Travel with a Pet: Plan Ahead for Success

Should you travel with a pet? This is not a rhetorical question. You should ask yourself this before every trip.  Not every trip is pet-friendly, and not every pet is travel-friendly.

If thinking about leaving your pet with another caretaker for a week or more leaves you with hives or a deep sense of guilt, remember that everyone needs a break now and then.  A short pause from the routine of pet care may be just what you and your pet need.  Even if you aren’t feeling overwhelmed, letting go of daily pet care for a short time can help you be a better pet parent when you get home

Should you travel with your dog?

Will your trip include activities suitable for your dog?  Dogs make lousy luggage.  If you take your dog with you, do it for the right reason:  to include your dog in the vacation.

Always check ahead to make sure that your destination is dog-friendly. If you are traveling to a National Park, for example, consider leaving your dog home.  Dogs are not allowed on most trails in US National Parks.  I recently visited Yellowstone and saw many dogs hanging out in the car while their owners hiked.  Trust me, your dog will not enjoy this, and as the summer heats up it will be downright dangerous.  (The trails can be downright dangerous for pets, too, especially while bears are active).

Should you travel with your cat?

This is entirely up to your cat.  If your cat doesn’t mind getting into a carrier and loves to experience novel situations, she may make a better travel partner than a dog.  If not, so many things can go wrong, including stress-induced illness or destructive behavior at your destination.

The best way to ensure that your cat is travel-friendly is to acclimate him to a carrier and car travel, just as you would crate train a dog.  This should be done slowly, making the experience positive and gradually increasing the amount of time he spends in the carrier and in the car.

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Road trip vs air travel

Are you considering taking your pet on a plane?  If your pet will fit under an airline seat, travel in the cabin may be possible.  If not, remember that travel outside the cabin is stressful for pets and can be dangerous. Unless your stay will be more than a couple of weeks, it may simply not be worth the expense and the risk to take larger dogs with you via plane.

If you are taking your pet as a carry-on, be sure that your pet is comfortable in the carrier.  If your pet is unable to sit quietly in her carrier in an unfamiliar environment for a couple of hours or more, she is not a good candidate for air travel.  Airplanes are close quarters, and you may be seated next to someone who fears or is allergic to dogs or cats.  And nobody wants to listen to a whining cat or barking dog on a flight.

If you travel by car, there are some things to consider.  If your trip will take  more than a few hours of driving, think about what you will do with your pet when you stop for meals.  You may need to pack a picnic lunch or use a drive-through and eat outside where your pet can join you.  Does your dog do well with long car rides?  if not, breaking the trip up into shorter drives may help.

Planning your trip

If you have carefully considered and planned a trip that includes your pet, the following planning tips will help you make the journey safely and conveniently.

Two to six months before you leave:

  1. Book a pet-friendly hotel.
  2. If you are planning foreign travel, check up on requirements to bring animals into your destination country.
  3. Plan several pet-friendly activities in addition to your human-centered vacation fun.
  4. Make arrangements for local dog daycare at your destination if you are planning any activities in which your dog can’t take part.

One month before you leave:

  1. Ensure that vaccinations and flea/tick/heartworm preventatives are up to date.
  2. If you are traveling out of the country, get your pet’s required health examination
  3. Have your pet microchipped if he isn’t already.  Keep your microchip information with you.
  4. Get an identification tag and make sure your pet wears it.
  5. Copy your pet’s medical records and license information to take with you.
  6. Identify a veterinary practice and emergency practice near your destination.  Save the contact information and keep it with your pet’s records.
  7. Refill medications if needed

Packing your bags

Bring these items to ensure hassle-free travel

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  1. Food and measuring cup
  2. Food water bowls
  3. Portable water bowl for road stops and hiking
  4. Medications,
  5. Toys
  6. First aid kit
  7. Brush and grooming tools
  8. Your pet’s favorite blanket
  9. Travel carrier with a blanket or pad to go underneath
  10. Dog poop bags.
  11. LItter box

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