Road Trip Tips: Advice on Traveling with Pets

The only downside to traveling is the fact that I have to leave my dogs behind. I’ve got three little ones, and every time I leave their little faces behind it breaks my heart. Of course, if I had all the money I would take them with me wherever I went whether by, plane, train or automobile. Until that time comes, they have to stay home unless I am driving. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to making traveling more fun for all of us:

Take them out on a lot of short rides ahead of time. I take my dogs to the park on almost a daily basis, so they are used to getting in and out of the car without problems. Sometimes, I’ll take them on short errands with me, like going to In N Out or to visit family (but they’re never left in the car alone). Now they insist on coming with me each I grab my keys.  When you make traveling by car fun for them, you have already won half the battle.

Bring the food they are used to. It’s not a good idea to abruptly change a dog’s food under normal circumstances, and it is especially not a good idea to do while you’re on vacation. A change in food can upset a dog’s digestive system, and the stress of new surroundings can compound that.

Take frequent breaks. I try to stop at least once an hour or every two hours to let my dogs out. We stop long enough to take a short walk, have a potty break, and drink water. It does significantly slow down your travel time, but it is good for both you and your pet. Sometimes I catch myself just wanting to rush through the drive and get to my destination, but when you force yourself to slow down and take breaks, you end up enjoying the journey itself a lot more.

Don’t leave them in the heat. This is absolutely essential. In the desert the temperatures can reach well above 100 degrees in the summertime, making the insides of a car reach 10 to 50 degrees hotter on any given day or time. This is an easy rule to follow; the only time it can get a little tricky is if you are on the road and alone. You can’t bring your pet into every gas station you pass by, especially if you need to use the restroom. The times that I find myself needing a bathroom break on the road, I leave out cold water and keep the air conditioning on. I also time myself; I’m never gone for more than five minutes.

Bring plenty of water. This is pretty self-explanatory. I usually bring a gallon for the dogs and some of the 24 oz. Aquafina bottles for me depending on how long we will be traveling. If we’re on the road for longer, I bring more for all of us.  This is an important tip to keep in mind all year, but it is even more important in the warmer months.

Secure them in the vehicle. They make seat belts and crates for dogs that are specially designed for car rides, but I’ve always used their regular crates on trips. Keeping your pets kenneled during a trip not only ensures their safety but yours. Whether you get a ticket for having your pet in your lap, or your furry friend distracts you while driving and causes an accident, having a loose pet in the car can cause a number of headaches.

Go on a walk before you leave. Taking them on a walk before you embark on a road trip will help burn off excess energy, and allow them to use the bathroom. Even if it’s just a quick trip outside, it will be enough to get their brains working and prepare them for the long drive ahead.

Bring something from home. Whether it’s toys, blankets or pillows, items from home will give them the sense of comfort they are missing out on the road. It will also help them to stay calm if they need to be in the hotel room by themselves for a little while.

Originally posted on my other blog, Sparks of Wanderlust


Photo Blog No. 2 – Displays at the Field Museum

The Field Museum is a must see for anyone taking a trip to Chicago. It is one of the largest natural history museums in the world and is the home to the most intact T. Rex skeleton in existence. Their current Below are some of the photos I took during my visit the Field Museum.


The Tsvao Lions were a pair of maneless male lions that went on a rampage in the late 1800s. They are believed to have killed and eaten 35 construction working along the Kenya-Uganda Railway. Their remains were donated in 1924 by their killer, Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson, although they were in terrible condition. The staff at the museum was able to restore them and they are now on permanent display.

20160819_112517 The outside of The Field Museum. I had decided to walk to the Field Museum and after an hour of being stuck in the rain, I thought I was walking into Oz.


Sue is there to greet you as soon as you walk into the museum. She was, initially, my entire reason for wanting to go to the Field Museum. The skull that is on her body is not her actual skull; the 600-pound skull is resting in a glass case on the second floor.



Some random animal displays throughout the museum. Taxidermy, in general, has always creeped me out but in this setting, I found it fascinating. It is one thing to see these animals in pictures and film, but to stand next to a life-size example of it gives you a different perspective on your own mortality.


One of the items on display in the Ancient Egypt exhibit. It is an x-ray of a child inside a sarcophagus, demonstrating how bodies would sometimes be forced to fit into them even if it was too tight.


Things to Do in Vegas: Visit the Secret Garden

The Secret Garden has been a staple of the Las Vegas Strip for nearly twenty years. It’s a tourist favorite, especially among those with kids. The habitat started out in the late 90s as a sanctuary for the big cats that entertainers Sigfried and Roy rescued, and has since expanded to include a dolphin habitat. I recently took my first trip ever to the sanctuary, adjacent to the Mirage’s hotel pool area. It wasn’t quite what I imagined, but it was worth the experience.

