The Definitive Guide to Traveling With Your Pet
Dogs are man’s best friends, but they’re not always the best match for jetsetters. Or are they? Here’s how to trot the globe with your four-pawed companion—without cramping your style.
What to Pack:
Whether you’re going far away or staying relatively close to home, packing for your pup is completely different than packing for you. Bring plenty of extra food, toys, a blanket that reminds them of home, and a collapsible water bowl for on-the-fly hydration. Check the weather for your destination, too—short-nosed and excessively furry dogs may need a cooling vest in hot-weather spots, and smaller dogs (who have a harder time regulating body temperature) may be more comfortable with a sweater in chilly cars or airplane cabins.
Before Your Trip:
Register your dog with your airline if he or she is flying, as many carriers have a maximum number of pets that can travel aboard any one flights, says Nicole Ellis, a former animal trainer and resident pet expert at DogVacay. Also make sure to check on crate or carrier dimensions and have as much identifying information as possible on both carrier and collar—including your home and destination addresses.
In the Car:
If you’re planning a long drive, spend a few days getting your pup used to being in the car. For instance, you can drive them to a nearby park a few times to create a positive association. Prevent carsickness by feeding you pup a few hours before take off and keeping your car cool, and consider using a harness for safety.
In an Airport:
Take a relaxing walk before arriving at the terminal—many airports now have outdoor areas or pet relief zones, though they tend to be on the small side. Leave ample time for your travels so that you’re not stressed out (you stress can easily transfer onto your fur child). And don’t overdo it with snacks before the flight, as dogs can be prone to upset stomachs if they’re not used to flying.
On a Plane:
Avoid giving your dog medication to calm down, especially if they’re flying in cargo, says Ellis—these drugs can interfere with your pup’s critical ability to regulate their body temperature. If you’re worried about their stress levels, try a DAP collar that emits stress-zapping hormones, recommend the experts at pet insurance company PetPlan.
In a Hotel:
Ellis recommends a few precautionary steps when staying at a pet-friendly hotel. First, leave the TV on to give your pup some comforting background noise while you’re away—this can also drown out stress-inducing city noise they may not be used to. Always keep the “do not disturb” sign on the door so that housekeeping doesn’t scare your critter, and request a room away from the elevator to minimize foot traffic in front of your door (Fido can get excited if he thinks you’re coming back for him). It’s also smart to set up a “safe space” in the room, with blankets and a water bowl, and to spend a little time getting your pup acclimated to the new before your first pet-free foray into the city.
In a Foreign City:
PetPlan’s Kim Smyth suggests taking to the website bringfido.com to find pet-friendly activities in any city. “Each listing includes details like whether dogs can run off-leash or if there’s a designated area for dogs, which can really help you find an activity that’s just right for your furry friend,” she says. And since you’re staying at a pet-friendly hotel, try asking the concierge for restaurants with outdoor seating—they’re likely to have plenty of suggestions.
A Word of Caution:
Travelling can be stressful for certain pets, so take your dog’s personality into account before booking a trip. Consider whether they’re outgoing with strangers, comfortable exploring unique environments, and unbothered by spending time in the car or in a moving vehicle—these are all great indications of how your pup might handle a few days on a great adventure.
Want more resources? PetPlan’s Pet Travel Guide has you covered, with tips on everything from pet-friendly airlines to questions you should ask your vet before hitting the road.
Nikki Ekstein is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @nikkiekstein.