Going on vacation is one of the best experiences — you get to escape responsibilities, see a new place and create new memories. The only way vacation could get any better is if you didn’t have to leave your pet behind.
If you’ve decided to take Fido with you on your next trip out of town, there’s good news: It’s totally possible! It does, however, take a lot of planning. Make sure you and your pet are ready by reading these tips for travel with animals.
Bringing a pet into a foreign country isn’t always easy — or possible. Each country has different requirements for transporting animals, depending on the type of animal and the place you’re arriving from. Countries like Australia, Iceland and Japan will likely quarantine your pet for 10 days before you can continue your travels.
This is really a protective measure; countries want to avoid diseases or parasites that outside animals can bring with them. Even so, you don’t want to get caught by surprise. Look online or contact an embassy for quarantine information.
Have All Your Information Ready
There’s a lot of information about your pet that airport authorities will need to check before sending you on your way. Having information on hand about recent vaccinations and current medications will make the process go smoother. Many suggest tying a tag to your pet’s collar (or cage) that lists these important facts.
You should also be knowledgeable about your pet’s general health. What are its normal temperature and pulse? What illnesses has it had in the past? Does it have any chronic conditions? Write this all down and be ready for questions.
Visit the Vet in Advance
If you haven’t made an appointment with the vet, do so now. You should always bring your pet for a check-up before traveling. Tell the veterinarian about your plans, and make sure they give you the green light for travel. You can also ask them for advice about making travel easier.
Your vet will be able to give you pointers based on your specific pet’s health and personality. Just make sure you visit them at least a week before your trip — you never know what surprises might crop up.
Bring the Right Tools
It probably goes without saying that if you plan on traveling with your pet, you should be prepared in case of an emergency. When you’re on the road or going from airport to airport, you might not have immediate access to an animal doctor should problems arise. You need to prepare yourself.
It’s a good idea to pack a pet first-aid kit. A thermometer, creams, gauze and ear drops are all great supplies to have. Do your research and bring what you can — it might prove invaluable in a pinch.
Keep Electronic Records
All that printed information you brought with you is great. And you have a tag on your pet and copies of its latest vaccinations. But what if you lose these things? Make sure you load electronic copies of everything onto your phone before departing. It’ll be easy to show things to authorities, and it might just save you a world of trouble.
One thing you should definitely save electronically is your pet’s health certificate. This is usually required for travel, and without it, you’ll be turned around at the border. Don’t let that happen to you!
Find Local Pet Doctors
Okay, so you’ve packed your pet first-aid kit and looked up what to do in case your dog starts choking. Great. You’re pretty well prepared in case anything goes wrong. There are some things, however, that you just can’t handle unless you’ve studied to be a veterinarian.
That means you should still look up vets’ offices in the areas you’re visiting. Save their addresses and phone numbers. You don’t want to ignore this step and have to clumsily search for the nearest vet when something dangerous happens. Your pet’s health could be at stake.
Research Your Airline
Just because an airline allows pets doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you and your companion. Air Canada, Air France and American Airlines all allow small dogs and cats to travel in-cabin with you, which is an ideal arrangement. This way, you can keep an eye on how your pet is holding up.
If your pet must travel in the cargo hold, however, make sure the airline has a good reputation for treating animals well. Also, bring a picture of your pet with you — occasionally, animals get misplaced during flights.
Train Your Pet
In the weeks leading up to your trip, you should get your pet comfortable with its crate. Feed treats and gradually keep the animal inside for longer increments of time until you reach the number of hours you’ll be in the airport and on the flight. This makes the process feel much more familiar to your pet when the time comes.
Make sure your pet isn’t a danger to other people, either; if it’s prone to scratching and biting, this poses a risk to airport workers. You don’t want your pet harming strangers.
Consider Your Pet’s Comfort
Does your pet have a favorite toy or blanket to curl up with? Bring this object along! Make your pet’s crate feel like home, and lay down plenty of comfortable bedding so it doesn’t get cold.
Some owners even give their pets old shirts that smell like them — this is of great comfort if your pet has to be separated from you. Overall, put in the effort to create the best-possible environment for your pet to travel in. After all, it won’t have a clue what’s happening.
Prepare Your Wallet
Traveling with a pet is not cheap. Before you decide to bring Whiskers along on your summer vacation, consider all the extra charges involved. Airlines often charge over $100 to bring a small pet in-cabin, and the cost only goes up from there.
