Bringing your pet with you on vacation whether it’s the holiday season or a summer trip, can make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved, but the concern of how it may impact your pet can often time be a deterrent. Traveling with your pet doesn’t have to end up being a traumatic experience for either of you, if you plan ahead. The amount of preparation needed will depend entirely on your mode of travel and the distance you’re going.
DRIVING WITH YOUR PET
Driving with your pet remains the simplest way to travel since you are able to control most of the variables. Be sure to bring documentation, vet records and licenses, as they may be required for hotel stays. It’s also wise to look into the facilities in advance of your trip to see where you can walk your pet or discard refuse.
Though your cat or dog may be used to those quick trips to the store or the vet, longer trips require acclimation. Go on longer drives with your pet before the big drive, gradually preparing your fellow traveler for a lengthy road trip.
Preparing Your Vehicle
Your vehicle needs to be as pet safe as possible. A pet seatbelt, carrier, crate or barrier is vital for safe pet travel. Tempted as you may be to let your furry friend travel unrestrained, this is not advised and can be very dangerous for both you and your pet. A loose pet in the car is a distraction and a hazard to you, the pet and others. Offer kind words to any initial yowling, mewing or whining but keep your furry friend safely restrained.
Ensure that your pet’s ID tag information is up-to-date and securely fastened to a safe but reliable collar. Consider having a microchip with contact information and health vitals implanted by your vet. If you already have one, ensure that the information is current. Lastly, consider purchasing a pet GPS device. These often come with smartphone-enabled apps, allowing you to track him in real-time should he stray. A few models have been reviewed by Consumer Reports and are listed to cost between $100 and $200.
Along the Road
Although dogs delight in a fresh breeze ruffling ears and fur, the wind irritates their mucous membrane and can blow debris into their eyes. Keep your four-legged passenger’s window closed while driving to ensure the best trip for your pet. If you have to exit your vehicle for any period of time, do not leave a pet alone in a closed car. It may be cool outside, but the interior can quickly overheat and injure or kill your pet.
Many overnight lodgings now accept pets. The number and size of pets they’ll take varies, and there may be a pet fee. You should identify and check out pet-friendly motels or hotels along your planned route before booking a room. A free and thorough US-Canadian guide to pet-friendly motels by location is offered by MotelGuides. Fees vary widely by facility, from no additional fee to a cost almost equal to the nightly charge of the room, so be sure to get all the facts before booking.
FLYING WITH YOUR PET
While driving may be the simplest way to travel with your pet, often times it is not the optimal way to arrive at your destination. If your pet has to fly with you, there’s much to do beforehand. First you should carefully weigh whether the risk of flight is merited. The Smithsonian blog cautions air travel by stating, “[Air travel for pets] can be dangerous, no matter how smooth the landing, timely the departure, or friendly the flight attendants.”
Pets as Carry-on
The easiest and safest option for flying with pets is to bring them on the flight as carry-on. A small pet can travel with you on many airlines as a carry-on, in an appropriately sized kennel that fits under your seat. If your pet doesn’t fit under the airline seat, there are only two ways he or she can fly: either as checked baggage or cargo.
Pets as Checked Baggage
There are many requirements and restrictions governing the travel of pets as checked baggage. Here are a few major ones from Delta, whose rules are typical of the airline industry:
• Weather — No travel in the summer. No travel in the winter. No travel at any time when the temperature at any point or destination in the animal’s trip is below 10°F (-12C) or above 85°F (29.4C).
• No snub nosed pets — “Delta no longer accepts snub-nosed or pug-nosed dogs and cats as checked baggage.
Be sure to check your specific airline for size, documentation and pet carrier requirements, as they may be different than those of Delta.
Pets as Cargo
Pets can travel as cargo year-round on most U.S. and international carriers. Bookings should be made well in advance and the proper-sized and USDA-approved kennel should be obtained. There is significant paperwork required, so get with your vet a few weeks before your departure:
• Rabies vaccination certificate
• Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (also known as a CVI). Your vet examines your pet and certifies it in good health.
• Tranquilizer consent form — completed by the veterinarian.
• Acclimation Certificate — the certifying veterinarian’s written restriction as to the range of temperature permitted for your pet’s transport. Typically these are the same as those of the airline.
• Confirmation of feeding — attesting that the animal has been fed and had water before check in.
• Live Animal Checklist — instructions for airline cargo (rules are typical of the airline industry personnel).
Whichever way you travel with your pet, careful planning and preparation will let you both enjoy a safe and successful trip. There may still be times however, that bringing your pet along is not the best decision. If you need to leave your pet at home, consider finding a family member or friend who can care for your animal while you are gone. Alternatively, you can speak to your veterinarian about boarding services in your area so that your pet can remain under careful and professional watch while you are out of town.