The Best Vet-Approved Pet Travel Essentials for Cats and Dogs

Products that will make your pets love traveling just as much as you do.

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best pet travel accessories
Courtesy of Amazon

Traveling with your dog or cat can get overwhelming for both of you. On top of many pets having travel anxiety or getting motion sickness, they also get bored, have to use the bathroom, and get hungry and thirsty on the road. Whether you're traveling by car, plane, boat, or train (or even just going for a hike), you'll want to stock up on the top pet travel accessories to make you and your furry friend's experience a heck of a lot more enjoyable.

To get expert recommendations on the most necessary pet travel products, we spoke with Dr. Gina Rendon, Medical Director at Williamsburg Vet Clinic in Brooklyn, New York, and Dr. Catriona Love, Medical Director at Mercer Street Veterinary Hospital in Seattle, Washington. They also shared important safety and logistical tips for traveling with your pet.

After extensive research and enlisting the help of our four-legged companions to test products, the Travel Cat Navigator Backpack, Kalimdor Dog Water Bottle, and EveryYay Dog Car Seat Cover are some of our top pet travel product picks. We also found a GPS dog collar, a portable litter box, and much, much more for making vacations with the whole family happy and healthy.

These are the best pet travel accessories to pack for every trip.

The Best Essentials:

Best Portable Food and Water Bowls: Prima Pets Collapsible Travel Bowl with Carabiner

Prima Pets Collapsible Travel Bowl

Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: Each bowl has a carabiner clip to easily get up and go.

What to Consider: You'll need additional containers to store food and water.

This set of Prima Collapsible Silicone Food & Water Travel Bowls is ideal for serving up snacks and meals on-the-go. "Always travel with clean, fresh water, '' says Dr. Rendon. "And have more than enough of your pet's regular diet packed to feed them during the extent of your trip." These lightweight bowls can hold up to 1.5 cups of food or water and are easy to rinse out or wash between uses. The expandable soft silicone design is dishwasher safe and collapses down to a half-inch in depth, making these portable bowls easy to slip into a side pocket. You can also use the built-in carabiner clip to attach the bowls onto luggage, pet carriers, backpacks, leashes, or belt loops.

Best Water Bottle: Kalimdor Dog Water Bottle

Kalimdor Dog Water Bottle, Leak Proof Portable

Amazon

Why We Love It: The handy design and size also works for cats.

What to Consider: Some pets may not be comfortable drinking out of this unfamiliar shape.

Heat, stress, and anxiety may cause your pet to become thirstier and more dehydrated than usual. For trips with her small chihuahua, Dr. Love prefers the Kalimdor Portable Dog Water Bottle because of its small size and leak-proof design.

This one-handed, two-in-one design has a plastic bottle base that can store up to 19 ounces of water (most bottles only hold up to 16 ounces). The scooped-out top functions as a water bowl that holds up to 2.8 ounces of water. Liquid is released directly into the drinking area by unlocking a switch and pushing a button. Any unused water can be recollected into the storage bottle instead of being tossed out. The compact design makes it easy to carry in a travel bag or backpack, or you can loop it around your wrist. Our one note is that we wish this had a built-in filter.

Best Portable Litter Box: TRAVEL CAT Porta Pawty Portable Cat Litter Box with Lid

TRAVEL CAT: Porta Pawty - Portable Cat

Amazon

Why We Love It: You don't have to toss out the litter at every stop.

What to Consider: The collapsible design translates to weak sides.

Finding a decent travel litter box is one of the biggest challenges of traveling with a cat. The Travel Cat Porta-Pawty Travel Litter Box solves multiple problems, including wasting litter. The zippered top and built-in side handle enables you to scoop and go, reusing the same lot of litter along multiple stops. Its construction also helps to block odors, which makes stays at pet-friendly hotels more comfortable for everyone involved. The top-flap design and standard litter box dimensions (19 X 14 X 5 inches) give your cat sufficient room to do their business. The seamless, leak-proof interior is a cinch to clean, and when you're not using the bag, it collapses, folds, and snaps into a 9.75 X 8.5 X 4-inch rectangle. Litter helps the collapsible walls of this box stay up and be sturdy, so don't hold back when filling it up.

