How To Travel With Pets
Traveling can be complicated, especially if you are a pet owner and are planning to take your pets with you.
With a little extra planning ahead of time you and your pet companions can not only travel together, but you can do it easily and safely as well. In fact, starting now will allow you to be prepared when the time comes to hit the road together!
What Should You Do To Prepare For Your Trip?
Determine if the destination is pet friendly
Traveling with your pets may start and stop here. You might be able to get away with keeping your four-legged family member in the vehicle the whole trip if you are traveling in an RV, but that is not an option for many of us.
If you are traveling in another type of vehicle you will need to find places to stay that will accommodate your pet as well.
If you plan to visit family or friends, check with them to make sure that they are able to offer your pets a place to stay as well.
They might not be able to keep your pet in their home if they live someplace where pets are prohibited or there might be someone in the home who is allergic to pet dander. Inquiring ahead of time may prevent problems down the road.
If your destination is a specific hotel or other public accommodation, ask about pet policies before you book your rooms.
Many hotel chains and private motels offer services for pets, but there are places where no pets are allowed. Bringing your furry family member along may require that you contact a few places in order to find one that will house you and your pet.
Make short practice runs with your pets
Your next step should be to take a few rides with your pet before you contemplate a long road trip. Start small and work your way into longer rides.
You will discover if your pet becomes overexcited or scared when they take a ride. They may also suffer from motion sickness or other issues that will have to be addressed before you head out for an extended stay someplace else.
This is also a great opportunity to discover what you need to bring, how you need to pack it, as well as what you should leave behind.
One of the keys to you and your travel companions enjoying the trip will be convenience. If the crate you use at home does not work well in your car, it is better to know that before the day of your planned departure.
Speaking of crates, if your pet is not used to being inside a crate (little alone traveling in one), taking the time to train them will prevent stress for you both and make the whole trip easier from start to finish.
Crates are not only good for holding your pet while you drive, but they also make a nice home away from home when you are staying someplace else.
Remember that, even if your four-legged friend takes rides with you without a crate, driving for long periods of time is different.
Your pet might be able to handle a three-minute ride down to the dog park, but that does not mean that they will be able to handle a four-day trip across the country.
Letting your pets ride outside of a crate also puts them in danger if you have an accident and it may also be against the law in places that you travel.
Bathroom breaks will be important, especially for cats and dogs. The added stress and time between stops may be an issue, even for animals that are housebroken.
Again, practice runs that start short and become longer each time will help with this. It allows your pet to become adjusted to travel and helps them to build an understanding that associates stop with potty breaks.
This may become a critical issue if you are traveling by public transport (discussed later).
Some pets are shy by nature and mixing with people or other animals while traveling might trigger anxiety or aggression.
Other animals are territorial or protective of their human family members, forcing unwanted encounters. Then there are pets that might be overly friendly, a trait that others may not appreciate.
In almost all cases, your pets can probably improve the atmosphere on the trip if they are properly socialized.
Keep in mind that they will be excited by travel, to begin with, and they can easily become overstimulated by the presence of people or other animals. Working on proper socialization skills before the trip will let your pet know what is expected of it.
You should probably plan for when your pet gets away from you and not if it will. They might sneak out of a door or window when you are not looking or they could get out of their crate if the door is not latched properly.
Your pet might even slip the lease they are wearing.
Teaching your pet to respond when they are called is important. If they do not always respond to verbal commands, you might need to consider backup plans such as food treats, whistles, or other things that stimulate their response to you.
Pets that struggle with a strong recall ability might need special leashes or a net to capture them should they get loose. Have a couple of plans in place so that you do not end up with a lost family member or one that is injured by traffic or other hazards.
A Visit To The Vet
Before your pet is ready to take a trip they will need to see their veterinarian. It will be a perfect opportunity to catch them up on shots as well as a general check-up.
Your vet will also be able to answer general questions about and might make recommendations depending upon where you are traveling.
They can provide medicine for anxiety, motion sickness, or other health issues that travel can cause. You can also receive tips on how to avoid problems from the elements or things like ticks and fleas.
Finally, they can let you know if your pet is not ready to travel, something that can prevent issues from starting once you leave home.
Taking A Road Trip With Your Pet
Plan your route out so that you can take a break every two hours. This is the maximum amount of time between stops you want to take for your cat or dog.
Taking breaks at shorter intervals will add time to your trip so make sure to take this into consideration.
Pit stops for the bathroom are good, but taking breaks to stretch and play will allow your pet to burn off some energy and make everyone happier. Locate rest stops that have pet areas or pet-friendly parks near the highway in towns along the way.
Interacting with your travel buddy while you are driving will relieve boredom for both of you and it will reassure them as you pass the time on the road. Talking with them, or playing with them through the crate openings can keep everyone entertained until the next pit stop.
Plan for possible weather changes. If you are traveling in areas where it may get cold, keep items on hand to keep everyone warm.
Also, do not hesitate to use your A/C or heater to make sure that your furry friends stay comfortable while they are in the vehicle.
Once you are finished driving for the day, make sure that you and your pet get plenty of time outside of the car or truck before starting up again the next day. It will keep anxiety at a minimum and allow them to recover, as they become just as fatigued as you do.
