If you’re planning a vacation this year, you might be considering whether to take your Labrador Retriever along with you on your travels.
We’ve traveled thousands of miles back and forth across the United States with Labrador Retrievers, both with playful puppies and energetic adult dogs.
How do you travel with Labradors and actually have a good vacation? Are there ways to make the process easier and more enjoyable for both of you?
Whether you’re considering car travel or plane travel, we have some tips and strategies to help your travel planning go smoothly if you’re bringing your adorable furry friend along for the ride.
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Preparing for Travel with Your Dog
While it can be a fun experience having your Labrador or other big dog travel with you, it can also add a great deal of stress both to the trip planning and the actual trip experience.
While boarding and pet sitting options can work for many dogs, those pet travel costs can be high depending on where you live, and you might be considering the option of taking your dog along with you on your vacation adventures this year.
Before you begin any kind of travel experience with your dog, make sure you take the following steps in advance of your trip to prepare for the adventure.
Assess Your Dog’s Prior Travel Experience
How much prior experience has your dog had traveling before? Have you done longer car rides, hotel stays, or RV trips with your dog in the past?
What is your dog’s temperament like in their home environment on a typical day?
A more mellow, easygoing Labrador is likely to have an easier time with travel, transition, and new experiences than a dog who’s a more high-strung or hyperactive Lab in general.
If your dog is new to traveling with you, you’ll have a bit more work to do to make them ready for the trip.
Check with Your Vet for Any Health Concerns & Clearance
It’s a good idea to discuss with your veterinarian any health issues or concerns you have about your dog before you decide to travel with them.
This includes going over medications that your pet may be on, and how your pet might be affected by these medications when they travel. See if your vet recommends any additional medications based on the destination where you plan to be traveling.
Ask if there are any vaccinations (or boosters) your Lab might need depending on where you’re headed on your trip, such as giardia or leptospirosis, or travel to areas of the United States that are prone to Lyme Disease in dogs and humans.
Be sure you ask your vet if they feel it’s safe for your dog to travel, especially if you have a senior Lab or a dog with prior health problems, and ask if there are any health issues your vet feels would be a concern if you took your Labrador with you on your trip.
Don’t try a new kind of food or make any changes to your pet’s food right before a big trip, unless your vet tells you specifically to do something.
Changing your dog’s food could cause them some digestive upset, which can be a huge mess to deal with, especially while you’re on a trip. You won’t want any additional stress while you’re taking your dog on vacation.
Make Sure Your Dog Has Current ID Tags & Microchip Information
Before you travel with your dog, make sure their identification tags are updated with current contact information for you in case your pet goes missing.
If your dog isn’t already microchipped, read our guide to pet microchipping and have a discussion with your vet to determine if they advise getting it done before you travel. A microchip can help reunite your dog with you in the event they were to go missing.
If your Lab is already microchipped, make sure you log in to the service you use to confirm your contact information is correct and updated in the event your microchipped is scanned on a lost pet.
You may also want to make sure your dog has a current rabies tag attached to their collar and any other tags that are required where you live or where you’re going.
Determine the Route and Itinerary with Pet Considerations
As you consider the route and itinerary you’re going to take, make sure you make modifications and reasonable adjustments to make the journey more pet-friendly.
You’ll need to plan for higher travel expenses, more stops along the way, and plenty of extra attention for your dog en route. You’ll need to plan more room to pack and bring additional items with you that will be required for your dog.
As a typical active dog breed, Labradors are athletic and playful and will need places to run off a bit of energy on long days of traveling. Research and map your itinerary along the way to plan out possible spots to give your Lab a break and a few moments to stretch out.
You’ll also want to do research on hotels and resorts that are dog-friendly, especially for large-breed dogs, which we’ll cover more about in the hotel section below.
What to Pack & Bring for Pet Travel
Before the start of your trip, make sure you pack carefully for the additional items you’ll need to take with you if you’re traveling with Labradors.
Recommended Items to Pack for Travel with Your Lab:
- Dog crate and dog bed
- Food and water bowls (preferably soft-sided and collapsible)
- Pre-measured food for the amount of days of your trip in an airtight container, plus extra food for emergencies
- Bottled water or water from home for your dog
- Dog leash, harness, and collar with ID tags current and updated
- Copies of current vaccination records either electronically or on paper
- Any pet medications, including preventive heartworm medication and flea/tick treatments
- Your dog’s favorite toys, tennis balls, Kong toys, and or other puzzle feeder toys to entertain your dog
- Extra towels and blankets for clean-up and comfort
Car Travel Tips for Labradors
Car travel is the most frequent option for people traveling and choosing to bring their Labradors along. There are a few important things to consider when driving on a road trip with your Lab.
Get Your Lab Comfortable on Short Car Rides First
Make sure your Lab is already comfortable, calm, and well-behaved on a short car ride before taking them on a longer one. Take the time to introduce your Lab to shorter car rides frequently before heading out on your vacation with them.
Don’t wait until the day you leave to introduce your Lab to the car and assume they’ll be fine. They might need time in advance to get used to the experience and settle down.
