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What would a family road trip be without your pets? My least favorite part of going on any trip is saying goodbye to my best pal Puggsley, so any opportunity I have to bring him along is one I will happily take.
While taking your pets on a trip with you may seem daunting, following our tips for traveling with pets may make it easier than traveling with your kids! Cats and dogs might not be the best passengers; Puggsley is all dewclaws with a map, but your best four-legged friend(s) are well worth the extra hassle.
From navigating pet fees, airline pet policies, and everything in between, I’m here to help make your pets’ travel experience as positive as possible. And to make sure your vacation is equally as relaxing with your fuzzy friend in tow.
Before beginning your plans to travel with your pet, consider getting them some travel pet insurance just in case. If you already have pet insurance for your pet, you should be covered for the duration of your trip. However, if you want just to have insurance for the trip, you can buy some limited insurance through companies like Generali Global Assistance.
- Pet Travel Tips for Before Leaving
- 1. Take your dog for a health check
- 2. Make sure your accommodations are pet-friendly
- 3. Make copies of pet-related documents
- Travel Tips for Road Travel with Pets
- 4. Prep your pet beforehand
- 5. Pack a pet travel kit
- 6. Allow for plenty of play time
- 7. Get a crate or pet carrier
- How to Travel with Pets on a Plane
- 8. Weigh the pros and cons of flying
- 9. Review all of the airline rules
- 10. Choose your flight wisely
- 11. Carry on or cargo hold
- What if you decide to leave your pet at home?
- What are the requirements for dogs arriving in the United States?
- What are the requirements for dogs arriving in the European Union?
- Can I bring my pet on a plane?
- How to make traveling less stressful for my pet?
- How to prepare my pet for a road trip?
Pet Travel Tips for Before Leaving
1. Take your dog for a health check
When your pet’s ticket arrives, go to your local veterinarian for health certificates demonstrating that it is a safe flyer and immunized regularly. A valid 30-day health certificate can be reused for the same purpose if you have multiple flights.
Most airlines require that your dog’s medical records be inspected every 1-2 years. When you have longer trips than what you have on your license, a vet may visit you during the vacation to ensure you meet the requirements to return.
Travelers must ensure that their pet is vaccinated and licensed because it can help keep the pet and other people safe. Pets that are not vaccinated or licensed may be more likely to spread disease, which can be dangerous for other people. If your pet is vaccinated, ensure their vaccines are completely up-to-date, especially for international flights.
Additionally, unlicensed pets may be subject to seizure or other penalties. To avoid these potential problems, pet owners should ensure their animal is properly vaccinated and licensed before taking it on any trip.
While you’re preparing your pet medically for their big adventure, remember to protect them from things that could happen while you’re gone. So, don’t forget to grab pet travel insurance before you head off.
See Related: Best Flight Search Engines to Book Cheap Airfare
2. Make sure your accommodations are pet-friendly
Thousands of hotel chains happily accept pets if you aren’t staying with friends and family or in a vacation rental like VRBO. Most of these hotels usually have reserved pet rooms only rented out to guests with pets, often on the first floor, to keep them closer to the pet relief areas.
Many hotels have a fee for bringing your dogs, but it is worthwhile for a good night’s sleep. Be sure you know at check-in whether these fees are per dog, per night, or for the duration of your reservation. Also, call ahead to find out the number of animals allowed if you bring multiple pets or dogs before you check in to the hotel.
The most pet-friendly hotel brands in the United States include:
When traveling across borders or internationally with your furry friend, it’s essential to have their medical history on hand. You’ll likely be asked to provide it by authorities, and it’s also helpful to have it available when visiting foreign animal hospitals.
To ensure my pup’s health and safety, I keep various versions of their medical records, including virtual copies on my phone and printed copies for easy access. It’s good practice for personal travel as well since it’s always a good idea to have our own important documents stored digitally during travel.
See Related: Best Hotel Booking Sites to Save on Stays
Travel Tips for Road Travel with Pets
4. Prep your pet beforehand
Before you take your furry friend on their first long car ride, it’s essential to prepare them for the journey. Get them used to being in their carrier, seat harness, or car seat. More importantly, get them used to being in the car for longer periods–especially if they’ve never really been in a car for over an hour.
If your pet always associates car rides with going to the vet or gets unnecessarily anxious or nauseated while riding in the car, take them for a few practice rides. Let them get used to being in the car, all the sounds and vibrations, the feeling of the breeze, and how they can get comfortable in the seat.
Should anxiety still be a problem, there are a few ways to help make them comfortable. For Puggsley, it’s as simple as bringing one of his cuddling blankets, which smell like home and relax him. You can also pack some calming treats to bring their anxiety down or maybe a favorite toy to snuggle with.
When planning an extensive road trip, allow your practice drives to get longer and longer, and have a reward at the end, like a trip to the pet store for some yummy treats or a new toy. You want the car to be a fun place, not a scary place.
See Related: Top Scenic Drives: The Road Trips in the World
5. Pack a pet travel kit
When packing for a trip with your pet, you must remember to pack all of their things as well as your own. That becomes especially important for road tripping because you have to pack extra things for those extra pit stops, mainly if the trip is more than four hours.