Best Waste Container: Kurgo Tailgate Dumpster for Dog Garbage & Poop Bags

Kurgo Tailgate Dumpster for Dog Garbage & Poop Bags

Amazon

Why We Love It: It keeps used poo bags and food cans from stinking up your car.

What to Consider: It's pretty small.

Cleaning up after your dog while you're on the road requires more than just stocking up on waste bags — you'll need a place to put the bags while in transit. The Kurgo Tailgate Dumpster is our top pick for waste bag disposal during a road trip. Instead of keeping the bin (and the used bags) inside the car, this portable trash can attaches to the back bumper or door of your vehicle via magnets. As a bonus, it also works great as a trash can for campsites and can be used for storing used food cans. However, one big downside of this tailgate dumpster is that the 2.75 x 5.31 x 5.9-inch size is fairly small and can only hold one or two deposits, depending on the size of the dog.

Related: The Best Camping Coffee Makers, According to Tests

Best Grooming Wipes: Frisco Hypoallergenic Waterless Grooming Wipes

Frisco Hypoallergenic Waterless Grooming Wipes

chewy

Why We Love It: They're great for animals with sensitive skin.

What to Consider: These wipes are not flushable.

Adventurous (or anxious) pets can get dirty. Frisco Hypoallergenic Waterless Grooming Wipes are a life-saver for wiping down your pet when you don't have immediate access to a bath or running water. These wipes are free from parabens, dyes, and harsh ingredients and use natural ingredients like baking soda and aloe, making them ideal for use on pets with sensitive skin. We also love that they are free from all perfumes and fragrances, which can be bothersome to many animals. These grooming wipes can be used from head-to-tail to clean off your pets from dirt or personal accidents while hiking, camping, driving, biking, or flying. Be sure to toss used wipes in the trash — these wipes are handy but cannot be flushed down the toilet.

Best Calming Supplement: Vetoquinol Zylkene Calming Supplements for Small Dogs & Cats

Vetoquinol Zylkene Behavior Support Capsules for Dogs & Cats, 75mg

Amazon

Why We Love It: It has a natural, non-sedative calming effect.

What to Consider: It may not work on or be enough to calm some pets.

According to Dr. Rendon, "Zylkene calming supplements are derived from milk protein and recommended by behaviorists." They can be used for cats or dogs and are a good option for owners who want to try over-the-counter remedies before getting a sedating prescription like gabapentin or trazodone from their vet. This supplement's active ingredient, alpha-casozepine, has natural calming properties. Although it's derived from cow's milk, it is lactose-free. The dosage is administered according to weight, and can be given in its original capsule form or as a powder mixed into food by opening the capsules. Dr. Rendon recommends starting the supplements a few days before travel. Every pet is different, and Zylkene may not be effective on some animals.

The Best Carriers and Backpacks:

Best Airline-approved Carrier: Sherpa Original Deluxe Travel Bag Pet Carrier

Sherpa Original Deluxe Travel Bag Pet Carrier with Machine Washable Liner

Amazon

Why We Love It: The spring wire frame adapts to several under-seat sizes.

What to Consider: It's best for shorter, smaller animals.

The Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier is a preferred airline pet carrier for pet owners and several airlines. Delta and American have both partnered with the brand to make their own branded versions (part of their "Guaranteed On Board" program). Three mesh sides allow owners to keep an eye on their pet from several angles, and the removable faux wool liner provides padding for your pet. It's also machine washable in case of accidents or spills. The carrier comes in three sizes, with the large being able to accommodate pets up to 22 pounds and 10.5 inches in height.

Related: The Best Airline-approved Pet Carriers

Best Cat Backpack: TRAVEL CAT Your Cat Backpack

Your Cat Backpack Your Cat Backpack

Amazon

Why We Love It: Thoughtful features make it your go-to everywhere bag.

What to Consider: It can be a hassle to clean after pee accidents.

The Travel Cat Navigator Backpack was designed for traveling cats and their owners. Thick-padded straps are sturdy and easy on human shoulders, even if you're carrying around a heavier kitty (the bag holds up to 25 pounds of pet). The front chest strap and adjustable hip strap further balance weight on your body, making this bag a major must for long walks or hikes. Cats (or small dogs) can be loaded into the bag via the front or top, and then safely secured with one of the interior bungee tether clips.

