If you’re anything like us, leaving your dog at home when traveling is hard. The thought of being away from your best animal friend for a week or longer is enough to give any serious pet-owner separation anxiety. Luckily, there’s an easy solution: bring your dog along for the ride, or flight. Vacationing with pets is the absolute best, but without adequate preparation and careful planning, it can be the absolute worst. Follow the tips below to make sure you and your pup share a safe and memorable traveling experience.
Pack the Necessary Gear
Traveling with your dog, while rewarding, can be quite a handful. Remembering to bring all the necessary gear will make the experience much simpler, and ultimately much more fun. At the minimum, do not forget the following items:
- Food & treats, enough for the entire trip
- Filtered or bottled water (For the sake of our planet, try to avoid plastic bottles)
- Food & water bowls
- A dog-specific first aid kit
- A carrier crate
- Leash or harness
- Health certificate from your vet, and other necessary medical records.
- Poop bags
- Naturally sourced, non-toxic flea & tick spray (apply daily, and before walks or hikes)
- Your dog’s favorite toys and blankets.
- Necessary medications
- Spare set of current ID tags.
- Cleaning materials in case of of accidents (wet wipes, paper towels, natural pet stain remover, etc)
Prep Your Pet For Travel
The quality of your dog’s travel experience will depend largely on how well you prepare them for the trip. Since they’ll be spending lots of time in their crate over the coming days, it’s vital that you acclimate your pet to their travel crate. In the weeks leading up to your trip, get your pup used to their carrier by serving them meals inside of it, and encouraging them to nap or spend the night inside at least once, too. Do not force the carrier on your dog if they’re not crate-trained; doing so might make them afraid of it. Instead, allow them to explore the crate for themselves, encouraging them with treats and positive reinforcement when necessary.
If you’re driving instead of flying, take a few test drives with your dog secured inside their travel crate. This will accomplish two things: First, you’ll help them get used to riding inside a car while in their crate, and second, you’ll learn how well your dog handles car travel—in terms of motion sickness, accidents, general behavior, etc.
Before Traveling, Visit Your Veterinarian
Because not all dogs are good candidates for air or road travel or both, it’s important to schedule a checkup with your vet beforehand. Most airlines require a health certificate from your vet dated within 10 days of your scheduled departure, so be sure to acquire the proper paperwork during your visit, too. Pet health requirements vary based on airline and location, so contact your chosen airline and the foreign office of your destination country before your visit.
Choose Pet-Friendly Lodging
Some hotels only allow certain sizes and breeds of dog, while many do not allow any pets at all. Doing some preliminary research on pet-friendly lodging will save you a lot of headache in the long run (tip: Go Pet Friendly is a good resource for planning pet-friendly vacations). Even within pet-friendly environments, remember to respect fellow guests by keeping your pup as quiet and calm as possible. Never leave your dog unattended in a hotel or motel room—dogs in unfamiliar locations often become anxious, and will bark loudly or possibly even damage their surroundings.
Choose the Right Crate
While the size and shape will depend upon breed and age, there are in general two types of carrier crates: soft-sided and hard-sided. In terms of flying, soft crates are better for carry-on, and hard-sided are better for cargo travel. Regardless, use a USDA-approved shipping crate with plenty of ventilation that’s large enough for your dog to stand up, move around, and lie down in. It’s extremely important to tag your crate with your dog’s name, the words “live animal,” and your final destination, personal phone number and address. To make your pet more comfortable, we recommend lining the crate with bedding and including some of your dog's favorite toys and blankets in the crate, too. If you’re driving instead of flying, always keep your dog inside a secured carrier when on the road.
Protect Your Dog From Biting Insects & Other Pests
Even though your dog is always at risk of contracting illnesses or bites from bugs like mosquitoes and ticks, he or she is especially vunerable when traveling. For your dog's safety, apply a non-toxic, pet-safe repellent to your pup daily and before outdoor activities such as hiking or visiting dog parks.
Prepare For Your Flight
First, always contact your chosen airline before flying, as each one has their own rules and stipulations regarding pets and how they should travel. Next, book you and your dog’s flight at the same time and as early as possible—most airlines have limited space for pets, so early booking is essential. For the safety of your pet, make sure to fly a direct, non-stop flight, and try to aim for a weekday departure. Airports are typically less busy on these days, which should help limit potential complications and travel stress. To prevent accidents, do not feed your dog for 4-6 hours before flying, and make sure to take them for a walk as close to departure time as possible. Lastly, make sure your pup has access to water during travel—risking an accident is better than risking dehydration!
When Driving, Adhere to the Following Guidelines
- Never leave your pet unattended—not for a moment! Even with cracked windows, in temperatures of only 85 degrees, the inside of your car can reach 110 degrees in just 10 minutes.
- Never allow your dog to hang their head out of the window. This might look like fun, but the ASPCA warns this can lead to inner ear damage and even lung infections.
- The AAA estimates that over 30,000 auto accidents are caused by unrestrained dogs each year. Always have your pet in their crate and secured when road-tripping.
- Plan out your trip in advance, making sure that all scheduled destinations are pet-friendly and can sufficiently accommodate your pup.
- The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends pet owners stop every 2-3 hours to allow their dogs to walk around, grab a drink, and go to the bathroom.
- Keep cool, filtered water close at hand to ensure your pup stays hydrated between pit stops.
- Keep your pet’s medical records handy, as you might need to show them to authorities when crossing state lines.
- Keep your car well ventilated during road trips—this will guarantee your pup’s carrier receives plenty of fresh air.
Go for a Long Walk Once You Arrive
Once you reach your final destination, but before checking into your hotel, take your dog for a long, exploratory walk. This will give them the opportunity to become more familiar with their surroundings, while stretching their legs and going to the restroom. A nice long walk will also exercise your dog and relax them a bit, making them more receptive to the unfamiliar experiences they’ll encounter over the next several days.