Traveling Across Borders
Taking your pet with you to another country is possible as long as it meets the criteria the host country has established. Each location will be different but will usually require up-to-date vaccinations and general good health for an animal to be allowed into their country.
Paperwork that may be needed will be a vaccination record, veterinary approval for travel, as well as identification with accurate and up-to-date descriptions of the pet as well as owner and owner address/contact information.
Check with your intended travel destination to determine exact requirements and remember that these minimal health standards will be required for your pet to return home as well.
If your pets require specific medications for certain health problems, make sure that you can bring them with you to the host nation or that you can acquire an alternative once you and your pets arrive there.
Traveling On A Plane
Today, many airlines allow small dogs or cats to accompany their owners during a flight in the cabin. The key will be to call well in advance as airlines can only allow so many pets to fly this way on each plane. You will likely have to pay an additional fee for this.
If your pet cannot travel in the cabin, they may be able to fly with you in the cargo area. No matter how they travel with you, keep in mind that the airline might require a special type of container.
They could also have special immunization requirements that must be fulfilled before your travel companion can fly.
Finally, your pet may have to take a separate flight in order to travel to your destination. This will cost extra time and money, but it might be the only way to do it.
Making early reservations is your best bet, and try to get your pet into the cabin if at all possible. Discuss with the airline representatives the exact procedures that will be followed, along with any risks or considerations you should be aware of before loading onto the plane.
Travel By Train
Amtrak has allowed pets on some trains, and smaller carriers may also have pet-friendly policies. You will need to research details before booking in order to avoid being denying boarding at the station.
Also, keep in mind that you will likely be solely responsible for your pet’s actions and needs while you travel as well as at train stations.
Travel By Bus
Unless your pet is designated as a service animal, most major bus companies like Greyhound or Amtrak do not allow animals to travel with their owners.
This is due mostly to the limited space found on buses, including those intended for cross-country trips. If you are traveling by bus, you will likely need to find another way to get your pet to your travel destination.
Travel By Ship
Most cruise lines have a no-pet policy, outside of designated service animals. Those lines that do accommodate pets will usually place them in a kennel on the ship itself, while in rare instances you might be able to keep them in your private cabin.
Contact the cruise line you plan to use ahead of time to determine what services are available to you and your pet.
The Best Foods For Dogs On A Road Trip
You might be surprised to discover that the best food for your dogs will be their normal fare.
Offering them the foods that they normally eat not only prevents surprises in their digestive tract but can also be a source of comfort, especially if your pet becomes nervous as it travels.
Dry food is less hassle to keep on the road and will be easier to serve. The downside is that it can take up a lot more room than wet foods will. If you do plan to bring wet foods, you will want to store them in a cooler so they will stay fresh longer.
Both dry and wet foods should be carried in an airtight container as well.
Treats are another thing that you should consider packing for your road trip. A small snack can help to reinforce good behavior and may help to relieve a bit of travel stress or boredom.
Again, try to offer treats that you normally hand out at home. Avoid human foods if possible, to prevent digestive issues that may be enhanced by the dog’s stress levels.
The Best Foods For Cats On A Road Trip
Bring along your cat’s favorite food from home when you decide to take them with you on a trip. Just like with dogs, familiar foods offer the comforts of home and they also allow your feline friend to digest formulas that they are already used to.
Your cat may already have a shrunken appetite, so their favorite food from home could help to stimulate their hunger.
Dry foods are easier to keep while traveling and dry cat foods do not take up as much room as dry dog foods will. Many wet cat foods are sold in single-serving cans that make these meals easier to serve and clean up without having to worry about storing open cans of food.
Make sure to keep any type of cat food stored in an airtight container to help keep it fresh, especially on road trips that will last longer than a day.
Offering treats between stops could help with your cat’s stress levels and allows them to take a bit of food without the mess of a bowl. Snacks also will help to distract them for a bit, something that will help break up longs stints of driving.
Avoid human snacks if possible, as they can impact your pet’s digestion in a negative way and may give them an upset stomach (even if they normally eat something at home).
Some Safety Issues To Consider When Traveling With Your Pet
- Again, it is worth stating that your pet should be restrained while you drive to prevent accidents or injuries;
- Hydration is critical. Give your pet plenty of water and give it to them often. They can become overheated easily;
- Use a leash before opening car doors. This will help to eliminate your pet’s ability to leap out of the vehicle and run away from you. That can be a major concern as you travel busy highways;
- Keep your travel companions out of the front seat. This includes animals that are in crates. Drivers can become distracted, which is not safe for anyone.
Do you have more tips we should include? Please comment below.
Ferenc Elekes has been a devout Overlanding enthusiast for many years. During that time, Ferenc has explored 75 countries on six continents, with overland travel involved in 40 countries on three continents. From his trusty 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with a roof-top tent, he’s blogged about experiences that can only be found in the remotest regions on Earth. Along the way, he's gained in-depth knowledge of the novel challenges overlanders encounter and practical ways to meet them. On his website, he shares informed opinions about everything from the best overland gear to how to get a vehicle unstuck. Ferenc has also written for Ih8mud, the Expedition Portal, the Overland Journal, and he is often invited as a guest to outdoors-related podcasts.
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