Thoughtful features can be found in every nook and cranny, including two stretchy side pockets, a washable and removable soft pad, a zippered side pocket with multiple storage compartments and a key clip, and several spots to hook-in carabiner clips. There's also a reinforced rim sturdy enough to hold the weight of your pet's paws as they pop their head out of the top for a look around. The bag's peek-a-boo screens are made from high-quality, scratch-resistant mesh — key for anxious cats with claws. My cat lives in this bag, even when we are not traveling. The only bummer is that the non-removable padded side wall and floor panels can be tough to thoroughly clean if there's an accident.

Best Dog Backpack: K9 Sport Sack Air 2 Forward Facing Dog Carrier Backpack

K9 Sport Sack Air 2 Forward Facing Dog Carrier Backpack

Why We Love It: It's sturdy enough to keep pups safe in adventurous outings.

What to Consider: The bag could be more adjustable for various breeds.

One of Dr. Love's personal favorites when it comes to dog backpacks is the K9 Sport Sack. "It is so easy to carry your dog around regardless of the type of transportation you are taking," she says. "We like biking with our dog in this backpack." Ventilated sides keep your dog cool while in the bag, and a padded back keeps things comfortable for you. All sizes (except XS) have extra lumbar support for your pup, and all bags were designed with the help of vets. The K9 Sport Sack PLUS 2 can hold dogs between eight and 40 pounds, depending on the size of the bag. Smaller dogs may need a booster pillow or cushioning, which can cause the bag's built-in lumbar support to become misaligned.

The Best Car Accessories:

Best Dog Seat Belt: Kurgo Direct to Seat Belt Tether for Dogs

Kurgo Direct to seat Belt Tether for Dogs

Amazon

Why We Love It: It puts the bulk of the pull against your dog's body, not their neck.

What to Consider: It is not compatible with certain models of trucks.

Unlike many dog seat belts, the Kurgo Direct to Seat Belt Swivel Tether for Dogs clips directly into your car's seat belt fastener versus looping around the headrest. This tether is designed to be attached to a dog harness instead of a collar, centering the pull of the tether on your dog's torso rather than their neck. The swivel-head carabiner harness attachment also allows your pet to move around without getting tangled. While this car seat tether works with most cars, it is not compatible with the seat belt fasteners in Ford F-series trucks.

Related: 11 TikTok-famous Amazon Car Accessories You'll Want for Your Next Road Trip

Best Car Seat Cover: EveryYay Essentials Road Trippin' Black Car Seat Cover

EveryYay Essentials Road Trippin' Black Car Seat Cover

petco

Why We Love It: It has a comfy, removable faux-fleece topper.

What to Consider: The black seat cover does not hide lighter fur well.

EveryYay's Road Tripping Car Seat Cover works as a cover-all for the backseat of your car or truck. Made with waterproof, tear-resistant fabric, it's ideal for drive-to hiking, beach, or camping trips, particularly when you're on the line with a rental car. It can also be used for stain security on road trips with anxious dogs. Spills and hair wipe up easily, and the removable, washable faux-shearling topper gives your pet an extra soft seating area. There are spaces to pull-through your seatbelts so you can still secure your pet during travel. If you have a dog with lighter fur, you should consider a lighter color seat cover to avoid obvious shedding.

Related: The Best Car Top Carriers of 2022

Best Dog Crate: DogGoods The Foldable Travel Dog Crate

DogGoods Do Good The Foldable Travel Dog Crate

chewy

Why We Love It: The quick and easy setup and breakdown.

What to Consider: It can take several days to off-gas.

Dr. Love cautions that "pets should always be kept restrained" when traveling, either with a seat belt, carrier, or crate. DogGoods Foldable Travel Dog Crate is a soft-sided, iron-framed dog crate with an easy slide-and-click setup and break down. Once dismantled, it conveniently slips into its shoulder bag carrying case. Seat belt loops on all sides help secure your pet safely in the backseat. It also fits in the cargo space of most SUVs. The crate comes with a removable fleece liner, but you can also add a separate pad for extra comfort. Roll-down blackout flaps help ease anxious dogs, and the entire crate cover is washable. Buy this well in advance as it takes over a week to off-gas.