You’ll have to find a pet-friendly hotel, secure adequate transportation and purchase enough pet food. On top of this, you should have extra funds available should you need to bring Whiskers to the vet or buy medication. As long as you plan ahead, taking a pet along should be manageable.
Get the Right Crate
Not only should you make your pet’s crate comfortable, but you should also make sure you’re purchasing the right crate in the first place. This isn’t a place to cut corners — you want a high-quality, sturdy environment for your pet. Local pet stores should have various options for you.
The crate should be big enough that your pet can stand, turn around and lie down, but not so big that the animal can pace back and forth. A large crate means your pet can go tumbling around during turbulence. Check airline requirements, too — they may have size limits.
Consider Traveling by Car
If you’ve bypassed air travel for ground travel, there’s good news! This is usually a less stressful experience for your pet. But don’t get too comfortable; even if your animal is used to car rides, don’t assume it’ll be fine with multiple hours of driving. You’ll need to monitor your pet’s attitude and be ready to stop frequently.
With dogs, a good rule of thumb is to stop every two hours for a walk. It may seem too often, but a dog needs more breaks when traveling than at home.
Bring Lots of Water
When driving long distances, keep plenty of food and water available for your pet. Make sure your buddy has a bowl easily accessible, and replenish the water every time you stop. Higher temperatures and levels of stress while traveling mean your pet needs more liquids than usual.
Bring treats along, but don’t go crazy — animals are more prone to car-sickness than humans, and too many treats could lead to an upset stomach. To avoid unwanted accidents in your car, keep the treats to a minimum.
Keep a Special Toy Ready
There are certain points during a trip when you need your pet to be quiet and well-behaved. Sometimes, the best way to do this is by keeping the animal occupied; having a special toy or treat handy is a perfect way to handle these situations.
A rubber toy filled with peanut butter works wonders with dogs, and catnip may work for cats. This makes hotel check-ins, packing and unpacking or transportation between the car and the hotel room go a whole lot smoother for everyone involved. In this case, distraction is your friend.
Prep the Car
During car travel, it may seem desirable to leave your pet loose in the back seat. This isn’t such a good idea, however. If you need to wear a seat belt for your safety, pets need to be strapped in, too. Visit local pet stores or look online for special seat belt harnesses for animals.
Don’t forget to make it comfortable, too! Spreading out blankets and clearing enough space for your animal to lie down in are musts. That way, your pet should have no problem stretching out and snoozing away. It’s a win-win for everybody.
Don’t Rely on Drugs
You may think that giving your animal a little extra something to make it sleep through the flight is helpful, but it’s not actually the best idea. Sure, your dog may be nervous or scared during the ordeal, but that’s actually better than having the animal suffer breathing problems due to sedatives.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, it’s not advisable to give sedatives to animals prior to travel for exactly this reason. The high altitude doesn’t mix well with drugs. If you think your pet is a special case, consult your veterinarian.
Try to Get a Direct Flight
For animals, the most stressful part of flying comes during layovers. The process of being moved from one plane to the next is chaotic, and airport workers don’t always have the gentlest hands. Plane changes can also mean your pet gets left outside on the tarmac in very cold or very hot weather.
To avoid this added anxiety, book a direct flight whenever possible. And hey, it’s probably better for you, too — no more rushing to make it onto the next leg of your trip! You and your pet will be happier.
Label Your Crate
Not only should you bring a picture of your pet with you in case you get separated, but you should also paste your pet’s picture to the crate. Every once in a while, desperate animals manage to escape their confines, and having that photograph helps workers identify your wandering pet.
For added security, include your name and phone number, along with a bright label reading “Live Animal.” All of this helps ensure your pet’s safety and makes responding to animal emergencies quicker and more effective. Airport workers will thank you.
If your pet is riding in the hold of the plane, you have to make sure you let flight attendants know. They don’t necessarily keep track of which flyers have pets riding along, or even if pets are on the plane at all, so it’s best to be proactive and make them aware.
Attendants should remember this information and be ready to help, should problems arise — for example, if the flight is delayed. If you think your pet might be suffering in the hold, always go to an attendant and request that someone check on the animal.
Never Leave Your Pet Alone in the Car
Most pet owners are aware of this rule because it’s one of the most important. On long road trips, it’s crucial that you never leave your pet locked in the car while you run an errand. Even if the windows are open, hot weather turns a car into an oven in no time.
