Planes, Trains & Automobiles: How To Travel With Your Pet

Spring is a prime season for travel and, fortunately for animal-lovers, it’s never been easier to hit the road with your favorite dog or cat in tow. But that’s not to say that traveling with four-legged friends is necessarily easy – expect an extra commitment of time, money, and planning, all of which can add unforeseen levels of stress. But that’s not to say that traveling with pets isn’t a rewarding experience – provided you do your homework up front. Read on for 5 pro tips that can help keep your upcoming getaways pet-friendly and hassle-free.

1. Pack Smart

Photo: Flickr/Austin Kirk
Photo: Flickr/Austin Kirk

Make sure Fluffy or Fido is microchipped and up-to-date on his or her vaccinations and be sure to keep that paperwork handy. If you’re traveling abroad, your animal will also need his or her own pet passport, and possibly even be prepared for a brief quarantine; Even if you’re sticking closer to home, it’s worth researching different dog-friendly activities around town. Regardless, traveling can stressful for humans, and even more so for animals. Consider bringing along a “security” blanket or favorite toy, along with all of the essentials: food, water, a water bowl, leashes plastic bags, and plenty of snacks.

2. Buckle Up

Photo: Flickr/Daniel Ramirez
Photo: Flickr/Daniel Ramirez

No matter how much you love your animals, your fellow four-legged travelerr shouldn’t be riding shotgun, nor should s/he be roaming free, or ever left alone, in the car. Cats should definitely ride in crates secured by a seatbelt; dogs could possibly wear a harness or leash tied to something inside the vehicle, but secured crates aren’t a bad idea for doggie passengers, too. Otherwise, human and canine road-trippers bear a number of things in common – everyone appreciates opportunities to stretch their legs, regular bathroom breaks, lots of snacks and riding inside cars heated to comfortable temperatures.

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3. Ride the Rails

Photo: Flickr/travel oriented
Photo: Flickr/travel oriented

Train enthusiasts haven’t always been allowed to bring their pets on board, but such animal-unfriendly thinking is increasingly a thing of the past. Now select lines welcome cats and dogs, though size restrictions still apply – basically, all four-legged passengers should be small enough to fit in a carry-on bag. On the flip side, this is great news for pugs, Persians and other pets whose delicate respiratory systems generally disqualify them for air travel. More info on this below.

4. Fly Right

Photo: Flickr/DaPuglet
Photo: Flickr/DaPuglet

The number of animal co-passengers has soared in recent years, with growing numbers of travelers finding animal travel companions key to reducing flying-related stress. Your choice of carrier, routes and destinations frequently determines whether your pet rides in your lap or the cargo hold, while especially large or flat-faced breeds, including pugs and Persians, might not be invited on board at all. Regardless, co-flying with your pet will require extra time and money, so contact the airline well in advance, allot extra time for check-in and security, don’t feed your animal right before boarding and, for goodness sake, book a direct flight.

5. Sleep Tight

Photo: Flickr/Sarah_Ackerman
Photo: Flickr/Sarah_Ackerman

Back in the day, one might have had to look closely to find a hotel that would welcome Fido inside – nowadays, a record number of options roll out the red carpet to four-legged guests, with complimentary dog beds, chew toys, snacks and, at least at Kimpton Hotels, a standing invite to happy hour. Regardless, even if your hotel is among the growing number of properties to offer doggie day care and special canine events, you should still spend some time helping your dog getting familiar with his or her new space, then put the “Do Not Disturb Sign” on the door to keep him from being startled by (or startling) the housekeeper.

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