The Best Health and Safety Gear:

Best First-aid Kit: Adventure Medical Kits Me & My Dog One Size

Adventure Medical Kits Me & My Dog One Size

Amazon

Why We Love It: It's a first-aid kit for both you and your dog.

What to Consider: It only covers four days of basic medical needs.

Love hiking with your dog? Running at the beach together? Or just want to be prepared for everyday outing accidents? This first-aid kit is a two-in-one medical kit that you can keep in your car or toss in your backpack before an outdoor adventure. It comes with two separate pouches of medical supplies — one for you and one for your dog — that can cover basic first-aid needs like splinter and tick removal, wound irrigation, cuts and scrapes, and more. There are enough supplies in each kit to last one person and one dog up to four days. Even though it comes with how-to medical guides, it's not meant for serious injuries.

Related: These $12 Safety Gadgets Just Went Viral on TikTok — and They're a 'Travel Must-have'

Best GPS Collar: Tractive Waterproof GPS Dog Tracker

4.2
Tractive Waterproof GPS Dog Tracker

Amazon

Why We Love It: It has real-time location accuracy and fast escape alerts.

What to Consider: It requires a subscription to use.

GPS pet trackers are still in their early stages, which means a lot of the ones on the market are big and clunky. We like the Tractive GPS Dog LTE collar because it's light, small (2.8 X 1.1 X .06 inches), and has a decent 94-hour battery life. It's also waterproof and doesn't fall off at the sight of a shrub. The GPS is superb, pinpointing the real-time exact location of your dog or cat, and you can view the history of their movements. You can also set hyper-accurate digital fences and receive alerts whenever your pet crosses over the boundaries. Like with most top-of-the-line GPS collars, you'll need a subscription to use it.

Best Cooling Jacket: Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Dog Harness

Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Dog Harness

rei

Why We Love It: It also fits medium or large cats.

What to Consider: It cannot be put in the dryer.

You should always be mindful and plan for the temperatures of the places to which you are traveling so that your animal is kept warm or cool as needed. Bring coats and booties if it's cold, cooling mats, or vests if it's hot. The Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Dog Cooling Harness functions as an evaporative cooling vest and lightweight harness that stays wet to keep your pet up to six times cooler in high temps. Triple-layer cooling panels — wicking outer layer, absorbing middle layer, and an inner dry layer — are located along the chest, stomach, and back. A padded quick-grab handle allows you to assist your pet easily when needed. Plus, the simple and intuitive side-buckle design makes it a snap to get on and off. The harness's aluminum V-ring clips and reinforced loops can hold up to the demands of rugged outdoor adventures. Bonus? The XXS size was a perfect fit for my medium-size, heat-intolerant (and harness-trained) cat. When it's time to clean, it calls for the gentle cycle and air dry only.

Best Heating Mat: K&H Pet Products Heated Thermo-Kitty Mat Reversible Cat Bed

K&H Pet Products Heated Thermo-Kitty Mat Reversible Cat Bed

Amazon

Why We Love It: The heat level adjusts to your pet's body temperature.

What to Consider: It's too small for medium-to-large dogs.

A top pet travel tip from Dr. Rendon is to "be mindful and plan for the temperatures of the places to which you are traveling" and prepare accordingly. Keep your cat or small dog toasty with the K&H Thermo-Kitty Mat. The insertable dual thermostat heater is designed to warm up only when your pet lays on top. From there, it adjusts the heat level to your pet's internal temperature so it's always just right. This is a great travel pet accessory to take camping, on car rides in cold temperatures, or in accommodations without central heating. This bed is big enough for any size cat and small dogs.

Most Versatile Dog Boots: RUFFWEAR Grip Trex Dog Boots

RUFFWEAR, Grip Trex Dog Boots, Outdoor Booties with Rubber Soles for Hiking and Running

Amazon

Why We Love It: Provides great grip and heat protection.

What to Consider: The low-ankle design may cause paws to get wet in snow.

