Traveling with pets is a growing trend, but even the most precious pet does not necessarily a good traveler make. Whether or not you bring your pet along for the trip is not so much a question of “can you?” but a question of “should you?”
No one knows your pet better than you, so no one is more qualified to answer that all-important question. If the answer is a resounding yes, keep reading — we’ve compiled a list of tips and resources for all you pet lovers who can’t bear to leave their furry friends behind.
Check whether pets are allowed. Many destinations don’t permit easy entrance for pets. Hawaii, for instance, has a quarantine period for dogs and cats of up to 120 days, as Hawaii is free of rabies. However, dogs and cats meeting specific pre-arrival requirements may qualify for a quarantine of five days or less, or even a direct release, at Honolulu International Airport after inspection.
Don’t underestimate the cost. Between crates, air and hotel surcharges, toys, extra food, unexpected vet bills away from home, and more, traveling with your pet can add up. Be aware of the costs and allow a little wiggle room in your budget.
Use proper identification. Put a tag on your pet’s collar that includes rabies vaccination information, your name, your address and phone number, and local contact numbers. It could save your pet’s life.
Train your pet. A pet that responds to your commands will save you considerable trouble while on the road. From the airport to the hotel, a pet that is friendly and obedient is the most pleasant traveling companion.
Learn about your pet’s health. Knowing a little about your pet’s normal temperature, pulse and respiratory rate, prescription medications, and other health issues can save you time, worry and money on the road. Consult your vet, and make a checklist of these issues.
Bring a pet first-aid kit. A pet thermometer, tweezers, gauze, antibiotic ointments, ear drops and other items available at most stores will work; consult your vet for a complete list.
Buy a crate. A pet crate is not something to skimp on. It should be sturdy and correctly sized for your pet. A crate that is too small will be very uncomfortable; a crate that is too large could allow your pet to be tossed around during handling. If you’re bringing the animal on a plane, be sure to read your airline’s requirements regarding crate size, weight, material and design. Airline-approved crates must have ventilation on the sides (in addition to the door) and have food/water trays that are refillable from the outside in the case of a delay.
Most crates come with stickers indicating that an animal is inside. If your pet is house-trained, consider putting a blanket, liner or cushion in the crate for comfort. If she’s not house-trained, a clean carrier floor is best.
Crate train your pet. A long flight or a lonely hotel room should not be the place your pet becomes acquainted with a traveling crate. Buy your crate well before traveling, and work with your pet until he’s familiar and comfortable in the crate. Normal training techniques should work, such as the use of food, praise and other incentives to get your pet used to staying in the crate.
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Don’t leave your pet unattended. This is one of the great “don’ts” of pet ownership. Even when temperatures are mild, a car can get dangerously hot or cold. In most situations, you are putting your pet at risk by leaving her alone in a car.
Some other don’ts: Don’t let your pet hang his head out the window. Don’t leave your pet loose in the vehicle; use a leash tied to a seat or a stable crate. And don’t let your pet ride in the passenger seat. It’s dangerous for the animal and potentially distracting for you as a driver.
Walk your pet frequently. Plan to stop the car on a regular basis. Many pets love to get out and explore, and they may need to be taken outside to relieve themselves more often while traveling than at home.
Provide adequate food and water. You should always keep food and water with you in the car — the heat of the vehicle, the stress of traveling and your pet’s excitement often cause increased thirst.
Fend off carsickness. Pets are as prone to carsickness as humans, if not more so. Partially open windows and frequent walks help, and there are many remedies available from pet stores and vets as well. Consult your vet for more information.
Find pet-friendly hotels. Many hotels gladly accept pets, such as Kimpton and La Quinta Inn & Suites. Find a list of additional pet-friendly properties at PetsWelcome.com, BringFido.com, Pet-Friendly-Hotels.net and PetFriendly.ca.
Stay on a lower floor. It’s far easier to get your pet in and out of a hotel without incident if you are on the ground floor — no elevators, stairs or altercations with other guests.
Keep your pet clean. Wipe mud, dirt and water off your pet’s fur before bringing her back into the hotel. If your pet stains the hotel’s carpet or linens, you might have to pay for cleaning or replacement costs.
