Traveling with pets: how to keep them safe, comfortable, and stress-free!

By Lauren Rey

Traveling with pets

People are traveling with their pets more than ever before. It’s not uncommon to see four-legged passengers on planes and trains or patiently waiting at the hotel check-in desk. While traveling can always be a bit stressful, adding pets to the mix doesn’t make it any easier. Planning ahead when traveling with pets is crucial. A few preparations ahead of time can help ensure your pet stays safe, comfortable, and stress-free during all your travels!

The first step in planning pet-friendly travel is researching the requirements for your method of transport and setting a timeline. Whether you are planning to transport your pet by car, plane, or train, there will likely be things you’ll need to obtain ahead of time. This may be as simple as buying a special carrier for the plane or it may include needing a veterinary appointment to update vaccines.

Every mode of transportation and every destination may have different requirements. Most commercialized methods of travel will require your pet to be current on all vaccines and in good health in order to board a plane or train. If you are traveling abroad, some countries may require a veterinary exam within 10 days of your arrival. It’s important to gather as much information as possible and make a checklist of everything that is needed.

Here are some travel tips for dogs and cats, because sometimes our pets need a vacation too!

Traveling with dogs

While many dogs love to explore new places, even the most adventurous pup can understandably get overwhelmed and nervous in a crowded, fast-paced environment like an airport or train station. If you’re traveling with your dog commercially for the first time, a practice run in a safe environment might be a good idea. Practice letting them hang out in their carrier or walking by your side at an outdoor mall or another dog-friendly place. Use lots of treats to make this a fun experience for them!

No matter where you are going or how you are getting there, you’ll want to make sure your dog is up for it! A pre-travel check with the vet is always a good idea, even if it’s not a listed requirement. You’ll want to make sure your dog is healthy enough for travel and up to date on all their vaccines and parasite preventatives. This is also a good time to discuss if your dog experiences any fear, anxiety, or stress during travel. Your veterinarian may recommend a calming supplement or light sedative for the trip.

You’ll also want to make sure your pet is protected with a microchip in case they get lost! A 24Petwatch Lifetime Protection Membership offers 24/7 access to lost pet recovery specialists across North America. They can also connect you with veterinary professionals for non-emergent medical questions that may arise during your travels.

Flying with a dog

Every airline has different requirements when it comes to flying with dogs so before booking your ticket, be sure to research those. Most airlines restrict in-cabin pet passengers by size and require your dog to be in an airline-approved pet carrier. Larger dogs are often only allowed to travel in the cargo hold and require a special dog travel crate.

If you have to place your dog in cargo this brings its own unique set of concerns. Whenever possible, try to book a direct flight. This will cut down on the amount of handling your dog will receive as well as the chances of him getting lost. Also, be sure to label the crate clearly with your dog’s information, your contact information and destination, and “live animal” tags that are visible from multiple sides of the crate.

Checklist for flying with dogs

Traveling by car with a dog

Traveling by car can offer much more flexibility with your four-legged friend but you’ll still want to make sure you have all the road trip essentials to ensure a smooth trip. Safety should always come first. Make sure your trusted companion is secure while on the road. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways depending on your dog’s size and what makes them most comfortable. From dog seat belts and car seats to carriers and crates, there are plenty of options for securing your pup.

Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs love car rides and the worst time to learn this is during a long road trip! If your dog is not used to the car or going for long trips you may want to start acclimating them in the weeks leading up to your departure. Take them for some short rides then increase to longer ones. If they are having trouble or getting carsick, talk to your veterinarian about potential medications or calming aides like Adaptil. Enrichment toys may also be helpful in beating boredom.

While on the road be sure to stop every few hours so your dog can stretch their legs and have a much-needed potty break. Always make sure your dog is secured on a leash at rest stops and look out for any dangerous debris on the ground. Fast food leftovers, oil spills, antifreeze, and other garbage is unfortunately common in high-traffic areas like rest stops. Use extra caution with your dog in these areas and never let them wander off leash.

Checklist for road trips with dogs

Traveling by train with a dog

Like the airlines, rail carriers may have varying requirements when it comes to bringing dogs on trains. Research those ahead of time and prepare accordingly. Most have size restrictions and require carriers.

Checklist for train travel with dogs

Traveling with cats

Traveling with a cat no matter the mode of transportation will always require a carrier. If your feline friend is not already acclimated to their carrier begin working on this right away! Use lots of treats and catnip to make the carrier a fun place for them. This will make travel day much less stressful.

Before your trip, you’ll want to make an appointment with your veterinarian for a check-up to ensure your cat is healthy and current on all their vaccines and parasite preventatives. You can also obtain a health certificate if needed and discuss any concerns about keeping your cat comfortable on the trip. Some cats can be very sensitive to changes in their environment and may benefit from medications or calming aides like Feliway while traveling, see what your vet recommends.

This is also a good time to get your cat microchipped if they are not already. While your cat should be safely in their carrier during travel, accidents happen. Make sure your pet is protected with a microchip! Should the unthinkable happen, a 24Petwatch Lifetime Protection Membership can offer additional peace of mind with 24/7 access to lost pet recovery specialists across North America.

Flying with a cat

Every airline has different requirements when it comes to flying with cats so be sure to research those ahead of time. Regardless of the airline, your cat will need to be in a carrier.

Checklist for flying with cats

Traveling by car with a cat

Since cats don’t tend to go in the car much, a road trip with a cat can feel a little daunting but the same rules as dogs apply. Take time to acclimate them with some practice drives, keep them secure, and use calming aides and enrichment toys as needed.

Checklist for road trips with cats

Traveling by train with a cat

Like the airlines, rail carriers may have varying requirements when it comes to bringing cats on trains. Research those ahead of time and prepare accordingly. Most have size restrictions and require carriers.

Checklist for traveling by train with a cat

Final travel preparations

Whether traveling with a cat or dog or by plane, train, or car, the most important part of preparing is having your timeline and checklist in order. Taking the time beforehand to acclimate your pet to their carrier, getting them to the vet in the allotted time, and collecting necessary documents will help ensure things go smoothly on the day of travel.

While us humans can get away with last-minute packing, traveling with pets requires an earlier approach. At least 48 hours before travel, it’s a good idea to print out all your pet’s travel documents and lay out their travel things to ensure you aren’t missing anything.

On the day of travel, your pet will probably be full of emotions from curiosity and excitement to confusion and nervousness. Try to stick to their daily routine as much as possible and give them some exercise or playtime a few hours prior to leaving.

If you can supervise them, comfort items like their favorite blanket or toy and calming aides can help them feel a little less stressed during travel. Just be sure they aren’t left unsupervised with anything that can become a choking hazard or obstruction. Even pets that don’t usually chew things may do so when their nerves kick in on a plane or train.