Learning how to travel with a dog or cat can be a daunting experience for first-timers, but there are plenty of ways to make the trip enjoyable for both you and your fur baby. Although there are more options now than ever for pet-friendly travel, we’ve sussed out the best pet travel tips to consider before, during and after your trip.
Before Your Trip
One question travelers often fail to ask themselves is: is my pet really fit for travel? Some pets simply cannot handle traveling due to age or temperament so if you have doubts, consult with your veterinarian. If you get the green light, start preparing your dog or cat for the environment in which you’ll be traveling. For example, if a long road trip is approaching, start practicing by taking short drives to somewhere fun like the dog park, so they can associate car rides with a fun experience. If a plane ride is in order, allow them to spend time in their airline-approved pet carrier while at home, and consider tucking a shirt with your scent into the carrier.
If you’ve ever considered microchipping your pet, now is the time. Chips are about the size of a grain of rice and a quick scan can easily identify you as their owner if they get lost. If not, purchase an ID tag for their collar with your home address and cell phone number, as well as a temporary tag with the location of where you’re staying on your vacation. Also store copies of your pet’s medical history and proof of vaccinations on a USB drive or bring hard copies of documents with you.
Showing up with an unapproved carrier is the last thing you need, so make sure to check your airline or railway website for the requirements for an approved pet carrier or crate. Most airlines require that the carrier offer enough space for your pet to stand, sit, turn around and lie down, and that it’s well ventilated. Also consider purchasing a collapsible water bowl, a bag of dry food, waste bags, a safety harness and comforting toys.
During The Trip
Just before heading to the airport, take your pup on a long walk to tire, or let them take a walk during a layover. Many major airports offer pet relief stations or outdoor areas just for this reason. Additionally when flying, never put your pet in an overhead bin no matter what anyone says and never sedate your pet as it may interfere with their ability to regulate their body temperature.
On road trips, although it may be tempting to let your travel buddy roam free, they should be secured in the backseat in either a pet car seat or seat belt leash to ensure the safety of you both. Take some pit stops so they can run around and relieve themselves, and no matter the temperature, don’t leave your pet alone in a locked car. If you must, set a timer to remind yourself to get back to the car ASAP.
Once at your destination, try to stay with your pet for the first 24 hours to help them get settled and understand that when you do leave, you’ll be returning.
If you’re staying at a pet-friendly hotel (as opposed to a vacation rental), request a room on the ground floor to make it easy to get outside for a walk and ask staff if pets are allowed on furniture. If you have concerns, drape towels on the furniture to prevent scratches and bring training pads just in case an unfamiliar setting makes your pup or cat a bit nervous.
If the rules around air travel with a pet sound like too much to comprehend, consider Animal Airways. The service identifies the best solution for you and your pet’s travel plans. They’ll help you choose the right airline and provide all the regulations to help you prepare for the flight.
A note about emotional support animals: The requirements and guidelines for traveling with an emotional support animal vary widely and have become strict over the years, so it’s best to contact your airline directly well before your flight.