You should also bring a copy of your pet license(s), rabies vaccine documentation, and other pertinent medical information in case of an emergency. Make sure you bring a hairbrush, as travel stress can often cause dogs to shed. Investing in a seat cover to protect your car seats from digging paws or excessive shedding is also a good idea.
Every critter is going to need their own individual comforts for a long car trip, but these are also some things you can bring to make the road trip more comfortable for everyone:
- A full pet travel kit (catering to dogs specifically)
- Pet first aid kit
- Car safety net
- Waterproof vehicle floor mat
See Related: Best Midwest Road Trips
6. Allow for plenty of play time
Before you even think about getting into the car in the morning, ensure your pet has plenty of exercise. You don’t want him bouncing off the walls while you are trying to drive across the state or the country. One way you can do this effectively, even in a hotel room, is to bring a puzzle activity.
My go-to favorite for Puggsley is a treat ball which I use to dispense his kibble for breakfast and dinner. It helps him release some of his energy, even in a small space.
Don’t forget that for dogs sniffing is an excellent exercise for their brain. Even if you have a limited area to walk them outside, letting them go on a sniffari where they can do all the sniffing they want will help tire them out.
This is also an excellent activity for rest stops. Even a short sniffari will healthily engage your dog, making car riding easier.
If you can find a dog park nearby, taking some extra time to let your dog socialize and exercise is meaningful. Just be careful; not all dogs are suitable for dog park environments which can be stimulating at best and dangerous at worst. There are sadly, a lot of injuries happen at dog parks.
See Related: Best Minnesota Road Trips to Take
7. Get a crate or pet carrier
It doesn’t matter what size your dog, cat, or chinchilla is; if you travel with pets, you want them to be safe and sound in your backseat. If anything happens, you must know that your furry friend is safe and secure. One way to ensure this is by getting them a cozy travel crate into their travel condo.
I prefer the soft-sided, fold-down crates for road travel. They’re also easier to transport into hotels, which is excellent since most chain hotels have a pet policy requiring pets to be crated if left alone. They’re also more comfortable spending a lot of time with your pet.
If you have an extra-large dog, you may need to put down the last row of seats in an SUV to ensure plenty of space for the crate. You want your dog to be able to stand, sit, lie down, and turn around in his crate. Be sure to secure it carefully so it isn’t sliding around!
One easy way to do this is to get a backseat hammock. This allows you to buckle your dog with a seat belt for safety, protects the seats from paws and fur, and keeps them secure in the back part of the vehicle. Some hammocks even have neat little compartments to store some of their toys, snacks, or even extra poop bags to save some packing room.
See Related: Best Road Trips in California
How to Travel with Pets on a Plane
8. Weigh the pros and cons of flying
When driving won’t get the job done, you may need to consider bringing your pet on an airplane. While flying with pets is generally safe, it isn’t guaranteed–especially for certain kinds of critters.
For example, flat-faced dogs like pugs or French bulldogs can sometimes have respiratory issues on airplanes. So, especially for these kinds of animals, try to fly to your final destination with a carrier that will let you keep your pet with you to keep an eye on them.
Flying, in particular, can be stressful for animals, as the loud noises and bright lights of the airport and airplanes can be overwhelming. Not to mention that most airlines only allow service animals in the cabin if they aren’t small enough to fit beneath the seat in front of you, making the choices even more complicated if it means putting your pet in the cargo hold.
In addition, the change in air pressure and cabin temperature can be difficult for pets to adjust to. For these reasons, it’s essential to speak with your veterinarian before booking a flight to ensure your animal is comfortable and healthy enough to travel.
There is also a lot of advice about sedating your pets, especially for longer international flights; however, experts generally agree that sedating is not a good solution. You can provide them with some pet-friendly CBD for the flight to help with anxiety; however, be aware that CBD is not legal everywhere in the world.
For animals that aren’t able to be in the cabin with you, like emotional support animals, which aren’t in the same category as service animals, keep in mind that the cargo hold is pressurized too. Your pets should be safe there as well.
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9. Review all of the airline rules
We get it; rules are boring but no less vital when traveling with your pet. You must review airline rules and regulations regarding flying with live animals long before departure. Each airline has specific requirements, so it is vital to consult the airline you will use for pet travel.
For example, dogs with short nasal passages or difficulty breathing properly (like pugs or Frenchies, as mentioned earlier) cannot fly in the cargo hold. This is usually because these types of dogs can have a more challenging time regulating their body temperature and may suffer from heat stroke more easily.
The International Air Transport Association holds airlines to a list of pet carrier requirements on ventilation, handling, and more, so ensuring your pet’s carrier meets these guidelines is important. As a result, it is important to review the restrictions for your specific airline and plan accordingly. This includes checking with your vet before pets travel by air.
