1. BEFORE YOU GO:
You can’t embark on an ambitious trip if your own health wasn’t good, and the same goes for your pet. The first thing you’ll want to make sure of is that your pet is up for the trip, and this means a visit to the vet for a check-up.
No mater how you travel, you’ll probably need a crate or carrier for your pet. Give your pet a few days to a week to get used to this new confined space. Leave it open in your home so your pet can explore the new territory; putting a favorite blanket or comfort item inside is a good way to show it’s friendly and safe.
Create a small pet travel kit so you have all of your pet’s needs in one convenient place. Obvious things include a leash, medication, food, plastic bags for waste, and first aid items, but you’ll also want to consider your destination’s climate. If you’re going somewhere cold, you may need extra blankets, a pet sweater, and maybe even booties. If you’re going somewhere hot, you’ll want to make sure you have a way to carry extra water so your pet doesn’t get too dehydrated.
To ensure your pet’s safety, both on vacation and at home, consider investing in a GPS-enabled pet tracker if you don’t already use one. You can use the tracker’s app to redefine a safe area once you get to your destination. Other pet travel apps (such as Bring Fido) can help you find places at your destination where your pet will be welcome, like parks, restaurants, and other places.
And of course, you’ll want to be ready for an emergency. In addition to having your vet’s number already in your phone’s contacts, it’s wise to scope out vets near where you’ll be staying. You can also use an app like VetFinder, which does exactly what its name implies and can prove invaluable in your in a new place with a suffering pup.
2. ROAD TRIPS:
If you’re driving to your destination, you’ll want to secure your pet just as you use seatbelts to secure yourself. This means using a car harness, a crate, or a pet barrier. You’ll want to make sure that no matter which method you use, your pet has enough room to sit, lie down, and (hopefully) sleep. Additionally, no matter how cute it is and no matter how much your pet may seem to enjoy it, traveling with your pet’s head out the window is a big NO, as it can expose them to unexpected hazards and damage their ears.
You’ll of course want to plan on pit stops to let your pet (and everyone else!) relieve themselves and stretch their legs. Easy access to food, treats, and water will help your stops go smoothly, so when you pack up your car, put your pet’s items in last.
The big key to a successful road trip with your pet is to get your pet used to the car. If your pet’s first time (or first time in a long time) in the car is your trip, he or she will likely be uncomfortable at best; short practice runs before your trip, using the crate or harness your pet will use during your long haul, will make the trip happier for your pet and, really, for everyone!
3. THE FRIENDLY SKIES:
If you’re flying to your destination, you’ll want to call your airline or do a thorough search on your airline’s website to check their pet policy and fees for bringing pets onboard. Almost all airlines allow for some pets to ride in the passenger cabin, though maximum size and required documentation vary from one airline to the next.
Larger pets need to be crated in an IATA-approved crate for travel in a separate (but still pressurized and environment-controlled!) compartment, where they are typically loaded on last and unloaded first. This crate should be large enough so your pet can sit, stand, and turn around, and you’ll want to make sure it’s well-labeled with your information, your pet’s name, and any other important details. Including a favorite toy in the crate can give your pet some comfort and familiarity during the flight.
4. YOUR STAY:
If you’re staying in a hotel or home rental, check the pet policy and fee before you book. There may be an additional deposit for bringing along a pet, and you may be restricted in terms of where your pet can be on the property. Getting out of a reservation may be costly, so it’s important to know that your accommodations are pet friendly before you commit.
If you’re staying in a hotel, a ground floor room will make late night or overnight walks easier on you. If you have to leave your pet alone in the room, even for just a short time, be sure to use your crate. This can prevent any unintended damage in the room, but more than that, it can protect any hotel staff that may enter the room while you’re out and can keep your pet from running out the door.
Keeping your pet comfortable, happy, and safe on a family trip means a great trip for everyone! Plan ahead and ask questions, and your next vacation with your pet will be a fun and smooth experience for everyone.