I love to travel with pets. As a pet-sitter, I am surrounded by dogs and cats all day every day. I step over dogs and their beds, which litter the floor of my home, when I walk into my kitchen for a cup of coffee. I wake up each morning to the insistent noises made by whichever guest-doggy has awoken first, to begin telling the whole house it’s time to wake up (which can be VERY early sometimes)! I talk to animals all day long and love the expressions they give as answers to my questions. My house feels a little empty when I only have my own three dogs and two cats around. If I don’t travel with at least one of my dogs, I feel a little incomplete and I’m not quite sure what to with myself.
Having said that, let’s remember that there are definitely challenges to traveling with pets, which multiply with each pet we bring along on our trip! There is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving our pets at home with a qualified sitter (like me!) and enjoying our vacation without any early morning doggy wake-up calls or having to worry about finding pet-friendly activities wherever we are traveling. And good pet-sitters will send you frequent text updates with pictures, so you can still keep up with your fur-babies!
The US Travel Association reports that 30 million Americans travel with pets each year, so if we do decide to take on travel with our pet, then we are definitely not alone!
Before Hitting the Road
Before we decide to take our pet on the road with us, we should ask ourselves these questions:
- Is there room in my car for all people, pets, and everyone’s stuff?
- Have I looked into all of the flying restrictions, rules and fees?
- Am I prepared to stop as frequently as is necessary when driving with pets?
- Do my pets have any travel anxiety or strange travel behavior? (i.e. my Skeeter does not like to poop on a leash, and this is an issue I must consider when traveling).
- Do I know all of the supplies I need, like collapsible food and water bowls bring along?
- Have I researched my travel destination for pet-friendly spots?
- Have I made emergency pet-travel plans and researched vets in the area?
Packing for Poochie
When we are packing for travel with a pet, we want to make sure to have our pet’s everyday items, but there may also be some things we’ll need that we may not consider.
Of course, we should pack our pet’s food- but make sure to pack enough of it! We don’t want to run out of food while we are out of town and be unable to find it locally, as a change in food can lead to upset stomach and digestive issues for some dogs (which is NEVER fun, but especially not when traveling).
We also need to pack any of our pet’s medications, his leash, water (bring a few gallons in the car, just in case), collapsible food and water bowls (which are easy to travel with), pet gates and crates if these will be needed on our trip (consider a tie-out if going camping), pet first-aid kit, poop/litter bags, litter scoop, travel-size/disposable litter box, grooming supplies, treats, toys, chews, pet wipes/cleaning supplies, ramps for older dogs, crate mats or beds (something easy to fold and travel with), car dividers, and if we’re going to play near water, a doggy life jacket and floating retrieval toys!
Car Comfort and Safety
Let’s talk about car travel safety and comfort for our pets. There are many tools we can use to keep our dog or cat safe in the car. Cats should always travel in a comfortable, ventilated carrier. Usually, a small carrier is best, but if we will be on a longer trip where we will want our cat to have access to litter while in the car, a larger kennel with room for a litter box may be necessary. We can also consider buckling our cat carrier into our car for extra safety in case of a wreck!
Dogs have many car safety and comfort options, such as harnesses that will buckle into our car’s seatbelt for safety, seat covers for our car’s protection, booster seats, and a bridge that will give our dog extra room in the backseat. Our local Hollywood Feed sales associate can help us pick out the best car travel products. Check out Kurgo’s stuff! They are the best pet-travel company I have found so far and they also have many other camping and travel products for our pets.
We may have a cat or dog who is well-behaved and on his best behavior all the time and we may think he does not need a carrier or restraint. But consider this: pets are a top reason cited in traffic accidents, and if we do have an accident and our pet is not restrained in some way, then it’s very easy for scared dogs and cats to run off in the midst of the chaos or become injured in the actual accident. I know that I would rather be prepared and prevent a tragedy than deal with the aftermath of an accident or unexpected situation.
It should really go without saying, but we should NEVER leave our pet alone in a parked car in warm temperatures!! Let’s either plan to travel with somebody who can stay in the air-conditioned car with our pets while we run into a store, plan to leave the car running and locked with the air going (and our pet kenneled or buckled in), or let’s not make any stops! In the summer, the temperature in our car can skyrocket quickly. Even in the shade, even with windows rolled down. Please don’t take the chance with your pets. If we must stop for gas, let’s take the cat crate out of the car for some air, and take our dogs out on a leash to do their business while the gas is pumping.
We Have Arrived at Our Destination
When we get to our final destination and are done traveling, we should try to get our pets into their normal routine as quickly as we can. We should set up a section of the hotel room just for our pet! This is as simple as arranging their bed/carrier, food and water, and their special toy or blanket in a section of the room and then feeding and walking our dog at normal times to avoid throwing their schedule off too much.
When we are staying in a hotel room, we must be prepared to get up and take our dog outside first thing in the morning! I know that my first stop is the restroom when I wake up-so let’s be considerate of our dogs and throw on some clothes and take them out to do their business as soon as we wake up. It is just not fair to wait until we get a cup of coffee, eat breakfast and shower before taking our dogs out in the morning.
We also shouldn’t leave our pets alone in a hotel room all day! Even though we may leave our pets alone in our house all day while we work, it will not be the same in a hotel room. Our dog or cat will be more nervous or stressed simply being outside of his regular environment. We should make plans to take our pet with us during the day or come back to check on him and take him outside a couple of times during the day. Otherwise, we should be prepared to hear from our hotel saying our dog is barking non-stop or return to an accident or chewed comforter that we will have to replace. If we don’t want to spend time with our pets on vacation, then why bring them?
Also, we should be prepared for housekeeping to avoid visiting our room if there is a dog in it! They don’t know our sweet, playful, 120 lb German Shepherd from that mean one that growled at them once upon a time…so they probably don’t want to walk into our room alone with him and start messing with things. We should either take our dog out of the room with us during the day or plan to not have our room cleaned daily!
- Feed pets and allow them to use the restroom a few hours before our trip so the car ride will be more comfortable for everyone.
- Make sure up-to-date and legible ID tags are on your pet’s collar, and make sure their collar fits well. Also, make sure any microchip information is updated. If your pet becomes lost while on vacation (when he can’t find his own way home), these measures will greatly help!
- Look in advance for pet-friendly hotels and campsites, activities, and restaurants where you are traveling.
- Research veterinarians and 24/7 emergency vet clinics near your destination and along your route.
- Travel anxiety can be a factor for some pets. There are some remedies available to try: ThunderShirt and Progility Calming Chews are both great options. Read ThunderShirt Works for Annie’s Anxiety: A Product Review.
- Leave the radio or TV on in your hotel room if you have to leave the room for a while and leave your pet there. This can make your pet feel more comfortable and can keep dogs from barking at every little noise they hear while we are away.
- Give your dog a toy or chew to keep him occupied while you are away-something like a rawhide or Nylabone that does not require supervision like a bone (due to bone shards) or toy with small parts that come off.