Pricing: Tickets to the Secret Garden can be kind of expensive, compared to other family friendly attractions. They offer no discounts for local, seniors or military members on tickets, whereas Shark Reef does. Still, the ticket prices are on par with most other family activities in Las Vegas.

dolphin mirage las vegas lauryn wilder travel blog

Tours: They don’t offer guided tours throughout the sanctuary, which I found a little odd. There are a few attendants throughout the “garden” portion of the experience to answer questions, but there is no informational talk on the history of the tigers, which I think would enhance this part of the habitat. The dolphin specialists and trainers get together about twice an hour to give a talk and demonstration with the resident dolphins, which makes most of the ticket price worth it. The dolphin staff is knowledgeable, friendly and very patient with every question the kids in attendance may ask. This was by far my favorite part of the whole experience. The dolphins are incredibly friendly, intelligent and agile. If you will have kids, this will be where you spend the most time in the sanctuary.

Amenities: Snacks and drinks are available inside the habitat; all of the amenities inside the habitat itself are eligible for discounts.  There are two gift stores located inside the habitat, but they are in separate buildings, apart from the dolphin habitat and the garden. If you have kids, you’ll appreciate this; you won’t find yourself exiting a portion of the experience and getting bombarded with toys and souvenirs. If you choose, you can bypass the gifts shops entirely.

Staff: The staff is very friendly and available to answer any questions you have about the animals. As stated above, I wish they would have some more information available about the cats in the habitat. The dolphin specialists went above and beyond to entertain the guests and answer questions, for both the kids and adults in the audience.

Other Notes: I went through the park on a general admission pass, but there are a number of other activities available to do with the dolphins. For extra fees, you can pet the dolphins, do yoga with them, swim with them and paint. The most reasonable activity is petting the dolphins, but the rest of the activities vary in price.


Overall, I would say the Secret Garden is worth visiting. You don’t get as much for your money as you would at similar experiences, but it’s still interesting and entertaining. There are shows available in the dolphin sanctuary at certain times, but I didn’t get to see one during my time there. But show or not, the Secret Garden is a unique, memorable experience to share with the family.

The Smith Center – Bringing Culture to the Desert

While I was growing up here in Las Vegas, there was very little in terms of “mainstream” culture. Sure there were shows – there have been headliners on the Strip since the Strip existed – but those were showgirls, singers, comedians, etc. If you wanted to see ballet, a live play, opera, or anything like that, you were out of luck. The university would put on student productions, occasionally, but that was about the extent of it. Thankfully, the Smith Center has come along and changed that.

Built in 2012 in the downtown area of Las Vegas, the Smith Center has given Las Vegas a little bit of life in an area that was lacking. Since it’s opened, it has hosted off-Broadway plays, ballets, musicals, wedding, and concerts, among numerous other special events. Some of the productions that have graced its stage thus far include Wicked, The Book of Mormon, The Nutcracker, Beauty and the Beast and Giselle. I have been fortunate enough so far to attend two productions – Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella. While The Smith Center may not have the reputation of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Carnegie or Royal Albert, it’s the first of its kind in this city. That alone makes it worth visiting.

My Breakdown of The Smith Center

Pricing: Prices for most of the shows are on par with what you will pay on the Strip. Personally, I think it’s worth the extra money to sit in either the mezzanine or orchestra level, only because the balcony level will affect your view (literally and figuratively) of the performance. I found myself more distracted by breaks in formation or miscounted steps sitting up higher, and I don’t want you to experience the same! J

Dress Code: I was surprised to find that The Smith Center doesn’t enforce a dress code. If you’ve been to Vegas before, you know how dress codes can make or break an experience so this is a welcome change. Most people will still dress properly for the occasion, but you won’t be kicked out if you’re wearing sneakers or jeans. (Special Note: I did not wear jeans or sneakers. I didn’t want to risk it.)

Performances: Both productions (Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet) were gorgeous. I have no background and little knowledge in ballet, so I can’t give an in-depth review of the technical aspects of the performance. But I can tell you, the costumes were breathtaking, as was the scenery and the choreography. The entire aesthetic of Cinderella reminded me of a watercolor painting, and the final dance between Romeo and Juliet almost brought me to tears. I was nervous prior to seeing Cinderella, since I had never been to a ballet before and wasn’t sure if I would be able to appreciate it. My fears were quickly quelled, and I found myself moved by the emotion and the grace of the dancers.

Parking: Parking isn’t as big of an issue as it might be on the Strip, but it’s still a good idea to get there early. There’s usually no shortage of spaces, but you don’t want to cross giant parking lots in your best theater attire if you don’t have to.

Special Notes: They will sell snacks and drinks in the lobby, but be sure to not take the food into the theater. I was scolded for having M&Ms prior to Romeo and Juliet by an usher, whom apparently had no issue with the woman texting during the actual performance. Seems a little strange to me, but I digress.