Provincetown Road Trip: 5 Tips for Traveling by Car with Dogs

We drove six hours to our vacation spot -- and here's some advice about driving with dogs.


This summer my partner and I decided our big vacation would be to spend a week in Provincetown, Massachusetts — or Ptown as it’s called. The town has a reputation for being very gay and super dog friendly — what could be better for our little family?

Ptown is a six hour drive from our home in Brooklyn. I can’t drive so that means my partner, who is a total saint, put up with renting the car and driving me and both dogs the entire way. Charlotte and Mercury are probably better about road trips than I am, and they slept and quietly looked out the window. I tried to keep from sleeping by ingesting large quantities of sugar, singing along to bad radio and pointing out anything and everything canine I could find.

I identified breeds of dogs I saw in other cars, took photos of anything cute either of our dogs did, and pointed out all the dog-related bumper stickers we passed (which, the closer we got to Ptown, the more numerous they became). We had lucked out and rented a little cottage surrounded by trees with private beach access, and a 20-minute walk to the center of town.

From our secluded cottage (tons of amazing vacation properties in town but I’m being selfish and don’t want to give ours away), it’s a three-minute walk to private beach access. We’ve gone multiple times every day with the dogs who have had a blast at tide pools, digging holes and watching the tide fill them in (video of this may have been shared on Facebook — I am a dog addict after all). All the Ptown beaches are dog friendly, with leash laws that people seem to mostly follow — or their dogs actually have a reliable recall, which I’m so grateful for because it’s meant Charlotte (whose dog reactive) has been enjoying hours spent frolicking on her longline on the secluded beaches. It’s been amazing to watch how much fun both dogs have been having out here. Even little Mercury, who after 11 years has figured out that wading in the water can be a whole lot of fun and is bouncing like a pogo stick when we pick up leashes and walk towards the sand!

Ptown really is a dog lover’s paradise — almost everything in town is dog friendly. There are doggie shops and bakeries, ice cream parlors with frozen puppy treats, outside dining options, fresh water bowls at almost every corner. You can take your dog sailing, either on a private charter or like we did on a inexpensive ferry (dogs ride with no additional fee) to the outer cape lighthouse!

As a dog guardian I get a tremendous amount of pleasure out of providing my canine pack with new, exciting and enriching experiences. This is especially true for Charlotte our rescue girl, who had a rough start to life, living on the streets. To see her now, two years after we adopted her, racing down the beach with my partner, herding waves, wading with Mercury and digging in the sand, leaves me close to tears. I’ve learned so much from both of my dogs, it’s a tremendous an honor that we are able to give them such an amazing vacation!

Hard to believe, but it’s almost time for us to pack up the dogs and head toward Brooklyn. Both dogs are sound asleep and exhausted from all the adventure. I’ll leave you this week with this:

5 tips for traveling with your dog

1. Buckle up!

Make sure your pup is traveling safely for that road trip. Crates and doggie seatbelts are great options for keeping everyone safe and calm for the journey. Be sure to build in time for water and potty breaks along the way!

2. May I see some ID?

Be sure your dog is always wearing updated tags. It’s also a good idea to travel with proof of vaccinations. Here the campgrounds require you to present proof of rabies vaccination, and even the landlords of the cottage we’re staying at in Ptown wanted rabies vaccination proof for both dogs before handing over the keys.

3. Plan ahead

If you’re traveling during peek season things book up fast (here on the East Coast that can mean months or even years in advance). Be sure to book ahead so you and puppy don’t find yourselves stranded without a place to stay. Never try to break the rules by sneaking your dog into a hotel that isn’t pet friendly — it gives all of us a bad name!

4. Be prepared

Make sure to bring everything your dog will need for the trip. Our dogs have a bigger suitcase than we do! My pack list includes: medication your dog is taking (Charlotte had a UTI right before we left town and was finishing antibiotics our first days here), food and treats to last the entire trip (especially if like Mercury your dog has significant allergies), crates, favorite toys, extra leashes, and blankets and towels to dry your dog off if you’re traveling somewhere with water and to keep the furniture at your hotel clean.

5. Be realistic and have fun!

Make sure that your vacation destination has dog-friendly options, then pick things that will be fun for both you and your dog. If your dog is old, small, or out of shape, a long strenuous hike might not be a good choice. Always respect your dog’s limits and boundaries. Is your dog reactive? If so, dining together at a sidewalk cafe filled with other dogs might not be fun and relaxing for either of you. In that case, I suggest you leave your dog crated with a stuffed Kong in your hotel and share an after-dinner stroll along the beach with pup.

About the author: Sassafras Lowrey is a dog-obsessed author based in Brooklyn. She is the winner of the 2013 Berzon Emerging Writer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation, and the editor of two anthologies and one novel. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor, and she assists with dog agility classes. She lives with her partner, two dogs of dramatically different sizes, and two bossy cats. She is always on the lookout for adventures with her canine pack. Learn more at her website.

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