Here is a table of some of the largest airline policies for pets:
|Airline||Cabin||Cargo||Fee (Approx.)||Max Weight (Cabin)||Notes|
|Delta Airlines||Yes||Yes||$125||15 lbs||Restricted breeds. Check website for details.|
|American Airlines||Yes||Yes||$125||20 lbs||Limited to 7 kennels in cabin.|
|United Airlines||No||Yes||$200||–||Petsafe program for cargo transport.|
|Southwest Airlines||Yes||No||$95||20 lbs||First come, first serve basis.|
|Lufthansa||Yes||Yes||$100||17 lbs||Varies by destination. Check website.|
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10. Choose your flight wisely
Air travel with pets can be tricky, especially when flying internationally. Generally, it’s best to look for flights without transfers and avoid flying on holidays when airlines and airports are busier than usual.
This will help to ensure that nothing goes wrong and you and your pet can remain on the same flight. We recommend using Kayak and Skyscanner to not only get the best deals on your flights but to more easily search pet-friendly airlines.
Depending on the weather in your destination, your animal should have a plan. When you travel in warmer weather, find early-morning or late-night flights with less extreme temperatures.
This is particularly pertinent for dogs or other animals who struggle with extreme heat. You want to make their travel as comfortable as possible.
In cold climates, earmark flights during the daytime when the temperatures are the highest. Airlines will not allow pets to fly if the cargo hold exceeds 85 °F or falls below 45 °F during the flight. In such a scenario, making other travel arrangements for your animal is best.
See Related: Ways to Book the Cheapest First-Class Flights
11. Carry on or cargo hold
Can you take your furry friend with you on your next flight? Small dogs and cats that meet size, age, and location requirements can be carried on for a fee.
Some other animals can also be in the cabin with you, depending on each airline’s size and animal restrictions. Rabbits, for example, are often allowed in-cabin as a carry-on if their carriers fit under the seat before you.
Larger pets must be transported via cargo hold – fees will vary depending on the size of your animal. Any service animal must have a full training certificate and meet the requirements in their flight schedule to be allowed in the aircraft at no cost.
So before you arrive at the airport with your dog or pet, call reservations or stop by the ticket counter to notify them of your travel plans and check for any federal regulations or entry requirements.
What if you decide to leave your pet at home?
Should your best furry pal not be up for travel, do not worry. There are myriad options to help your pal stay comfy right at home or enjoy a relaxing paw-cation at a posh animal hotel.
Several apps and websites specialize in pet care; having worked for Wag!, I know how important it is to know and trust your pet carer. Here are some of the best options for pet care:
What are the requirements for dogs arriving in the United States?
If you’re planning on traveling with your dog to the United States, there are a few things you need to be aware of. First, certain vaccinations or certifications may be required depending on the state you’re entering.
Make sure to check for the pet entry requirements before you travel. If eligible, you must apply for a Center of Disease Control (CDC) Dog Import Permit.
Secondly, dogs entering high-risk countries where dog rabies is considered a severe threat are temporarily suspended from entering the US. So, you will not be able to acquire a CDC Dog Import Permit. So if you’re coming from such a high-risk country, keep that in mind.
Lastly, sometimes airlines or cities limit certain breeds of dogs from traveling. Again, it’s important to check for such requirements before you travel. Following these simple guidelines will help make your trip go smoothly.
What are the requirements for dogs arriving in the European Union?
First, before your pet can enter the European Union (EU), it must have an animal health certificate. This certificate must be issued by a veterinarian from the country of departure less than 10 days before the pet arrives in the EU. The certificate is valid for up to four months for inter-country travel throughout the EU or until the pet’s rabies vaccine expires, whichever comes first.
Pets must be up to date with their vaccines and have microchips if applicable. Without further documentation, you can enter the EU with up to five pets (dogs, cats, or ferrets). If you go above that, you must provide written proof stating they are part of a competition, exhibition, or sporting event and are over six months old.
Dogs and cats entering the EU do not need to quarantine upon arrival—good news for pet parents who can stay with their beloved pets without interruption. Once you are in the EU, you can get an EU pet passport for your furry friend if you relocate.
This way, they can travel with you around the union. These passports cannot be obtained in the United States.
Can I bring my pet on a plane?
Depending on the size of your pet or dog, you can bring them as a carry-on into the airplane’s cabin. Many airlines have specific pet policies to keep you and your furry family members safe. Pets allowed in the cabin area often have to fit under the seat in front of you, except for service dogs.
How to make traveling less stressful for my pet?
Spending time with your pet helps make the whole experience less stressful for them, which is why pet parents prefer to keep their furry friends alongside them. Consider bringing some calming treats, a favorite blanket or toy, and a carrier that allows your pet to stay in a comfortable natural position.
How to prepare my pet for a road trip?
For pets who haven’t spent much time in a car, it’s vital to take practice trips before the more extensive trip. Doing so helps acclimate your friend to the movements and sounds of the car and helps associate it with positive things like treats or toys rather than the vet.
- About the Author
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Amanda is a Chicago-based queer travel, arts, and lifestyle writer who is passionate about exploring the world. Her work has been featured in Newcity Stage, The Chicago Reader, Huffington Post, and Yahoo, as well as the November 2022 book, “Chicago Like a Local” and other travel journals available on Amazon. Amanda’s favorite destinations include Costa Rica, Prague, Dublin, Hong Kong, and every Disney park she’s visited.