You don’t want to hear barking, whining, or howling from your upset, agitated, or overly-excited Labrador because they aren’t accustomed to the experience of riding in the car before.
Some Labradors can get extremely excited in the car, and even get a case of the Dog Zoomies. Prepare your dog ahead of time for what to expect on car rides, and your driving vacation will go much easier.
Make sure you exercise your Lab before you leave for the first day of driving. Give them plenty of activity and play before you head out, and they’ll be more likely to settle down for a nap after the driving gets underway.
Use a Harness or Car Tether to Keep Your Lab in Their Seat
If you’re bringing your Lab along on your driving vacation, you might want to use a car harness or tether for your dog to keep them in their seat while riding.
Using a harness or tether can keep them from climbing up into the front seat on top of you while you’re trying to drive, which from experience is something we recommend you not have happen!
It will also keep them from trying to make an escape through a window that’s rolled down, another Labrador trick they sometimes like to do, especially if you happen to be at the drive-thru ordering them a Starbucks Puppuccino.
If you get a harness for the car, make sure you research a harness that’s intended for use with a tether in cars, instead of a different type of harness that’s used for walking.
Practice using the car harness with your dog inside the car, and read the instructions to know how to clip it safely to the seat of your car. You don’t want to just clip a tether to your dog’s normal collar, because this could injure them.
Bring Your Dog’s Crate in the Car
Labradors thrive on routine and consistency, and if your dog is already crate-trained, you might find that your Lab does better in the car when they travel in their crate.
We have one Labrador that does much better on car rides traveling in his crate because he becomes so overly excited he can’t contain his happiness and enthusiasm otherwise.
Even if your Lab is fine without being crated while you’re driving, you may also need the crate if you are staying in a hotel, because it will give your dog a place to sleep and take a break in the room.
We recommend a soft-sided collapsible travel crate for this reason.
We’ve personally tested this travel crate on many thousands of miles across the United States with Labradors, and it’s our must-have product when we take a road trip with dogs.
Don’t Leave Your Lab in the Car Unattended
Hot temperatures can kill your dog in a very short time, and it’s dangerous to leave any dog in a hot or warm car for any period of time. Don’t do it!
Labradors can also be adventurous and mischievous when left alone, and you don’t want your car destroyed on your vacation from an unattended Labrador. It’s amazing how destructive Labs can be in a very short time when they’re in a playful or anxious mood.
Don’t leave your Lab unattended in a vehicle, even if you think it’s only going to be a very short time.
Watch Out for Car Sickness
Some dogs experience car sickness or vomiting on car rides, another important reason to take your dog out on many test car rides before embarking on a longer trip with them.
If you find your dog is experiencing vomiting or car sickness, discuss with your vet if there are treatment options that could help your dog manage their symptoms while you travel with them.
Hotel Stays with Labradors
Finding and choosing a hotel that accommodates Labrador Retrievers and other large-breed dogs can be very difficult.
There are many hotels that are pet-friendly and even dog-friendly, but they often have size limitations that prohibit bringing a larger dog along to stay.
Many hotels have smaller weight limits for the dogs they allow, such as 50 lbs, a limit that most Labs will exceed easily. If you’re traveling with multiple larger-sized dogs, this can also be very difficult, because many hotels have a pet limit of only one pet allowed.
We have a guide to the 8 Best Hotels & Resorts for Travel with Labradors and other large-breed dogs to help you find one along your route that may be more accommodating for your stay with your dog.
Finding the right hotel that welcomes you and your dog can make the entire vacation so much more enjoyable and less stressful.
Airplane Travel with Labradors
If you’re considering traveling by air with your Labrador, things can get a lot more complicated.
Most airlines have policies that prohibit large dogs the size of Labs in the cabin area of the plane unless they are service dogs.
If your Lab is a family pet and not a service dog, you would likely have to put your Lab in a crate in the cargo area of the plane, which can be controversial, traumatic, and a possible safety concern.
First, discuss with your veterinarian if they think having your Labrador travel by air in the cargo area of the plane is a good idea at all. They know your dog and your dog’s unique personality and any health issues to give the best recommendation for your particular dog.
In addition, be aware many Lab breeders will refuse to ship their puppies by airplane for concerns about the safety and health of the animals en route.
If you are thinking of going this route, some suggestions for you:
Second, take a look at the guidelines from the U.S. Department of Transportation about the Animal Welfare Act and what rules are established by the U.S. Government involving air transport of animals and pets.
Third, if you’re still considering putting your Lab in the cargo area, make sure you read the policies of each particular airline to know the rules and size requirements.
If at all possible, consider modifying your travel plans to drive with your Labrador, or leave your Lab at home at a dog boarding facility or with a trusted friend or dog sitter. Even if your Lab doesn’t have an incident on the plane, it can be a very, very stressful experience for both of you.
Summary – Travel with Labradors
Taking your Labrador Retriever along with you on your vacation can be a bit of an adventure on its own.
Make sure you take time to consider what adjustments you’ll need to make to travel by car, plane, or stay in a hotel with your Labrador. With some advance planning, preparation, and strategies to help, you can reduce the stress of traveling with your dog, and both of you can enjoy the trip.