There are many things that can be stressful about hitting the road for the holidays; however, traveling with your pet doesn’t have to be one of them. If you’re like me, you hate leaving your furry kids behind, and (provided that your pet is a good traveler) you really don’t have to. I’ve traveled extensively with my pets and I’ve learned that with the right preparations taking them along isn’t only easy but way more fun than going it alone!
Here are my tried-and-true tips for traveling with your pet for the holidays.
Should Your Pet Travel?
This is the first thing to consider, as your pet’s safety and comfort are always paramount. If your pet is sick or injured, has a nervous temperament, or has any condition that’ll make travel uncomfortable for him or her, it’s best to leave your pet at home with a trusted caretaker.
If you’ll be flying, there are circumstances under which you may have to leave your pet at home, even if your animal is healthy and adaptable. According to USDA regulations, your pet has to be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned for at least five days in order to travel by air.
In addition, pets with flat, “snub noses,” like Persian cats, pugs, and bulldogs are more susceptible to breathing problems, and flying can put their health at risk. Some airlines won’t even allow these types of pets on commercial flights.
To ensure that Fifi or Fido is in tip-top shape for travel, take them in for a quick checkup before you head out. You should also make sure that your fury friend is up-to-date with all of his or her vaccinations.
If you’ll be traveling by plane or driving out of state, have your vet issue you a certificate of good health and rabies vaccination certificate. Many states as well as Canada require these documents, as do many airlines.
What to Pack
I’ve had plenty of experience packing for my pups on trips and through trial and error I’ve come up with a pretty great master list. Here are a few must-bring items that can make all the difference during a trip.
- Ample food and water I know this sounds obvious, but it’s easy to underestimate how much food and water your pet will need. Bring enough food for the whole trip. Your pet’s specific brand or type of food may not be readily available everywhere, and it isn’t a good idea to introduce your pet to a new brand of food while traveling. And of course, make sure your pet has frequent access to fresh water.
- Travel food and water bowls I recommend the collapsible kind – they’re highly portable and don’t take up a ton of space.
- Bedding If possible, bring the bedding your animal uses at home. The familiar smell and feel will make him or her more comfortable.
- Favorite toys An entertained pet makes a happy travel companion!
- Grooming supplies Pets find as many (or more) ways to get dirty on the road as at home!
- Medical necessities Bring a first aid kit, as well as any medicines your pet may be taking and your vet’s contact information.
Tips for Traveling With Your Pet by Car
Before your trip
Choose the right pet restraint wisely, and familiarize your pet with it
You take great care to secure your human family members in the car, so you should do the same for your pets. A simple restraint device, such as a vehicle pet barrier, a pet seat belt, pet car seat, or a travel crate can keep you both safe, and give you peace of mind. You should choose a device that’s right for your car, your trip, and the size and temperament of your pet.
It’s essential to ensure that your pet is comfortable with the restraint device. The best way to do this is to acclimate your animal to it slowly over time.
Get a temporary ID
In addition to your pet’s regular ID tag, I strongly recommend getting a temporary tag for your pet before you travel. Include relevant contact information like your cell phone number and the address where you’ll be staying. Having a current photo of your pet is also helpful to have on hand.
Plan for potty breaks and exercise
Give yourself a time cushion for frequent pit stops, both for potty breaks and for letting your pet stretch his or her legs.
On the Road
Heads inside windows, please
It’s true that pets love to stick their heads out of car windows, but this is a dangerous practice. Your pet could easily become injured, or worse.
Limit food intake
I recommend limiting how much you feed your pet on the road. Also, avoid sharing your fast food lunch with him, no matter how much your pet begs. Travel can upset a pet’s stomach and excess food can make things worse.
Never leave your pet alone in the car
Leaving your pet alone in the car can subject them to dangerous temperature fluctuations. You also run the risk of him running off if your window is down, or even being stolen.
Your pet can sense your energy. Stay calm and roll with the punches – traffic jams and all. This will help your dog stay calm and ensure that you both have a relaxed road trip.
