (we no longer really need Bitter Apple, for example, and after Chloe frightened herself by snagging a claw in her Poochie Bells, we no longer use them, but those items are still listed).
Packing for car travel in your own car
If we are leaving on a road trip in our own car, we pack Chloe’s gear in totes. Her 24″ long metal Midwest travel crate, and three crate pads, fit in an extra-large Land’s End tote bag, and the many-pocketed tote that sits on top of her home crate gets heaved in next to it (in addition to the usual stuff it contains, including her grooming supplies, a few choice toys, an extra leash and harness, and her Pawz booties, we add any jackets she might need, a stocked food kit and a couple of different bags of treats, for variety).
Please note that the L.L. Bean tote we use for Chloe’s everyday organization was discontinued a couple of years ago — every so often, I search for good alternatives (they have to have a zipped top, and lots of capacious side pockets), and the one I like best right now is actually a diaper bag.
Chloe’s car-safety solution (these days, the Pet Tube from Pet Ego, with the optional Pet Ego “comfort pillow” and an extra, soft pad) is already in place, and she’ll be traveling in it, so no need to pack that. We do toss in her Pet Ego messenger bag, in case a stealth solution is needed. As you know, I keep the sneaking to a minimum, but on a road trip — especially a solo one — there are times when I must sneak. I will not leave Chloe in the car, under any circumstances, so when I stop at a convenience store for a bathroom break, for example, she comes in with me.
Packing for car travel in a rental car
Packing for this is the same as packing for air travel, which I’ll turn to next — with one difference. If I know that we’ll be driving a rental car at our destination, I pack Chloe’s Pet Tube (it zips into a pancake that’s 18″ in diameter, and about 3″ thick) and its comfort pillow in her Big Red Suitcase (both will fit if I eliminate one of her three big crate pads). When we arrive, I install the Pet Tube in the right rear seat of the rental car, add the extra, soft pad from her in-cabin carrier (the extra-small Plush Sleepeez pad from Pet Dreams fits well both in Chloe’s large SturdiBag carrier and on top of the Pet Ego comfort pillow), insert Chloe, and off we go.
If it’ll be a long road trip at our destination, I pull out Chloe’s many-pocketed tote and put that on the seat next to her — easily accessible from the front seats and from the driver’s side passenger door. The Big Red Suitcase goes in the trunk, to be dealt with when we stop for the night. It’s a messy scene in the car rental area while all of this is happening, since I have to open Chloe’s suitcase completely, on the ground, to access all the stuff I need, but it only takes a couple of minutes before everything is zipped back up again.
Packing for air travel (checked bag)
Over the years I’ve offered a handful of suggestions for air travel packing, and more than one reader has added to the list. The trickiest part of the process is packing a travel crate for your pup. A crate is an excellent idea for travelers with dogs because many hotels require that your dog be crated while you’re absent; in addition, a crate gives your dog a familiar haven as you change environments, and keeps her from bolting out of the room when house cleaning (and the house cleaning cart and vacuum) enters.
If you (unlike me) have a pup that won’t shred a soft-sided crate, you’re lucky, because they’re compact and lighter than the metal crate I pack for Chloe. I recommend the Creature Leisure soft-sided crate; the medium size that works well for Chloe also fits in a large suitcase (which can itself be soft-sided, in this case).
If you prefer a hard-sided but plastic Vari-Kennel/Sky Kennel kind of crate, you can either leave it assembled and check it like a suitcase (you can pack light, bulky things in it — nothing too heavy, or your handle will pull off), or (and this was a reader’s suggestion), you can unscrew its sides and pack the top and bottom, nested together, in a suitcase.