Ruffwear Grip Trex Dog Boots are high-quality rubber-soled dog boots that protect your pet's paws on rugged terrain, hot rocks and sidewalks, and frosty or salted paths. Some owners even use these boots indoors on slippery hardwood floors thanks to the heavily textured Vibram outsoles. The actual shoes are made from mesh, giving your dog's paws a bit of breathing room in hot climates. The gusset design makes it easy to take these shoes off and on. While these shoes work well on salted pavement and in freezing temperatures (with socks), the short-rise design isn't ideal for walks in more than an inch or so of snow.

Tips for Traveling with Your Pet

Check Airline and FAA requirements ahead of travel

Nearly every airline has its own rules for flying with a pet. Check with your airline well ahead of your flight to confirm if your animal will be able to fly on the plane. Many airlines accept service animals but limit the qualifications to certain breeds and type of service. Additionally, short-nosed breeds of cats and dogs such as pugs and Persians are often not allowed to fly due to breathing concerns. Most flights only allow for a maximum number of in-cabin pets per flight, or will only fly with pets in the cargo during certain months. It's wise to make a reservation for your pet well in advance to secure them a spot on board.

Consider microchipping your pet

If your pet isn't already microchipped, your upcoming trip may be just the right excuse to get it done. This is to help identify your pet and locate the owner in case your pet escapes or runs away during travel. Collars also provide this information but can easily slip off in different circumstances. Microchipping your pet is added protection that you'll be reunited if they get lost.

Map out walk and bathroom breaks ahead of time

When planning your trips and travel time, be sure to pencil-in some time for your pet to use the bathroom — and find out where they can relieve themselves. In some (but not all) airports, there are dedicated pet relief areas with fake grass where dog owners can take their pets to use the bathroom. Options for cat owners are far fewer, which is why having a portable litter box on hand is so, well, handy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What documents do I need to travel with my pet?

According to Dr. Rendon, one of the most important things you can do when traveling with your pet is to check each state or country's travel requirements well in advance of your trip. "You should contact your veterinarian or check the APHIS Pet Travel website for specific requirements," she says. "You may need a health certificate issued by a USDA accredited veterinarian and approved by an APHIS veterinary officer in order to travel internationally. Your airline may also have specific requirements. Don't wait until the day before you travel to obtain the necessary paperwork!"

Should you fly your pet cargo or carry-on?

"If you need to travel with your pet and they are too big to fly in the cabin with you (typically larger than 20 pounds) then cargo is a totally acceptable way to bring them," says Dr. Love. "It is always better to have them in the cabin with you because you can be with them, but that isn't always an option."

Both vets agree that the biggest downside to flying your pet in the cargo is that you're unable to monitor them or give them any anti-nausea or calming medicine as needed. Keep in mind that the cargo area is not temperature controlled and you should avoid flying your pets in very hot or very cold months.

How do I keep my pet safe in a car or plane?

One of the easiest ways to keep your pet safe while traveling is to keep it calm. "Don't wait until the day of travel to introduce your animal to a carrier or crate," suggests Dr. Rendon. "Place a familiar blanket or one of your worn t-shirts in the carrier with your animal so it smells like home. Carriers should be lined with a towel and covered with a disposable wee-wee pad that can be changed if an animal soils the pad mid-trip." She also recommends limiting the size of the meal you feed your pet before traveling in case of nausea. Dr. Love recommends exercising your pet before travel so they are more relaxed, or having someone sit in the backseat with them.

How much is it to fly with a pet?

The cost of flying with a pet depends on the airline and whether you're flying your pet cargo or traveling with them inside the cabin. Check with your desired airline for specific pricing and restrictions.

How long can my pet ride in the car?

Deciding how long your pet should ride in the car with you will be up to your individual pet. Some dogs may get antsy and need to go on their regularly scheduled walks, burn off energy, and use the bathroom. Monitor your pet during the car ride and check for signs of anxiety.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this article, Katherine Alex Beaven got expert insight and tips from veterinarians and researched and tested dozens of pet travel accessories for cats and dogs. Several products on the list were personally tested (and approved) by Alex's travel cat, @hellomisterbo.

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