AAA Travel Advice on Road Trips with Your Four-Legged Friend

Many American travelers won’t leave home this holiday without their best friend, the four-legged variety. An estimated 46 million households own dogs and travel near and far with their pet by their side. AAA feels that it is important that drivers take safety precautions before they leave the driveway.

“Taking your attention away from the road for even two seconds doubles the risk of a crash,” according to Chelsea Pompeani, AAA East Central’s Director of Public Affairs. “When traveling with your pet, the driver needs to concentrate on the road and pull over if they need to tend to their dog’s needs,” she added.

AAA advises:

While taking a long road trip, pets should be confined to the backseat. Motorists can either use a carrier, or a harness attached to the car’s seatbelt. This way, the animal won’t be a distraction to the driver, and will stay put when the car door opens. Remember, a calm dog will be thrown with the same amount of force as an active dog if in a wreck.

AAA suggests that drivers stop every two hours to take a break from the wheel, and also get your pet some fresh air. This is an opportunity to feed your pet, take them outside, and keep them hydrated. If you’re travelling with a cat, it’s important to bring a litter box along for the ride. During the cold winter months, animals should not spend more than a couple of minutes outside. Frostbite can set in quickly.

To avoid car sickness, feed your pet a small meal at least four hours before hitting the road. Never try to give your animal food or water while you’re driving.

When driving, keep your pet safely inside the car with you. Dogs or cats who like to stick their heads out the window can be injured by flying pieces of debris. They could also get sick by having cold air forced into their lungs. Never transport a pet in the back of an open pickup truck.

Don’t forget to leash your pet before opening the car door. Even well-trained pets could take off if they’re not used to travelling, or if they’re in a strange place. (If your pet is a first time traveler, it may be easier to use a harness instead of a collar. They’re less likely to wiggle out of a harness.)

For more information on safe travels with your pet, and great deals on pet-friendly hotels and restaurants, visit

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit organization with 83 local offices in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and New York, servicing 2.7 million members.