Keep your pet in a crate. Hotel employees, neighbors and your pet are probably best served by this step. Your pet can relax in familiar surroundings, the room stays clean and you can relax as well. Don’t leave your pet loose and unattended.
Use the “do not disturb” sign. If you do have to leave your pet in your room, put the “do not disturb” sign on the door so hotel employees don’t enter and become frightened — or get accosted — by your pet.
Walk your pet in approved areas. Ask hotel management where they would prefer that you walk your pet.
Consider a vacation rental. If you’re having trouble finding pet-friendly hotels in your destination, consider a vacation rental through a site such as Airbnb or FlipKey; some owners allow pets.
Consult your vet. Many pets are simply not suited to air travel due to health, age or breed concerns. (Breeds that have restricted breathing, including short-nosed dogs such as Boston terriers and bulldogs, as well as Persian cats, are considered at risk when flying.) Animals under 8 – 12 weeks, or older than 10 years, might not be physically prepared for the stress of air travel.
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Get the required documentation. You need a health certificate if you want to get your pet on an airplane, usually issued within 10 days of your flight. Most veterinarians can supply you with everything you’ll need. If you’re on the road and your pet gets into a fight or bites someone, you’ll want documentation that the pet has had rabies and other vaccinations.
Know your airline. Keep in mind that the airline you booked with may not be the airline you’re actually flying for all legs of your trip. Melissa Halliburton, founder of BringFido.com, notes that codeshare partners do not always have the same requirements for traveling pets, so you’ll want to double-check with each carrier.
Carry your pet on the plane. If your pet is small enough (typically about 10 pounds or less), your airline may permit you to bring him into the cabin. (Fees apply.) This is typically safer than checking your pet’s carrier and having him fly in the cargo hold. Remember that many people are allergic to pet hair or simply do not care to be forced to deal with an animal during a flight. Be considerate and keep your pet in his carrier for the duration of the flight.
Watch the temperature range. Airlines generally will not transport checked pets if the temperature is below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, it is best to travel early in the day during the summer, and at midday during the winter.
Purchase nonstop or direct flights. Your pet is at the most risk for mishandling during connections, especially tight connections. A direct or nonstop flight is your best safeguard against these types of problems.
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Feed with caution before flying. Avoid feeding your pet large meals before flights. A small meal will stave off hunger, and you can feed your pet again at your destination.
Walk your pet. Imagine if you had to be inside a cargo hold with no bathroom for a long flight. Your pet will be most comfortable if you take him out as close to flight time as possible. (As a bonus, exercise can also help tire your pet out so he’ll sleep better on the plane.) Similarly, walk your pet immediately upon arrival.
Get to the airport early. Arrive well in advance of your flight to allow time for any necessary special handling by the airline and for a last-minute walk. Your pet may also need a little extra TLC if he’s nervous or afraid when flying.
Administer drugs with caution. Sedatives for pet air travel create risks for some animals, including difficulties at high altitudes, and are not recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Consult your vet. If you decide to give your pet a sedative, the timing and dosage are critical. Bring your veterinarian’s instructions with you to the airport.
Prepare the crate. Colorful, large, easy-to-read labels and sufficient water and food are essential for your pet’s well-being. Some travelers label crates with their pet’s name, and you should always make sure that your pet, as well as her crate, has identifying information — such as a baggage address label and a name tag on the animal’s collar including your contact information both at home and at your destination.
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Follow crate/kennel requirements. Most airlines stipulate the following:
– Kennels must be enclosed, with enough room for the animal to sit, stand and lie down. The crate must be strong enough to withstand normal travel usage.
– If the crate has wheels, they must be removed or made inoperable before travel.
– Kennels must have a leak-proof floor lined with some absorbent material.
– Kennels must have handles or grips that do not force handlers to put their fingers inside the crate in order to move it.
– Kennels must be marked with the words “live animal” in lettering at least one inch high, with directional arrows indicating the proper orientation of the kennel.
– Airlines may have additional restrictions on the number of animals per kennel, as well as other requirements. For specific policies, visit your airline’s website.
Air Canada * American * Delta * JetBlue * Southwest * Spirit * United
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Editor’s Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc., which also owns FlipKey.