I still remember the first time we took a road trip with our (then) 6 weeks Westie puppy, Sami. We had planned it in advance, since it was the first getaway with our puppy where he was going to spend the night.
First, we made sure it wasn’t an overwhelming trip. Since we live in Central Portugal, we chose to go to Badajoz, Spain, 3 hours away by car, and to only spend two nights. This way the trip wouldn’t confuse the puppy and it would just be a trial run, to see how things go and how he reacts to it. We were planning to take him with us on most of our travels, by plane and ferry included. But we started with baby steps.
In case you’re wondering why Badajoz, we had some friends from Ireland on a road trip through Spain and we chose this opportunity to meet, since we didn’t see them in a long time and we wanted them to meet Sami as well.
Here’s a list of items we packed and used on our trip, items meant to keep up his usual routine and ease his anxiety throughout this change.
Sami’s favorite toy
Even though it was a tiresome trip for him, meaning many hours per day spent walking with us, which leaves little time for play, we decided to take his fave toy for comfort. He could sleep with it and have it around the hotel room, to make the space friendlier.
Sami’s dog crate
Since we traveled by car, it was easy to pack his crate. This is his personal space, his one spot that belongs just to him and where he sleeps every night, so it was only natural to keep up this routine. But it’s also a safe place to leave Sami if you decide to go out without him. He slept there and it helped him feel comforted and safe.
It came in handy one night when we went out to have dinner with friends, in a restaurant that didn’t allow dogs, so we left him in the crate for almost 3 hours while we were out. Given that he was super tired from walking that day, he slept like a log.
In these situations, we also let the reception of the hotel know we had a puppy alone in the room so they could call us at any time if anything happened (like the dog crying, disturbing other people in the hotel).
In case you are thinking about using a crate as well, here’s our review of our crate, the Amazon Basics Double Door Dog Crate. It’s really good (we actually have 2, one for home and one for a place we go really often).
Collapsible food and water bowls
Aka the travel bowls, since they are light and easy to pack and they can be used in the hotel room, as well as if you stop at a terrace to grab a bite, and you can fill it with water and put it under the table.
Sure, most bars and restaurants will gladly bring your dog a water plastic bowl from the kitchen, but what if they don’t have one? Or what if they bring you a tiny plastic cup, that your Westie immediately knocks over and then proceeds to chewing?
Yes, people, talking from experience here. Hence, travel bowls rock and I always make sure to have one in my backpack.
This is a different thing from the travel bowl I mentioned above. The travel water bottle carries water inside and is very useful on long walks, especially in the sun.
I used it maybe every 30 minutes, every time I noticed Sami panting and having his tongue sticking out. It’s super easy to get out and fill with water and your puppy will be very grateful to you. It would be very difficult (and messy) to give him water from my regular water bottle, having to pour it in my hand and spilling it everywhere.
So this travel water bottle is a life saver. I wrote a more comprehensive review here, in case you are interested in knowing more.
Sure, the regular leash is the default leash, so you can’t forget that, but the extensible leash is great for when you stop in a park (if you’re visiting a city) or in a meadow/beach or any open space (if you’re surrounded by nature).
It’s nice to give your Westie the chance to play and spend his energy, without thinking about letting him off leash.
I used it a few times with Sami on our trip, especially on the morning and evening walks, since we had an open space filled with grass behind the hotel and he could run and play as long as he wanted.
If you want to read more about what we use, here are more detailed articles I wrote:
Safety harness (and seat belt) for car rides
This is something you can easily forget to pack, but it’s a necessity if you plan to travel by car. For us, it was a 3 hour car ride to our destination and it goes without saying we safely use the seat belt for Sami. What I almost forgot was the harness, since Sami always wears a collar. When traveling by car, you must secure your Westie with a harness because in the case of an impact, he will be better held in place. So I fortunately remembered this in time and put the harness on him before we left the house.
If you’re traveling with your Westie, even if he is potty trained, it’s better to have some backup training pads (or “pee pads”, as we call them), to lay down in your hotel room. It’s a change in routine for the pup and you never know how he’s going to react. For us, they came in handy because he did pee on them twice. I reviewed the pee pads Sami used here. We also used some more premium pads at home, since they kept the pee better. Read about them here, as well.
Right now he’s 1 year old so he doesn’t use them anymore.
It goes without saying you should never travel with your dog without having his documents, even if they are not required because you’re going by car and nobody asks you anything when crossing the border.
Just like you have your ID on you at all times, you should have your Westie’s papers whenever you leave the country (or even the city).
Extra food and snacks
I initially wanted to portion the meals for 2 days and take those with me, but I ended up just taking the whole food bag, as backup. You never know. And Sami’s food was a special puppy food that focused on skin care, so it wasn’t easy to find, in case I needed to buy more. Having the whole bag put my mind at ease.
I also packed his favorite snacks, which I kept in my backpack on our walks, as incentive, since we are still in training. Here are some snacks to choose from, in case you need them.
A fine dog comb or hair brush for your westie
Since Westies require daily brushing, I try to keep that up even on holidays. I don’t always succeed, more realistic is to say I brush him every 2 days, but when going away the chances of him getting dirty are very high. In our case, he runs around in wet grass every morning and evening, and when visiting a new city we usually walk a lot. And if we stop at a terrace to grab a drink or a bite, he will lay down under the table and sweep the dirty pavement with his white fur. So the only way to keep him clean on a trip would be to brush, brush, brush him as often as possible, ideally every night.
Of course, I also wrote about the westie grooming brush here and about the comb here, in case you want to know more details.
Pet grooming wipes
These were packed for backup and I didn’t get to using them, but they can come in handy if you want to clean up your Westie’s paws or face on the go.
I don’t use wipes usually, because they have added perfume and I know Sami hates that, plus I usually have access to a sink and water and I can just wash his paws normally.
But wipes can prove useful if, say, your Westie pup pees on the floor in the hotel room and you need to clean that up thoroughly, so it won’t smell. It certainly doesn’t hurt to pack a few, if you have the extra space.
Our first road trip with Sami went a lot better than expected. He was a little bit tired during the day, since we walked a lot more than we though we would, but he was excited to see so many new people and new places and smells.
Here’s what we learned from our first road trip with Sami:
- Keep the walks short when your westie is a puppy
- Beware of the weather. Even if it was January, it was quite hot outside (24 degrees Celsius) and you need water all the time with you
- Remember to stop often. Your puppy needs rest more than you do
- Pack more than you need, if it’s a road trip. You already have the space and it’s better not to use something rather than not having it
- Be careful about the rules regarding dogs if you leave your country. In Portugal, where we live, and in Spain, where we traveled, dogs are not allowed inside restaurants, but they are allowed on the terrace. Just be sure your restaurant has a terrace.
Finally, Sami is now 1 year old and he already flew to Greece, he travels a lot by car and by now preparing for something like that is second nature. But preparing for our first road trip was… scary for all of us: westie puppy and owners.