Bringing your pet along when you travel can add fun to your trip and minimize the worry of not knowing how your pet is doing while you are away. That said, traveling with your pet can be a special bonding experience or a disaster. You need to do your homework to make decisions about what is best for your family and your pet. If you decide that bringing your pet along is right for you, proper planning and preparation is a must.
After a recent trip to New York for a pet-related conference, I interviewed pet owners about traveling with their pets. Using the information they shared, as well as some research I did on my own, I came up with these tips to help ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable journey.
Tips for Traveling with Pets
Should your pet travel in the first place?
Your first decision is figuring out if bringing along your pet is a good idea. While you might miss him, the stress of travel may be detrimental to his physical and/or mental health. Things to consider include your pet’s overall temperament, if he has any physical limitations, or if your pet suffers from an illness.
Our dog, for example, is very anxious about strangers and changes in her environment. She also gets motion sickness. We only take her on short car trips to visit relatives. Otherwise, we are very lucky to have a family who takes her in when we travel.
Traveling with Pets by Air
Get a check up for your pet
Most airlines require a certificate of health so it’s a good idea to check what is needed on their website before a visit to your vet. It’s good piece of mind to know that there are no health issues to worry about on your trip as well.
Only fly with a cabin-friendly pet
The Humane Society recommends flying only with pets that can join you in the main cabin. Most airlines do allow you to bring a small dog or cat for an additional fee. Be sure to check with the airline in advance. There is a limit to the number of animals allowed on each flight. If you are bringing a dog, make sure she fits the size requirements of your airline. You wouldn’t want to be turned away at the airport if your dog is too big.
Book a direct flight if possible
Getting to your destination as quickly as possible is less stressful for all involved. A direct flight is especially recommended if your pet is going in the cargo area, as this will minimize the chances that your pet is misplaced during a layover.
Keep your pet calm
If you are able, give your pet some time out of his carrier at the airport. Arrive early to take him for a walk or have some playtime to help burn off excess energy. Give him a favorite blanket or toy in their carrier (no squeakers or bells) to help the environment feel more familiar.
Avoid food or treats
While it might be tempting to give your pet treats for good behavior, plane travel may upset her stomach. You don’t want an airsick animal on your hands. Our vet recommends no food within 4-6 hours of travel.
Traveling with Pets by Car
Keep your pet crated or restrained in some way
The Humane Society recommends a crate that is secured to the vehicle with a seat belt or other tether as the most reliable method for keeping your pet safe. Although it’s tempting to cuddle with your pet during travel, it is dangerous for him and can also be distracting to the driver.
Give your pet plenty of rest stops
Especially if you have a long ride, allow your pet to get out in the fresh air for exercise and potty time. This is a good time to give her some water as well. Always be sure she is on a leash and wearing an ID tag in case she happens to get away from you and get lost.
Don’t leave your pet alone in your car
As highlighted in the news recently, both hot and cold temperatures can quickly affect your pet. According to the ASPCA, if it’s 85 degrees outside, the car temperature, even with the windows open a bit, can reach 102 in only 10 minutes. Even if it’s a comfortable 72, the temps can reach 116 in an hour. Many states now have steep fines for leaving a pet in a car as well.
Avoid traveling alone with your pet
As mentioned above, it is not advisable to leave your pet in your vehicle. That can be pretty tricky if you are traveling alone. If at all possible, travel with a family member or friend to help with the pet care responsibilities.
Bringing your pet to a hotel
It seems that more and more hotels and resorts are pet friendly, but double check as to what types of pets are allowed. Some only allow dogs.
Is your pet hotel friendly?
While you may want to bring your pet along, be thoughtful about weather or not your pet will be hotel friendly. Nothing is more embarrassing than a dog or cat the meows, barks or howls for hours.
Exercise your pet regularly
Take your dog (or if you have a leash friendly cat) for a long walk before entering the hotel. This will help him feel a bit more calm as his energy level is diminished. If your cat is not one for walks, bring her into the room with a pet carrier and play with her for a while. She’ll likely setting in for a nice long nap after that.
Allow your pet controlled exploration
A dog is going to want to sniff all around his new surroundings. Take a walk around your hotel room and make sure there are no hazards. Then let your animal explore, but with supervision. Since this may be a new place for you as well, keep a close eye out for dangers when walking outside. The holiday season can be especially dangerous with decorations at snout level.
Traveling with your pet can be a fun experience. Just remember that planning and preparation is necessary. The more you are prepared, the fewer problems or surprises will arise.
If you’re uncertain whether your pet is suited for travel, you should consult with your veterinarian.