Tips for Traveling With Your Pet by Plane
Before your trip
Airlines do have limits on the number of pets they allow on any given flight. To make sure your pet gets a spot, book your flight early.
Book direct flights during off-peak times
Layovers aren’t fun for people or their pets. They add stress and provide more opportunities for things to go awry. Book a direct, non-stop flight if at all possible.
Get your pet used to his carrier
If you’re flying, you don’t have a choice in restraints. You’ll have to use an airline-approved travel crate. It’s important to get your pet used to the crate long before your head out to the airport.
Trim your pet’s nails
Clipping your pet’s nails keeps them from hooking onto the carrier’s door, holes, and other crevices and potentially causing injury.
Label your carrier
Make sure that you secure a label with your pet’s name, your name, and your contact information firmly onto the outside of the carrier.
Use a proper collar and tags
Use a collar that can’t get caught in the carrier and make sure both the temporary and permanent ID are secured to the collar.
Getting to the airport early ensures that you’re calm and unhurried. It also gives you the opportunity to advise flight attendants about your pet and ensure that your loved one gets safely onto the plane.
Avoid feeding your pet for four to six hours prior to air travel. Small amounts of water before the trip are OK.
Don’t give your pet tranquilizers unless your veterinarian prescribes them. If you do request tranquilizers from your vet, make sure he or she understands that the prescription is for air travel.
Keep a relaxed attitude. Yes, there will be crowds and probably a little mayhem. But it’s important to keep things in perspective. The calmer you are, the more you’ll reassure your pet that everything is OK.
Carry your Leash
Have your leash handy so that you can walk your pet before you check-in at the airport and after you arrive at your destination. Don’t store the leash inside the crate and don’t attach it to the outside.
Inspect your pet
Once you get to your destination, find a safe, quiet space, then open the carrier and thoroughly examine your pet. If anything at all seems amiss, immediately take your pet to a veterinarian. You should get any exam results in writing and make sure that the date and time are included in the report.
Tips for Staying at a Hotel
Whether you fly or drive, at some point you’ll likely need to stay in a pet friendly hotel. I’ve stayed in my share of them and I’ve gathered a little wisdom.
Pet friendly accommodations are abundant. Hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, and vacation rentals all over the country welcome pets. However, abundance is no guarantee that you’ll find lodging when you show up. Rooms book up quickly, especially during the holidays. It’s important to research your route, find accommodations that best suit you, and book a room well ahead of time.
Pick the right room
I recommend booking a room that’s both on the ground floor and located by an exit. This means easy access to a spot for bathroom breaks.
Be respectful of rules
Find out and follow all hotel rules and regulations. Clean up after your pet and cover any furniture your pet may be allowed on to minimize messes.
Don’t leave your pet alone
As well-behaved as your pets may be, I don’t recommend leaving them alone in a hotel room, even if the hotel does allow it. Even the most well-adjusted pets can get stressed in a new environment. If you must leave your pet alone, keep it to a minimum, turn on the TV, and be sure to alert the front desk that your pet is alone in the room.
Choose a wise spot for your litter box
I recommend the bathroom. The floors are usually tile or linoleum, which makes them easier to clean.
Be prepared for accidents
Even the most well-trained pet can have an accident in a new place. Bring your own cleaning supplies and take care of your pet’s business promptly.
Don’t leave pests behind
Make sure your pet is clean, and that you’ve taken adequate flea and tick control measures. A smelly dog, or one that leaves fleas or ticks behind, can negate your deposit and make a hotel think twice about allowing pets.
Keep your pet under your control
Always keep your pet leashed and well-controlled, and avoid taking him or her into dining or food preparation areas.
In the end, with a little savvy, a lot of preparation, and some good old-fashioned common sense, your trip can go smoothly, and be a great memory shared with your four-legged loved one instead of a source of holiday stress. Happy travels and happy holidays from TripsWithPets.com!