We’ve done extensive traveling with our Labradors, and have learned a considerable amount along the way. Mainly, how not to get expelled from hotels.
Some of those trips were adventurous, relaxing, and delightful, while a few others were an example of how not to travel with large-breed retrievers.
(It’s a miracle some of those hotels ever welcomed us back again!)
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What’s our must-have product for travel with pets?
A soft-sided collapsible crate that gives your Lab a safe place to relax in your hotel, condo, or vacation home while giving them a sense of security and space to relax.
We’ve spent thousands of dollars of our own money on crates, and this is our all-time favorite crate recommendation!
Why Do I Need to Bring a Crate? My Lab is an Angel
Every parent thinks their dog is both a genius and a perfect angel. But let’s take a realistic look at what traveling with a Labrador Retriever is like, even for the best-behaved among them.
If you’re considering taking your Lab or another large-breed dog along with you on vacation on the road, one of the big issues you will be facing is how you’re going to transport and manage your dog in your hotel, Airbnb, or other vacation accommodation.
Your dog’s personality might be mellow, easygoing, and well-behaved at home, but sometimes the excitement of travel can unleash a different side of your Lab that brings out a little bit of the crazy!
Lab Zoomies in a hotel room? We’ve had it happen! And it’s not pretty.
In our many years of travel with Labs on the road, and thousands of miles back and forth across the United States with them, we’ve tracked down some of the best gear through trial and error and found what works best when we travel with our Labs.
Benefits of Traveling with a Crate
If your Labrador, Labradoodle, or other big dog is already crate-trained, they may consider their crate a safe, quiet retreat from the busyness of your household.
Your Lab’s crate can be their special place where no one else bothers or disturbs them, which can provide them comfort especially when they are away from their home environment.
Traveling with a crate can help them stay calmer in the car. If you’ve ever experienced the frenzy of a well-meaning Labrador trying to climb on top of you while you drive, you know what we mean.
One of our current Labradors becomes worked up into a serious frenzy when it’s time to go for a ride in the car, and has developed a reputation for howling and whining across state lines for hours with excitement.
If he travels in his crate, he’s calm, quiet, and mellow.
Outside of the crate, even in a car harness, he’s a lunatic! Let’s not talk about how he tries to climb through the Starbucks window at the drive-through to get his Puppucino.
Even if your Lab is a fantastic car rider, you may not want to give them free run of the hotel room or vacation home where you’ll be staying.
A Lab left unattended and unconfined in a strange and unfamiliar environment can do some crazy and destructive things. (And if you don’t know what we’re talking about, are you sure you actually have a Labrador?!)
You don’t want to come back from dinner and find out that your Lab has destroyed the Airbnb sofa, or anything else, including your luggage.
It can really impact the enjoyment of your vacation to deal with a dog who’s agitated or upset.
Labs can get separation anxiety or become stressed when they are not in their typical familiar home environment, and traveling with a crate can help them feel calmer and safer despite the change in environment.
But regular metal crates can be heavy to travel with, as well as a huge hassle to carry around, collapse, and move from car to hotel room and back.
What we’ve found is that a soft-sided collapsible crate is a perfect solution.
Our Favorite Travel Crate for Labradors
We’ve tested many hard-sided and soft-sided crates over the years, and have wasted a ton of our money trying to figure out what products actually make sense and will hold up to the power of the Labrador Retriever.
A lot of the products we’ve purchased have not held up to use by actual large-breed dogs, or have been such a hassle to use that we’ve found ourselves not even wanting to use them or bring them along when it’s time to load up the gear for the trip.
Here’s what the 42-inch size in gray looks like fully assembled:
It comes in five sizes ranging from 20” L to 42” L, and for our Labs we’ve found the 42” to be the best option.
If you have a smaller dog or Lab puppy, you might be able to get away with the 36″ crate option, which can be found here.
This particular collapsible crate has zippers at the front, top, and both sides, which gives you numerous options for getting your dog in and out of the crate.
It also has allowed us options to arrange it within the layout of the existing furniture in a hotel room or vacation condo.
It gives even our very large Labrador who weighs nearly 100 lbs plenty of room to stand up, turn, circle, roll around, and sleep with his long legs up in the air (his favorite sleeping position).
One of the things we love the most about this travel crate is that it folds up quickly into a nearly-flat position with a carrying handle.
If you’re moving your crate from the car to the hotel room, it’s amazing and quick. It’s dramatically faster than any other type of metal crate that you have to disassemble or collapse to move.
We can fold ours up in about 5 seconds and carry it into a hotel room, or put it on a luggage cart while walking a well-behaved Lab through the hotel lobby.
We’ve also been able to fit the 42″ size fully expanded in the back of an SUV and minivan on long trips.
Ours has lasted several years without breaking, bending, or getting the fabric exterior torn, and we have definitely not been gentle on it! It’s been a powerhouse product for us.
You can buy this crate on Amazon for quick delivery to your home, and keep in mind that prices typically vary a bit depending on the size and color you choose.
A Few Tips for Preparation
If you’re going to choose a soft-sided travel crate to take with you on your next trip, we recommend you get it a few weeks in advance of the start of your vacation.
Fill the bottom with your Lab’s preferred memory-foam mat, fluffy dog mattress, or whatever luxury bedding your pup prefers.
Give them a few days to spend some time in the crate with you nearby, or even spend a full night sleeping in the new crate.
We recommend doing this even if your Lab is a pampered princess who typically sleeps on your pillow and not in their crate (yep, we have one of those as well).
You want your Lab or other large-breed dog to feel that the travel crate is familiar and safe before you depart on a trip to an unfamiliar destination with different sounds, smells, and people.
You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the setup and takedown of the collapsible crate before you’re standing in the hotel parking lot with your stomach growling after driving all day… wondering why you decided to do this trip to begin with.
We’ve taken this crate on many cross-country road trips with our Labs, and have also continued to use it at home as an extra option around the house.
Our Labs tend to love their crates at home, and like to have different options to snuggle up in one for a nap from time to time, though they still prefer the sofa!
With a bit of advance planning and the right gear, you can have an amazing vacation with your Labrador that will be worth the little bit of extra effort to bring your best friend along.
A collapsible crate has been a true lifesaver for us in traveling across the country many thousands of miles with Labrador Retrievers.
Hope you’ve found this article helpful in planning your next vacation with your dog!
(Looking for a place to stay with your Lab on your next vacation? Check out these 8 Hotel Chains Where Labradors are Welcome where to book your next stay.)