Don’t think you’re off the hook in winter, either; a car traps cold and essentially becomes a refrigerator. Look for an alternative method when you need to run indoors and can’t leave the car running with someone else inside.
Wear Out Your Pet
Before a flight — or even a long car ride — make sure you walk your pet as close to departure as possible. This means you may want to walk at the airport before boarding. The more exercise the animal gets, the calmer it’ll be during travel. There will also be fewer chances of your animal having an accident in the crate.
Upon arrival, take your pet outside again as soon as you can. It’ll likely be itching to walk around and stretch its legs, just like you are after sitting in those small seats for hours and hours.
Prep for Other Modes of Transportation
When you’re traveling, you’ll likely need to take more than one form of transportation. The plane might get you to the city you need to be in, but you might then have to take a taxi, a bus or the subway to get to where you’re staying. That means you’ll need to double-check more policies regarding animals.
Even rental vehicles have rules when it comes to pets, so look into this ahead of time. You don’t want to get stranded at the airport because you forgot to research a pet-friendly taxi service.
Find the Right Hotel
There are many options when it comes to pet-friendly accommodations, and you’ll have to reserve your room wisely. Some hotels allow small pets in specific rooms, while others are entirely pet-friendly and allow dogs as heavy as 150 pounds.
If you want to bring your Chihuahua along but don’t want to see Newfoundlands in the hallway, look for the former. You may need to pay an extra fee and may need to keep them inside your room at all times — but don’t worry, you can find whatever works best for you.
Keep the Food Consistent
You probably can’t lug along an entire bag of cat food with you, but try to bring enough for a few days — that is, if your pet’s brand isn’t available where you’re going. Keeping an animal’s diet the same is important anyway, but especially when experiencing entirely new territory.
If your pet has its normal food available after travel, it’ll feel more at ease. This goes for the food bowl, too; the day after traveling isn’t a good time to shop for new accessories for your pet.
Keep It Together for Fido
Traveling isn’t just stressful for animals; humans can have a pretty rough time with it, too. Even though you may be anxious and worried about flight times or transportation logistics, do your best to stay calm for your pet. If it sees that you’re relaxed and at ease, it’s more likely to follow suit.
You definitely don’t want to take out your frustration on your pet, even if it has a bathroom accident in the crate. This is a time when the animal needs positive reinforcement and a loving tone.
Don’t Give Big Meals Before the Departure
By all means, keep your pet well-fed before traveling — but be careful with your timing. Giving it a large, heavy meal an hour before takeoff is just asking to have that food come back up at the first signs of turbulence. Instead, do your pet a favor and feed it three to four hours before you leave.
You should also give your pet plenty of opportunities to use the bathroom before the animal gets closed into its crate. Otherwise, an accident might happen on board, and you don’t want that for your pet.
No one likes to think that the worst might happen on a trip, but the worst could happen on a trip. Instead of dwelling on the terrible possibilities, however, give yourself some peace of mind by signing your pet up for an insurance plan.
Even if you’re trying to travel on a budget, you should be able to find an option that works for you. After all, some coverage is better than no coverage at all. Putting in that extra money now could save you thousands in vet bills later.
When in Doubt, Get a Tracker
If you have a particularly feisty pet that loves to escape even the most secure of confines, go ahead and purchase a tracker. You can buy one that affixes to a collar and alerts you if your pet has gone outside of a designated area.
The device works like a GPS monitor and can lead you straight to your escaped animal. For those who have the cash to spend, it’s an effective way of calming your nerves before traveling. With this, you won’t ever have to worry about losing your pet.
Consider Consulting an Expert
If all of this planning and researching is making your head hurt, consider reaching out to a pet-relocation specialist. Resources like the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association are there to help people like you with travel logistics involving animals.
These people and organizations can provide you with all the information you need about rules and regulations, animal laws in different countries and the best strategies for prepping your pet. They understand that each animal is different, which is why they take the time to get to know you and your beloved companion.
Don’t Push Your Animal
Unfortunately, some animals are simply not suited for travel. Don’t make your pet get on an airplane if you don’t have explicit permission from your vet. It can be very traumatic for an animal and in worst-case scenarios can even lead to serious injury or death.
Any animal that’s very young or very old, that suffers from respiratory issues or that has a very short snout is at higher risk when flying. Above all, consider what’s best for your animal, and don’t force your pet to travel if it may harm its wellbeing.