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How to Travel Safely with Your Pets

By Leah_Pet on Jun. 4, 2017

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Your first step is determining where you’re going and how you’re both going to get there. Let’s start with car travel. Even if you’re flying, you’ll likely need to take most of these tips into consideration once you land.

Before you hit the road:

Paperwork please

Keep your veterinarian’s contact information with you while you travel, as well as a potential clinic at your destination just in case. Make a copy of your pet’s vaccination and health records just in case you need to visit a veterinarian while on the road. Additionally, doggy daycares, campgrounds and similar locations may require these before your travel buddy is allowed to play.

The great crate adventure

Consider your pet’s carrier his own little RV. By investing in a properly sized, sturdy crate, you’ll go far in keeping your pet safe while on the go and when you arrive. Pets love the feeling of having their own space—especially in unfamiliar locations—so you’ll likely notice yours retreats to his even when the door is open. Hard-sided is best, as wire-only crates aren’t safe nor are they allowed on planes or trains. Practice with short trips beforehand and put a favorite blanket or sturdy toy in there for the real deal. Both will go far in calming your pet’s nerves.

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At home on the range

When traveling with your pet, don’t wing it. Book pet-friendly places along your route so you won’t find yourselves road-weary with nowhere to sleep. The best part about booking hotels while you’re still at home is that you can be assured of functioning Internet. There’s nothing worse than groggily pulling over to look up nearby motels that accept pets only to find you’re in the middle of a huge cellphone dead zone. Though some hotels charge an additional fee for pets, the last thing you want to do is try to sneak into a place that doesn’t permit them. Getting thrown out at 3 a.m. or being hit with a hefty room-cleaning fee can really put a damper on your trip.

Insider’s tip: As someone who recently moved across country with two reluctant cats, we found Motel 6, Best Western and La Quinta Inn to be invaluable and conveniently located lodging, even along the most obscure highway stops. Obviously, there are many other hotels—both boutique and chains—that allow pets, so look for ones that best fit your needs. And always call to confirm that your hotel does indeed accept pets. You may stumble on a normally pet-friendly hotel chain where furry guests are prohibited by law.

Non-hotel accommodations

If you’re going to be staying with family or friends or going camping, don’t just show up with your pet in tow. Let everyone know your pet will be coming with you so they can plan accordingly. Just as some campgrounds welcome pets and some don’t, you may discover Aunt Betsy is highly allergic to dogs, or that her dogs are not friendly with cats, either of which could make staying with her a no-go.

ID is everything

The last thing you want is for your pet to get lost while en route. However, should it happen, you will absolutely want him to be wearing a collar with an ID tag that has current contact information. Consider including the address of your destination as well, especially for extended trips. A microchip ID is important too, as it can’t be removed or lost. If your pet isn’t currently microchipped, a veterinarian can do it or stop by during your local Petco’s vaccination clinic. The chip is inserted via a standard injection; and at about the size of a grain of rice, your pet won’t even notice that it’s there.

Car seat safety

Booster seats or harnesses that attach to your existing seat belt system and barriers that prevent your pet from scrambling into the front seat are useful additions for keeping your pet safe on the road. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to plan to take your pet with you wherever you go while on the road. Not only can they overheat or get too cold depending on the weather, being in an unknown environment can be extra stressful if they’re left alone, even for a few minutes. If you’re stopping for a restroom break or snack, be sure it’s somewhere your pet can get out and stretch too or have a person stay in the car with them at all times.

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Looking good

To ensure your pet will be a welcome guest, groom him before you go. This way his scent won’t announce your arrival before you do. It’s also a good idea to bone up on training and obedience skills before heading off into unfamiliar environments so you can feel confident your pet will listen to you first and foremost. Consider stopping by Petco for a groom or training classes before you hit the road and you’ll have one popular travel companion indeed. A trip to the veterinarian is in order to make sure your pet’s up-to-date on all his vaccinations. If your dog is going to be exposed to other canines, such as at campgrounds, doggy daycare or a boarding facility, ask in advance about getting the bordetella series to protect him from kennel cough.

Flying with your pet

While convenient and quick, airplane travel comes with its own set of unique hassles that require a bit more planning when bringing along a pet. Make sure your pre-flight plans include checking off each of the below and you should have smooth sailing together.

Book the right flight early on

Sometimes airlines limit the total number of pets allowed in the cabin. Book your flight early to ensure there’s room for yours. Also confirm that your chosen airline and specific flights allow your pet type and breed before buying your ticket. Security measures and rules are constantly changing, so it pays to stay in close contact with your airline. Pets usually don’t fly for free, so be prepared to pay a fee each way for your pooch.

Be direct

If at all possible, it’s best to minimize stress with a non-stop flight. This is especially critical if your pet will not be flying in the cabin with you. The last thing you want is for your dog to arrive at the airport on one flight while yours gets delayed or cancelled for some reason.

Consider temperature

In the summer, it’s best to fly at night when temperatures are cooler; in contrast, the opposite is true during winter. While it is pressurized, temperatures in the cargo area are not as regulated as in the cabin so airlines will not allow (nor is it recommended) that animals fly during extremely hot or cold weather conditions.

