For most of us, our pets are members of the family. That means that when we plan a trip, we need to take their needs into consideration too. Going on a trip without them may seem unthinkable, but there are several challenges and preparations that you need to consider before making the decision to bring them along. Factors such as their age and general health, personality, and size should enter into the decision.
Taking a dog or cat on a trip, whether it’s by car, plane, or other mode of transportation, requires some upfront planning. It’s important to know the pet regulations that await you at your destination. Other factors like the destination’s climate, accommodation options, and health requirements should be checked well before you leave.
Does having a pet stop you from traveling? Certainly not, but it can be difficult to know what to do with your furry pal while you are gone. To help, we've gathered together the benefits and challenges of including your pet in your adventure, and some tips on how to travel safely with them to help you decide if bringing them along for the ride is the right choice. Let's take a look!
Benefits and challenges of traveling with your pet
Weighing the benefits against the challenges of traveling with or without your pup or kitty is a good place to start. Benefits might include:
- It will strengthen the bond that comes with shared experiences.
- Having your furry bestie beside you can prevent feelings of isolation in a new place.
- You’re in charge of everything that happens with your pet, so you don’t have to worry about how they’re doing without you.
- The experience will help you learn to be flexible while meeting your fur baby’s needs.
- Dogs tend to attract attention, so you both might make some new friends.
- You may improve your organizational skills as you plan and execute your trip with your pet in mind.
- Dogs of any size and temperament can help you feel more secure. Even little pups can sound fierce when presented with iffy situations.
- Your pet may learn to adapt to new people and experiences so they’re more confident at home.
Some of the challenges you might encounter are:
- Not all hotels and campgrounds are pet-friendly, limiting options for accommodations.
- Some dogs and cats don’t react well to travel of any kind.
- The fees for air travel or hotel accommodations for your pet can add significantly to your expenses.
- You’ll need to plan for frequent food and bathroom stops along the way, which will make the trip longer.
- No matter how you travel, you may have to purchase extra equipment like a crate.
- Pet health travel regulations can be stringent and require a long and complex plan of action.
- Your pet may be too old or not be healthy enough to travel.
- You may not have time to fulfill all of the regulations required in certain locations.
After considering these benefits and challenges, you’ll be better able to decide whether to take your pet along on your trip or leave them behind. If they do go with you, read on for several travel tips to make the going easier.
Safety tips for traveling with pets
Use the following tips when preparing to travel with your pet:
- Visit your vet 7 - 10 days before departing to be sure vaccinations, especially rabies, are up to date. Ask for a vaccination record and certificate of health to take with you.
- Stock up on your pet’s medications so you don’t run out before returning home.
- Pack plenty of your pet’s regular food, bottled water, and a couple of collapsible bowls.
- Find the number of the 24-hour emergency vet clinic nearest to your destination.
- Purchase a travel crate if you don’t already have one the fits the mode of travel you are taking. Not only is it just safer, but most modes of public transportation require them.
- Pick up ID tags to attach to your pet’s collar in case you get separated. Include your pet’s name, your name and phone number, a rabies tag, and possibly a second tag with information about your destination.
- Microchip your dog if they don’t already have one for an added layer of security.
- Carry a recent picture of your pet to show authorities if your pet gets lost.
Tips for traveling by plane with pets
Flying with a pet can be tricky, but it doesn’t need to be impossible. Here are a few tips for traveling by plane:
- When you make your own reservation, make one for your pet at the same time.
- Check your airline’s website well ahead of time for their rules and regulations on traveling with pets. Collect, complete, and pack any necessary forms to take with you.
- Check animal regulations at your destination, especially if you're traveling abroad.
- Ensure your crate meets your airline’s specifications. If you’re taking a small pet on board with you, check the size of the space beneath the seat in front of you.
- Make sure your crate is well ventilated.
- Allow your pet to have a potty break before leaving home to prevent accidents.
- Try to book a flight or flights with the shortest travel time possible.
Tips for traveling by car with pets
Many people love to take road trips, which can also be the easiest way to travel with your pets. These safety tips can ensure they stay out of danger while exploring new locales with you.
- Start out with your pet’s stomach empty to avoid car sickness.
- Put your pet in a crate, in a tethered car seat, or a doggy seat belt with a harness.
- Never leave your pet unattended in a closed car.
- Don’t allow your dog to put its head out of an open window to avoid potential eye injuries.
- Keep windows rolled high enough so a pet can’t jump out.
Tips for traveling by train, bus or boat
Got a travel plan that includes a different mode of transportation? Remember these considerations when creating your itinerary.
- Amtrak allows dogs, but they must be less than 20 pounds. There is a $25 fee for each dog.
- Long-distance bus companies like Greyhound do not allow pets.
- Local bus and train lines may have different rules. Check with their websites.
- If you want to take your pet on a cruise, check with the individual cruise line for their specifications.
Tips for lodging with pets at your destination
They say the fun is in the journey, not the destination- but even so, you'll need someplace to sleep! Be a good and respectful pet parent by following these tips so everyone enjoys their respite from travel.
- After booking a pet-friendly hotel or motel, review their pet policies and rules carefully.
- Keep your pet as quiet as possible so they don't disturb other guests.
- Do not leave your pet unattended in a hotel room. If you must leave them, put them in a crate, and put a note on the door that says a pet is crated in the room.
- Ask about where you can take a dog for potty breaks and be sure to clean up after them.
- Accident-proof the room, including picking up loose electrical wires and looking for anything under the bed or furniture that a former guest may have left behind.
- If you have an adventure hound, consider booking a campsite and sleeping under the stars.
What if your pet can’t go with you?
Despite your best laid plans, there still may be a reason why your pet shouldn't come with you on your trip. These could include:
- An older pet who is unfit to travel.
- A nervous pet who exhibits destructive behavior under stress.
- A nervous pet who is too scared to experience new noises, places and people.
- A sick or injured pet who shouldn't travel, or can infect others.
- A pet with brachycephalic syndrome that makes high altitudes and extreme weather conditions dangerous.
- A pet who gets motion sick.
- A pet who is unable to behave appropriately during travel.
- A destination or mode of transport that is not pet-friendly.
If the challenges you face are insurmountable, you will need to find a way for your pet to be cared for while you’re gone. There are many kennels and boarding facilities to choose from, but before you dial them up, consider in-home dog-sitting, cat-sitting, and boarding with Wag!
Top sitters and boarders in your area are ready to care for your pet in their own home, or come to yours. You’ll know your dog or cat is in the best hands in comfortable surroundings. Costs for sitting in your home range from $39 - $59, while boarding ranges from $48 - $69. Most sitters and boarders are also qualified dog walkers, so being sure your pup is getting enough exercise and your cat enough play time is easy!
Sharing your life with a pet is a rewarding experience that shouldn't compromise your travel plans. Whether you bring your pet along, or plan their staycation with trusted professionals until you return, always be comforted knowing you are keeping them safe, healthy and living their best life.
Before you travel with your pet, be sure you've got them covered, no matter what happens. Our pet insurance tool lets you compare plans from leading companies like Figo and Spot to help you find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!