Traveling with your pet can be a lot of fun, but there are many things to consider when making this decision. The first is whether you will be allowed to bring your pet where you are staying. If you can find a place to stay with your pet, you will need to consider whether you will have enough time to spend with them and do the activities you are wanting. If you are planning lots of daytime activities, it may be best for your pet to stay home with a pet sitter or boarding facility. Cats, especially, will likely prefer to stay in the comfort of their own home with a pet sitter or visitor to take care of their day-to-day needs.
If you are taking your pet with you, you should find activities you can experience together! Many National Parks have trails or areas allowing dogs and other pets to hike and explore with you. Your dog will love the sights and smells of a new area at your side!
Next, you will need to consider the mode of transportation you will take. This can depend on the distance you are traveling and your personal preference. However, there are many considerations, especially for air travel, to consider when making this decision.
Traveling by Car for Pets
Before taking a long trip by car, you should ensure your pet is comfortable traveling in a vehicle, even around your town. Your dog should be familiar with car rides and have good behavior, either staying in a crate or wearing a dog seatbelt in the back for the car ride. When your cat is in the car, they should always be safely contained in a cat carrier.
For safety reasons, the front seat is not recommended, as an airbag deployment could seriously injure your pet. Any pets in your vehicle should not be a distraction for you while driving. Dogs also should never ride in the open back of a pickup truck! This mistake can quickly lead to a dog escaping or attempting to escape and getting seriously injured.
For dogs who are out of the crate in the car, it may be helpful to have a human buddy who is not driving to sit with them. This way someone can give the dog attention in the car and the driver can focus on the road. Dogs also should be discouraged from sticking their heads out the window, as this can lead to injury from debris or even illness from the wind.
When making pit stops for humans, dogs should be brought out to stretch and potty as well. Remember to never leave your pet alone in the car! This mistake, even for a few quick minutes, can quickly lead to your beloved pet overheating or even your car or pet getting stolen. If you’re making a pit stop with a cat in the car, someone should stay in the vehicle at all times to ensure the safety of the pet and vehicle.
Air Travel for Pets
The first thing to consider when deciding to travel by airplane with your pet is whether it is safe for them. Dogs and cats with short noses or pushed in faces, such as bulldogs or Persian cats, are at high risk for oxygen deprivation and heat stroke. This risk can be increased during travel by airplane and these types of pets should not travel in this manner.
Many people will recommend you avoid cargo travel if at all possible for your pet. The cargo area is not made to hold living creatures. The first concern is whether the cargo area has temperature control. Most do not, which can quickly lead to serious pet injury or even death from extremely hot or cold temperatures. Other concerns include the rough handling of cargo and poor airflow in the cargo area. These can also lead to pets being injured and rough handling can even lead to pets going missing.
Even after these considerations, if you believe traveling by airplane is the best choice for you and your pet, your first step will be to contact airlines well before your travel date. By doing this, you can find out whether your pet will need to travel in cargo or if they can travel in the cabin, which is preferable.
Another consideration is airport security. Your pet will have to pass airport security with you, most airlines prefer you securely harness your dog while their carrier passes through the x-ray. If you have a cat or prefer not to take your dog out, you can request a different screening where your pet will not be required to leave their carrier.
Pets in the Cabin of Airplanes
When contacting the airline, you will need to find out their requirements for your pet to travel in the cabin of their airplane. Most likely, there will be an additional charge. Many airlines only allow a limited number of pets in the cabin area, so you will need to contact them ahead of time to ensure they have room for your pet. Many also have size requirements and only allow small dogs or cats (outside of service animals).
Once you have ensured your pet will be allowed on the plane, you will have to find out if they have special health or immunization and carrier requirements. At a minimum, most airlines require pets to be of a certain age and up-to-date on immunizations. Many airlines are flexible on carriers and will allow soft or hard carriers, but it is always best to check!
Pets in the Cargo Area of Airplanes
When considering having your pet travel in the cargo area on the plane, you should check the airline's performance record. Most airlines are required to report companion animal incidences that occur in their cargo hold. This information should be available to the public online.
Once you’ve determined this is the best or only option, there are still steps you can take to increase the safety of your pet. As mentioned before, you should NEVER have a pet with a “flat face” travel in the cargo area. You should also be aware of the seasons and any risks to your pets due to temperature. If you are traveling during the summer, morning flights will have the least risk to your pet’s health. Similarly, you want to book afternoon flights in winter to avoid them getting too cold.
When booking your flight, you want to ensure you and your pet will be on the same flight to try and avoid most problems that could arise. Another thing to consider when booking your flight is getting a direct flight, if possible. This way there are fewer chances for your pet to be separated from you. Trying not to book around busy times, such as holidays and popular vacation times, will help you avoid these issues as well.
For pets’ safety, you will want to ensure they have identification on them and their crate. You can put their collar on with your permanent information as well as information about where you can be contacted on vacation. For their crate, you can apply temporary identification tags or stickers with your information and destination. These precautions will ensure if your pet goes missing, they will find their way back home to you. You will want to keep a current picture of your pet with you as well just in case you need to identify them.
When you arrive at your flight, you can request to watch your pet be loaded. In doing so, they are more likely to be handled safely and properly taken care of. You should also inform at least one flight attendant and the pilot. By making sure they are aware there is a pet on board, the pilot can take extra precautions if necessary.
Other Forms of Travel with Your Pet
There are other forms of transportation you may be interested in for you and your pet. There are a few cruise lines that will allow pets in your cabin or a kennel throughout your cruise. You will need to contact the cruise line ahead of time to make accommodations for your pet. When considering this option, you also need to think about whether you will have enough time to spend with your pet or if they would be better off staying home with a pet sitter or at a kennel in your city.
Train travel is very popular in some areas, such as Europe. Many trains in Europe will allow pets as passengers so long as the owner feeds and exercises the pet at stops. In the United States, certain trains are beginning to allow pets to ride as well.
Now that you know what considerations to take when planning to travel with your pet, you can choose the best option available for you and your furry friend! You are now equipped to plan a vacation with your pet’s best interest in mind, no matter where the road takes you.