Airline-approved

Choose a crate or carrier that’s approved for air travel before you go. Once again, it’s best to call ahead and confirm measurements so you don’t show up at the airport with a carrier that’s not allowed on board. Roughly speaking, your pet needs to fit in a carrier that’s 9” high, 13” wide and 17” long to fit under the seat but it varies by airline. Otherwise, he’ll have to go in cargo**. Clearly label yours with “Live Animal – This Side Up” as well as with your name, address and phone number of both your home and your destination. Usually you’re required to have food and water bowls in the crate, as well as a secure sleeve attached to the outside with food and a leash in case an emergency dictates your pet needs to be removed from the kennel.

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** Service dogs and guide dogs are normally allowed to travel in the cabin with their pet parents regardless of size or breed.

Visit your veterinarian before you go

Most airlines require a health certificate that proves your pet is healthy and current on all vaccinations before travel. Valid for 30 days, it’s best to see your veterinarian within 10 days of flying so you can be sure your pet is approved to fly. This is also a good time to discuss ways to keep your pet calm while flying. The ASPCA, as well as many veterinarians and airlines, agree pets should not be sedated during travel as it interferes with their ability to self-regulate temperature.

Prevent potty accidents

Most of the time it’s best to avoid feeding pets directly prior to boarding to limit the chances of them needing to use the restroom. However, check with your veterinarian for specific recommendations for your pet and try to time it where your pet has ample time to eliminate before you go. The same does not apply to water, as it should be available whenever your pet is thirsty. Walk your dog just before going to the check-in gate or air cargo location, as well as directly after you land.

Keep clutter-free

Stash your pet’s leash in your carry-on bag (not on him or in his carrier) or in a secured sleeve on the outside of his crate if he’s flying cargo. This reduces the risk of him getting tangled or choking. It’s also best not to load his crate with lots of toys and blankets. We all know how cramped things can feel on an airplane these days and it’s likely your pet will be feeling it too.

Your final destination

This may go without saying but you should always research rules and regulations in the state or country you’ll be flying into before planning any trip with your pet, including making sure your pet type or breed is legal at your final destination. There have been tales of celebrities finding out the hard (and expensive) way that, no matter who you are, you can’t simply fly into Australia without quarantining your pets. Stateside, Hawaii and California especially have strict rules about animals so don’t assume yours will be welcome before planning your dream vacation.

Travel supplies

Wondering what to pack? Here are some musts that’ll help your pet feel right at home:

For both cats & dogs

For dogs

For cats

* Required for airline travel

Insider’s tip: Regarding crates and carriers, I’ve found it useful to use a hard-sided crate while en route and as a place for pets to sleep once we settle in. However, for smaller pets it can be easier to transport them to and from the car via a soft-sided carrier so the entire crate doesn’t have to be unloaded each time you get out. Soft-sided carriers are also invaluable when your pet is traveling as carry-on during airplane travel.

Now, if your head is swimming with thoughts of what needs to be done before your trip—focus on how happy your Instagram followers will be to see your pet’s adorable face out exploring new places with you. However, keep in mind that some pets are serious homebodies and would really rather stay home. If you suspect your pet falls into this category (statistically speaking, I think it’s safe to say most cats do), minimize stress by finding a good pet sitter and make your travel plans for humans only. It’s all about having fun and only you know what your pet would enjoy best. If it’s exploring with you, then choose a destination, make your to-do list and start planning those adventures together.

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4 Comments
Comments
by Cathy cebrick
‎06-30-2015 04:00 AM

Will be traveling alone with my dog in August. Rest stops don't allow dogs inside and it is too hot to leave them in the car alone. What is someone that has to pee supposed to do?

Will be traveling alone with my dog in August. Rest stops don't allow dogs inside and it is too hot to leave them in the car alone. What is someone that has to pee supposed to do?

Posted on Jun. 30, 2015
by Sierra Wilde
‎07-12-2015 06:52 PM

Maybe you could tie him up to a post.

 

Maybe you could tie him up to a post.

 

Posted on Jul. 12, 2015
by
‎07-19-2015 05:56 PM
Don't use a rest stop to use the restroom. Look for a strip mall with a PetSmart or Petco or some other animal - friendly store that will allow you to bring your dog inside with you. This way you can safely stop and bring your dog safely inside both the store and the restroom with you.

I've driven from East Coast to the West Coast and back again with a car full of dogs. It's a challenge, but it is absolutely doable.

Best of luck to you.
Don't use a rest stop to use the restroom. Look for a strip mall with a PetSmart or Petco or some other animal - friendly store that will allow you to bring your dog inside with you. This way you can safely stop and bring your dog safely inside both the store and the restroom with you.

I've driven from East Coast to the West Coast and back again with a car full of dogs. It's a challenge, but it is absolutely doable.

Best of luck to you.
Posted on Jul. 19, 2015
by
‎07-29-2015 07:20 AM
I would leave my car on and locked with the air conditioner running...assuming you have a second set of keys...never had a problem...good luck...it's fun traveling with your pet Smiley Happy
I would leave my car on and locked with the air conditioner running...assuming you have a second set of keys...never had a problem...good luck...it's fun traveling with your pet Smiley Happy
Posted on Jul. 29, 2015
About the Author
  • As a child Leah used to write in her journal about how she’d like to be an animal when she grew up. As luck would have it, she grew up to be a writer who writes about animals instead. She has worked in veterinarian clinics, had pets of all types and has fostered many cats and dogs. Currently she lives with two cats named Irma and Yuyu and feeds a bevvy of semi-feral neighborhood cats.
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