Traveling With Pets: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Traveling with your furry friend can be stressful and even more challenging during the holidays. You want to ensure they’re comfortable, and provide everything they need throughout the trip. However, your pets may not always be as excited about going on vacation as you are! With the right preparation and planning ahead of time , it’s possible that both of you can still enjoy yourselves while away from home. Whether you’re traveling by planes, trains, automobiles, or some combination, find the best tips for preparing for your next trip with your dog or cat in our Ultimate Guide for Traveling With Pets.
Travel Mode & Accommodation Check
Traveling with pets is definitely more complicated (and more expensive) than flying pet-free. The best way to ensure that there is no confusion when traveling with pets is by checking their requirements ahead of time with the airline and hotel where you plan on staying during vacation—especially since regulations differ from country-to-country and even state-to-state within countries such as America! Most hotels will allow guests who are traveling with small dogs but may require documentation of vaccination and a pet fee, which might also include a refundable security deposit to cover any potential damages.
Before You Leave
Before you leave, it is important to have a checkup with your vet and get your pet any necessary shots. For example, they might need rabies or distemper vaccinations. Note: if your dog is under four months old, some airlines will not allow him or her on board unless he’s had at least one vaccination that protects against kennel cough (Bordetella). If this applies to your puppy or kitten, consult with a veterinarian before leaving on your trip so that he can receive his first dose as soon as possible! Make sure to bring any paperwork regarding vaccinations and medications with you in case you need them during your travel.
- For any pet, feeling safe in a familiar environment is a top priority. We recommend familiarizing your pet with the carrier, since most transportation requires one. Leave it out and open for a few weeks before you depart, using positive reinforcement to establish the carrier as a safe and happy environment.
- Just before travel, cut your pet’s nails so they won’t catch in the carrier. Make sure he/she wears their regular identification tag, plus a travel one with contacts at your destination listed. Since dangling tags can catch in the carrier grate, secure them to your pet’s collar with tape. (Label the carrier, too.)
- Motion sickness/car sickness can be a problem for people and for pets, especially younger dogs whose inner ears are not fully developed. Most dogs outgrow motion sickness, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Ask your vet about appropriate motion sickness medications for pets.
- If you’re planning on traveling in winter weather conditions, make sure your pet doesn’t have any health issues that could be exacerbated by cold weather (e.g., arthritis). If your pet is prone to respiratory issues and allergies, avoid taking your pet on flights during pollen season like spring and summer months when allergies are most severe.
- Pet’s internal clocks are affected by sunrise, sunset, and hunger, and they do best on a routine. If your holiday destination is in another time zone, your pet will typically need a couple of days to adjust to the time changes. Adjust meal and walk times by 15-30 minute intervals each day until you and your pet are fully acclimated to the local time.
Creature Comforts: Packing the Essentials
Although you may have your pet’s favorite bed and blanket at home, it is a good idea to bring these items with you when traveling. If your pet has a favorite toy or two to help them pass the time while in the car or hotel room, don’t forget those, either! Additionally, if your pet requires medication during travel, be sure they are packed safely in their carry-on bag to avoid leaving them behind by accident. What to pack for your pet:
- Sturdy, well-ventilated carrier or crate (labeled with owner’s ID)
- Leash, collar, and permanent and travel ID tags
- Health certificate from a vet (often required when crossing state lines), medications, medical records, and a local vet contact near your destination
- If traveling internationally, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s website offers terrific guidelines
- Pet food, water, and bowls
- Favorite bedding and toys
- Litter and litter pan for cats or training pads for dogs
- Grooming supplies including a dental kit, pet wipes for spot cleaning, and nontoxic pet sunscreen
- Pet flotation device if you’ll be near water
- Current photo, in case your pet gets lost
Small Dogs in Plane Cabins
If you’re flying with a small pet, choose an airline that will let him/her ride in the cabin under the seat. This will depend on the airline and how full their flights are at the time of year. Some airlines have restrictions about pets in cabins. Still, most allow dogs up to 20 pounds in size as long as they have been vaccinated for rabies and other diseases (provided by some veterinarians) within one year before the travel date. However, some airlines require that pets travel inside kennels or carriers within an aircraft cabin. Some may even charge extra if they don’t book a seat for your dog! It is important to check with each airline before booking any flights with your pet, so there aren’t any surprises when it comes time to go through security at the airport.
If your pet is too large, consider driving or leaving them home with a family member or boarding service. “Flying your pet in the cargo hold of an airplane can be a frightening experience for your pet, and has additional safety and comfort concerns as well,” says Dr. Katie Riehle of AZPetVet. “Do your research. Be sure to understand all the risks for your pet and talk with the airline and your veterinarian in order to make an informed decision.”
Even for in-cabin travel, it’s best to exercise your dog for at least 15 minutes before boarding to quell his/her anxiety (avoid sedatives, which can slow breathing, especially for dogs prone to respiratory issues). Since they’ll be confined awhile without breaks, don’t feed them for four to six hours before departure. (Do freeze water in the tray inside the crate, so your pet stays hydrated.)
If you need to fly but want to avoid cargo, consider reaching out to Animal Airways to find your best flightpath. Or, you can hire a transport service to drive your pet to your vacation spot.
And there you have it—virtually everything you need to know about traveling during the holidays with pets. After all, the holidays are a time for family, and pets are part of our family. While you may not be able to take them to every event or vacation , you can still give your pet a great holiday experience. With the right preparation, your pet will be comfortable and happy on long car rides or flights, or simply staying healthy in their home environment and having fun during holiday festivities.