Man drives a vehicle with a large brown dog in the passenger's seat
Making a decision about your pet’s care while you travel is ultimately a personal one and not one to be taken lightly.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / freemixer

Everything You Need to Consider When Traveling With Pets

Make It a Great Experience for Animals and Humans Alike

Anyone who has a pet knows how difficult it is to leave them at home during the day. You can’t help but feel guilty for leaving them all alone.

But what about when you have to be away from home for longer than an eight hour work day?

When you have a pet, traveling instantly becomes more of a hassle as you figure out what to do with your animal. Do you try and take them with you or do you get somebody to take care of them while you’re gone? Or what if you are moving with your pet to a new city and have to figure out a way to get them there?

Making a decision about your pet’s care while you travel is ultimately a personal one and not one to be taken lightly. Either path you choose has both pros and cons, benefits and dangers.

Pros and Cons

In terms of the pros of traveling with a pet, the most glaringly obvious one is that you’ll have them with you. Most people have pets because they enjoy the animal’s company at the very least or consider them a member of the family.

Taking a pet along for a trip adds another layer of entertainment, enjoyment, and memories that would have otherwise been impossible without them. Having them with you also gives you peace of mind since you know they’re happy and taken care of.

While you may want to take a long trip somewhere, short trips at closer distances are the best kind for the pet’s sake. They’ll benefit from the variety of new smells and potential for exploration that’s not possible on an everyday basis at home, but won’t have to stay cooped up for too long.

Ultimately, the best trips for traveling with pets are the ones planned with them in mind.

The cons of traveling with a pet are much more complex and also depend on the type of animal you have. Not all hotels or other kinds of lodging accept pets. Those that do often charge something like a security deposit for potential damages inflicted by your pet.

Traveling with an animal can also be dangerous, or at the very least, uncomfortable for them. They’ll likely have to be transported in some kind of carrier, which typically invokes a large degree of stress and anxiety for animals.

The change in scenery, while beneficial for you, might cause an animal to panic and act out accordingly. There have been instances where animals managed to open their carriers and run away, never to be found again.

If your pet suffers from motion sickness, anxiety, or any other type of health condition, it may not be the best idea to take them with you on a trip either.

Taking Them on a Plane

If you plan on bringing your pet onboard an airplane with you, there are a lot of things to consider first. Every airline has their own set of rules considering animals, so make sure you’re familiar with them before you book a ticket.

Most airlines require a health certification when checking an animal in the cargo hold. A certificate has to be issued by your vet within 10 days of your departure, stating that your pet is fit for travel, in order to board the airplane.

In recent years, many airlines have actually changed their policy on allowing certain types of animals on board. Brachycephalic dogs and cats, which have a shorter nose and a smushed in type of face, have mostly been banned from flying in the cargo hold of major airlines. In some cases, they’re restricted from carry-on as well, depending on their size and breed.

Regardless of what type of animal you have, you’ll also be charged an additional fee when traveling with a pet and be subject to kennel size limitations, pet capacity guidelines depending on what part of the airplane you’re seated in, and destination restrictions.

The Humane Society suggests weighing all risks before flying with your pet because it can permanently damage their health or even lead to death. Choose the cabin if at all possible when flying with a pet because the conditions in the cargo hold are a lot more unpredictable.

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Taking Them on a Roadtrip

Roadtripping with your pet is a lot safer, but not without its own set of potential difficulties. Depending on what type of animal you have, you’ll need to secure them in a way that doesn’t interfere with your driving.

Cats should always be kept in a back seat carrier lined with newspaper and covered in a blanket. Feed them a few hours before your trip to ensure they don’t get sick while in the car.

The website Cat Overdose provides more specific information about how to travel with a cat, explaining that you should always make sure your cat is wearing a collar and ID tags, or a microchip, in case they escape.

Dogs can usually handle sitting or lying down in the backseat, but again, it depends on the breed and their disposition.

Dogs especially have a lot more needs to consider when traveling on a roadtrip. You’ll want to take a few of their favorite toys, their leash, food, and possibly their bed or medical supplies if necessary.

Find pet-friendly rest stops along the way to avoid leaving them in the car unattended and subject to temperature extremes. Depending on the length of your drive, you may need to make more frequent stops so your dog can go to the bathroom or stretch their legs as well.

Alternatives to Taking Them with You

Of course, it may not be feasible for you to travel with your pet, especially if you’re going to more than one place or taking a longer trip. In that case, you’ll have to arrange for their care while you’re away.

Cats can usually handle being left alone for a day or two, but dogs are much more needy. In an ideal scenario, you should have a trusted friend or family member check on your pet every day you’ll be gone. Leave plenty of food for them and put feeding, care and emergency instructions in an accessible place.

If that’s not possible, the next best thing would be to hire a pet sitter. There are lots of websites and apps where you can hire a local person to come take care of your pet.

Longer trips would probably benefit from an overnight pet sitter who stays in your home with the animal while you’re gone. Sometimes pet sitters also offer to board animals in their own home if you’re not comfortable having them stay in your house.

There are also kennels and pet hotels where you can bring your animal while you’re away as a last resort. Although they’re convenient, these types of facilities can get pricey.

Depending on their setup, they can also be dangerous for your pet’s health due to the number of animals kept there and how often they’re checked on. Always do your research when it comes to kennels and other overnight pet facilities, considering your pet’s disposition and overall health before you spring for this option.

Whether you intend to take a road trip or fly to your final destination, consider these tips for traveling with pets before you decide what to do with your own.

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