How to plan a paw-fect pet-friendly holiday

Girl in a pink dress getting out of a caravan with a fluffy white dog

Sue Hewitt

Posted July 24, 2023

Planning a getaway? Here are 11 expert tips for safe and happy holidaying with pets.

Holidaying with a pet for the first time is a whole new experience for everyone involved. While it can be fun and rewarding, it can also present a host of challenges –  from the stress of a long car journey or adjusting to an unfamiliar environment, to the dangers of ticks and snake bikes. 

Dog behavioural expert Laura Vissaritis says it's important to get your pet used to the holiday accomodation. 

“It’s like moving house – you have to get them familiar with their new surroundings, make sure they’re safe by checking things like fencing, put them on a lead to explore the new area, and try to emulate the routine you use at home,” she says. 

To ensure your next holiday is as fun and as safe for your pet as it is for the rest of the family, follow these tips for pulling off the paw-fect pet-friendly holiday.

And if you're heading somewhere without your pet, keep them in good hands at the Hanrob Pet Hotel, where RACV Members save 10 per cent off on pet care services. 

Woman with curly brown hair sitting in a caravan door patting a golden retriever

You want you pet to have just as good a time on holiday as you. Photo: Getty

11  tips for taking your pet on holiday

1. Check out the accommodation 

There’s no shortage of pet-friendly accommodation on offer, from holiday houses and motels to campgrounds,  caravan parks, and  motorhomes.  

But before you book your dog-friendly digs, be sure to talk to the host about what that really means, and decide if their place is the right one for you. For example:

  • Is your pet allowed inside, or on the furniture?
  • Is the yard completely enclosed?
  • Is there a doggy door?
  • Are there additional charges for your pet?

Some accommodation providers may restrict particular breeds or sizes, so make sure your pooch is welcome. And if this is your first holiday with your pet in tow,  start with a short trip to gauge how well they cope with travel.  

Cats tend to prefer familiar surrounds, so unless you’re headed to your own holiday house or familiar accommodation, you may want to consider booking them in for a stay at a pet hotel.  

2. Watch out for wildlife 

If you’re going to a farm stay or accommodation next to a nature reserve, consider whether your pet has ever seen farm animals or wildlife, and how they will react. Many dogs and cats might be fearful, or could harass or even kill native wildlife.

Vissaritis strongly recommends keeping your pet on a leash when not indoors or in a fenced yard. 

3. Consider camping 

Many campgrounds and caravan parks welcome pets, but if your dog is anxious, isn’t well socialised with other dogs, or has not bonded with you, you might want to think about alternative accommodation.

Interacting with other camp dogs, people and nearby wildlife can be stressful, and there’s a risk your dog might not return if they’re off lead.  

4. Pack right  

When heading to an unfamiliar environment, taking along your pet’s bedding and other familiar items, such as favourite toys and treats, will go a long way to helping them feel settled and happy. 

If it’s a long drive to your destination, bring plenty of water and pet food, plus bowls in the car. And remember to pack a road trip checklist of prescribed medication, insect repellent, sun protection, a carrier or crate, and first-aid kit for all parties in the vehicle.  

5. Drive safe 

No matter how far you’re travelling, your pet should be safety restrained whenever in the car, and never seated on the driver’s lap or the front passenger seat. Use a carrier for cats, and a harness for your dog.  

Break up longer drives with regular stops so your pet can exercise, go to the toilet, and have something to eat and drink,  and never leave them in the car unattended.

They can easily overheat and succumb to heatstroke even on mild days. 

dog in the car

When your pet is happy on holiday, so you are you. Image: Supplied. 

6. Keep them calm on the road 

Some dogs like nothing more than jumping in the car for a road trip, but others find car travel extremely stressful.

If your pet hates the car, it’s advisable to talk to your vet before heading off on a long drive. 

7. Help settle them in 

On arrival at your holiday digs, spend some time with your pet introducing them to their new environment. Play with them and give them a pat or a cuddle to reassure them, show them where the grass is for toileting and where their bed, and water and food bowls are. 

If heading out, ensure all fences and gates are secure. 

8. Keep tabs 

Being in an unfamiliar environment may make your dog more inclined to try to escape. Make sure they’re supervised at all times, and don’t leave them alone with unfamiliar people.  

Make sure your dog has been microchipped, and provide two contact numbers on a dogtag – the second being a close friend or relative who knows where you’re staying, in case you have no mobile coverage.

Consider putting a GPS tracker on their collar. Check in advance where the local vets are for any medical emergency, and the local pound in case your pet gets lost. 

9. Take them exploring 

You won’t want to leave your dog behind when you head out to explore, so check whether dogs are allowed at the local attractions. 

There are many great dog parks around Melbourne and regional Victoria, or even long trails and hikes for when on holiday that you can take your four-legged family member on. 

Many RACV Resorts also have dog-friendly hikes and trails nearby. 

There are dozens of dog-friendly beaches throughout the state, along with pubs, cafes and beer gardens that welcome pooches on a lead. 

10. Avoid snakebites, ticks and heartworm 

Snakebites are a common hazard in the Australian bush. If you suspect your dog has been bitten, head straight to an emergency vet, as life-threatening symptoms can occur within minutes. 

Ticks are rare in Melbourne, but quite common in rural areas or even urban areas with longer grass, and can be extremely dangerous to dogs, causing paralysis or even death. You can help prevent ticks by keeping your pet’s fur short, checking paws (especially between the toes) after walks, and regularly administering an anti-parasitic pill that prevents ticks. A thorough combing within four to six hours of returning from the bush may also stop ticks attaching themselves to your pet. 

Due to their small size ticks can be difficult to detect. It’s a good idea to run your fingers through your dog’s fur after they’ve been in the bush to feel for any telltale lumps – especially forward of their front legs. Signs that your dog has a tick vary, but if they have a wobbly walk, a cough, or difficulty eating, breathing or standing, take them to the vet immediately. If you’ve removed the tick, place it in a container so the vet can identify it.

Another serious risk for dogs is heartworm, which is prevalent in New South Wales and Queensland. So make sure their heartworm prevention medication is up to date, particularly if you’re headed to those states.   

11. Beware overheating  

Another risk to dogs is overheating, so keep a close eye on them when the temperature reaches over 25 degrees, and never leave them unattended in a vehicle. If your dog is outdoors only, provide plenty of water and shade. Dark-coloured dogs and those with ‘squished’ faces, such as pugs or bulldogs, are particularly sensitive to heat. If you’re worried your animal has heatstroke, cool it down immediately with cold water or wet towels and take it to a vet. 

If you see a dog trapped in a car with no vetilation, call 000. 


Want to keep your pet in good hands when you go away?
Book your pet a stay at the Hanrob Pet Hotel→