How to Travel with Your Pet
For many people, pets are a part of the family. They would no sooner be left behind on vacation than one of the children.
But if you want to travel with your pet, whether by car or by plane, there are a few things I recommend you do to make sure your furry companion is comfortable and less stressed.
Traveling By Car
If you’re traveling by car, pack a pet carrier, whether a collapsible soft-sided or hard-sided model. Depending your pet’s size, the right carrier may not fit into your car, so make sure you test this out before purchasing one. You may not want to keep your pet in her carrier the entire trip, but if you do, there are a few things you need to remember.
- Keep your pet in the back seat. Air bags can cause serious injury in case of an accident.
- There are special “sky boxes” for small dogs, and I’ve seen seat belt harnesses for larger dogs. Cats should ride in enclosed carriers, however.
- Make several stops so your pet can have a bathroom break. They may be nervous about riding in a car, and may have to go more often than they do at home. Also, be sure to clean up after your animal. Don’t leave “anything” behind.
- Make sure your dog or cat is wearing a collar with a tag that has your name and cell phone number on it. Also, consider having your animal microchipped.
Traveling By Plane
Traveling by plane can be a bit trickier, because some airlines would prefer to put animals in a pet carrier in the cargo hold. But as a dog owner, I can tell you that’s never going to happen with our dog. I’ll drive across the entire country before I ever put her in a plane’s cargo hold. And if that’s not possible, I just won’t go.
An alternative, assuming your pet is small enough, is to put them in an airline-approved pet carrier and buy a ticket for their seat. It may be more expensive, but compare that to the cost of a week or two of pet sitting or boarding, and you may come out ahead.
- Make sure your pet is up to date on all their shots, and get a certificate of health from your vet so you have proof. Take a photo of the certificate on your cell phone too, just in case you lose the actual certificate.
- Be sure to allow some extra time to get through TSA. You’ll have to remove your pet from their carrier, so the carrier can be x-rayed. You’ll also have to carry your pet through the scanner, so put them in a harness that doesn’t have any metal.
- If you’re traveling overseas, or to Hawaii, read up on their rabies policies and any quarantine requirements. In fact, this is an absolute must if you leave the Lower 48, because different countries and even Hawaii may have quarantine regulations that could see your pet placed in quarantine for your entire trip.
Before you travel, you need to make sure your animal is well-socialized. If they don’t like people or other animals, a vacation in a new place may not be the best plan.
You should also practice a couple dry runs with your pet in the car, especially prior to long car trips. Take your dog or cat on errands, and see how they cope in their box/carrier/seat belt harness. If they can’t handle a 30 minute trip, they won’t be up for a multi-hour car ride.
Make sure you have current photos of your pet on your phone, in case he or she gets away or you get separated.
Be sure your hotel not only allows pets, but is actually pet friendly. That means a grassy area for your dog to do his business and play a little. Don’t try to sneak a pet into a non-pet hotel, because that could get you tossed out in the middle of the night.
If you can’t travel with your pet, look into a reputable pet sitter or boarding service. Ask your pet-owning friends for recommendations, and be sure to check out how your pet likes their new friend or temporary lodging.
It’s National Pet Travel Safety Day on January 2, so be sure to practice these tips (and read up more extensively on pet travel before you even pack your bags).
Photo credit: Green Cycler (Flickr, Creative Commons)