Winter holiday travel for most people tends to be far different from the more leisurely travel of summer. Generally Christmas holiday travel by car or plane tends to be much more limited in time and means getting as quickly from one place to the other since the vacation is often much more limited in time. In addition holiday travel tends to include a lot more items in the vehicle or the luggage than what you would normally expect with summer holiday travel. All of these factors, plus of course the stress of driving on winter roads and the cold temperatures all contribute to typically making winter travel more stressful than the same type of travel in the summer.
Although you will have to pack for yourself and your family, you should also keep in mind that holiday travel with dogs is much easier if you have a few basic supplies for them as well. Many dog owners choose a small grooming bag or a small backpack to simply keep all the dog supplies together. When deciding what to bring for your dog you will have to keep in mind what you normally do with the dog and try to keep things as consistent as possible. Bring a few of your dog's favorite toys, a couple of chew toys for passing time in the vehicle as well as a grooming brush to keep them looking in top shape. Other supplies should include a food bowl, a water dish, an extra leash or lead, enough food for two or more days as well as a dog first aid kit.
There are several space saving pre-made dog first aid kits that will give you the basics, just make sure that you also include any medications your dog may be on including any supplements you regularly add to their food. Traveling is not the time to make any food type or brand changes as you don't want to run the risk of having to travel with a dog with an upset digestive system.
It is always a good idea to bring bottled water and the food and water dishes can be collapsible plastic, great for saving space in the luggage. Your dog can simply use the same bottled water you do so you don't have to pack that separately. Using bottled water prevents your dog from possibly picking up any bacteria that may be present in local water to cause an upset stomach or illness.
Be sure to also pack a few treats with the food. Many experienced travelers simply place one food portion in a zip lock type of bag which can easily be disposed of once the food has been consumed. This also saves having to try to measure food out on the road, plus it is very easy to pack. If you are bringing treats a zip lock bag can also easily be placed in the glove box to have handy for when you stop. If you do feed canned, raw or semi-moist pouched food you cannot use this option, it will spoil very quickly in the heated vehicle.
Preparing The Car
The very best idea for small breeds is to have them travel in a crate that can be secured to the seat using a specially designed seat belt attachment. If you are traveling with a dog in a crate be sure to put soft, thick bedding in the bottom of the crate and use washable materials so it can be laundered in the case of an accident or a bout of car sickness.
For larger breeds there are many dog friendly seat belt harnesses that strap across the chest to protect your dog in the case of a sudden stop or an accident. Look for seatbelts that have good consumer ratings, are SAE approved and fit correctly for your dog. They should be snug but not tight and not so loose so that the dog can get his or her front legs through the chest straps.
Whether using a crate or a safety harness, be sure to give your dog lots of time to get used to traveling short distances in the car in the safety device. Don't expect to have your dog thrilled to be restrained in a vehicle if they have previously been permitted to just sit on the seat or even worse in the driver's or passenger's lap.
A good idea to protect your car and make the ride more comfortable for a dog that is in a harness and not in a crate is to put some type of comfortable, washable bedding on the seat where the dog is going to be positioned. There are synthetic sheepskin or real sheepskin covers for either bench or bucket type seats that can add to both comfort and protection of your vehicle upholstery. Make sure that the covers you use are secured to the seat and will not slide out from under the dog as this is likely to cause anxiety for the pet. Ideally the pet should be in the backseat, just as you would transport a young child. This provides the greatest amount of protection for the dog and prevents possible injuries if the dog were to slip and hit the dash or the front window.
Your dog will need his or her own space in the vehicle and should be able to comfortably lie down and go to sleep. If luggage, presents and other people are crowding the dog he or she will not relax, leading to a very tense and difficult ride.
Always plan to stop every two hours and let your dog out of the vehicle for water, a bit of exercise and to relieve themselves as necessary. Never take the dog out of the car without first having control of the dog through the use of a collar or harness and a lead. Even well behaved dogs can go exploring or wander out onto a road, so always keep them fully under control when traveling.