Driving Cross Country with a Dog on the Cheap

Traveling cross country with your dog can bring some challenges, but it can also be a great experience for dog and owner. I recently embarked on a cross country journey with the resident Stingydog, Watson, and learned some things along the way. We had a great time but there are definitely some things you need to plan for before deciding to drive with your dog.

Stingydog Watson Photo

Watson at the Grand Canyon

Things to consider

Before you start on your journey, make sure to consider all your options. You'll be spending 24 hours per day with your dog for up to a week, so make sure you both can handle it!

Other options

If you're moving across country, like we were, you may have other options for transporting your dog. If your dog is small (normally under 25lbs), a lot of airlines allow you to bring them on board. Normally there is a fee for this, but in the scheme of things it may be cheaper than paying for pet friendly hotels all across the country.

In our case, Watson is way above the weight limit and would have to fly in the luggage compartment. This wasn't really an option due to his age (9 years old) and his anxiety with new situations. Even the thundershirt can't contain it!

Your dog's personality

Some dogs are a nightmare to travel with. I'm sure you know your dog well enough to decide for yourself, but you definitely need to consider how to mitigate their issues and make them comfortable. Some dogs have motion sickness in cars. Test your dog out if you haven't already. Some dogs have tons of energy and will drive you nuts. Check this too!

Cheap hotels that allow dogs

Finding cheap (but not sketchy) hotels is definitely a bit more tricky with a dog. When I travel alone, I always score great deals with Priceline Name your Own Price or Hotwire. The problem with having a dog is that you aren't as flexible as you have to be to use those services. You have to make sure they A) allow dogs B) allow your size dog C) don't charge ridiculous fees. On Hotwire, it may say it's pet friendly, but not tell you the fee or if they accept dogs of a particular size or breed.

I used BringFido to find dog friendly hotels, but booked all of them through Hotels.com because their mobile app was the easiest to use. I have an android, so couldn't use the mobile app for BringFido and their mobile website is almost unusable in poor bandwidth settings.

As for hotel chains, La Quinta's seem to be the most pet friendly of all hotels. They normally don't have a fee and cater to dog owners so it makes for a good experience for everyone. I would probably have gone with them for a headache free journey, but sometimes they were quite a bit more expensive than other options.

Here is a rundown of the pet friendly hotels we stayed at and the cost. Our route was the south route, primarily on Interstate 5 from VA to Los Angeles, CA and then up to SF.

Day 1 - $68.82: Econo Lodge - Lebanon, TN

Dog Friendly Hotel Econo Lodge Lebanon TN

Day 2 - $68.28: Red Roof Inn North Little Rock - Little Rock, AK

Dog Friendly Hotel Little Rock AK

No problems with this hotel. Just a place to spend the night. They have free breakfast and no pet fee. It's not to close to anything, so you'll have to drive to get food or see Little Rock.

Day 3 - $67.85: La Quinta Inn Amarillo East Airport Area - Amarillo, TX

Dog Friendly Hotel Amarillo TX Nice hotel with modern look. Free breakfast and no pet fee.

Day 4 - $56.51: Days Inn Albuquerque West - Albuquerque, NM

Dog Friendly Hotel Albuquerque NM

Day 5 - $50.76: Ramada Flagstaff West - Flagstaff, AZ

Dog Friendly Hotel Flagstaff AZ

This was my favorite hotel and also the cheapest. It was a good base station to see the Grand Canyon and there are a lot of restaurants and store nearby.

Day 6 - $118.81: Los Angeles, CA - La Quinta Inn & Suites Hawaiian Gardens

Dog Friendly Hotel Los Angeles CA

Not too far from where we were visiting friends in Long Beach. I saw some mumblings online that the area was sketchy, but I didn't notice that at all. Maybe its improved a lot over the years.

Overall, you do end up paying a bit more to travel with your dog simply due to lack of flexibility. However, we managed to stay pretty cheap as you can see, for a total of $431.03 for six nights. Not too shabby.


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