We use a metal Midwest crate for Chloe, and the one she has at home is 30″ long. I initially thought I’d be packing it up each time we traveled, so I bought a 32″ suitcase to hold it. I chose a hard-sided suitcase, because the edges of the metal crate would wreak havoc on a soft-sided suitcase (which, in turn, wouldn’t protect the crate from airline baggage handling). Because I wanted the hard-sided suitcase to be as light as possible — you’ve seen Chloe’s packing list, and you know how long it is — I ended up buying the phenomenally expensive Samsonite Cosmolite 32″ Spinner suitcase, in red. I’ve never regretted it: It’s light, it’s sturdy, it’s easy to wheel around, and it’s impossible to miss coming off the baggage claim belt.
I did change my mind about the crate, however. We pack the next smaller size instead (24″ long), which keeps the weight down and leaves room around its edges for Chloe’s soft furnishings. Here’s what Chloe’s suitcase contains, on a typical trip:
Open side, from bottom to surface
- Sham-wow towels/camping towels (filling in the indents between the channels for the suitcase’s handle)
- Nylon-twill-over-foam crate pad, about 1.5″ thick
- 24″ Midwest single-door crate
- Two (one, if I’m packing Chloe’s Pet Tube) soft crate pads
- Two bedsheets and a fitted crate cover, rolled up and inserted around the three outer edges of the crate
- Chloe’s many-pocketed tote, the entire thing inserted into an extra-large Ziploc bag to corral the small bits and protect against liquid (shampoo, enzymatic cleaner, etc.) leakage
- Chloe’s food kit
- Pet Ego messenger bag
- Pet Tube and comfort pillow (if car travel at the destination is planned)
Even fully loaded, the Big Red Suitcase has always squeaked in at just under 50 lbs. You could, conceivably, divide your pet’s gear between your suitcase and that of a companion, obviating the need for a separate pet suitcase, but I’ve never managed to be that efficient.
The more you travel, the more routine this packing job will become. Between trips, I leave most of this gear in the Big Red Suitcase, so that when the time to pack arrives, all I have to do is grab the tote that rests on her home crate (keeping her everyday gear organized), put it into the XL Ziploc bag, fill the food kit with the appropriate amount of food and treats, and place both — along with Chloe’s messenger bag and her Pet Tube — in the zipped side of the suitcase.
Please note that if your everyday, many-pocketed organizational tote is bursting at the seams, you can purchase a second, smaller tote with just the gear your pet needs for travel (rather than all of her toys, and both of the fanny packs you use for dog-walking, and all three of her water bottles, etc.). That makes packing even easier, because that fully-stocked travel tote can live in your pet’s suitcase between trips. In this post about our typical hotel room set-up, you’ll see Chloe’s pink-and-orange travel tote on top of her crate, not her cream-and-green home tote.
Packing for air travel (in-cabin)
Although some airlines may allow you to board with a carry-on as well as your pet’s carrier, most don’t. What if your pet’s suitcase doesn’t end up at your destination at the same time you do? You’ll see, in Dog Jaunt’s packing list, a section listing the gear I carry into the cabin with me, either in my “small personal item” (in my case, a robustly-sized purse), in the pocket of Chloe’s in-cabin carrier, or tucked into one of the many pockets in my travel vest. I strongly recommend a many-pocketed vest for travelers with dogs, since your small personal item has to go in the overhead bin, and on bumpy flights you may never be allowed to access it.
The links in this post will lead you to other Dog Jaunt posts about packing, but here are two fresh, new links. Gigi Griffis is simultaneously posting about packing for dog travel on her blog, The Ramble, and I’m looking forward to reading about her process, especially now that she and Luna have been traveling for so long around Europe. Montecristo, living life eight inches off the ground, is simultaneously posting about packing for dog travel on Montecristo Travels — he and his bipeds always have good (and often delightfully swanky) ideas, and I’m looking forward to hearing them. [A valuable addition to the collection arrived after we published these links: Akila, part of The Road Unleashed team, sent her dog travel packing recommendations from Europe, where she and Patrick are traveling with pups Abby and Chewy.] I’d love, too, to hear your packing tips! Please leave them in a comment, so we can all benefit!